Experiential Memory

To better understand ourselves, and improve how others see us following a brain injury, it is essential that we look in more depth at Experiential Memory (EM). We need to understand why the loss of EM is so harrowing, and how this explains so much of why people feel different and appear changed. Depending on the severity of the injury, many people may not be aware of the changes other people can see. Difficulties can range from ambiguous loss, where loss is felt comparatively, to a total loss of self-awareness.

  • Background
  • The Subconscious Mind
  • Losing Connections with Who You Are
  • How it Feels
  • From the Outside
  • Alternative Practical Tips
  • References

Background – Experiential Memory

It can help to increase our awareness and understanding about the many aspects of confusion that arise following brain injury if we understand additional information about the more intimate parts of ourselves that have been affected by both the primary and secondary outcomes.

Experiential memory includes ‘propositional’ knowledge, but also what is felt inside as knowing or a comfortable feeling of understanding.

Propositional knowledge, for this exercise, is primarily about how we come to understand our version of what is factual to us. Philosophically this all becomes pretty deep, but fundamentally it is about the information that can be alterable or updated when knowledge lends us more understanding.

The ‘knowing’ part of experiential memory comes from a spectrum of held beliefs ranging from the ‘innate,’ to the learned.

Think of ‘innate beliefs as being the foundational stuff that we are born with – they are included as part of the structure of our DNA and, as such, act as part of the map or blueprint that wires our brain and personality in the foetal stage of development.

Innate beliefs are a mixture of genetic memory (epigenetics) that is passed down through the DNA from our ancestors, universal wisdom, and superconscious knowledge selected from the ‘collective’ – the quantum field. We all have access to the collective consciousness at all times via our energy field and DNA.

Our cultural, social and familial experiences and lessons create our learned beliefs. The more a learned belief is repeated as true, the deeper into the onion it goes, ultimately forming our ‘core’ beliefs.

All life emanates tiny currents of photons that are mainly stored in and emitted from the DNA of cells. This light works in waves, and it is how we are all connected and how we can readily and rapidly respond without a constant need to pause and consider.  The current emitted by these light waves alters whenever we are somehow disturbed from natural health.

This light is how healers work. By focusing the quantum energy field and intention, healers create some of the most organised light waves in nature, and through intended transference, they increase the failing energy caused by illness. The presence of photons is also why distance healing is effective because it relies on the quantum field. This process is the same mechanism that works behind prayer.

Most of us are aware of these innate ancestral beliefs as being associated with danger, such as animals or foods that may pose a threat to our survival. The mechanism in the brain that controls this is the amygdala, which is also forms part of what is called the ‘reptilian’ or primal brain. Our instincts wouldn’t work without the ammunition to fire them, so inherited knowledge is key to understanding how we behave and respond.

Often thought of as being an in-built reactionary force, instinct is more than this. It also comes from our quantum connections and those innate beliefs formed from the collective consciousness. Alterations to our links to the quantum field can sometimes diminish (for some quite drastically) following brain injury, especially where there has been damage to the brain stem. Other stressful life events can also affect our connection to these more profound levels of the self.

The knowing feeling also comes from our innate beliefs.

Perpetually and continuously matched against both our propositional knowledge and the quantum field these intrinsic beliefs resonate with universal energy and create unconscious truths based on comprehensive experience and wisdom of thought throughout time.

Not all of the domain is accessed, but can be focused or honed into – much the way geniuses in the past have been thought to know things beyond their human experience and knowledge.

We all indeed stand on the shoulders of giants.

It is the subconscious mind that is forever dynamically scanning and matching both the internalised version of who we are with this quantum field, and the external world of incoming information.

Brain injury ‘breaks’ this. We lose self-awareness and a sense of self – this is the harrowing part. We also lose connection to our belief systems and truths and therefore lose touch with our ‘personal’ justifications and perceptions that also usually give us this sense of self.

Who we are, how we work, and why we work the way we do, can be broken or lost.

The degree of effect on an individual depends on the severity of the physical injury and subsequent severity of the primary and secondary outcomes.

Damage to the brain stem worsens this disconnection, as does any structural issue within the spinal column.

Connected to the spinal cord the brain stem does way more than just regulating our essential body functions such as heartbeat, control of hunger, thirst, blood pressure, and breathing – it also controls the flow of energy and information between the brain and the body. Any damage here creates a knock-on effect weakening access to the memories stored throughout the body, in our DNA, and the quantum field.

