Memories defining the self

LeDoux begins his “Adventures in Time” chapter with this quote by Luis Bunuel: “You have to begin to lose your memory, if only bits and pieces, to realize that memory is what makes our lives. Life without memory is no life at all.”

In class on Tuesday we briefly discussed this quote and how our memories may impact how we define the self. I was really intrigued by this idea because there are various types of memory, so does one define us more than another?

When I consider how I define myself, it is usually through experiences that I’ve had that have shaped my personality and how I live my life. Yes, I include obvious things like my gender, my age, my hometown, etc., but the emphasis is most often on how I interact with others or how I function in society. My future interactions with others are determined by past interactions with others. Simply put, my episodic memory becomes my personality.  However, LeDoux writes that ” a loss of explicit memory, due to damage to the hippocampus, while devastating in many ways, would not eliminate personality.” So therefore, there must be something else beside this explicit, episodic memory that is creating my personality. But what? Does semantic memory or non-declarative memory play that much of a role? They must. They contribute to our mannerisms and how we subconsciously understand ourselves and others.

One of my favorite quotes from this chapter is, “In order to be yourself, you have to remember who you are.” This again summarizes the concept that the self is created using a combination of every type of memory. I would not be myself without the facts I know, the things I know how to do, and the events I can recall. It is all me. As I mentioned earlier, you can still have your personality if some memory is missing, like explicit memory, but I still would not be completely me. So, I am only what I remember.

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