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5 Points on our Memory during Conflict

Have you ever found yourself arguing over who said what, or who did what?

Here’s 5 interesting points on our memory in conflict situations.

1. Two people can have very different memories of the same event.

Our memory is not like a camcorder. It doesn’t just store the factual image, it also stores perceptions, emotions, contextual info, and bodily sensations. These are individual and unique.

2. When you retrieve a memory, that memory gets altered by how your currently feeling and your state of mind.

Think 'rose tinted glasses', but it is not always roses.

3. When someone challenges your memory, it feels like they are deeply challenging who you are.

This is because our memories are so closely linked to our sense of identity.

4. Conflict can arise when people get really attached to their version of events as being the absolute truth. 

This quickly becomes an unproductive battle of will over who’s right and wrong, rather than productive resolution focused conflict.

5. The safer we feel, the better we remember.

When we are triggered and emotionally charged up, it impacts our usual ability to recall memories because our brain is diverting energy to fight or flight the situation. Think going blank on stage.

Stan Tatkin thinks that we should own up to the reality that our memory isn’t as good as we think it is, and when it comes to productive conflict, to focus more on the present and future. These points are inspired by his book 'We Do', which is about romantic relationships. I think it's super relevant to all sorts of relational settings other than couples, like in the workplace or between neighbours.


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