How normal memory works

Full storage

All the time we are awake, our brains are making new memories.
The facts of each experience are stored shortly after it happens, along with our feelings about it.
We don’t notice this process at the time and no-one else can see it, as it is going on constantly in the background.
Each person’s memory will only store that person’s own experience.

Fast retrieval

Our memory system stores these memories for later reference.
The newest ones are the most useful and normally the easiest to recall.
They have the facts of whatever has just happened to us.
They tell us where we are, how we got here and why we came.
We use these facts to make sense of our current feelings.
Without them, we would never know what has been going on, and why we feel the way we do.

We can refer to older memories if we want to, but most of the time we just use the very recent ones.
We always need to find facts that fit our feelings – whatever happened ‘just then’ to make us feel like this ‘right now’.
Once we can fit these facts to our feelings, things start to make sense and we can decide what to do next.