I have a thing that human beings need stories because human beings are innately pattern-making. We see patterns where there are none: we find faces in clouds or rocks or wood; we find a message in coincidence. Stories are just a kind of pattern-making, I think, a way of filling in gaps of comprehension or knowledge so that they become whole, however fantastical that whole might be. We are always embroidering on the world. We remember things that have not happened.
So check out AR Hopwood’s very cool project. It’s at the Freud Museum until the 3rd of August.
Here’s their PDF of false memory contributions.
I have one, that I know of. I was a small child at a party in a big room like a school gym or village hall. There were trestle tables with paper tablecloths, pink wafer biscuits. I was introduced to a very shy little boy who didn’t want to play: he was there with a woman who wasn’t his mother. He had lots of small lesions, and later my own mother explained that these had been done by his parents, with lit cigarettes.
I’m told this never happened, and I’m sure it didn’t, at least that my mother would never have disclosed a thing like that to me. But I do wonder whether this stemmed from any actual event, and if so how long afterwards I worked it up into the memory that now feels real to me. Typing it out, for the first time, I was surprised (not surprised) how readily I went to add extra details – how naturally pink wafer biscuits suggested party rings, suggested paper napkins, suggested the soft weight of a slab of bought sponge inside one such paper napkin, the gummy layer of pink jam and buttercream. I’m just collecting up real-life sense-data to create a convincing whole, and it’s OK because I’m a writer of fiction, I’m meant to do that, but I’d be interested to know how often we do this in daily life and never realise.