Splinters of Memory Keep Poking Me February 20, 2015 3:22 PM   Subscribe

"All my life I’ve been visited by unexpected flashes of memory unrelated to anything taking place at the moment." – Roger Ebert There was a MeFi or AskMeFi post on this topic some years ago. Many a MeFite was relieved to learn that it isn't an uncommon thing. I neglected to favorite this wonderful post and would like to see it again. Can someone help? Many thanks. I'll remember you -- when I least expect it.
posted by bryon to MetaFilter-Related at 3:22 PM (19 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

One thread with a high level of "me too"-ness was "Compelled to Blurt..." from 2008. It was specifically about spontaneous vocalizations and the like when remembering something embarrassing, but it might fit the bill?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 3:48 PM on February 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


That is quite similar in tone, but not in particulars.
posted by bryon at 3:58 PM on February 20, 2015


Wow! I wish I'd heard that quote of his before now. Or that I'd seen the thread where this was discussed. Because this is totally a "I thought it was only me..." thing.

Huh. I do this but I always have this mental hiccup when it happens because I naturally assume that there must have been something that reminded me of that thing I'm suddenly remembering and so I settle on whatever seems most likely. But then I think, well, that thing which just reminded me of what I'm remembering couldn't have reminded me of it, because they're totally not connected. And then I think, huh, wait, that doesn't make any sense because why did I suddenly have this memory?

I'm much more happy with the possibility that people randomly have recollections that have no discernible trigger or apparent relationship to anything proximate. That seems weird and in some respects implausible, but is closer to my own subjective experience.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:59 PM on February 20, 2015


Huh! I've always meant to post an AskMe about this phenomenon. So glad to know I'm not alone. I would love to see the thread in question.
posted by amro at 5:13 PM on February 20, 2015


Was it All coming back to me now, perhaps?
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:53 PM on February 20, 2015


I thought this happens to everyone.
posted by double block and bleed at 6:08 PM on February 20, 2015


MonkeyTues, that's similar -- very much on the right track. But not it.
posted by bryon at 6:58 PM on February 20, 2015


I thought this happens to everyone.

I agree. Are there people who don't periodically remember, for no seeming reason, events or even moods and feelings from long ago?
posted by thelonius at 7:39 PM on February 20, 2015


Amnesiacs?
posted by Sys Rq at 7:57 PM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I agree. Are there people who don't periodically remember, for no seeming reason, events or even moods and feelings from long ago?

Forget periodically, that's not like a good 75% of people's major train of thought when they're not actively conversing with someone or building something in their head?
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 8:00 PM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


"I agree. Are there people who don't periodically remember, for no seeming reason, events or even moods and feelings from long ago?"

I don't know, but I'm not sure how that tells me I was wrong to assume that it wasn't common. People don't talk about it. And much more often we are reminded of something; there's an obvious cause for the memory. The ratio of my recollections that have obvious causes to these inexplicable ones is incredibly lopsided -- I'll recall uncountable memories a day of things that I've been reminded of through chains of association, but I'll only have these apparently random recollections once every day, at most. Having never heard that other people experienced this, it seemed more natural to me to assume that there was something I'm just unable to identify that elicited that memory.

Even now, I'm about fifty-fifty on what I think is the explanation. It seems very possible that there is always some trigger of some form from one's thoughts or the environment. But knowing what I do about brain function and complex systems, it also seems very possible that memories could cycle into our awareness for completely inscrutable reasons that have nothing to do with what we're consciously thinking or experiencing. It could be a cosmic ray hitting a neuron triggering a neurochemical cascade that evokes a memory. It could be a byproduct of our brain doing some esoteric version of defragmenting or something. Who knows? Maybe it's sometimes one and sometimes the other.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:07 PM on February 20, 2015


Are there people who don't periodically remember, for no seeming reason, events or even moods and feelings from long ago?
Not to be a downer but this is common with abuse. Oh, that time you nearly killed me? Nup, doesn't ring a bell... umm, wait, ... yeah, um... shit.
posted by Kerasia at 12:46 AM on February 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


N'er mind. Flirt begone!
posted by Kerasia at 12:47 AM on February 21, 2015


hold still, mind.?
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:58 AM on February 21, 2015


Not to be a downer but this is common with abuse

Yup. My ex didn't remember squat until the day she raised her hand against a bitey puppy. It was like a flood or an avalanche of past. She could explain the scars on her back after that.

I never understood why my sister and I stayed so close during an age when little boys generally want nothing to with little girls until my mom told me that my dad hit my sister so hard for crying in her crib that blood was coming out of her ears and that I jumped off my bed and attacked him. We shared a room at the time.

My sister remembers nothing about that or later incidents and does not want to talk about it. I vividly remember the later incidents now and I think that is because of watching my own kid grow up.

I'm always trying to figure out where his head is and that has involved lifting my own fog. Absolute accuracy is impossible but you can gist the essence. I look forward to reading whatever comes up here.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 3:07 AM on February 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Maybe I'm misunderstanding. Byron, are you talking about flashes of memory of unrelated, seemingly unimportant places from the past? I get sporadic, random flashes of memory of places like my nursery school playground. Nowhere that anything significant (AFAIK) happened. And I don't think I was abused unless there's some serious repression going on.
posted by amro at 5:23 AM on February 21, 2015


Oh they are never new memories - it sounds like maybe you're referring to flashes of heretofore unremembered memories, maybe.
posted by amro at 5:24 AM on February 21, 2015


MonkeyToes: Again, quite similar, but not it. Appreciate the digging you're doing. Maybe I can help a little by saying the post was pre-2011. Sometime between 2007 (when I joined MeFi) and 2011.

Amro: Yes, just as you put it: "flashes of memory of unrelated, seemingly unimportant places from the past." Sometimes the memories are those I know well, but why am I suddenly thinking of it with no obvious stimulus? Other times, I do remember something I hadn't thought about in a very long time. No abuse is involved.
posted by bryon at 11:13 AM on February 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


You can see similar phenomena in very simple models of memory like Hopfield networks, just by applying a random stimulus. The 10,000 foot view is that brains are electrically noisy environments, and noise in memory networks occasionally pushes them into states of recall. Personally, I find the random element of my brain quite reassuring – it reminds me of my ability to be creative.
posted by topynate at 12:17 PM on February 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


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