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Posts Tagged ‘memory’

Today is Nana’s birthday. She would have been 92 years old today. She died in January, 1999, when she was only 80. There was a time when 80 would have seemed a venerable age; now, with my 70-year-old parents, 80 is not old. It certainly doesn’t seem like the right age to die.

I have tried to hang on to her in various ways over the years. I expected her to visit me in dreams; she did not. I hoped that she would appear at the end of my bed; she never did. I figured that with all the ghost hunting and spirit chasing, she might decide to make contact; my expectations came to nothing. I have talked about her jewelry box before, exclaiming how her perfume is extra strong when I think about her and talk to her—but someone pointed out that the old scent simply accumulates over time when the box is closed, so there’s no mystery there. The more often I open it, the less perfume escapes. I even went so far as to use the IOvilus to attempt to make contact with her—all to no avail.

I swallowed my doubts and consulted a medium in Idyllwild, waiting anxiously for a meaningful message. All she told me was that Nana was completely confused by her death, not expecting it, and felt utterly lost when she passed over. That was not comforting. That did not prove nor disprove anything, but left me with a certain sadness for my grandmother, who never seemed very happy in life, and– if I were to believe the medium–was now lost and overwhelmed by death.

I really did expect, over the last 11 years, that Nana might come back in some form to comfort me, or simply to remind me that she’s still around. The fact that—besides some interesting dreams of other family members—Nana appears to be truly gone, scares me and raises some old specters (pardon the metaphor). I became involved in the paranormal because I wanted to explain to myself, if no one else, why I experienced contact with some people (such as Grandpa Joe) and not others. The person I most wanted to connect with was simply not there. We all fear oblivion, some of us more than others, especially because it turns our lives into hourglasses, a waiting room for death. I don’t believe that nothing remains of us after we pass over—anyone reading soulbank knows that—but I am at a total loss when it comes to understanding the data and making sense of my experience.

The voices I capture during EVP sessions and the messages I get in various ways (IOvilus, mediums, psychics, dreams, etc.) do not point to a coherent picture of the afterlife. In fact, it often seems that messages are fragmented, strange, purposefully cryptic or simply bizarre. Of course, if you look for spirits in places like Camarillo, what do you expect? Even so, it appears to me that what we “capture” are more like echoes and memories than actual lives. Is there a place after death where our identities and memories remain intact? Do we really continue to evolve? To we return to life in a new body? Does it matter that we progress spiritually, or does the same fate await us all?

I just finished a fascinating book by David Kessler: Visions, Trips and Crowded Rooms. Apparently, medical personnel (especially nurses and hospice workers) are well aware of the visions their patients experience before death. Many of them are greeted by their deceased loved ones; so many loved ones, in fact, that it’s a common to hear the dying make reference to how crowded the room is. It is all but proven that these visions are not hallucinations,  side effects of drugs or oxygen deprivation. Exactly what is happening is a mystery, of course. Most doctors refuse to believe that what their patients see and experience is “real”; this calls into question the very notion of “real”. If the dying insist that their loved ones are REALLY, TRULY in the room, then who are we to say that they are not? Kessler makes an interesting point in one of his chapters: legally, the words of the dying are given special status in courts of law. In other words, the declarations of the dying are given MORE weight than those who are not actively dying.

If we believe what so many patients report, we certainly do not die alone, and there is a “place”—God knows where (literally)—where everyone we ever loved continues to exist. This seems impossible and fantastic, a true wish-fulfillment fantasy . . . but that doesn’t make it untrue. I wonder, sometimes, if my attempts to call on Nana are somehow forbidden by certain laws of which I am unaware. Perhaps contacting me is the last thing on her list of goals in the afterlife. She knows already that she’ll see me in 51 years (an old gypsy told me I would live until the age of 96), which to her might seem like five minutes. Time, so they say, is irrelevant after death.

But I miss her. I miss her so much that sometimes I simply cannot resist the temptation to see if maybe she will say hello, or tell me that she loved me, or just reassure me that she is fine and even happy. Maybe she would contact me if she knew how sad I am without any grandparents. Maybe she will . . . if I try hard enough.

If she doesn’t, then I still have her little jewelry box with the perfume and my memories; but both are starting to fade with time, and that hurts more than anything.

If you are out there and can read this, I love you Nana. I miss you. I will keep trying to find you. I don’t know what else to do.

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In the interest of objectivity, I have decided to include an article that seeks to debunk reincarnation memories in adults as a result of faulty recall or a “source monitoring error,” as the memory specialists call it. Here’s the brief article (my comments on this follow):

“People who believe they have lived past lives as, say, Indian princesses or battlefield commanders are more likely to make certain types of memory errors, according to a new study.