Memory in the body works at a cellular memory level and also at the level of our DNA and beyond. We are like a star in a universe, canvassed by all that surrounds us.

Currently, the highest form of quantum order known to nature is that of living energy. Its’ ability to organise itself into one giant coherent state, like an invisible weave or matrix, causes a resonation that we can pick up on and biologically react to – commonly felt as chicken or goose bumps.

Brain injury and the loss of experiential memory can cause us to lose this sensitivity.

The subconscious mind

The subconscious mind is a super-processor that plays a significant role in how experiential memories work. 

It is also hugely responsible for the internal feeling we have that our mind is our own. The subconscious confirms the basis of our sense of self and affirms our perceptions of who we are. It is the unconscious part of the healthy mind that shapes our unique experience of the world based on our beliefs and memories, and brings this sense of familiarity.

It also produces, through influence and control, many of the processes that manifest as our unique perceptions, opinions, truths, judgements, and even the decisions we make and why we make them. We understand ‘why’ we have the thoughts we have because we recognise them, but we are unaware of the processing that happened outside of our consciousness.

The subconscious expands our processing capacity and incorporates our long-term and experiential memories, as well as our beliefs, to produce results that are characteristic and sometimes even predictable to ourselves and others.

The subconscious is unbelievably fantastic; it can manage thousands of data streams at a time and the electrical impulses it produces travel at over 1000,000 miles per hour. The ‘staggering’ part of the data is that the subconscious is estimated to be able to process an average of 4,000,000,000 bits of data per second.

In looking as these facts about how the ‘healthy’ subconscious works, we can start to form a picture of how severely disabled this part of the mind is when a lot of the data that it needs to be able to work is lost. Without explicit memories about your history, the events in your life, general facts and information, propositional knowledge, and everything we have personally added through our lifetime by way of experiential memory – what and how much of the unentangled data is 100% trustworthy and therefore useable?

It stands to reason that the brain, knowing it is damaged and that so much is missing, shirks back from its fullest potential and effectively slows down specific systems.

It does this by releasing hormones. To all intents and purposes hormones slow the subconscious and metacognition down so that the automatic brain can retain control and hence ‘safety.’

As mentioned when discussing overall memory problems, these hormones, cortisol in particular, are both the subjective friend, but also, especially in overload, definitely foe.

Cortisol slows rewiring and recovery, increases brain fog, and causes adrenal fatigue – and these are just a few of the negative sides of this hormone. It also interferes with the gut, the immune system, and prevents a healthy brain environment exacerbating the ambiguous loss of self, loss of self-awareness, and PTSD symptoms.

It is much harder to overcome the abrupt life changes that ensue following a brain injury when so many adverse biological effects continue to happen over what is sometimes a very long period.

Losing connections with who you are

‘Loss of self’ and ‘loss of self-awareness’ are not always felt or experienced together following brain injury. 

The term ‘loss of self,’ refers to the effects caused by ambiguous or perceived loss, and is more psychological in its’ nature, while ‘loss of self-awareness’ refers to a profound loss of understanding of who you are.

Both are addressed separately in more detail elsewhere, and, surprisingly, are quite different from the experience of the loss of insight.

Experiential memories, based on our beliefs and a lifetime of remembered perceptions, are vital to the fundamental understanding we have of ourselves and who we are. Their disruption or loss can lead to people not knowing how to respond or react because the history that would have driven these behaviours is missing. We can also lose our sense of familiarity and predictability.

This profound loss of self-awareness feels as though you have lost your soul.

Many people experience disruptions in their working memory, while fewer experience problems with long-term memory and retain residual memory skills.

In general, fewer people experience the loss of experiential memories and their belief systems, and those who do are usually categorised as ‘severe’ brain injury.

Often, the loss of the sense of self or self-awareness is overwhelming, and the only tangible thing people are aware of is a sense of continuing intellect.

They may struggle to describe this changed inner world and might only be able to explain this phenomenon in simple terms. However, when they are made aware of the fact that how they feel could be due to the loss of experiential memories, they usually recognise this is what is amiss very quickly, and are often horrified that no one explained this to them earlier.

One of the greatest things about any healthy sense-of-self is our unconscious ability to self-predict. 

