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Memory is Memorable: Coaching and Remembering

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As adults, we are particularly dependent on schemata that center on our sense of self. These schemata, in turn, influence and even define the nature of our relationships with other people (Horowitz, 1991; Young, Kosko and Weishaar, 2003). We organize our memories—and I would presume sort out our memories during the night—in alignment with our dominating self-schema. While these self-schemata are hard to change as we “mature”, they can be important sources of leverage when we are providing therapy, counselling of coaching with a focus on our client’s life narrative (Drake, 2017).

A cautionary note should be offered at this point. In general, the consolidation of memories and formation of schemas can be a good thing. The chunking and consolidation enable us to build an expansion mind in the face of major magic 7 restrictions. The schemata help us not only find meaning in the blooming and bussing world in which we must operate, but also enable us to make decisions and doing some planning in this challenging world. Unfortunately, the chunking and consolidation processes inherent in the formation of schemata can also be a source of non-critical biases and prejudice.

At a trivial level we can point to the uncritical acceptance of commercials and find that those who prepared these commercials know how to embed them in our memory (almost as if they were sources of trauma!) We can easily accept a graphically pleasing promotion – or remember a silly song (“uhm good, uhm good, Campbell’s soup is uhm good”). It is not just a soup commercial that we will remember, but also a catchy political slogan or a frequently replayed scene of violence. These phrases and images “chunk” for us – and if they are in any way threatening then they become the fore-mentioned “flashbulb” memories that are never forgotten. A political figure who is attached to this flashbulb memory will also never be forgotten (be this figure “good” such as John Kennedy or “bad” such as Lee Oswald).

At the heart of the matter is the incorporation in many of our schemata of the “heuristics” that have been highlighted by behavioral economist such as Daniel Kahneman. Schemata-based “heuristics” provide an easy way to work on problems and make decisions. These schemata might be centered on our personal sense of being unworthy or “stupid”—and the need to do what other people do or what other people accept as “reality”. Memories of past humiliation and past failures of judgement will linger in our life. They are reinforced by ongoing relationships in our life—the other person is always right (we “take their word” that they are “right”). This “rightness” is particularly reinforcing if the other person is in a position of authority (Weitz and Bergquist, 2022)

There are other schemata that enable us to bypass the heuristics and Kahneman’s “fast thinking.” These are “slow-thinking” schemata that are concerned with reasoning processes and self-reflection. Unfortunately, these schemata are often overshadowed by quite primitive self-schema that are filled with a host of self-fulfilling assumptions about other people and our relationship to them. It is in these struggles between fast-thinking and slow thinking schemata that we find the greatest need for outside assistance (via therapy, counseling and coaching).

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