I entered the psychologist’s office reluctantly. But I knew I had to find out if I was losing my memory.
The psychologist greeted me and led me to a huge black leather reclining chair. He looked a lot like Sigmund Freud, oval head, balding, deep-set eyes and a grey beard and mustache.
“Doctor, I’m afraid I’m losing my memory and if it goes so will my identity!”
I called him doctor, I didn’t know if he was or not, but it sounded more like he would know what he is talking about if I called him doctor!
“What makes you think this is not just normal aging?”
“It happens too often and it makes me feel powerless.”
“That’s you choosing to feel powerless, I will help you “unchoose” that perception. What you need is a new mindset!”
Now I was getting confused.
“What is a mindset?”
The Freud look alike cleared his throat and said:
“Mindsets are beliefs, perceptions and attitudes; in your case your beliefs and attitudes about memory and aging. How you think about things, negatively or positively.”
“Doctor, I know memory erodes with age, I just turned seventy, does this mean, I am declining in my cognitive functioning?”
I thought I’d throw that in, “cognitive functioning”, so he wouldn’t think I’m a dummy.
Freud continued: “Our beliefs are the rules and values that guide us in our daily activities.”
Then I went off the deep end.
“Doctor, I know my memory is failing and I can’t stand it.”
“I can’t relax, this is awful, I can’t remember my neighbor’s name or the items I needed at the grocery store. My memory is bad and it is only going to get worse!”
I started breathing heavy!
“You’re going to exhaust yourself, if you don’t calm down,” said Freud.
The doctor stared at me like he could see into my soul!
“Okay, lets get this therapy on the road. I’m going to give you an event and I want you to respond to it. Ready? Here we go:
“Oh, I forgot two items from the grocery store!”
I blurted out: “Oh god, I’m losing it. Could this be the beginning of dementia?”
“Now see, your response should have been:
“Well, I remembered the other eight items. I guess I wasn’t paying attention.”
Freud smiled and said: “Now I’m going to teach you a little memory trick. Sometimes there is an emotional component to your forgetfulness. Suppose you can’t recall the name of a person you couldn’t get along with. You remember your anger but you can’t remember the name. You need to counter the anger with humor. Think of a funny thing about that person. Humor encourages memory function. The anger response is gone and you can refocus on the name you want to recall. This trick is called, Distract So You Can Remember.”
“My brain was aching with all that information.”
Freud said: “I think you will be alright now. There probably isn’t a lot of things you forget.”
As I was leaving I said:
“There’s three things I forget a lot, names and faces and now I’ve forgotten the other thing!!!