I have been writing an autobiographical piece for my coursework. Having chosen a rather difficult period in my life it was a rollercoaster of emotions. It started me thinking about how amazing the brain is and how many layers of sensation and feeling are stored in the human memory banks.
There was, of course, the basic snapshot of the event, but this was overlaid with moving images, which meant that I could play it and replay it like a film, watching the expressions on peoples’ faces. Then there were the sounds, in this case mainly voices and actual phrases that were spoken.
I found that once I had tapped into the time, I could sense the clothing I was wearing against my skin. If there had been foods or smells associated with this period, I am sure that I would have been able to recall these too.
The strongest part of the memory was how, at a twenty year distance, I could remember the emotions I felt then and not only that, but could actually feel them again. Anger re-emerged and tears that had been shed originally surfaced to fall again.
It was a very powerful experience and did not abate even during the editing of the piece.
I’ve heard people say that they “blank out” uncomfortable memories, but I seem to recall them in vivid detail. Is this what makes a writer?