5 Fundamental Facts About The Power Of Memories.


1522662218_large-image_dali-persistence-of-memory-lgThe Persistence of Memory (1931)  Salvador Dali. Mike Steele: Flickr.

  1. Memories Can Be Absolutely Wonderful Or Dreadfully Painful.

“Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.”

Haruki Murakami

Memories can be sweet and pleasant; they can also be painful and disturbing, or somewhere in between. Memories are not black and white.

They represent a full-colour miscellany of our experiences and therefore can produce a mixture of feelings in us.

“Plants won’t wither if we always water them. So it’s, also, with the memories. It’s good, when they’re pleasant, but if they aren’t, then it’s madness.”

Victoria Holt


“There are moments when I wish I could roll back the clock and take all the sadness away, but I have a feeling that if I did, the joy would be gone as well. So I take the memories as they come, accepting them all, letting them guide me whenever I can.”

Nicholas Sparks

  • Good Memories.

31301659027_a036289d56_oWilliam Merritt Chase – A Memory, In the Italian Villa. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr

Happy memories can fill us with joy, sunshine and warmth; remembering good times can also help us through the bad periods in our life, like the pandemic.

51131094673_a41e1caf93_oEdward Cucuel – Summer in the Garden of the Artist’s Villa on Lake Starnberg [1915-20]

Such recollections can be like a sort of comfort blanket, something to hold onto when we need security and reassurance.

Perhaps memories, elusive and mercurial as they are, can also serve to reassure us that “This too will pass.” They are a poignant reminder of the passage of time.

What we may learn through the process of remembering is that we are referring to a time gone by: everything is impermanent.

Remembering the past also teaches us that we have, mostly, been able to be resilient enough to endure the bad times, and to survive them. We can assume, then, that if that was true in the past, it can be true now.

We do have within us that resilience, that courage; our memory is testament to that. This thought can fortify us during difficulties in the present.

7098323191_0a8e0cfeb7_oVincent van Gogh – Memory of the Garden at Etten [1888]. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

  • Painful Memories.

49832020818_0242161112_oRené Magritte – Memory [c.1957] Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

There are times when memories can be distressing and traumatic, interfering with our everyday life with their power to disrupt our sleep, work and relationships. Such memories can be persistent, intrusive and invasive.

In his book The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma, Bessel A. van der Kolk points out how powerful are such unworked through traumatic memories in the present:

“Being traumatized means continuing to organize your life as if the trauma were still going on—unchanged and immutable—as every new encounter or event is contaminated by the past.”

“It takes enormous trust and courage to allow yourself to remember.”

Bessel A. van der Kolk

  • Psychotherapy To Help When Memories Are too Disturbing.

“Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence.”

Peter A. Levine

51144525579_0ff3051843_oEllen Starr Lyon – The Vulnerability of Man II [2020]Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

Psychotherapy can help when memories feel too painful to bear. Different psychotherapy approaches can aid us in coping with such memories.

For example, if we require and can manage a psychoanalytical approach, it may be possible to work through the trauma, which could take some months or years.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is designed to treat trauma by examining feelings, thoughts and behaviour that may be unhelpful. Clients will be encouraged to manage these more constructively and healthily.


Remembering is part of working towards self-knowledge; if we know what is at the root of our current pain, then we may be able to face and work on it in psychotherapy.

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Georges Santayana.

“Whenever we give up, leave behind, and forget too much, there is always the danger that the things we have neglected will return with added force.”

 Carl Jung,( Memories, Dreams, Reflections.)


27770282932_af643000a7_oZhang Xiaogang – Amnesia and Memory, Sleep [2006]Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr

“We seem to live in a world where forgetting and oblivion are an industry in themselves and very, very few people are remotely interested or aware of their own recent history, much less their neighbours’. I tend to think we are what we remember, what we know. The less we remember, the less we know about ourselves, the less we are.” 

Carlos Ruiz Zafón

11304709045_3654892238_oHe Lihuai – The Intercept Memory [2013]Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

2. However: ParadoxicallySometimes Forgetting Is As Important As Remembering.
“Without forgetting it is quite impossible to live at all.”
Friedrich Nietzsche.
We need to try to live for today, for the present moment. This means that, for a healthy life, we will have to
try to focus, not on the past or the future, but on reality, on what is happening now.

