Photographic or eidetic memory is, so they say, probably a myth. They catch it in kids once in a while, and that’s about it.
The thing is though, both hub and myself had it as kids, and still have it at times well into adulthood. Not only that, but each of us has a few specific ‘eidetic memory’ type of memories that have lasted since childhood (most of them fade away after a while, but you still have the memory of the memory, if that makes sense—if not it might when you’re done reading this).
Naturally, this means I have some of my own guesses and hypotheses about how it works and whether or not it can be learned. I might be able to teach you how to have your own eidetic memories.
What is Eidetic Memory for me?
‘Photographic memory’ is a fair term for it in a lot of ways. How it seems to work, to us, is that it’s almost like taking in the shape of a thing (or things) with another kind of sense altogether. It’s not necessarily visual or tactile or olfactory or whatever the memory includes. It’s like an imprint onto something besides whatever in your head is the ‘thinker’ part (which is always in motion). It just becomes known to you in the same way you know the smell of your favorite delicate perfume, or the cracking sound of a gunshot, or the touch of the coarse, raw wood on the bevel of a freshly sharpened pencil. Not the words about them, though—the actual experience of those things.
The way it doesn’t seem to work, to us, is like learning something, or using some mental application. It’s always been very, very hard to control in any way, it just happens. Sometimes it happens when you want it to, but it’s not like a photograph in the sense that you can point and shoot. You can’t point it and you can’t shoot it. It’s self-pointing and self-shooting, most of the time. (Note: And thank heavens it’s almost never ‘on.’ That would lead to an ugly kind of madness of some kind or other, I’m sure. I think about that a lot, actually.)
So in some ways they don’t even feel like memories at all, but there’s no other word to use, unless you come up with your own vocabulary, which I’m sure everyone who suffers/benefits from the condition does. There probably is a word and I just don’t know it, so I’ll be researching that soon, dammit. Still, they surely classify it as a ‘memory.’ It’s not a memory in the same way that you remember someone blowing an air horn, it’s more like someone blowing an air horn that just sticks in your head somewhere. It’s like…in its own little room. And I don’t know if that communicates anything or not, but I hope it does.
Ok, so what?
So if you followed any of that, I think that maybe, just maybe, anybody can learn to do it. Because you don’t do anything, most of the time, unless you’re trying to force it, which almost never works. It’s not like a technique at all. There may or may not be techniques to it—and in fact we are sure that there are, like forcing it to work, but those are kind of complex concepts that all kind of amount to ‘think harder’ so they rarely work—but it’s not a ‘skill’ so much as it is another ‘sense.’ (Footnote: I would say ‘sixth sense’ to be easily understood, but the idea that humans have only five senses is obsolete. Most people don’t know that, so I’d be exchanging clarity for accuracy. I don’t knowingly half-ass either one if I can help it.)
I’m pretty convinced the sensory organ involved in this behavior is the brain itself. This belief isn’t based on any evidence that I know of, it’s all me, anecdotally. Maybe it’s not a scientific idea, but it’s my hypothesis. So when I think backwards, in the past it always seemed easier to ‘make’ such a memory when I was younger. And when I think specifically of the times it was easy, I wanted the result of a photographic memory, but I didn’t try to make one happen. The shape of the thing was just there for me, effortlessly.
And I think that’s the trick of it, whether it’s visual, audible, tactile, whatever. It’s entirely about the shape of it. Don’t look at it, experience it. Go blank and just absorb the shape of it.
It helps me if I don’t blink because sometimes when it happens, the ‘memory’ (the kind that needs a new word) is not laid aside and it’s still in front of you. Kind of. Like your eyes can see it as if it’s still there, or if you’re doing some other sense, like tactile, you can still feel it. But those kind of things don’t last long. It’s almost like it’s just in RAM and not on the hard drive. That’s why it helps not to blink, anything can clear that slate. But those kind of eidetic memories are almost worthless if you can’t ‘see it’ in ‘that way’ for long enough to imprint it into your normal memory.
An exercise I do is to intentionally just look at scenes and take in the shape of it without any discernment whatsoever, like I was mentioning earlier. I don’t know if it helps or doesn’t, but it feels close to the feel of forming a fixed ‘photograph’ from memory. I’ve often thought that maybe it was that sort of mindlessness, that zen void behind all the sensory information, that made it happen the first time.
So maybe it’s something you can try, and then maybe at some point it will open something up for you. Maybe your brain will start snapping some shots like ours have. I have no idea. But I like to think that it could happen and be learned and developed by us as a species.
I wish I could point and shoot and know I’m getting the picture. Think of what we could do as a species if everyone could store things that accurately at will!
No, we are absolutely not willing to be involved in any more testing, of any kind, by anyone. No, we will not answer your questions on the telephone. No, we will not hear you out. We will not answer your knock. We will not give you a moment of our time. Be advised that we are armed. (Well, hub is. But I can and will improvise. And I’ll be extra mad because I’ll have to deal with his damn ‘I told you so’ shit afterwards, for writing this.)