We ‘know’ ourselves and have a deep understanding of our character, personality, beliefs, history, behaviours and all the things that make us make the choices that we do.

People with healthy brain know why they have done something or made a particular choice because of a conscious understanding of their intentions, where the source information originated and the feedback the brain gives them about their behaviours and responses. They know when their mouth worked faster than their brain for example, and they can quickly correct any blunders.

This connected working brain also gives people a sense of familiarity and personal comfort, as well as a sense of control. They also understand the dynamics that are working in their relationships with others, and most importantly, why and how things are as they are.

When people living with brain injury are unaware that self-awareness can be lost, they often have reduced levels of expectations of themselves, or their loved ones.

An overall lack of understanding can lead to misjudgements and can easily lead to fear-based behaviours such as blame and resentment. These dissipate once people understand the science and biology behind changed behaviour.

How loss of experiential memory feels

From the ‘inside’ it can feel as though the ‘real’ you was beamed up by Scottie when you weren’t looking.

There can be an overwhelming sense of fear and many people isolate themselves because they can’t work out why they are always upsetting people, and why so many things go wrong for them. Other outcomes can lead to similar feelings, but the causes are different.

The loss is felt very strongly each time an adverse event occurs. The part of you that would typically have reacted predictably is gone. When you ‘look’ for reasons for the emptiness, there is nothing there but a void, a black hole that contains only nothingness. It feels as though you have lost your connections with your ‘self,’ with life, and with whatever faith you previously held – whatever that was or meant to you.

You don’t have a clue about what you would have done before. There are no comparable experiences or memories in the data field to rely on for self-support. All the personal history of insights and self-realisations, inner work and self-analysis, learning, memories of how to respond, how to be ‘you,’ – it is all gone. 

Introspection is impossible because you have nothing to compare your current horrible moment to. 

Without access to idioms you can’t bolster yourself or make sense of how you should feel or choose in respect of an inner or personal reaction to a negative event.

Would you usually have had a philosophical view, a religious one, a reactionary outcry? How can you know? It doesn’t occur to you to ask anyone because all you are aware of is a deep, black, bottomless abyss where ‘you’ used to be.

You no longer know what you believe in or believe. You lose the sense of your strengths and weaknesses, and consciousness of habitual thinking is absent.

It feels as though you have lost your soul.

From the outside

It can feel as though the person you loved has had a personality transplant.

They are no longer predictable, and this often leads to a loss of confidence in people and even anger at the lack of control over the abrupt changes that have occurred. They may seem very lost and unsure, and often offers of help are rejected because there is a part of the brain that still thinks it is the same and believes it can still do all the things it could before.

When you don’t know what is wrong or when you have been told mythical and incomplete explanations, this in itself can lead to families and friends doubting the abilities of their loved one, and sometimes they start to question their relationship in ways that would never have arisen before.

Understanding the cause is complex, but, on the other hand, it also brings a sense of relief that there is no ‘absolute permanence’ in the changes, and that, given time, your loved one can rebuild and even recover their experiential memories and beliefs.

Alternative practical tips

  • Try and find any old journals or documents that you have written that may help you to recognise how you thought pre-injury
  • Speak to trusted family and friends and ask them to describe how they saw you before and what characteristics they judged you as having. Try to listen openly – this isn’t your description of you – it is from their perspective. Make notes and give this your consideration but be objective
  • Check out any books you have – you may find that things of personal interest will jog some memories
  • When you jog your memories write them down, you may forget what you just learnt about yourself
  • Ask yourself lots of questions and then question your answers
  • Try and focus on historical memories you do have – can you remember how you felt, how you reacted, or why?
  • If you don’t have any, buy some self-help books – there may be something in there that resonates with you or jogs a memory

It is highly likely that ‘replacing’ or ‘re-finding’ your personal memories will take time.

In many ways, it can be like growing up all over again, so you have to get out there and experience life in order to learn, but at the same time, you need to learn how to gauge and predict what you can cope with, especially when the going gets tough.

Too much and you might regress. Too little and you might stagnate. It can be a fine line – don’t be frightened of finding what works for you.

IEP – Epistemology

University of Pittsburgh – About the brain and spinal cord

Live Science Bose-Einstein Condensate

Biontology Arizona – Fritz-Albert Popp – Biophoton emissions