My Blog List

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sweet Mnemosyne, 'tis thou hast ravished me

I feel quite strongly that one major stage of transition is coming to a close.
It would seem likely that this marks the end of 'looking glass' changes relating to conscious/ unconcious permutations.
I don't mean such terms as any kind of engagement with psycho-analysis, but rather with  everyday experience of consciousness. For most of us our self experience is of the eventualities of conscious engagement with information processing and with those which come from processes obscure to our purview. That's the only distinction I'm making .
For myself, my experience of gender change has been a transformation starting at the frameworks of arousal and perception, running through the changed possibilities of processing and finally coming at last in force to memory.
On a more basic level, the process is one of hormones and the plasticity of neurology combining to move towards a female norm.  With memory having such a strong gender dimorphic nature in terms of variant locations of the amygdala being used, it's likely to be one of the last to fall into line(?).
The last time I wrote about memory was
That still applies, in that there's a distance. I'm no longer quite so sure about how different I am in that respect compared to other trans people. Sometimes wonder whether it's simply a more gradual process with others as hormonal change thoroughly affects them.
In other ways, though, memory is really very changed in a process I've been aware of for the last year and a half.
And it seems very atypical for anything to do with the aging process.
The most obvious phenomenon is an increase in detail. Every memory I encounter seems more vivid, more detailed than before. It makes no difference whether this is memory from before or after hormonal perception related effects, something I find hugely significant and will write more of at a later date.
And of course there's also a rise in the number of memories easily accessible. It's very difficult to quantify but I'd say between 10 and 30 times as many, leaning more to the latter figure. Talking to cis woman friends and a couple of times the notion of memory as a burden came up. I don't experience that yet but can definitely understand it. Love the way it also adds to both the motivation and richness in female/female life exchange meetings.
Retrieval itself, as a process, is also very changed. As a man it felt far more like using a search engine than now. Memories were organised far more in terms of placement within an abstract model of the world or its projected structure. It is something that makes me rather more scatty. Whereas before I'd tell myself to, say, remember something in the morning because it's necessary to eventually complete x or y with a fair confidence, now, unless x and y are visible and quite personal it doesn't always work.
Example. Someone asked me where a mutual friend lived. Didn't remember the address offhand and started to answer but very aware of a variety of memories clustered together and immediately accessible. Could picture the london A-Z clearly, the page I'd last looked at to get there 6 months before. Which the tube stop was, getting off the platform, getting on to the Finchley road and quickly turning off it, a restaurant about 12 doors along and parts of it's window display, a sleeping policeman, the slightly overgrown hedges of a side street as I turned right and the 5 or 6 blocks before the house and the scents and... It took an effort to concentrate on exactly what I'd actually say in answer. Before it would be name of tube stop, directions left, quick left again and the first main right, about 10 minutes walk, without even thinking.
Perhaps this is actually an intermediate stage and that retrieval will get more efficient the more used to it I get. Or it could be that it's more a question of getting used the that extra level of depth. Maybe also a coming in to focus.
The tie to personal narrative is very strong. Going back to specific memories gives a sheaf of others to a far greater extent than before.
Example. Forgetting my pin number at the bank, remembering a couple of digits but not all of it, to mild embarassment. Talked to someone about it later, mentioning that I was in the middle of a post on memory and she actually thought that might have something to do with it. Don't really agree much with that in this instance but can understand the feeling of memories now tied down by a number of associations rather than riveted by a more focussed placement that might be testosterone typical.
Recently saw a study on prosody helping fix memories for women, the rhythm and tone of the words themselves as factors. I suppose that ties in to the same notion.
But mainly I see the example as more related to mental rehearsal. Undoubtedly I spend far less time in the successive approximations and conditional constructions that typified my male consciousness.But when I used to be there it had a benefit of rehearsing the future, of naturally being armed with rehearsed knowledge of what was needed/expected And in the process do something which deepens channels of retrieval for the associated variables. In thinking of going to the bank I'd be brushing up against the necessity of remembering my pin number, my actions being part of an optimistically predicted set of events in which I managed perfect recall of my pin number and consummate a financial transaction.So, without that rehearsal, memories aren't readied in the same way and a consequent forgetfullness can easily be fallen into.
Is this a long winded way of saying I'm getting to be a bit of a ditz ? No, I think, and / or hope, that the processes of memory are finally coming fully into line.It's a question of balance.
I've never been one for spending much time thinking about the past. Don't take photos, never very much liked reminiscing, though for other reasons now.Thats changed somewhat, if only to the extent that I often want to try it out. My earliest memory of being about 18 months old  is, when I return to it, more detailed with colours and scents. Have two memories that I've chosen to come back to and try and see whether I can remember more - meeting someone 5 years ago and a college seminar on the axiom of choice from the seventies. So far, after about half a dozen tries, there's always more details to be made out.
It feels somewhat like a temptation I should ration, not least because I'm so rarely 'there' in older memories apart from a sensory bundle. 5 years ago and my own state is more clearly recalled but it's almost like a dissociated procession of images, a distantly viewed movie.
Because, I suppose, the joys of this sea change include living in a world grown so full of the lushest ambiguities, the capability of such finer distinctions, compared to what once was. And so much of that comes from the illumination of memory.
More prosaicly it's about memory becoming even worse in terms of everyday sometimes critical stuff, whilst having a wonderful garden of the past to work. But it is the past, only the past, and perhaps an overindulgence for my newly 17 year old heart. My 7 / 17 / 61 birthday party comes at the weekend, something I absolutely won't forget about before, and hopefully, for good reasons, not after either.

No comments:

Post a Comment