When We Forget

We all forget...a name (of someone we once knew or still know), a birthday date, a name of a familiar town or street, the phone number of a relative or close a friend, a favorite expression, the lyrics to a special song and the list goes on and on.

Forgetting happens to all of us. When we try to remember and almost can but just can’t, there is a familiar expression: “It’s on the tip of my tongue.” The purpose of this series is to show you how to move that memory or memories from the tip of your tongue to your ability to remember now.


What Is Remembering?

Let’s not get technical. This is not a science report. It’s all about storage and retrieval. Think of your brain (part of it) as a file cabinet in which you store (consciously and subconsciously) information such as names, addresses, where you put your keys, how to drive an automobile, who you once loved or disliked, past events...all that kind of stuff. All references are to the healthy brain. (Please save the sick brain jokes.)


Is this your memory file system?

Delayed Recall*

It happens to all of us at one time or another. We meet someone on the street we know well. We say hello and blank on the person’s name, a name we know as well as our own. We exchange greetings as best we can and go on our way. As soon as we part that person’s name pops into our head. What happened? There probably is a medical explanation for that happening. If there is, I’m not aware of it. However, there is a way of dealing with such a situation. Spend a few minutes silently repeating the name and then forget about. Do it again the next day. Another method is to create a silly, mental picture. For example, Fred can be fried in a pan. The mental picture is fried becoming Fred. Silly girl becomes Sally, creating your own mental picture, the sillier the better. The next time we meet we will remember the name.

Remembering Our “Yesterdays"

It’s strange, the faces and names we remember from many years ago while we struggle to recall the faces and names of people we met only recently. Our memory files begin from our earliest childhood. Each of us can remember names, faces and events that no one else remembers. Our childhood “memory folders” as all of our memory folders, for most of us, are there forever, stored in our “memory files.”  

From our earliest childhood on...names, faces and events are stored in our memory files, buried behind an ever-growing stack of memory folders. When questioned about an event from the past we may reply, “I can’t remember.”  The thing is—there is a good chance, with the right information and effort you could.


The likelihood is your memory files are more orderly than the one depicted above. An important event or happening from years past and long forgotten could possibly be retrieved if you are asked, “Do you remember?”


You may already be using your memory retrieval system without realizing that you are. As an example, did you ever try to remember the name of a person you once knew and could not? You gave it a few minutes or more of hard thinking until your head hurt and you still couldn’t remember. That was hard work and besides you had more important things to occupy your mind.


Then There Was Magic

Lo and Behold! (Staying in the world of magic.) A day or two later, while doing nothing connected with your previous effort to remember the person’s name, it popped into your head. Out of, seeming, nowhere it happened. However, it wasn’t magic! You may have given up trying to remember the name but your brain’s retrieval system didn’t. Lo and behold, the name was there in your mental file system.


This You Can forget

There are books, cds and videos with all kinds of gimmicks offering instructions how to improve your memory (for a price). Most include the need to memorize key words and rarely work. My system does work (most of the time) and it’s free. Chances are you already using it without realizing you are doing so.


Did You Ever...

Did you ever try to remember something you once knew (other than a person’s name) and had forgotten? You tried and tried until your head hurt and after a time you gave up. A day or two later while you were brushing your teeth or doing some chore around the remembered. It just popped into your head.


Thinking can be hard work but...that’s how you remember.

You may have thought you stopped trying to remember but your memory retrieval system continued to work in your subconscious. The answer was there in your memory file system and it was delivered to your conscious mind a day or two later.

  Now You May Do It Intentionally and Faster

The more often you try, the faster it happens.


How do you do it intentionally and make it work? How fast does it take to remember something you want to recall? That depends. It depends on you and how often you use the system to remember specifics you want to recall. In other words, it requires short-term concentration and there are no guarantees it will happen. However, the more you try, the more often and quickly it will happen. As an example: You might want to remember the name of a favorite teacher you had in grammar school. The name is on the tip of your tongue. You have three choices: (1) You can forget about it. (2) You can give it ten seconds of thought when you fail to remember or (3) You can use “the system” and chances are the name will pop into your head at a later time when you are not thinking about it. Give it a try and stay with it. The more often you try, the faster it happens.


What About Age? 

It happens that as we grow older, our ability to remember slows down. Don’t use it as an excuse for not remembering. Our mental file system is still there. We just have to work a little harder in order to recover the memory. More about aging and memory in future Memory File reports.




* I interchange the words remember & recall. In most cases they are

   Interchangeable. However there are exceptions. (Examples upon request)   


Next Time



Coming soon:

The Remembering\Recall Handbook


“I walked into the room and forgot what I came for!”

(It happens to everybody, of all ages.)




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 © robert 2014