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Ever After

How Our Thoughts and Memories Keep People Alive

What we think about matters so much, it can actually keep people alive. (Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash)

People say your loved ones live in your heart. You hear that a lot after someone dies. This kind of response doesn't necessarily have a religious meaning to it. Personally, I never found scripture helpful in dealing with death. But I absolutely believe that our loved ones do live inside of us after their physical form is gone.

Thanks to modern science, we know a lot more about the functions of the human brain and how memories are created. These scientific advancements allow us proof that dead people continue to have a very real psychical presence in our world. Not through our hearts, but through our minds.

Synapses in our brain are responsible for the experience of having memories. Our synapses function like bridges, connecting information from cell to cell throughout the varied regions of the brain. For scale, there are about 100 billion cells in the human brain. Each time we think about a memory of someone, that synapses bridge reconnects the cells and strengthens their bond.

In recent studies, synapses can now be erased, but memory traces remain in cells as part of possible permanent changes. Researchers speculate that this bond creates changes in cells on a DNA level, and that memories may live not on the synapses bridges, but within the cells themselves.

Put simply, memories may have a more significant and deeper role in brain and body function than previously considered. This has enormous implications for understanding what really makes us who we are, why we are, and how we remain connected to others, even after death.

The word synapses comes from the Greek synapsis, meaning together joining. In our quest to know more, it's true to say the people we love do live inside of us. Culturally, I think this is significant in both a spiritual sense and a very real physical existence in our brains. That is pretty amazing. It also raises a strong point about mental health: What we spend time thinking about matters… a lot.

What we spend our time thinking about matters a great deal because of the implications in memory research. Memories can be like monsters in our mind, growing in strength every time we think, and thus feed them. They can strangle happiness from us. They can make us blind to objective truth and reality.

Our brains like to play tricks on our consciousness. The more we learn about how the brain functions as an organ, the better we’ll get at understanding how to fix dysfunction that occurs because of trauma and stress.

The scientists behind the ability to alter memories were overwhelmed by the number of requests from people desperate to “erase” trauma in their brain. The world is full of people with traumatic memories. Many people focus on wanting those memories to be gone entirely with the hope that they could then live a normal life.

The prospect of such technology brought me to tears when I first read about it. If given the opportunity a few years ago, I would have jumped at the chance to remove some of my earliest trauma memories. I no longer feel this way because every memory and experience I have has brought me to who I am today. The slightest shift would drastically alter my reality, erasing what makes me ME.

Memories make up our personal history. They should never be erased so that we don’t haphazardly repeat the same negative behaviors or mistakes. Our memories are lessons built into our instinct and these are valuable tools in a dangerous world. The skills we learn from our experiences of pain are of value and can be put to good purpose. All the bad shit can be shifted to your advantage instead of your demise.

It all depends on your perspective.

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