“Forget: Refuse to dwell; let go and loosen one’s hold, particularly on memory. To forget is an active – not passive – endeavor.”

Clarissa Pinkola Estes

If we keep the painful memories at the front of our minds, we will not be able to function on a daily basis.

“Sooner or later she had to give up the hope of a better past.”


Traumatic memories need to be put in their place, once they have been explored and when we feel ready to let go. Of course, this is not a complete process; we can never wipe trauma from our brain.

We can never simply ‘forget.’ That would not be therapeutic at all. But we can learn to carry the painful memories better, so that they do not control our lives.

From : “The Sentence”

Anna Akhmatova

“Today I have so much to do:

I must kill memory once and for all,

I must turn my soul to stone, I must learn to live again-“

(In How Lovely The Ruins. Chagnot and Ikkanda.)

3. There Are Memories In The Inanimate Objects Around Us.

Do you ever think, when in an old building or under an ancient tree, “What if these walls or this tree could talk? Or “What if the people this old photo could speak, tell me how they are feeling and what is happening in their lives?”

23022805849_312bb17c87_oMary Chiaramonte – These Memories Too Are Bound To Die [2014]Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“Aryami Bose’s home had been closed up for years, inhabited only by books and paintings, but the spectre of thousands of memories imprisoned between its walls still permeated the house.”

Carlos Ruiz Zafón

5848099602_3aec23b317_oAnette Harboe Flensburg – House of Memory [2006] Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“It was the kind of building that remembered things, deep-down things, things that rode tears into the world, telling them back to anyone old enough or wise enough to know how to listen with their eyes.”

Charles Blow

“The visible world is a daily miracle for those who have eyes and ears; and I still warm hands thankfully at the old fire, though every year it is fed with the dry wood of more old memories.”

Edith Wharton

Many of the inanimate objects around us are imbued with meanings and memories, so that even a glance at them brings the past flooding back.

In terms of houses, we often talk of a place having ‘atmosphere.’ It is almost as if some buildings have memories of what has happened within stored deep inside their walls.

4. Memory Can Serve As Memorial.

“Memory is the treasury and guardian of all things.”

Marcus Tullius Cicero

The objects around us may function as a kind of memorial to a lost person, a lost place.

Jewellery and trinkets, articles of clothing, letters and all kinds of possessions can be a way of memorialising and keeping some of the past alive in the present.

They represent in a solid and material way something that is no longer in our lives, a kind of transitional object to ease us through our pain.

38246425625_090f1a9b4d_oCharles Spencelayh – His Old Wedding Hat [1943]. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“So long as we are being remembered, we remain alive.”

Carlos Ruiz Zafón

36060468720_0a3a8bfd57_oCharles Spencelayh – Treasures. Gandalf’s Gallery.

“If there is any substitute for love, it is memory.“

Joseph Brodsky

5. Visual, Bodily And Auditory Memories Can Be Powerful Reminders

largePatty Carroll – Scrapbooking [2019]Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr

“Max had once read in one of his father’s books that some childhood images become engraved in the mind like photographs, like scenes you can return to again and again and will always remember, no matter how much time goes by.”

Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Music may transport us into the past; as we hear certain melodies, we may instantly recall times and events, people and places from yesterday.

The sense of taste has the same effect sometimes.

“No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me………..And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane.”

Proust. Mémoires du Temps Perdu.

Photographs can instantly revivify past experiences.They are strong visual records of how things were.They also serve as a  measure of how time has passed.

Strangely, photographs appear to change as we grow and move through life. They do not stay the same, for each time we look at them, we see them differently, especially after we have not looked at them for some years.

14568655700_20abaef454_oStephen Bauman – When I Was Young. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“Art is the act of triggering deep memories of what it means to be fully human.”

David Whyte


33614604356_976d4f2599_oHannu Palosuo – Sources of Souvenirs [2000]Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“And gradually his memory slipped a little, as memories do, even those with so much love attached to them; as if there is an unconscious healing process within the mind which mends up in spite of our desperate determination never to forget.”

Colleen McCullough

©Linda Berman

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