As I was walking toward my locker at the gym I checked my pocket for the little card with the locker combination written on it. It wasn’t there. In a panic I tried to recall the combination. It was just 30 minutes ago that I had that combination in my head. But I couldn’t remember it. So I searched all of my pockets and finally felt the card in my back pocket. Panic over, I left the card in my pocket and kept walking, my mind quickly wandering to some random topic.
When I reached the locker, without thinking I opened it from memory without looking at the card.
I often have that sense that trying too hard makes it hard to remember something. There is even a physical feeling that comes with it. It’s like the brain seizes up and gets locked into a certain part of memory storage with no way of retracing steps back to neutral and starting the search over. After enough experience with this I sometimes notice the potential for panic before starting to search intensively for a memory that feels like its going to be hard to find. You have to pretend like you don’t really have something to remember. And most of all you have to make sure not to think of the thing that you are trying to remember because you know that if you do, the search will start by itself and get stuck. If you can do a little Zen breathing for a minute and let that feeling pass over, then you can safely start to think about it and recover the memory with ease.
At least that’s how I imagine it would work.