The propensity to make these mistakes could, in part, explain why people cling to implausible reincarnation claims in the first place.

Researchers recruited people who, after undergoing hypnotic therapy, had come to believe that they had past lives.

Subjects were asked to read aloud a list of 40 non-famous names, and then, after a two-hour wait, told that they were going to see a list consisting of three types of names: non-famous names they had already seen (from the earlier list), famous names, and names of non-famous people that they had not previously seen. Their task was to identify which names were famous.

The researchers found that, compared to control subjects who dismissed the idea of reincarnation, past-life believers were almost twice as likely to misidentify names. In particular, their tendency was to wrongly identify as famous the non-famous names they had seen in the first task. This kind of error, called a source-monitoring error, indicates that a person has difficulty recognizing where a memory came from.

Power of suggestion
People who are likely to make these kinds of errors might end up convincing themselves of things that aren’t true, said lead researcher Maarten Peters of Maastricht University in The Netherlands. When people who are prone to making these mistakes undergo hypnosis and are repeatedly asked to talk about a potential idea — like a past life — they might, as they grow more familiar with it, eventually convert the idea into a full-blown false memory.

 

   

This is because they can’t distinguish between things that have really happened and things that have been suggested to them, Peters told LiveScience.

Past life memories are not the only type of implausible memories that have been studied in this manner. Richard McNally, a clinical psychologist at Harvard University, has found that self-proclaimed alien abductees are also twice as likely to commit source monitoring errors.

Creative minds
As for what might make people more prone to committing such errors to begin with, McNally says that it could be the byproduct of especially vivid imagery skills. He has found that people who commonly make source-monitoring errors respond to and imagine experiences more strongly than the average person, and they also tend to be more creative.

“It might be harder to discriminate between a vivid image that you’d generated yourself and the memory of a perception of something you actually saw,” he said in a telephone interview.

Peters also found in his study, detailed in the March issue of Consciousness and Cognition, that people with implausible memories are also more likely to be depressed and to experience sleep problems, and this could also make them more prone to memory mistakes.”   (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17982545/)

OK, I can certainly accept that adults who undergo hypnosis seeking past-life answers to current predicaments are prone to be creative thinkers more open to suggestion than the average person. “Vivid imagergy skills” and “suggestibility” indicating difficulty recognizing where a memory comes from are pitfals for the past life seeker, but certainly not any  kind of refutation of the theory itself. Adults who seek to uncover who they were in a past life are walking into a minefield if they hope to prove to themselves or anyone else that what they “remember” is actually originating in a past existence. By the time we are adults, our memories are so crowded with information that it is virtually impossible to “prove” that our memories represent objective recollections of an actual past life; even if we could locate the history of the person that we claim to have been, there is no way to know for sure that the information we possess didn’t come from a written or oral source that we glanced over or heard in passing. That information can bypass conscious awareness and lodge itself in the unconscious brain, only to be brought out under hypnosis as an experience we believe we had before. Then, of course, we have to understand how our unconscious wishes, desires and repressed emotions play a role in the past life we might create for ourselves. We can’t forget the influence of our experiences, fears and fantasies that might not be adequately expressed in a conscious state.

For all of those reasons, the most important researchers in reincarnation memories–the late Dr. Ian Stevenson and the current Dr. Jim Tucker–discount adult memories of reincarnation as impossible to corroborate. Note that this does NOT mean that such past lives did NOT exist; simply that to prove their existence scienfically is a daunting and probably pointless task, since the contamination of our present lives cannot be excluded from our memories of a past as someone else. There is no “pure” adult who can claim that he/she was not exposed to information about the person he/she claims to have been decades or centuries ago. That is why reputable past life research focuses on children’s past life memories, since children have not had the opportunity at the age of four to have read some obscure article with information on the person they used to be. Also, children’s past life memories are not coming from the rational, conscious brain that fabricates other lives based on a wealth of information that the adult has collected over decades; children show behavioral traits, emotional characteristics, that are out of synch with who they are now. A parent knows when her child is behaving in ways that are beyond what is logical or understandable for their age. An adult, on the other hand, can be anyone he chooses to be, or needs to be.

What really interests me about the above aricle is the statement that “people with implausible memories are also more likely to be depressed and to experience sleep problems”. I want to explore in more depth the possible reasons for that, and what someone interested in such research should do BEFORE he or she decides to embark upon the regression journey. There should be a sign posted at the entryway to the hypnotist’s office: “BEWARE: do not seek answers in the past that require solutions in the present”. More on this later . . .

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