The Power of Bad Memories

Posted: August 20, 2013 in Novel, Reflections, Writing
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Some philosophers and psychologists will say that memory is what makes us who we are, and it’d be hard to say they’re wrong. The retention of past experiences plays a great deal in shaping our personalities, our sense of selves, and how we interpret and react to the world around us. As I’m writing Laura Horn, one of the novels I’m working on at the moment, I’m beginning to understand this concept of memory and what it has over us.

My protagonist and titular character Laura Horn is a victim of sexual assault. Her dark experiences have never been dealt with and she’s still affected by not only the experience of what she went through, but by the memories she has of the assault.

I think for most people, good memories tend to sleep below the surface of our consciousness, always there but not at the forefront of our thoughts until we need them. For example, someone could be driving down a road they hadn’t traveled down in a long time could remember the last time they travelled down the road, maybe with a lover or someone they really liked and what they did that day. Immediately they may feel happy. less stressed, or more excited about their life and their day as the memory returns to the sea of our consciousnesses.

Bad memories though, tend to act like monsters. Fresh memories or those that were formed relatively recent, tend to be worse. They latch onto your consciousness with their teeth and claws, reminding you of their presence, of dark experiences and horrible mistakes, and they never let go, upsetting your day and causing you terror, anger, anxiety, and other negative emotions.

I have more than a few memories I would rather forget, and this is reflected in the way I write Laura’s interactions with her memories. Whenever her memories surface,  she tries to push them away and berates herself for bringing those memories forward in the first place. I feel the same way whenever my bad memories surface, though I learned that instead of pushing them away and berating myself over them, I’ve learned it’s just much healthier to accept the memories as they are and not get too upset over them.

Like I said, Laura hasn’t dealt with her experiences and her memories of those experiences, let alone how to healthily deal with her memories. Because of this, she’s still very stuck in the state of mind she had when she was attacked. She’s terrified of the world around her and most of the people in it. She wishes for the past to change and to return to a happier time, even though she knows this will never happen. Her life is dark and she is terribly unhappy.

I’m hoping as time goes on and I continue writing, I hope I can help Laura move past her experiences to a happier state. To me, this story is more like Laura telling me what her story is about rather than me making up events as I go along, so I’m hoping as time moves along, our collaboration on her tail will yield some positive results.

Until such a time, I have to examine how Laura interacts with her memories of her assault and how those memories be affected as she gets ever closer to the main events of the story, which will change her life forever. And maybe, while doing so, I’ll come to understand my own life and experiences, especially the bad ones, a little bit better.

  1. Takes most people a long time to have this kind of understanding. Good depth.

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