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Understand how memory works

Updated on August 23, 2014

Gain control of your remembering processes

This article aims to supply a few answers to the understanding of how memory works and how to improve its workings, but also to raise some questions as well.

Scientific jargon

You will not find in it much reference to so-called scientific explanations: cortices, synapses and such, because I do not think that this is actually helpful in making better use of your memory.


However, I would say that the interplay of emotion and memory is very pertinent to gaining better control over what we want to remember. You may have observed the way that children "forget' things they do not want to do, like their homework. This can be your first step to gaining control of your memory; next time you forget something, ask yourself why you might have forgotten it. We often forget things we find painful or inconvenient. this is natural and it is the body-mind's way of protecting us from bad experiences and keeping us strong to fight another day.


Nobody likes being beat up or pushed around and our inner self also feels this way. so the next time you are trying to retrieve a memory from your subconscious, refrain from stressing and tying yourself in knots. Instead, calmly ask your inner self for the information you need and when you have your answer, do not forget to thank your higher self. Your self loves being thanked! If asking nicely was not enough to obtain the answer you need, try a practice from the Silva Mind Method.

Close your eyes and count slowly backwards from ten. When you reach one, you will be in what is known as the Alpha state. Stay there until you have the information, then count back up to ten to bring yourself back to your normal consciousness.

In fact, you will find that regular practice of any kind of meditation should prove helpful in improving your memory.

Memory men

If you need to remember something like a phone number, you can take advice from professional memorisers. These men, they often seem to be men, have phenomenal memory power, which they use to earn a living onstage or in contests. Perhaps because they are men, they tend to favour visual imagery in the techniques they have developed for memorising things. They often advise people to visualise the thing they wish to remember in an outlandish situation, which helps to recall it to mind later. Conversely, improving one's memory should also have the effect of improving one's visual functioning.

However, you should be aware that different kinds of people have different dominant senses, so that some people will recall visual images more easily, some will recall musical sounds,while others are more "touchy-feely". The legendary deaf-blind woman, Helen Keller was an extraordinary example of a touchy-feely type, who taught herself to speak by touching the larynx of a speaking person.

A touchy-feely person


Women tend to be more verbally inclined than men, so, if you are a woman, rather than try to visualise your subject, try putting it into something like a little nursery rhyme, that will help you recall it.

Remember in advance

There is no doubt that you will more easily remember something, if you have remembered beforehand that you will need to recall it later! Therefore, practise what I call "remembering in advance". Think ahead a little bit. Plan your day. If you make an advance note that you are likely to need a certain piece of information later in the day or later in the week, you are more likely to remember it when you need it. Or, go all the way and write it in a "to do" list!


Readers have pointed out that it can be difficult to remember to make out a list. I think the difficulty is in finding the time to make a list. Certainly, during the day it is difficult to set aside time for this, so use the time that is usually wasted, standing in the supermarket line, for instance. Always carry a pen and make a list on anything; your till receipt , for instance. If you can only make your list mentally, use alphabetical and chronological order as you list things, as this will make it easier to retrieve the items from your memory later.


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    • wearing well profile image

      Deborah Waring 5 years ago from Lancashire U.K.

      If only I could remember to do my To Do List Em Saez;I should actually enjoy doing this being a writer too !

      Maybe it's because I am a fortunate women having a visual memory (not too talkative) I agree with your excellent tips of planning ahead which makes you feel more organised and in control of your life.I often tend to plan ahead in my mind too.Nice reference to the amazing Helen Keller :)

    • em_saenz profile image

      em_saenz 5 years ago from Europe

      Ha ha, Yes I too neglect the To do list, but I find that it helps to simply remember how many things I need to do. As a woman, I find I am able to count, anyway!

    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 5 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      Nice article Em_Saenz. I live and work by my memory, and being a strong Myers-Briggs 'P' type, lists are out of the question, so several of your hints will be helpful. Unfortunately, it won't be the visualization techniques because I have never, in all my 64 years, been able to consciously visualize my way out of a paper bag; and it pi...s me off. Daydream, nightdream, I am a pro; in full color and sound, no less. Conscieously, it is only the feeling of shapes; those sunny beaches of hypnosis fame didn't have a chance of appearing, lol.

      What does work most often for me is what you suggested, however, don't force it. One time it took almost a full year for the answer to my Perry moment, "what was the fourth show I saw on Broadway on a visit there" to emerge; it was "Chicago". Of course, I can't remember the other three now, dang it.

    • em_saenz profile image

      em_saenz 5 years ago from Europe

      Thanks for your input. I find that it is always the very simple things that are most helpful, for instance, putting things in alphabetical order, i.e. Chicago,Les miserables,Sound of Music, The Boyfriend

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