Memories: something remembered from the past that recalls a moment, a place, a person, or a feeling. Memories, both good and bad. Memories, fleeting or recurring. Memories, powerful or almost like a whisper.
Just reading the word can trigger a memory or two. And, interestingly, studies show that for the majority of us, negative memories are more prevalent and more detailed than positive ones. Criticism has more power than praise, particularly if it is the last thing someone hears.
Culturally, these studies show that we tend to think people who say negative things are smarter. A movie critic who writes about a film or piece of music or art in glowing terms will not be as well received. Apparently our brain tells us that someone who isn't noticing the bad parts of something is not to be trusted.
These findings do help explain a lot about how our world seems to function. Politics is all about pointing out how wrong someone else is about almost everything. The media rarely covers good news - it just doesn't attract the attention that bad news does. All of us have had the experience of slowing down to look at a car crash on the freeway, and thinking, "thank goodness that isn't me. What a bad driver." So, this is just the way the brain works: something negative will stick with us longer and be more powerful.
OK, so I must be a little unusual or have a brain that is wired differently. Sure, I can remember some bad stuff while growing up. Yes, I had negative experiences during my working years, like being fired. I recall giving some very bad advice over the years to clients that lost me their business. There are some experiences in my marriage that don't give me a warm glow when I think about them (all my fault, by the way...no really!).
But, I have to search for bad memories. As I told my mom and dad several years before they died, I have no negative memories of my childhood. I was never beaten, underfed, unloved, ignored, or uncared for. I was only nurtured, held, encouraged, supported, and loved. If there were unpleasant memories they were tough times we went through as a family, not just me.
My memories are almost unfailingly positive. That doesn't mean my life has been a dream. As a human being I have had my share of disappointment, heartache, and loss. But, I almost never recall that stuff unless asked to. Even after my heart attack last summer I look back on that episode as a time when so many wonderful people expressed feelings of love and support for me, the doctors and hospital staff were great, and I was given a chance to fix my body and my lifestyle. It was a good experience.
Apparently there is a name for this: positivity bias. To string together a few cliches, I don't wear rose-colored glasses and I am not a glass half full (or nearly full) kind of person. I can become as agitated or angry as the next guy. I know there is a lot of evil in the world and at the moment it seems to be winning. But, those feelings doesn't extend to my memories.
Part of the reason I have continued to write Satisfying Retirement (now Satisfying Journey) for almost six years, is the forum it give me to encourage people, to talk about the possibilities that are in front of us, and to celebrate the wonders of a fulfilled life.
Now I know why: I have PB (positivity bias).