Imagine a massive, paper filing system. Think of the giant room of crates at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie, but filled with filing cabinets with individual sheets packed into every drawer. And imagine floors and floors of them.
In fact, the older we are, the more floors we build. Because all of those sheets of paper are memories. Every sheet represents one moment and how we felt. They are the past events that our brain stores.
We may not think that all of those sheets are relevant but, we must remember, there are people who can remember every detail of their life, no matter how small.
The rest of us are not so unlike them. We also have access to the recesses of our memories, although most of us have less easy access. But we’ve all had times where we had someone remind us of people we forgot we knew. Or we have someone show up in a dream that we’d consciously forgotten about.
Our sense of smell is one of the ones we’re least conscious of, so when we wire it into a memory, revisiting that scent can often be one of the few things that even could trigger that memory. So we can be walking down a street, get a whiff of scent, and we can suddenly find our minds transported to some other day, and some other experience that we forget we had.
Our memories are in there. So it’s notable and strange that we are so addicted to certain memories, considering the size of our filing system. Note how odd it is that we have countless sheets. Some marked green for positive experiences. Some yellow for neutral. Some red for bad. Yet we really are irritated by those red ones aren’t we?
We keep revisiting certain filing cabinets over and over, as though we hope those red sheets will vanish. Just think about how you’ll be walking down a street, and in your thoughts you’ll start attacking yourself over something you did last week, last month, or even ten years ago.
That’s how the filing system works. Every day is available to be resubmitted into today. So why, on a walk down a sunny street, does the average person keep picking the filing cabinets we feel badly about? Why on Earth do we think that would be helpful? How does more fire put out a fire?
Recognize the bizarre nature of how our egos use our memory. It is unconscious and painful. There are better approaches. Try going to the green sheets more often. Go to the ones that help you feel strong, and secure. Because that’s the influence you want on the current sheets you’re producing now, as you live.
We are filling cabinets all day, moment by moment. Do not take today’s opportunities and fill them with bad copies of previous bad experiences. Have new ones instead. And knowing they can be green yellow or red, try to pay more attention to creating green ones by just accepting that the other two are inevitable, and that they are made irrelevant by having our attention on the green sheets.
We abuse ourselves with our thoughts. What we do with our heads is strange. If we want to criticize anything about ourselves we are best to start with criticizing that. Because it makes no sense, there is no gain only loss.
You know that’s true because you feel it. We cannot deny those red sheets. They exist. But we will often deny the green ones. Yet they exist too. So why not start using them instead of the red ones? Is there really a reason we don’t? Or in the end are the red sheets really nothing more than habit?
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.