Hyperthymesia is a condition where individuals possess an extremely detailed autobiography memory. People with hyperthymesia remember a ridiculously large number of their life experiences and spend an excessive amount of time thinking and ‘living in’ the past.
When I mentioned this particular disorder to an employee, he said that he thought it would be a great thing to have. He was tired of forgetting everything. (by the way, this is the same guy who came up with the title of my last speech – “I have no recollection of those events, Madam Senator”. What does that say about him?). I told him he was crazy for wanting to remember EVERYTHING. Personally, I think one of God’s greatest gifts to humans (especially aging humans) is diminishing memories. (the other one is diminishing eyesight – ladies, I’m sorry but although the 100X magnifying mirrors are helpful, they also make me realize exactly why I need younger friends to tell me I need to put on more moisturizer and carry a tweezer more regularly).
So, think about it – Individuals with hyperthymesia can recall almost every day of their lives in near perfect detail, as well as public events that hold some personal significance to them. When they encounter a date, they “see” a vivid depiction of that day in their heads. The first person diagnosed with hyperthymesia described her memory as “non-stop, uncontrollable and totally exhausting” and as “a burden”. She essentially is permanently living in the past.
I don’t know what I would do if I remembered everything. I would be paralyzed. One of my favorite saying is “No Regrets” and although that’s a guide for future decisions, it’s also only made possible because I forget the stupid things I’ve done. And if I can’t completely forget some of the memories that I don’t want filling up my white space, I simply compartmentalize them out of existence. Compartmentalization is basically focusing on the task at hand and nothing else. It is particularly emphasized in aviation. I’ll tell you what… If it wasn’t for compartmentalization, I’d be binging on Netflix and eating chips in bed, and then remembering how I watched Netflix and ate chips in bed. As an entrepreneur, I think that ‘Permanent compartmentalization’ is critical to success and you can’t move forward without it. If we remembered all our mistakes and hangovers and risks and close calls, we’d be in “Crying Game” fetal position for the rest of our lives. Others may try to make us ‘pay for our sins’ until eternity but that’s not our problem – that’s theirs. Most of the people who do this are the ones who won’t cross the street when the light turns yellow or use the express lane with 11 items. They certainly won’t ‘jump and build their wings on the way down’. So when someone tries to bring up past events and cause you to second guess yourself by saying, “remember what happened last time”, there’s only one thing to say, “I have no recollection of those events, Madam Senator”.