Posted on 25 January, 2016

How to Rewire Your Memories for Success

By Jacob Andreae in How-to, Success, Mental Clarity How to Rewire Your Memories for Success

[Photo credit: Ian D. Keating]

Imagine if you could rewire your memories for success. Well, turns out you can. Research from New York University demonstrates how the brain retrieves memories and it could be the most important breakthrough of all time for the treatment of PTSD, anxiety disorder and performance training in all facets.

I recently came across an article in The New Yorker magazine about how your brain retrieves memories and associates emotions with them. Daniela Schiller, from the laboratory of affective neuroscience at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, has been researching how emotional memories are formed in the brain. She specialises in the connection of memory and fear. While fear is an important emotion for survival, it also prevents many people from reaching their potential.

Many people consider memory to be like a video. You rewind the video in your mind and watch back what happened. Not surprisingly, it turns out that memory is much more advanced. Every memory we retain depends upon a chain of biochemical and electrical interactions being passed along a neural pathway from one nerve cell to the next.

Based on the work of Elizabeth Loftus; Elizabeth Phelps and Joseph LeDoux have been conducting research that supports the notion that old memories retrace the pathways that created them; and that during that process, memories seem to change. These findings have been supported around the world. This means that unlike a video, memories are subject to editing, every time you recall them.

While the drug, anisomycin, has been shown to prevent neurons from producing the necessary proteins to store a memory, Daniela Schiller was more interested in finding a way to eliminate negative emotions without the need for injecting a drug into the brain. She found that she could remove the fear associated with a memory, by using extinction training. Extinction training is a process of presenting a negative memory over and over again, without anything bad happening, to overcome the negative fear associated with that memory.

Two of the techniques used in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) are very similar, but in my opinion, much safer and effective. The reason for that is that you don’t associate into bad memories. In other words, you view your memories as an outsider, watching yourself, as opposed to seeing the memory through your own eyes.

How to Rewire Your Memories for Success 

  • Swish Pattern
    The swish pattern is a process where you recall a memory that you don’t like. Once you have that memory you dull the picture down in colour, clarity, and make it as ridiculous and unappealing as possible - even funny. You then recall, or even create, a new memory that is your ideal way of behaving. You turn up the colour to make it colourful and vibrant, associate pleasurable sounds and feelings, and then with speed and repetition, bring the ideal memory clear into view. Sometimes you can zoom one out and one in and sometimes you can crash one through the other like glass. Whatever technique is used, the key is speed. This is a very effective strategy with performance enhancement.
  • Time Line Therapy
    Tad James, who learned NLP from its founders, Richard Bandler and John Grinder, developed time line therapy. Time line therapy is a technique used to reframe past memories associated with negative emotions. The benefit of this technique is that you never associate into the scene, meaning that you are safe from personally experiencing those negative emotions. Upon completion of time line therapy, you learn new ways of interpreting past memories and people often say they feel free from the heaviness of their emotional baggage. Time line therapy can only be conducted with a qualified time line therapy practitioner.

While extinction training is not groundbreaking work, the finding that memories retrace their old pathways is. In terms of treatment, Schiller’s research provides support for extinction training and certain NLP techniques such as the Swish Pattern and Time Line Therapy.

What does rewiring your memories for success mean to you?

This blog is a review of the article, ‘Partial Recall’ by Michael Specter from The New Yorker Magazine. I highly suggest you read the whole article as it tells the personal story of Daniela Schiller and her father who lived through the Holocaust. It is highly informative, interesting and even has a twist at the end that will have you reaching for the tissue box. 

About Jacob Andreae

About Jacob Andreae

I write and speak about Fitness, Nutrition and Mindset. 

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