By Katie East
“Some people’s lenses are rose-colored, while others are gritty and textured like an over-pixelated Instagram photo.”
I’ve watched enough “Law and Order” episodes to realize that people’s brains don’t work like a videotape. A memory isn’t a set piece of film; it’s more like a constantly changing rough draft that is edited by current information and biases.
There are so many different parts of the brain that form a memory it’s hard to decisively define if someone has a good memory or a terrible one. That being said, I have an excellent memory.
I know, I know, a lot of people think they have a good memory. I try to be realistic, though, with which parts of my memory are good and which ones need work. Admitting I’m terrible with names and numbers is pretty easy. I can’t say the same for those who forget entire plot details of their lives.
It’s hard for a person with a bad memory to admit it. It’s like telling a crazy person he’s crazy: it never works. And the reaction is usually the same: combative, defensive denial.
Most people’s memories are like reality – but with filter on it. Some people’s lenses are rose-colored, while others are gritty and textured like an over-pixelated Instagram photo.
You can usually tell how biased a person’s memories are based on the role they usually play in their stories: There’s the martyr, the victim and the exaggerator.
Everyone knows the martyr; every story she tells has her saving the day, even if just in subtle ways. She always seems to be the one stepping in to help out and solve the problem. You’ll often hear her muttering to herself, “I don’t know what y’all would do without me,” or taking credit for absolutely everything.
The martyr is that lady in the office who usually interrupts every story you tell by giving some bit of advice; she’s gone through the same thing you’re going through, but worse, and she has the answer.
The martyr is never wrong; remember that anytime she’s talking. Take her “memories” with a grain of salt. Every story she tells is only propaganda to further your view of her as the martyr. The martyr is often, but not exclusively, a bit of a liar.
Anytime someone tells a story there’s usually a lie involved. There’s the chance of a faulty memory, which is an accidental lie. Plus, that pesky filter they put on top of the memory, a lie they tell themselves. Then, there’s the lies they tell to others, the spin they put on a story to keep up how they want people to perceive them.
If you’ve ever met a pathological liar you’ve seen someone who believes their own lies. Some are so extreme, it’s obvious when they are lying. With the martyr and the victim it’s harder to tell.
The victim’s memory is always tainted by his “woe is me” mentality. You never can be sure how bad a situation actually was because you’re only hearing his skewed version. A totally normal meeting with the boss can be turned into a lashing he didn’t deserve.
The victim usually is either physically unwell all the time or is constantly getting screwed over by someone. There’s always a reason to bitch: a headache ruined his weekend plans, or that idiot at work messed up again so he had to stay late. The victim’s negative outlook always slants the story.
In rare cases a person can be the martyr and the victim. If you ever met someone who always sounds like both of these by the end of every story, run away.
The least offensive memory shifter is the exaggerator. The exaggerator can often have a barely-skewed memory. Usually, he just exaggerates noticeable things: the amount of hours he spent waiting for the iPhone or the number of people who high-fived him while he was there.
For the most part, the exaggerator is harmless. His motive is almost always just to entertain people slightly more with his story. Rarely, it’s to brag.
If you ever meet an extreme exaggerator, simply question him on specifics; he’ll almost immediately back down. A 10-car pileup gets talked back down to the couple car accident it truly was.
Any time someone sits you down for a story, just remember you’re only hearing one person’s version of it; you never know what actually happened. They are just the director of that memory. There are definitely people who can recount a night’s events and dialogue to a T. Other times, you just have to listen to it as an adaptation of the truth.