The retrieval of memory, what we know as remembering, is the process of consolidating all of the information stored in the various areas of the brain and forming them into one focused memory. Like the storage process, remembering is also
a process which is unlike the normal belief. It has been widely believed that when accessing a memory, we are essentially playing and old family video, or inserting a CD-ROM and accessing the read only information. This is not the case. When a memory is recalled, it is not a concrete, perfect rendition of an event. The event itself is not being recalled either. What we are retrieving is the memory of the last time we consciously thought about and remembered that event. Memory is remembering another memory. This is because each time a memory is retrieved it is altered in some way shape or form by various factors. Personalities, current events, the context of remembering the memory and even other past experiences influence the way in which a memory is reconsolidated.
This is why we can’t access a perfect version of the actual memory; because that objective event no longer exists in our brain. What exists is a constantly evolving interpretation of the event which has been cultivated by our consciousness. Think of the process like the children’s game of telephone. A large group of people form a circle and then a designated person chooses a phrase and whispers that phrase to the person to their left. That person then whispers the phrase to the
person to their left, and this continues until it gets to the person that was sitting to the left of the originator. This final person says the sentence aloud, and majority of the time the phrase is changed, either slightly, or many times, completely. The original phrase represents the original memory we have of an event being created. Each person who the phrase is passed to represents the times that we recall memory. Typically it isn’t one person who changes the phrase drastically but each member of the group altering minimally based on what they perceived to hear; similar to a memory changing a little each time it is remembered. The end product is then a memory with traces of the actual objective truth still present, or a memory that has been completely distorted, unbeknownst to the person reliving it. This process of constantly evolving memories is called memory reconsolidation. Reconsolidation is the link between memory and self. Our identity dictates how we construct our memories each time we recall them, and these restored memories mold the people we are.