Friday 15 February 2008

Third-person memories

When I recall memories from my childhood (and I must admit that I don't have a very large pile of conscious memories from which to choose -- but that is probably an entirely different topic and one for my therapist ;-) many of them play back in my mind in the third person. That is, the mental image that is my memory recollection includes me as a child; the image is not the event as seen by my childhood eyes but as seen by an observer.

Now, I could understand this happening for events for which I really have no conscious memory but am recalling a story my mother told me. But there are some events that I am certain were never discussed for which this takes place.

Very recent events are recalled from my point of view in that I see things as I would have seen them when they happened. I can picture them from a third-person perspective but the "natural" recollection is first-person.

I have a few ideas:

1) For very early memories (before age 3 or 4), perhaps I did not have a complete sense of "I" and my consciousness was not completely differentiated from everything else. My memory, then, is from "my" point of view but at that time, "my" meant the outside world as well as.

2) How much has our "photo-op" culture affected this? Is this a result of seeing so many pictures and basing our memories on pictures rather on the actual events? I've been thinking about this lately and writing about it. If I want to relive an experience, all I have to do is scroll back through my iPhoto library and there it is. Little is left to our actual memory anymore. I wonder if my grandparents or great-grandparents experienced anything like this since they would have seen very few pictures of themselves as children.

3) Could this be some kind of split in consciousness or personality? The consciousness with which I am recalling the memory was not the consciousness directly involved in the event that created the memory?

So, does anyone else experience this? What are your thoughts on the cause or nature of this?


SM Kovalinsky said...

KEN: I have actually pondered this for years, and my husband (who also had this "third person perspective" of memories) and I discussed this subject at length, when he was ill and dying. If you look at Anthony's text, I think the explanation is that the "second self", (which he calls the Daemon) is the observer who then "plays back" these memories, in which the "first self" (the Eidolon) is viewed as seperate and at a distance.

SM Kovalinsky said...

Oh, also: Yes, I think there is somwthing to our high tech culture of computers and DVDs, etc, which heightens this process, definitely.

ken said...

I must admit that I have not yet read Anthony's book but I think I shall have to. But, in the meantime, please forgive my naiveté.

Why is this phenomenon more pronounced for childhood memories? Is that the case for you, too?

And, now as an adult, is it the Daemon who is doing the actual remembering and this it is third person? Or is the Daemon playing back his memories for the Eidolon and, therefore, they are third person?

There's been some discussion on this blog about Carl Jung and, perhaps I'll make this a separate post, but how do the Daemon and Eidolon figure in Jung's psychology? I am a lay-student of Jung and so think in terms of the unconscious, archetypes, ego, etc.

From a previous post about Jung's other self, Philemon, it seems as if the Eidolon is the ego and the Daemon are the archetypes.

SM Kovalinsky said...

KEN: First, please don't apologize for naivite; I am sure you will read Anthony's book in due time, and it has taken me quite awhile to absorb all it's concepts. He has a second one being published this summer, and I think it will serve to clarify much of the first. Secondly, yes, the phenomenom seems more pronounced regarding childhood memories, perhaps because they have been more "uploaded" into the Daemon sphere? As far as Jung goes, I think you hit the nail on the head: the Daemon indeed would be the Self that is the portal to the archetypes, and the Eidolon would represent the social, individual and daily self, the ego. . .Your avatar is cute, is that you as a child?

ken said...

Susan Marie,

Yes, that's me at about three -- 41 years ago! I have the chicken pocks and my characteristic bags the size of suitcases under my eyes.

I am very interested in Jung and am part of the Kansas City Friends of Jung. I'm actually attempting to put together a 2-hour "Introduction to Jung" class to be presented next month.

I just ordered Anthony's book and will be very interested in reading it as I've found many of the discussions on this site fascinating. Hopefully I'll be able to post more on Anthony's ideas as they relate to Jung in the near future.

Thank you for your comments. It's always comforting to find people who have had the same type of experiences. I'll be looking for material in Jung's work that is relevant to third-person memories and will post if I am successful.

SM Kovalinsky said...

KEN; Glad that you found my comments helpful and relevant. I think that you will find some parallels of Jung in Anthony's eidolon/daemon dyad . The intro to Jung course sounds interesting. Best of luck to you.

Jesamyn said...

What a fascinating question!!! When very young, I vividly remember thinking in the 3rd person a great deal, i.e. I would think"She drifted down the stairs, happy today" or some such; I put it down in later years to just having a "Writers Mind" but as we all on here are finding, there is more to it than that....and yes I wondered too re the photos, we are all in possession of a myriad of photos and the upcoming generation of also Videos etc. how indeed was it in days of yore when memory was just that...unaided by the sophisticated tools we have today... I await the Masters opinion!!!! In the meantime Susan Marie surprises and delights with her insight and knowledge on so many variegated topics....
I cannot imagine Life BB!!! Before Blog which is slowly infiltrating in to the Thinking Minds....
thanks to all. Jesamyn.

