It is a pitiful thing that the average mind cannot grasp subject matter and retain it more than a half-hour. How often, at the critical moment, we hear people say, ” I know it as well as I know my own name, but I can’t think of it.” In a technical sense, they are right. Here again we come to the great gulf which lies between subliminal consciousness on the one hand, and available knowledge on the other. Here again we find the case of Remembrance vs. Recollection. Here again we face the fact that receptivity is one thing, and retentiveness is anotherthat it is fully as important to hold fast the point gained. as it is to grasp it in the first place.
In other words, a good Receiver is not sufficient for your memory equipmentyou must also have a good Retainer. And here again I point out the incontrovertible fact that things you may have stored away in your subconscious mind are of no earthly use to you unless they are available when you want them and need them.
If this knowledge lies so ” deep below the threshold of consciousness ” that you cannot dig it up, we may as well regard it as ” buried treasure ” at best, which cannot be counted on to meet any current expenses or to pay any bills. when due. Furthermore, I care not how keen and bright your perceptive faculties may be, how good your receptiveness, if you are weak on retentiveness you have not a good memory. Such a memory is like a sieveno matter how much is poured into it, it all leaks out. The possessor of such a memory has a hard time of it. He is like the unfortunate mortal pictured for us in Dante’s Inferno, who was doomed forever to keep trying to fill a tub that was full of holes, through which the water ran out as fast as he could pour it in.
In analyzing this subject, let us get clearly in mind the distinction between remembering and recollecting. The terms are generally used synonymously, but that is a mistake. The words are often confused. We often say we cannot remember a thing when we mean we cannot recollect it. You may remember a thing and be unable to recollect it when you need it. Remembrance implies that the fact existed in the memory, even if you are unable to call it up at the moment. That operation we call recollection. In other words, the fact may be stored away in the memory, but cannot be recalled at the moment. It may occur to you later. Consequently, you remember but are unable to recollect. Remembrance is the storehouse, recollection is the act of calling out the fact from this storehouse or repository. For example, ” He remembers everything he hears, and can recollect any statement when called upon.”
Without the power of recollection, ability to remember makes little difference, because any memory which has a poor recollector attachment is not worth three cents on the dollar for practical purposes. Unless you can recall the thing you want when you want it, the remembering is of little value to you. It is not available when you need it. In that case you are like a powerful car whose engine will not start when you want to go.
Look well to your recollector, for it is a mighty, important part of your memory machine. It is very essential that we learn to use the recollector and recall the facts at will. Some of us are like misers who have hoarded away precious metal which we never again see or make use of, or to use another simile, we are like the squirrel that gathers a nut with great pains and carefully buries it, then goes away and forgets absolutely where he buried it. People who have poor recollectors are often referred to as absent-minded. We could find no man more striking in this particular than Joseph Jefferson, who could memorize his lines and store them away, but had great difficulty in recalling them. This is one of the reasons why he stuck to the same play year after year, and there are only two or three plays linked with his name. One reason why he did not venture into other fields was because it was so difficult for him to recall the lines of his part. An amusing instance of his absent-mindedness is told in Memories of the Theatre.
In the days of his prime, he met at a famous social function General Ulysses S. Grant. Later they went to the same hotel. Joseph Jefferson stepped into the elevator and another man entered at the same time; a short, stocky man, and this short man spoke to Jefferson. Jefferson nodded and said, ” I seem to remember your face, but I can’t recall your name.” The stranger said in a very casual way, ” Grant.” Jefferson said he was so mortified to think that he had forgotten his name after having met him only an hour before; so chagrined that he was unable to recollect his- name an hour later that he got out of the elevator at the next floor. He said he was afraid that he should ask General Grant if he had ever been in the war. They tell of Joseph Jefferson, also, that he would forget his own name. One time in New England he went to the post office with his mind upon ” Rip Van Winkle ” and he asked if there were any letters for him and the postmaster said, ” What name? ” Jefferson stammered, ” WhyerI II play Rip Van Winkle.” ” Oh ! ” the clerk `said. ” You are Joseph Jefferson.” ” Yes, yes, sir,” said Jefferson, ” thank you, any mail for me? ” and he bowed his thanks and walked out.
RETENTION AND RECALL GOVERNED BY THE THREE LAWS
How shall we solve the problem of retentiveness? Not so much by any fancy, complicated method as by applying the fundamental laws of psychology. We can do no better than to refer to the three great laws of memory. Observing the law of Concentration we start right, and a good start is often half the battle. Getting that first clear impression is so important! Bringing enough concentration to bear to insure a distinct negative for the memory to work upon is the only sure basis for developing a permanent picture later on. All authorities agree on this instruction: ” Record decidedly and definitely the primary impression.” The law of Association is relied upon as the chief means of recollection by many minds, especially those of the higher type. Men who think constructivelymen who reason logically, depend upon this law to recall what they have indexed in memory for future use.
“Difficulty in recalling an impression may be overcome by reviving an impression received at the same time or by trying to recall some associated component.”