Sunday, February 14, 2010

Curing a Selective Memory

For those who don't know, my last major self-improvement venture was in curing my lifelong speech impediment. For nearly my entire history people had always found something peculiar about my way of speaking, and my being used to my speech patterns rendered me unable to detect what that peculiarity was. After getting some input from a respected audience I finally got speech therapy, where I soon found out that the source of my trouble was due to a consequence of my hearing-impairment: I was omitting sounds I am deaf to, the /s/ and /th/ (both voiced and unvoiced) sounds. After incorporating the proper tongue movement practices and quickly skimming through Change Your Voice for instructions on how to properly place my voice I have managed to completely rid myself of the lifelong defect. I still do not like the aesthetics of my voice, but I have come to terms with it since I have come to understand that my hearing will always influence the way I interpret my own pitches, so I must settle myself with the fact that no one else is offended by my voice.

This is a big accomplishment considering how many months I worked on it and how negatively my past speech patterns influenced my relationships. Now I would like to take upon myself what I view to be my next big self-improvement venture, curing what I consider to be a "selective memory," another long-present problem.

In this particular context I do not mean "selective" as in that I consciously choose what to and what not to remember, but rather that my memory has the tendency to automatically filter information based on previously established mental attributes whether or not I consciously direct an effort to do so.

Since my particular area of concern is within the realm of education (rather than on, say, people and street names) I clarify with an example from my studies: right now I am engaged in the reading of the whole health book The Primal Blueprint. While it is written to be accessible to the layman there is technical terminology present in order to explain how certain physiological phenomena occur, such as how the insulin spikes occur after consuming excessive carbohydrates. I find that despite my efforts otherwise my memory seems unable to retain newly presented terminology and facts regarding bodily substances, such as what cholesterol is composed of or how it travels in the bloodstream, but in overly broad terms I am able to glean from my reading general health practices and certain physiological principles (e.g. I can retain that eating too many carbohydrates spikes the insulin and increases the risk for various diseases, but I'll forget the various factors that explain why this is so).

My intention, of course, is not to remember every single thing I exert my mind towards -- I know that's impossible. What it is I hope to accomplish is improving my memory so that it doesn't automatically filter out what it habitually treats as "nonessential information" even though I am working to integrate it. My purpose in trying to accomplish such is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of my psychological-epistemology, be a better purveyor of my views, become a better activist, and be able to deal with life more effectively. For instance, in my current context I consistently find myself in the embarrassing position of having my health practices witnessed and questioned, but at the time I am unable to provide a detailed or logically valid justification for why I maintain them (such as eating lots of fat or wearing VFFs) even though I know I validated my reasons in my private study. Another example would be knowledge regarding nutritional supplementation, which is a very complicated health concern: I may be able to retain education about baseline dosages and toxicity levels, but I forget the fullest physiological impact such supplementation may have on me, which in practice renders me less able to adjust my practices regarding fluctuations in my diet or new exercise habits.

So far my plans on how to tackle this problem are not substantial:

1.) Reduce the amount of variety of information I have to deal with day-to-day: A few days ago I was experiencing immense frustration at the fact that I was trying to educate myself on several subjects a day (both formally and informally) but was in actuality learning very little. It was then that I realized that I was stretching myself too thin and spending very little time with each individual subject, so I resolved to be more concentrated in my day-to-day efforts. For example, in my blog reader feed, which is where this resolution primarily applies, I will allow certain authors to stockpile their posts while I focus on others so that I can concentrate on a few varied subjects at a time instead of trying to read updates from everyone all at once from subjects varying from international politics to new reports on vitamin research.

2.) Make as many lists as necessary: One thing that has been harming my overall productivity is that I've often abused my planner by trying to put everything in it, from school assignments to future blogging subjects. This has caused my planner to become an almost incomprehensible block of text that is intimidating in its sheer amount of littered words. I have remedied the problem by composing three separate lists, thereby reducing dramatically the clutter of information: in my planner I document only planned activities, on a separate sheet of paper by my computer I keep track of writing subjects, and in a blue notebook I carry in my pocket I document my random thoughts for later tracking (which I remind myself to check by writing "check notebook" in my planner). I find so far that this has not only reduced information clutter but also increased my thinking efficiency since my blue notebook takes the strain off my mind from having to retain my smallest ideas.

This is all I can think of for now. If you'd like to suggest something, do so! I will post further updates on progress and new practices.

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