I recently was reviewing research on memory as it is topic near and dear to a lot of us. We usually do not think about memory, and usually only give it attention when it seems to fail us, or we have conflicting memories with someone over an event. Also as we “mature” we seem to notice that our memory is not as it once was.

I pay attention to this as my hobbies requires an active vibrant memory, acting. Learning the lines (and movements) in a play require all the aspects of memory, short term (working memory) log term, (explicit and implicit) as well as procedural memory. Karate also replies on memory (procedural memory)l. Recent studies of the brain are beginning to give insight into these once mysterious process.

It was once thought short term and long term memory use different parts of the brain but it is now being revealed that in both short term and long term memories may use different parts of the brain in different ways.

Also recent studies of “Super Angers” (people who maintain vibrant brains and minds) use their brains differently than those with cognitive slippage. This area is especially fascinating to me as I work with actors in the late 70’s who easily learn their lines in a complex play.(they work a lot) I also have worked with young actors who can’t seem to remember their lines at all (No they do not work much)

Why? Well lets use our NLP presupposition of “If one person can do something, and we learn the pieces, we can duplicate the process and the result”. First some memory basics:

The STM (Short Term Memories) uses the hippocampus, but may also use other parts of the brain for specific memories, IE different memories like Taste or physical action requires other brain areas for those.

The LTM (Long Term Memory) uses Explicit or conscious memory, and Implicit or subconscious memory.

Procedural Memory or the physical memory (like driving or dancing) Body/Mind.

Short Term Memory requires FOCUS for it to really engage, many people blame their memories, but they are did not focus on what they were trying to recall, this is the danger of multi-tasking.

Threshold Memory, we also seem to lock in specific things we want to remember with a place, maybe this is why you walk into a room and can’t remember what you came in for, but when you go back to the other room it comes back. Same for why you forget that one thing at the store and remember as your pulling into the driveway.

?So what causes a memory to move from STM to LTM? Why do some people seem to remember with greater clarity and ease? In theater why do some actors, “get off book”(learn their lines), fast and others struggle. Is it in the brain or how one uses the process?

We do know that repetition does help LTM (remember 5×8=) and that does help, but maybe the reason it works is the underlying factor in that seems to supercharge a memory. Emotions.

Can you remember where you were on 9-11? Emotions seem to increase memory and many memory programs use emotions (Mega Memory, Memory Power) TO ACTIVATE the memory process. It does seem to work as we recall emotional memories with greater ease. It does have issues as emotions and memory lead to Tunnel Memory, and Memory Illusions.

Tunnel Memory is when the emotion causes you to only focus on one aspect of the event, ie the gun if you were robbed and not remember other aspects the robber. This is true of negative emotions. Happy emotions also cause Tunnel issues but here is happiness works like a broad tipped highlighter capturing many details, however it also can included events that did not happen but that were totally plausible.

Memory Illusions is based on that the intensity of the emotion is more critical than the kind of memory. This is why you can recall both happy and sad memories if they are emotionally charged. However after an emotional event you will retell the story, to others and yourself, and you will believe your story even if you embellish it. Do you have any friends who tell a story you know is not quite true, but they believe it. (Al Gore inventing the internet, or recently Brain William Iraq stories)

One last factor that must be looked at in a general way for memory is how stress shuts down the neuro-chemicals need to encode and to recall memories. The stress hormone cortisol ¬†interferes with both memory formation and recall. This is why you can’t remember the answers to a test, but they come back after you leave the room, or when you drop a line on stage, in a play or a talk, as your stress rises you draw a further blank. .

OK so how can we use this information? Well lets again look to theater and actors, they use all three levels of memory. Short Term, reading the lines, repetition doing it over and over again, procedural memory tying the lines to the movement (blocking). Many times an actor will forget a line if they are out of place. Actors also talk about relaxing into a role, in other words drop the stress. The emotion is also added, the emotion of the scene being played, and the emotion of people watching .So the old rules apply, but something interesting happens to actors I have not seen in other areas of life.

When a show is over, the lines and the movement which came without much effort for the run of the show, seem to disappear. I am directing a play I did 10 years ago and someone asked how much of it I remembered, very little at all. It was a emotional funny play, but it did not seem to encode into LTM. The same happened when I did the same part about 6 years apart, it came quicker, but it was a challenge. Relearning the lines was like reviewing and old song, it was almost there but foggy, but it became clear much faster than normal for me. I did find myself returning to the old movements on more than one occasion, procedural memory at play.

I think it it the brilliance of our subconscious mind as since it knows this is not really useful information, so do not clutter up the hard drive by remembering it in detail. It was a Threshold type memory, you need it on stage and seems to fade quickly. It can be recalled but it takes effort, although you may remember some highlights (strong emotional events) from the play.

I recently started doing my old style of Karate, and the Kata’s are not quite there I have to “walk through” the movements for them to return.

When we add our hypnosis to lower stress and to also add in repeating the thing to be remembered in the imagination, it begins to build the working and Lang Term Memory. We also use NLP & hypnosis to remove negative self talk that build unreasonable pressure.

I use self hypnosis while doing a play and am doing it to recall the old Karate Kata’s.

As with any skill the more you use it the more that skill expands, when was the last time you truly tested your memory?