It happens to almost everyone at one stage. You are telling a story, reminiscing with someone about something that occurred in the past. Everything is going great until someone that was also there says “I don’t remember that” or “It didn’t happen that way”.
What else from your childhood or early adult memories could be slight fabrications? Don’t stress about it because psychologists say that these “adapted” memories are good for you. Research has shown that the memory is not a computer hard drive that just stores facts but a wonderfully creative place that helps blend fact and fiction to allow people to tell meaningful stories, set goals, and even change their outlook on the future.
Martin Conway, from the Psychology Department at City University London who has authored 150 studies on memory, recalled to The Wall Street Journal that a lawyer had told him about fond memories of being at the hospital awaiting the birth of his baby brother. His father was keeping him distracted by talking about the recent moon landing. The lawyer felt that it was his father showing him that even though there was going to be a new baby that his father still loved and valued him.
Only it couldn’t have been, as his brother was born a year before the moon-landing even had happened. The lawyer said to Martin “I’ve had this cherished memory for 30 years that I thought was true, but as I listened I suddenly realised it couldn’t be”. Martin is quick to point out that while some of the details of the story are false “The fact that he was still loved was a truth to him, an important truth,” continuing “It’s not so important that a memory be accurate. It’s more important that it helps us define ourselves.”
While a lot of the time these way of memory gathering can contribute to blocking out a traumatic or “toxic” memory by just omitting it. There are also those that are embellishing on the unfortunate incidents so that their story of “overcoming” is more impressive and gives them a greater sense of self.
It is these memories that help shape our personalities and character so it just goes to show that the old saying “never let the facts get in the way of a good story” is true.