“[Memory] would come like a rope let down from heaven to draw me up out of the abyss of not-being.” –Proust.
The phenomenon of memory is often taken for granted. In addition the complexities of the processes and their significance to our existence are frequently underplayed. Memory labels a diverse set of cognitive capacities by which we retain information and reconstruct past experiences. It is through these processes that we are able to relive our past. Being a species of reasoning, we as humans are able to use this ability to replay past experiences and learn and grow from them. Herein lies the importance of memory on our identities. The question of identity and self has been in the forefront of understanding our existence dating back to the time of Socrates. What is it that sets us apart from other living species? What is responsible for our feelings, perceptions, and personality? What makes all of us unique individuals?
This is where the relationship between memory and identity intertwine. The relationship between the self and memory is cyclic. In any given day we a bombarded with stimuli, only perceiving a minimal amount, and storing an even more finite amount to memory. What we store is based on our unique state of self. These new memories are pooled with the rest of our memory and dictate our everyday lives: the way we perceive the world, our personalities, our relationships with others and even our thoughts throughout the day. This constantly growing and evolving entity is the culmination of who we are. Now here it is important to note that the memories we store are not objective snapshots that are eternally unchanging. Memories are malleable, changing and developing at the hands of our self. Each and every time we recall a memory, it is changed based on multiple factors ranging from the broad spectrum which is our self to the context of why the memory is being recollected. It is in this way that memory defines the self, and self defines our memory.