”Why do we spend much of our time recalling autobiographical memories from our past? Bluck and Alea (2009) identified three key reasons:
1 maintenance of social bonds (e.g., shared memories);
2 directing future behaviour : using the past as a guide to the future;
3 creating a sense of self-continuity over time.”
The above is a quote from Cognitive Psychology A Student’s Handbook 7th Edition by Eysenck and Keane, my textbook for the subject beginning next week. Got me thinking though, about probably the single most important issue for me as a Transgender woman. I mentioned during one of my earliest sessions of therapy that I had some difficulty linking memories of say, a young teenage boy holding the flag during a Salvation Army open air meeting at Fairfield, with the experiences of a woman in their early 40’s. It felt like I was two different people, and the concern that passed over my therapists’ face told me that was probably not a good way to say it. No, not some sort of multiple personality disorder, or whatever it is, just a Transgender woman seeking to connect present experience with personal biography.
Taking Bluck and Alea’s points in turn,
1) I’ve lost ties with just about all people I shared pre-transition memories with, so maintenance of social bonds relates pretty much to post-transition shared memories as a woman.
2) Guide to future behaviour; trying to live as a male is not much help to living as a woman. Changing work practices mean past work experiences are less of a guide to current behaviour. Essentially, so much is new in my present, and anticipated future, that the past is a minimal guide.
3) Self-continuity: my self has changed so radically, relationships, gender, career, spirituality, personality to some extent, that self-continuity becomes a matter of connecting memory episode to memory episode, building continuity incrementally. The overarching themes of unchanging gender, family and friends, career, self-identity, that provide continuity for many people have been severely disrupted by death and transition for me.
So, ruminating on autobiographical memories often feels like a fruitless search for “who am I?” The self that I’ve been constructing since 2008 feels root less. Yet, the seeds of now can be found in my past. Many just took putting on the mantle of woman to germinate and thrive. Those seeds are the self-continuity, the guide to future behaviour, and maintenance of social bonds (even if only in my dreams). The shared memories of recent years are the new leaves and flowers, of an old plant.
Note to self: this may be an identity issue for other Transgender people