From the Humanist Health News Network REHUNO Health we are launching a place of exchange where we find a new look on daily life based on an experiential and existential psychology (the Psychology of New Humanism), and which gives some concrete proposals of personal work to reach a full sense of our existence and a life free of unnecessary suffering. It is not, therefore, a therapeutic psychology, nor does it deal with any pathology, but is aimed at anyone who wants to understand themselves and have the tools, if they so wish, to initiate a positive change in their lives. Psychological wellbeing is undoubtedly one of the foundations of integral health, which is why it is an aspect that needs to be addressed.

We invite you to put these proposals into practice and also to contact us and tell us about your experience. Write to us!

By Jordi Jiménez

We all know the mechanism of memory and we know more or less how it works from the point of view of our experience (we are not referring to neuronal functioning, which is much more complex). We can say that memory is the function that regulates subjective time and stores both external and internal registers and sensations. There is an ancient memory, which is the basis on which the first recordings were formed; a mediate memory, where daily short- and medium-term phenomena are still recorded; and an immediate memory, which sorts and classifies the data of the present moment. It can also be recognised that there is a motor or movement memory, an affective memory, a visual and spatial memory, a conceptual memory, etc. The recording of data in memory takes place mainly in vigil, while the sorting of these data takes place mainly in sleep (we will discuss the levels of consciousness later).

Another important characteristic is that memory records data in a relational, global way, it does not record individual or unconnected data. That is to say, while I am writing this text, my memory is storing visual data, but at the same time, it is storing auditory data, tactile data, olfactory data and all the sensations that I may have at this moment (I have just had a hot coffee, for example, and this is stored at the same time as the rest). The whole experience is recorded with all its interrelated attributes, and this is of enormous consequence. For example, if I always have a coffee when I sit down to write, both stimuli will be strongly associated with memory by repetition. So, if one day I sit down to write without coffee, I will immediately feel the urge to drink it, I will miss it because in memory it is associated with writing, it was recorded at the same time. This type of strong association is well known to those “addicted” to coffee or a cigarette after a meal, and this happens precisely because the memory records data in a global way, related to each other and not separately.

But another of the great functions of memory, in addition to recording and storing data, is to supply that data (stored somewhere in the nervous system) when it is needed, and this is where it gets interesting. Because… what would be the point of all this recording and storing if it wasn’t used for something? Our psychic system is constantly using the data stored in memory to do countless things. We do not use memory only when we intentionally try to remember something, but everything stored there is being used all the time. For example, I am writing these lines and I notice that I am thirsty. I get up and go to the kitchen to get a glass of water. I practically don’t even have to pay attention to these movements. My memory “guides” me to the kitchen, finds a glass, finds a tap, knows how to open the tap, fill the glass, remembers to close the tap after, grabs the glass and balances it so that the water doesn’t spill out as I walk, and takes me back to the study where I was in front of the laptop to continue writing because it remembers what I was doing before the interruption. “My memory” puts the glass down on the table carefully so as not to get everything wet and continues with the task. While the body was doing this on its own (guided by the memory), I was thinking about the thread of the article, how to finish it, some examples, etc. My attention was on the writing. I needed to pay almost no attention to the subject of the glass of water.

This simple, everyday example shows the enormous number of things we do automatically thanks to the enormous amount of data stored in our memory. If we could erase our entire memory (a kind of total formatting of the hard disk) we would not even be able to stand up, we would not even know how to walk, we would not be able to do anything, we would have to relearn everything from the most essential. Therefore, everything stored in memory from the first days of our life is there ready for when we need to access that information and use it in any action of our life.

But this marvellous mechanism that makes it easier for us to do so many things every day also causes some difficulties. Indeed, when we try to change something in our life, a habit, a custom or something more intangible like changing certain thoughts or certain emotions, things get complicated. We have all experienced it at one time or another. If we will be any change of habits (who has not proposed something like this at the beginning of the new year?) we see that at the beginning we are doing well, but after a while, things return to their original state, he he. Why? Because of the force of memory, a very powerful mechanism that is difficult to break, much more the older we get.

So, the function of memory as a data recorder is important, but no more so than its function as a data supplier. We all know that to change something in our life we have to re-learn, to re-record new data, new habits over the already known ones, and that always takes much more time and energy than if we record new data, of something unknown, of which there was nothing before. Of course, if I will be proposing to start in the gym, besides the force of memory there is the physical effort that must be added to the change of habit. But if what we want to change is some internal “habit” (thoughts, emotions…), something that does not require any physical effort, we will see that it is the force of memory that hinders this change. Going against the mechanistic requires energy and time.

The good thing about this is that once we have managed to modify something and re-record it in the new format, it will also end up working automatically and we won’t have to put as much energy into it as in the beginning. This is as true for the gym as it is for internal, intangible habits. Many people say that once they get “used” to going to the gym (they have it well recorded in memory) they miss it the day they don’t go. The physical effort has ceased to be a problem because the problem was the previous mechanicity, that is, the memory. And what happens with the intangibles, with our psychism? The same thing. If we manage to introduce new internal habits and maintain them, they will become automated and work by themselves. For example, if I get into the daily habit of being grateful for the good things that have happened to me -see article: gratitude-, or I get into the habit of looking for a register of coherence in my actions -see article: happiness is called coherence-, or I manage to have a strongly engraved guiding image, an Inner Guide -see the article The Inner Guide-, that serves me as inspiration and orientation in difficult moments, or I get into the habit of requesting the best for others when they have complications. All these habits (some may be new, some may not) are shaping a new inner world, a new lifestyle, and a new way of being in the world of human relationships, with a new look. If I manage to record this (and what everyone wants to add), new memories will be formed which, using their own mechanicity, will start to work in my favour, in the direction I want for my life, leaving behind old difficulties.

We are not really discovering anything new; we are simply emphasising the psychological aspects of change that we find most interesting in order to lead a healthier, more coherent, and therefore happier life.