State dependent memory. One of those things you learn about in your first encounters with psychology, along with Phineas Gage and Skinner’s rats. We remember things better when we are in the same state as when we learned them.
Of course we do. Walking past a road where we lived years ago. The smell of an old love’s perfume on a crowded street. They catapult us back.
And so with learning: you learn the thing in a state close to how you’ll need to remember it. Make associations: this pen, that song. When you walk out of a room and forget what you were looking for, all you need to do is walk back in to remember.
It’s less useful when it comes to emotions.
When I’m happy, I forget what sadness feels like. I know it exists. Can even bring it up, with a little effort. But it is not what comes unbidden.
And when unhappy- when we most need to be reminded that this is not all there is- it’s all we can remember. Our disappointments shine brightly, three dimensional. Joy hides. We’ve walked out of the room and left our meaning behind. Continue reading “How we feel is where we live: life, landscapes, and maybe a treehouse.”