There are many types of memory. Let’s talk about two of them: Implicit Memory and Narrative Memory. Implicit memories are memories about specific events. What did you have for breakfast this morning? What outfit did you wear yesterday? Which people did you talk to today? The answers to these questions are implicit memories.

Narrative memories are memories that try to make sense of our various experiences on a day-to-day basis. Narrative memories integrate our implicit memories into a coherent whole. While implicit memories are the ‘what,’ narrative memories are the ‘why.’ Suppose I don’t usually eat eggs for breakfast, but today I decided to have scrambled eggs. The memory of having scrambled eggs is an implicit memory that answers the question, “What did I have for breakfast?” Further suppose that I was having breakfast with a friend who knew my eating habits, and my friend commented that I don’t usually eat eggs. If I search my own mind for a reason why I chose eggs for breakfast on this particular day, the reason I come up with will be the ‘why’ of narrative memory.

Our lives are made up of implicit memories of our daily events. In order to make sense of our lives, we link these events together in a narrative that gives our lives meaning. These stories that we create about our life experiences are our narrative memories. We all write our own autobiographies every day of our lives. This process of autobiography writing is our narrative memory fitting the pieces of our implicit memories together like a jigsaw puzzle.

Integrating Memories

For most of us, most of the time, our stories make sense and everything runs smoothly. But sometimes we get a bunch of implicit memories that we just can’t seem to fit into our own narratives. It’s as if, while working this jigsaw puzzle, we somehow grabbed a handful of pieces from another box. When this happens, we have to ‘change the picture’ of our life stories to incorporate these new puzzle pieces. This process of fitting the new pieces into the puzzle is called integration.

If we are able to successfully integrate all of these implicit memories, then there’s no problem. If we have difficulty making some of the pieces fit, it usually means that we’d have to change our worldview and re-write our own narrative in order to fit those pieces into the puzzle. This can be a frustrating experience. Sometimes that frustration manifests in emotional aggression.

Living a life of consistency means finding a way to make all of the pieces fit without getting frustrated or without having to act out in emotionally aggressive ways. By learning to integrate our True Selves into the story of our lives, we fit all of our implicit memories into a new narrative memory that creates this new paradigm. When all of these pieces have fit together, we are living at the core of our True Selves.