Counselling, April Fool’s Day and our selfish memory
April Fool's Day brings with it a frisson of apprehension for some people. What will happen? At the worst some form of ritual humiliation awaits together with an added concern that the incident will then be replayed over and over again by others during the following months.
This fear of being held up to ridicule is a common anxiety. The recollection of that embarrassing event which happened so many years ago is still powerful enough to bring out a hot flush for even the most sanguine of people. And embarrassment can give rise to other awkward feelings from a sense of indignity through to even guilt
These challenging feelings can be made worse by the thought that others will have seen our discomfort. There is the fear that these people, friends, colleagues, relatives, will continue to replay the event each time they talk with us.
“What do they think of me…” is probably the milder form of self-recrimination that some people endure.
Yet the reality may be very different. Although we are certain that others have witnessed and recorded for posterity our abject humiliation, that is very unlikely to be the case. Despite the appalling clarity within our mind’s eye when we see the events unfolding and replaying, it is likely that for those significant others the event barely registered. Even if it did, it may not have stayed long in the memory. And if it does remain, it will be an increasingly blurred picture rather than the razor sharp image that we retain.
There may of course be exceptions to this. The smart phone always gives rise to the possibility of the video clip and the dreadful possibility of our discomfiture going ‘viral’. Yet the very profusion of these clips suggests that nothing lives long in the minds of a fickle public.
One way to check this is to think back to what went viral six months ago, or three months ago or even one month ago? What was the hit of the day then on YouTube or any similar social media site. The chances are that you will struggle to remember. Most likely your memory may take you back to something extreme in the national news rather than to a short glimpse of a friend or neighbour enduring an outrageous embarrassment.
A key reason as to why our memory is so undependable in this respect is that our focus of attention is usually on ourselves. We may not want to think of ourselves as egocentric and selfish but that is just what our automatic memory encourages us to be. The primary focus of our memory is on us as an individual.
We will recall those occasions when we wanted the proverbial hole in the ground to open up and swallow us with great clarity. Others will not.
And even if there is an exception and that excruciating event is remembered by your friends, it is more likely to be in the context of what they were doing, why they were there and how they reacted, than with what actually happened to you.
As far as any embarrassment is concerned they may also be mortified about how they reacted. It is a natural reaction that we do not want others to think badly of us and that includes your friends and family. If they do still think of that event then you may want to console yourself with the thought that they may be worrying that you think less of them perhaps because they laughed or because they were not quick to come and rescue you.
So when this April Fool’s Day dawns perhaps we need to accept that whatever happens to us, it will quickly pass. The world will move on.
And the detail will not be remembered – except by ourselves and our rather selfish memory!
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About Geoff Boutle
Geoff Boutle is a BACP Senior Accredited therapist working in Private Practice in North Hampshire