The subjectivity of memory

"Yesterday is but today's memory, and tomorrow is today's dream." Khalil Gibran

Memory is a mysterious thing. Two people can be in the same place at exactly the same moment and experience it in a vastly different way. One can misremember what they have said, to the point of being adamant no such thing occurred. The other could remember it word for word, if the emotion driving them is strong enough. 


 Jardin de Tuileries

Jardin de Tuileries


What we see, hear, taste, smell and touch is processed into long-term memory by the part of the brain which processes emotion. That is why a colour, or a scent, or a feeling of something against your skin can suddenly bring back long-forgotten scenes from your past. 

Life can be disappointing at times so I wonder if memory distorts to protect us? But then how blind are we, to be wandering around with potentially false impressions? How do we trust our emotions when they could be built upon unconscious lies? Can we use this to our advantage to create our own happiness?

If memory and emotion are so closely intertwined, perhaps contentedness could be fostered to a degree, depending on how we choose to view our past. Words that stung could be transformed into another's sadness wholly unconnected to the current situation. Difficult and hurtful scenes could be teaching moments. 

When I was in Paris I was so eaten up with anxiety I feared to go outside. Yet I remember that week fondly, as the time I could wander the d'Orsay, Louvre and l'Orangerie to my heart's content, and finally see Van Gogh's self portrait in the flesh. It was the time I sat where Victor Hugo once lived, and looked out upon the park that was once his view. It was the time I was told by strangers on the street that I was beautiful in French, and stood with gargoyles overlooking the whole city. It was the time I ate pastries on the bank of the Seine in the crisp Spring air. 

By bringing these memories forward, and not focusing on my feelings of panic and confusion, my memory of that time becomes happy. The subjectivity of memory then, can be a strength, and a method to push away negativity. It can be a boon to help us build upon our own emotional resilience, and embrace wholeheartedly each moment of our lives.


 View of Paris from Notre-Dame Cathedral

View of Paris from Notre-Dame Cathedral

 The Seine  Photography by @ketcher_f

The Seine
Photography by @ketcher_f


Planning a holiday to France? Check out our Paris—Le Marais travel guide, part of our European Dreamer collection, featuring some of our favourite little-known hangouts and hidden gems, in some of the most amazing places on earth.

Keaton FletcherMemory, Paris, Art, France