Do we need to retain our memories of special moments?
How many of us actually ever look at those souvenirs we have kept of special moments?
They are often items of little monetary value – a champagne cork, an old theatre or concert programme, faded letters, a much-battered child’s toy – but more sentimental memories.
Psychologists argue that our relationship with possessions is based on the fact that we own them, which means that we value them, but that also we don’t like losing what we own even if we have given up that possession voluntarily.
Possessions have a hold on us
So, possessions do seem to have an emotional hold over us.
However, it is a mistake to believe that letting go of physical possessions means that the memories will also disappear.
The human mind is much more complicated than that and stores a wealth of information. The souvenir or possession is simply a trigger, but memories can be triggered by all sorts of things and they bring back more than simply the event that prompted keeping the souvenir in the first place.
It can be painful to make the decision to get rid of what we think of as treasured souvenirs. Again, the psychologists explain that this is because we fear we are throwing away something of ourselves or even the people the souvenirs remind us of. Really, we are not rejecting either, the souvenir is, in a way, irrelevant to the memory stored in our brains.
Souvenirs aren’t always positive
Another thing to remember when trying to decide to get rid of souvenirs is that they can keep you locked into the past. This is an interesting insight from someone who lost what they thought was a cherished item:
“I remember the day I lost a hoodie which my first boyfriend gave me. It was a typical black, zip-up hoodie which can be brought anywhere. I had kept it throughout my teenage years so it was somewhat battered. Not my style, yet I retained it for a long time. One day I left it behind in a classroom. Frantic trips to lost property did not lead to its recovery. Tears prickled in my eyes as I tried to comprehend the finality of its loss. In truth, that hoodie made me miserable. When I wore it, I did not recollect the good times the two of us had together. Instead, it sparked memories of the miserable breakup. Wearing it kept me stuck in the past to the extent that I avoided new relationships. The loss, though non-consensual, freed me and let me move on.”
An interesting exercise to try is to make a list of all your possessions without actually looking at them.
It is surprising how many don’t make it to the list and that may mean that whatever has been missed off the list when you come to check was less important than you thought.