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How Memories Dictate Life Decisions

Updated: Sep 15, 2020

In his book, Alternate Reality – The Mostly True Story of How I Became a Sociopath, author B. Steve Ross tells a harrowing story of an event that happened when he was 7 years old. In the story a 7 year old Steve Ross, his 9 year old brother, and his 4 year old sister escape out of a 2nd story window one evening when their father goes over the edge. In his own words Ross admits, “Maybe he was bluffing, I don’t know. I may have remembered it wrong, but why am I shaking and crying typing this”Whether or not the event actually took place as Ross remembers it, or if it is some imagined Alternate Reality - his memory of that day is the only reality the 7 year old boy has. The following 10-15 years is overshadowed by the loss and missing his father along with the guilt he feels because, in his mind, he is the reason his father is dead. All other events that take place in his life are dictated by that memory. All of the anger, rage, trust issues, and dysfunctional relationships can be traced back to that single memory.

What is reality? It is how we remember events either true, false, or a mixture of the two. It is the the effect our memories have on our decision making process. It is our 6th sense. Remember when you first touched the hot oven? Just as our senses of smell, sight, sound, taste, and touch give input and meaning into the future decisions we make. It is our memory of the pain from touching the hot oven that guides how we handle objects we suspect are hot as well as increases reaction time as soon as we feel a temperature hotter than we expect. Our memories have the same effect on all of our emotions and relationships, whether those memories are true or not. 

Experiments have been done where multiple people witness the same event from different vantage points. This results in multiple stories of what happened for the same event. A different vantage point has the same effect as different memories. Because our memories shape our emotions and how we look at the world (our reality), different people in the same circumstance can have totally differing views on the exact same event. There is no way to know what another person's reality is without actually living their life from day one. Please think about this on a very deep level. If you are in a relationship and your significant other does something that your cheating ex used to do - your memories of too much heat come back instantly just like the hot oven. Understand that every person has a different reality and treat everybody with that knowledge. Everybody is living in an Alternate Reality.

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