As time passes, I feel a growing unease with what I have previously written.  The further I am temporally from the moment of expression, the less connected to it I feel.  The more likely I am to wish the expression didn’t exist.

But, everything I write is an approximation of what I am trying to convey at that moment.  Sometimes it is a very good approximation.  Other times I get side-tracked by something peripheral and it misses the mark. Inevitably, my thoughts about what I was trying to convey will change, will mature or will be less keenly felt. The ever-growing sum of my thoughts makes expressions I work on for longer more cautious or more balanced.  It makes spontaneous expression more excited, more inflammatory. Purer? In that moment, at least.

None of this invalidates the expression, whenever it is revisited.

Sometimes it’s just harder to recognise the current self in the articulations of a former self.

4 thoughts on “Note to future-self

  1. I feel like this resonates with a lot of people. Sometimes, I have a similar feeling with stories and poems I wrote long ago. It seems as if someone else wrote them. Then, I think back to the moment, to what was happening, and I can see the shape of things and how that piece of writing came about.

    • Tim – One of my good friends is a researcher of self-related memory. She said something to me a few weeks ago which may underlie why this sort of sentiment resonates with lots of people. She mentioned some research suggesting that the current ‘self’ actively tries to discredit former ‘selves’ as part of a mechanism aimed at promoting current well-being (If there’s one thing it’s ok to anthropomorphise about, surely it’s “selves”). I don’t remember the authors or how this was measured though, and will chase this up with her.

    • Hi Tim, there’s a nice review paper of work on the apparent ‘otherness’ of former selves: Ross, M., & Wilson, A. E. (2003). Autobiographical memory and conceptions of self: Getting better all the time. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 12(2), 66-69.

      • Thanks Clare, that’s exactly what I was after. The self, like the economy, is only fully functional when there is unrealistic growth!


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