Karl Le Marcs said...

*WARNING: some deep behavioural psychology ahead*
The third person detracts from communication at the surface structural level of linguistic encoding but adds to experts' thinking at the deep structural level of cognitive organization. At the deep level, the third person is defined in terms of processing information defined over relations between entities with the restriction that it is ignored whether relations are reflexive (with self) or non-reflexive (with others). Research suggests that reflexivity is not ignored by default, and that ignoring it facilitates a kind of "depersonalized" thinking reminiscent of the natural sciences and expertness. Experiments seem to confirm that perceivers tend to draw inferences that take reflexivity into account, except in a condition where stimulus information is related to the perceivers' expertise. In the latter, condition inferences are drawn in both ways: either ignoring or not ignoring reflexivity.
Attempting to put it simply, our brain is hard-wired to think in a linear narrative manner which in most writing and story telling becomes third-person.

Hope this helps and I would be VERY interested to hear your comments on my "Quantum Gravity" post (below yours) after your excellent comments of my previous "What On Earth Is Wrong With Gravity?" post.


Karl Le Marcs said...

I agree with your "second self" analysis - it relates to a recurring (non lucid) dream of mine, detailed previously on here somewhere, where I am driving a car but I see the car in third-person as if playing a computer game.

Karl Le Marcs said...

Regarding your photo.........
You are only as Jung as you feel mon (Philemon) !!
*psychoanalytical groans*

Karl Le Marcs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karl Le Marcs said...

I completely agree with your "Writers' Mind" comment. You've summed up in two words what I tried to say in 200 !!
(Nothing new there comes the cry from all that know me).
Being ludicrously hypergraphic myself and also a student of behavioual psychology it fascinates me that most people naturally think, relay a story and write narratives in third-person.

Hurlyburly said...

I think pretty much everything has been said already!.

I have several memories in the third person, particularly from childhood. One thing i will say though us that our culture is horribley OTT now on capturing moments, not with our minds but with technology. Go to a concert, go to a basketball game and people there everywhere are holding up their phone cameras recording and watching through their phone....


People are barely on holiday longer than a day and people can be heard saying, i can't wait to get back home and see these photos.

So, so, so, so sad...

ken said...

HB-- I totally agree with you. My wife once saw a person driving into Disney World with a camcorder to his face. The DRIVER was filming this as he was driving!

KARL-- Did I say GROAN!! yet? "Jung" "Feel mon." I LOVE it!!

ken said...

KARL-- Not sure I understand how your comments on third-person in linguisticalism relate. If my memory is third-person, am I trying to separate myself from the memory, or "depersonalize" the memory? But it would seem to me that the experiences I am trying to recall would not fall under the category of "expertise" (as I would take that to be the more left-brain) and so I *would* take reflexivity into account?

I am, of course, assuming that people with right-brain "expertises" (artists, musicians, etc.) would not ignore reflexivity which, to me, makes sense since those activities are much more personal and less "logical."

Anthony Peake said...


Great question and one, like everybody else here, I have long thought about. Over the weekend I was shown a DVD of a lecture by Professor Bruce Lipton. Although he was lecturing on genetics and DNA it was interesting that he suggested that children up until the age of six or seven do not have 'self' consciousness. This rather supports the old Jesuit belief about 'give me a child until they are seven' because they are simply a 'learning programme'until that age and self awareness may dilute such open-learning. Indeed reflecting this is the theories of Julian Jaynes who suggests that both children and all mankind up until 3 thousand years ago were 'unicameral' and had no concept of self.

Is this were the 'external movie view' comes from with regard to early memories. The person did not experience those events 'first hand' but as an observer (Daemon maybe? - recall the Aldous Huxley experience that I discuss in ITLAD). I also agree that the way in which we live in an 'external image' dominated world lends credence to such a suggestion.

Could this in some way be related to 'Out-Of-The-Body experiences and certain elements of the NDE? Indeed, on reflection this may explain the two types of 'Panoramic Life Revie' - the externally observed one and the one that interests me - the internally viewed and re-lived one (embedded within the Bohmian IMAX as opposed to the externally viewed Cartesian Theatre).

Thank you for this post. It has certainly set me thinking!!

Karl Le Marcs said...

I think Tony has said above much of what I was going to say in reply. But consider also my post "The Mother Paradox of Cheating The Ferryman" and my Many Worlds Interpretation of Consciousness ideas.