By David Joel Miller
The thing may be right in front of you and still, you can’t see it.
The tale of the collectible purple glass
For a brief period, I dabbled in antiques and collectibles. The goal here was to make some money of buying and selling these things as I traveled about. The truth be told most things sold in antique stores these days are far from old and many are not all that collectible.
From time to time a friend of mine and I would wander through the antique stores and see what they had, what they were charging for things and then hope that we might find things worth buying and reselling.
If you intend to make a buck off an activity it helps to know what you are doing and in retrospect, neither of us knew nearly enough to make anything off the effort but at the time it sounded like a fun thing to do.
Now the part about memory
One day after walking through an antique store we stopped to talk about what we had seen. “Did you see that Fenton glass piece? ” she said. N, I had to admit I had not.
“What did you think of that display of Boyd glass they had?” she asked. Again I had to admit that I had not noticed that either.
I had to admit I didn’t remember seeing either.
The final straw came when she asked about a large piece of Purple art glass. My answer about missing that led to some harsh words and well it was all downhill from there.
I realized I knew nothing about collectible glass and that no matter how many trips through the story we made I failed to remember the glass items I had seen.
The solution to this problem came when I went to the library and checked out a few books on collectible glass. At first, they all looked alike. But the more I read about collectible glass and the more pictures I looked at the more the various types of glass started to make sense.
Later on, I actually bought a book on some glass styles I discovered I liked.
After reading those books I discovered that now that I knew something about some styles of collectible glass I recognized them when I saw them. Knowing what things are, makes them more recognizable, results in remembering a lot more about what you see.
One term for this is “the expert effect.” A writer notices books; a mechanic notices cars and someone in real-estate notices more about homes than the average lay person.
I have no doubt that had I kept up my study of glass I would know a lot more about it. Having not looked at any collectible glass for a long time now, those memories have faded away. We should talk more about keeping memories intact and reviving memories that have faded in the future.
What about the memory stuff?
Now that I have become a counselor I realize how many things people come to counseling to talk about they have never noticed. People can’t tell me what they feel because they have never studied themselves and their feelings enough to be able to identify feelings.
Becoming an expert on yourself.
One reason we have so much difficulty recognizing our problems before they become unmanageable is we have never gotten to be experts on ourselves.
If you want a better memory, become an expert on the thing you are trying to remember and it will be much easier to spot that thing in the first place. Strong first impressions on our brains get held onto longer.
Are you an expert on happiness? What part of you and your growth or recovery do you need to become and expert about so it will stay fixed in your memory?
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books