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Memory changing.....a tad extreme. What about changing the perception?

Human minds and our memories are incredibly powerful things; they can propel us forward with a joyful, positive outlook, or they can hold us back and tell us all the reasons why we should not forge ahead with plans, ambitions, development.

When treating conditions such as depression and trauma, there has been wide research into how individuals can repress, modify or even completely eradicate memories to suit their particular circumstance. In fact, some would say that memories are always subjective and my recall of a holiday will often differ in its details from my fellow travellers'. We are constantly making subjective perceptions of the world that surrounds us. Often....no problem, we maintain our own peculiar status quo; at other times, perhaps there is merit in challenging those subjective memories and self-beliefs which could be re-assessed in order to become more helpful for our wellbeing and development.

Our brains are more powerful than any computer in existence; despite all of the developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI), no robot can yet compare. Indeed, we are so complex that neuroscience is only in its infancy in terms of understanding or brain potential. However, what we do know is that our brains can change their physical structure and make-up during the course of a lifetime. We call this Neuroplasticity. This means that we can take our past experiences and memories, raise our awareness of what actually happened, re evaluate and then actually alter the structure of our brains and all of the connections within them to reflect new thoughts, feelings and behaviour. It’s not changing the past experience but is re-evaluating the memory and the effect of it.

Let's take the example of an unhelpful thought: 'I am not creative!'. This thought can lead to avoidance of creative activities and to feelings of negativity about creative abilities across the board. The brain has dug a pathway which sees a paintbrush, a piece of paper and screams 'NO!'. It sees a meeting for leaders to create and communicate their vision and says 'run for the hills'. This isn't repression of a memory but it is distortion.

By developing our Emotional Intelligence we may begin to look at what really happened to create this memory. Working with many clients about this kind of unhelpful belief, so many times, this belief finds its roots in one or only a handful of real experiences. The majority of the time, our negatively-biased brains have taken this or these initial and powerful experiences and applied them throughout the rest of life's journey. There's no repression but memory is selective. When we dedicate some time and space to reflect, think, raise awareness and then re-evaluate, we can lead ourselves to a radically new outcome. Instead of not being creative, there is a realisation that, for example, a teacher who I looked up to once made a comment that I was not doing my creative best, then I looked around for evidence to back this up. In fact this was a one-off experience but powerful enough for belief in it to set in and thus new evidence was found at each turn.

Our brains (let's face it, we are our brains) create these self-fulfilling prophecies so, in most cases, we don't need to repress or change memories we just embark upon a journey of justifying a pattern of thought. With just a little awareness, observation and challenge of our modus operandi, huge modifications can be made. Our perception of what was 'true' was just that: perception.

It takes time and effort to re-examine what we have believed in as the truth for decades but once the Emotional Intelligence is there, therein lies the beginning of the pathway to change.