To get started with this post, let me throw out some definitions:
Memory: The ability to recreate the past.
Imagination: The ability to create.
These are pretty standard definitions and easily understandable. Both Memory and Imagination are critical for a fully functional life.
But somewhere in between there is what I call Imaginative Memory.
Imaginative Memory: Using our imagination to create, not re-create, events from our past in order to make sure the story fits our narrative.
Unfortunately, most the time we try to conjure up our Imaginative Memory we do so to make sure the story fits an irrational or negative narrative.
You’ve seen this happen a million times. You witness a friend in an argument with a co-worker. When that same friend goes to retell the story later the story starts to skew a bit. Overtime it will skew even further if left unchecked. Bam…Imaginative Memory.
Creating, not recreating, history.
Make sure you aren’t using the power of Imaginative Memory for evil. Make sure the little argument you had with your wife doesn’t skew into something bigger to fit a useful narrative in the future. Make sure you don’t create a history with your children that includes “he is always arguing with me.” Make sure you don’t let your Imaginative Memory run wild, irrational and unchecked.
Imaginative Memory needs to be disputed and challenged in order to have good relationships and to live a happy life. It usually comes down to simply changing your perspective.
“I used to think that teacher had it out for me, but now I see he was just challenging me to do my best.”
“My sister in law get’s irritated very easily, but that doesn’t mean she’s hates me.”
“My parents aren’t being strict just to make my life miserable, they’re helping me become more responsible and making sure I’m safe.”
While we’re on the topic of imagination allow me a rough segue to end with a quote from one of my favorite authors, Piero Ferrucci from his book “Inevitable Grace”1:
“First, by inventing possible worlds, the mind learns to transcend it’s on stereotypes. Second, when we use our imagination we are not bound to duties or stopped by obstacles – we are free to play. No longer weighed down by the real world, we can let chance and the unconscious to their part – above all, we can laugh. At the same time, inhibitions loosen up and the resources that every day life perennially restricts can reach full flower. In this way imagination becomes a way to freedom.“
Page 46-47 if you’re following along at home. ↩