How do we choose what to remember?

Last week our kids had their winter school break and we went for a week-long ski trip in Mont Tremblant, Canada. Mont Tremblant has a great mountain and, perhaps more importantly, a really picturesque village at its base. My parents and I have come here several times when I was a teenager, but not in the past 15+ years. This time, my mom managed to get a room in the same cute hotel where we had stayed back then, we retraced our steps across the ski slopes and the village, and even managed to visit the Scandinavian Spa that had been imprinted in my memory. We also had some French crepes that I had (unsuccessfully) tried recreating in our kitchen.

First time in Mont Tremblant!

Reminiscing about the past

While this was my husband’s and kids’ first visit, my parents and I spent some time reminiscing about “the good old times”. And this is where it hit me. While all of us have retained charming memories of our time here, we all recalled slightly different things.

I mostly remembered the time we spent walking through the village, eating crepes in a cute little French café and sitting in the hot tub with my parents’ friends. I remembered their silly jokes and how I helped one guy make a towel turban to prevent his head from getting cold. I also remembered how I got a set of test tube-shaped shot classes for my husband (boyfriend back then), as we were both in grad school at the time.

My parents remembered funny signs on the ski slopes, taking pictures next to a snowplow and sticking beer bottles into snow next to the hot tub. More than that, my dad told me a story of getting a large poster and making me lie down in the back seat of the car to prevent it from sticking out and attracting attention at the border. I have no recollection of that whatsoever.

Where am I going with all of this? Thinking about how our minds subconsciously decided to retain different details makes me wonder if emotions play a role in memory selection.

Forming memories

I remember (no pun intended) learning in a college psychology course how people were more likely to recall emotionally charged photos than neutral ones. For example, we are more likely to remember a person with a scared facial expression than a happy one; or a bloody knife, rather than a pleasant landscape. While these examples emphasized negative emotions, I am sure that positive ones work as well. Each one of us pays more attention to some things more than others, though sometimes we cannot even understand ourselves why a certain detail stuck with us. It is one of the enigmatic features of our beautiful brains.

Fragile Memory
13″ x 13″ on stretched canvas

So what are your emotionally charged memories? Which moments do you remember because they held special meaning just for you? Do you know why you still think of them?

Please share in the comments below.

Art is my emotional outlet and my oasis.  I use art to express my feelings and work through life issues.  Come join me on this journey of letting go of control and letting the creative process take over.  You will get access to all of the behind the scenes footage and see the major breakthroughs that translate into new artwork.

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