I’ve always felt that I have a pretty substantial lacking in the ability to recall and retain information. It’s been a source of frustration for me dating back to my middle school days.
However, I’ve come to realize is that while there is a difference between recalling information and retaining information, they both do work together. As it turns out, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time shaming myself for something that I didn’t have a solid grasp of.
Essentially a lack of ability to recall information on demand ends up causing me to doubt my ability to retain information. That has caused me quite a bit of anxiety.
For example, when I am reading my Kindle, I have to re-read a paragraph or page a couple of times to try and retain it. I will then sometimes try and talk through in my head, what the passages are trying to convey.
I do this mainly with books on healing from trauma and abuse, not quite so much with fiction or non-fiction stories. Although it happens with those books too periodically.
I’m so hell bent on trying educate myself and retain as much knowledge as possible, that it becomes a definite anxiety rush when I have problems recalling that knowledge shortly thereafter.
Here’s where the light bulb came on for me recently.
I had to be shown in literal examples by someone, that I truly do retain more information that I realize, and that what I am learning on my own and what’s being taught to me it staying put in my head.
Just because I cannot instantly recall something, doesn’t mean that I haven’t retained it subconsciously. Go figure!
If someone puts me on the spot and says, “Ok Matt, you just finished this book, now tell me what chapter 7 is all about”. I will almost certainly freeze up and draw a blank.
Even though I literally just finished the book that day or in the last week, I likely wouldn’t be able to recall much of what I read. That’s where the self-shame can just totally kick into overdrive.
Shaming ourselves constantly reinforces the negativity that we are trying to combat in healing. Conversely, being kind to ourselves and self-championing, reinforces all of the good qualities about us and inspires confidence that we can continue to foster healing.
So where does the positive aspect of this come in? Where do we see that we actually are retaining information and thus having the ability to recall it without even realizing it?
In my case, it’s evident in my writing. It’s evident in therapy or coaching sessions. It’s evident in how I carry myself these days; in such a different manner than I did less than 2 years ago.
Being cognizant of walking my own talk helps inspire me and it inspires others.
When I do a podcast, I’m speaking from my heart and my real world experience. Therefore, I’m not only recalling actual events and feelings, but I’m pitting them against healing strategies that I’ve learned.
I’m validating myself and others, and using what I have gone through as a growing and learning experience. If I wasn’t able to retain the work that I am putting in, I wouldn’t be healing at the rate that I am.
Another example: I’m in the middle of a session and working through some feelings or memories in my mind. I begin to recall how a particular CBT or DBT skill can help me deal with these thoughts, and suddenly I’m self validating before I even realize it.
So remember, just because you can’t recall specifics about a particular skill or piece of information on the fly, doesn’t mean that it didn’t sink in. It doesn’t mean that your mind won’t bring it too light when you really need it.
Be patient with yourself, be reassuring that you aren’t inept at retaining information like your guilty gremlin would have you believe.
Embrace how your mind works, and be confident that the effort you are putting in will pay you back when you need it.
When you have that light bulb come on, and you see how much you are helping yourself. When somebody starts validating you by pointing out how you are practicing what you learned, that light will brighten your healing path, more than ever.
That my friends, is definitely empowering!