Why promising ourselves never to drink so much again doesn’t work
July 8, 2011 | 1:37 pm
(Updated: July 8, 2011 | 1:46 pm)
According to a new paper published by researchers at the University of Washington, our bad memories of binge-drinking experiences can evolve to positive ones over time. It’s called “positive memory bias.”
So that awful episode of “the spins” that left us hugging the toilet or sitting up in bed all night, that humiliating evening we got kicked out of the bar, and finally, that brutal hangover – during which, we vowed never to mix beer and liquor again – goes from personal disaster to a funny story to tell our friends.
“That party was awesome!” we find ourselves reminiscing when the same holiday comes around the following year, even though we were miserable at the time.
Who, at age 25 or older, doesn’t fondly recount those wild nights during high school or college with a bit of a smirk? We do that even when we fully acknowledge we took it way over the top.
To sum the study up, researchers found that when the college students interviewed had a lot of great nights drinking, they assume it will always be like that – but when they keep crashing into disaster and misery, they thought of those experiences as “anomalies” but that other parts of the night were pretty good, and next time will be better.
Memories are important – and happy or exciting memories become a big part of how we evaluate the meaning in our lives. Did we (as wild episodes in a person’s history are often euphemized at funerals) – “life life to the fullest?” Re-writing these experiences helps maintain our mental well-being over time.
But memories are also supposed to help us learn from our mistakes; that doesn’t help when we decide, later, that they weren’t mistakes at all. Maybe the best way to commit to ourselves to keep it together is to get it down in writing. [MSNBC]