This is the seventh part of a lengthy article by Joseph M. Carver, Ph.D. called Emotional Memory Management: Positive Control Over Your Memory. The link to the next segment is included at the close of this segment.
Brain Operation and Daily Use
In all discussions, feelings, and activities during the day, the brain is constantly pulling files. What feelings are contained in those files depends on how our mood will be that day. Files can be very helpful if we have a lot of good files.
While good files can be helpful in terms of changing our mood, making us feel better, or providing a bright spot in the middle of an otherwise tough day, bad files can strongly impair our communications with others. Many times, a routine discussion, debate, argument, or hassle can cause files to enter our brain and give us difficulty.
In working with others, after a while we begin to tell when a file is out. For example, when you hear words such as, “Well, when I was young…”, “Just like last week…”, or “This is not the first time…” – a file has been pulled. If we were to videotape a discussion, we would immediately learn that all discussion, debate, and agreement is lost when a file comes out. This brings us to another rule:
Rule: You can’t argue with a file.
When a file comes out, it is as though we have placed a tape in our VCR. The tape begins playing and we hear the same discussion or feel the same feelings over and over. Husbands and wives refer to this sometimes as “broken record” conversations. We get the same lectures, the same anger, the same resentment, the same everything – it’s in the file. As an example, two people can be discussing whether they have enough money to purchase a lawnmower. The wife mentions using a particular credit card – that pulls a bad file in her husband, perhaps the “VISA” file. At that point, the husband launches into a long story about credit cards, high interest, harassing letters, and so forth. When that file is opened up, a discussion about the lawnmower becomes useless.
The way files open and close in our brain can be a real problem with communication. While we may try to remain business-like and focus on a topic of discussion, we can’t help but pull files. This brings up to another rule:
Rule: Any stimulation can pull a file.
Our body has five senses, vision, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. A file can be pulled by any of those senses. Example: The Vietnam combat veteran who automatically thinks of his combat experience when he hears a medical helicopter.
How we automatically think of high school and related events by hearing an old song. The five senses are very powerful when it comes to pulling files. Something else can pull files as well.
Emotions can pull files. We must remember that the brain is always looking for files in what we see, hear, and what we feel. As an example, emotions become attached to files. An adult who has had a bad first marriage may automatically pull a jealousy file any time his wife mentions, “I might be late”. The anxiety in that statement causes the brain to search for a file that make sense – it pulls up a jealousy file from the first marriage. If the husband allows the file to stay out, he will become insecure, jealous, and suspicious for no reason in the present. In second marriages, bad file-pulling is a very common yet very hazardous activity.
Another common way that emotions pull files is in the case of a panic attack. When an individual suffers a panic attack, a powerful brain chemical is released in the frontal area of the brain which creates the panic attack. After an attack however, we have clearly made a bad file – our brain remembers the attack and the feelings. Months later, we may be in a crowded store or in an emotionally tense situation when the brain recognizes that emotion – it’s seen it before during the panic attack. At that point, the brain immediately pulls the “panic attack” file. If we allow the file to stay out or pay attention to it, we are quite likely to have another panic attack – that’s what’s in the file.
Lets keep in mind that famous actors and actresses have known this method for years. If they want to cry on stage, they can pull a sensitive file from their personal life and within 90 seconds, tears are flowing. Remember: With each emotion or experience, the brain is always searching to see if we have a file on that topic.
[The next segment continues with Files and Marriage/Relationships.]