Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Memories, Depression & Anxiety

So I've started studying Positive Psychology.
I find it so fascinating that I've decided to write about it here because I've noticed writing down my own thoughts makes me think better (especially if I intend to make these thoughts public), and remember better.

Funnily enough, the first topic I chose to write about is exactly that. Memory.

Our memories are very unreliable things.
I think that's why I like taking pictures.
(These photos were taken at the botanical gardens in Berlin in September 2017)

According to Professor Martin E.P. Seligman memory is not about what happened in the past.
"It seems to be something about the last story you told about the memory, or preparing for the next story you tell."

I think we all have experiences that we've recreated in our minds so that the story we tell about them fits the image we have of ourselves or our situation better.
And I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. If reframing experiences, especially the less than good ones, can make us feel better, then why not use that power?

During my yoga teacher training we were encouraged even, to rewrite our stories. And to keep rewriting them, as often as we feel like it.

It also helps to keep in mind that people do this unconsciously as well. They aren't necessarily lying - they might just have unknowingly created a different version of the same experience for the sake of their own wellbeing.

"So", Martin Seligman continues, "memory seems to be in service of the future, it's not a photographic image of the past. And perception is even worse than that. Perception seems to be a hallucination about the future."

But knowing that our memories and our perception are faulty isn't the most exciting bit I learned.
I think we all sort of know that to be true. (even though it's no fun to have to admit it)

The coolest part is the finding that we are extremely future oriented beings.

"Our default circuit that lights up in the brain when we’re not doing anything in particular is the Imagination circuit. It’s the circuit that imagines the future."

(again according to Seligman in the course you can sign up to here)

Prospection tells us that depression is a disorder of the future, and not a disorder of the past or the present or the world.
In both clinical depression and anxiety there is an overrepresentation of possible negative future events.
And since we know that current therapy for depression is not very successful at present, 
how empowering is it to know that the solution perhaps lies not in digging up the past, but in therapies that are oriented toward better planning and the generation of more (and rosier!) scenarios of possible futures?

The same goes for Anxiety.
"Anxiety is clearly about expectations that bad things are going to happen in the future, yet the entire basis for the therapy of anxiety has been about the past and the present. So, to reformulate psychology as being not about perception and memory, but the way we evaluate and create scenarios of the future, is the place to start. " - Seligman

How might your life be impacted if you were to focus more on practices that help you to plan better and to have rosier views of possible futures? 

I'm curious to find out! You?

If you don't already, follow me on instagram where I'll be sharing many more things I'm learning!

With Love,


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