Can A Memory Palace Overcome Medicinal Side-Effects?

Memory Palace pillsDear Memorizers,

In this episode of the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast, you’ll learn about using a Memory Palace even while suffering the crushing side effects of medication.

Program Notes:

Following from Magnetic Memory blog posts like The Dyslexic Memorizer Who Aced All His Exams and Memory Palaces vs. Alzheimer’s, another question about using mnemonics, Memory Palaces and other memory techniques to help overcome mental “problems.” In this case, it’s the negative effects of taking medication on memory has come in.

Have you worked with anyone who was working against medications and/or an illness that randomly scatters chunks of memory?

I’m on an anti-seizure med for some fairly extensive nerve damage, and since I’ve been on it, my already compromised memory is suddenly like trying to catch butterflies with a hula hoop. Now I’m wondering if I’m just a hopeless case.

Thanks for any advice/thoughts!

I don’t want to prattle on about myself, but I am one such person. In fact, my whole adventure into memory, something I’ve only recently started talking about, came from the devastating cognitive effects of lithium, which I was taking at the time to control Bipolar Disorder. Now I take something else that has less extreme effects, but back then, there seemed to be no alternative …

Until I found mnemonics.

In truth, I have only anecdotal evidence that mnemonics helps bring clarity into the mind, and I was also discovering a whole lot of other things at the same time, so the clarity that came into my mind through the use of Memory Palaces was assisted by things such as self-hypnosis, meditation and a better diet combined with fitness, improved sleep, writing down my dreams each and every morning, and spending some time writing down my goals and things that I’m grateful for on a daily basis. I learned a lot of these “hacks” from Richard Wiseman’s 59 Seconds, as well as from taking hypnotherapy certification which was part of my doctoral research into friendship (sounds like a stretch, but it turns out that we do hypnotize each other in a certain way as we become friends).

But in terms of Memory Palaces strictly speaking, one of the biggest things that being able to command my memory brought was confidence. The stress and negativity that surrounded me as I worked to read some of the strangest and most obscure books of philosophy and cultural studies almost caused me to drop out of graduate school. And that’s not counting the fogginess and poor concentration that made it very difficult for me to read in the first place.

And in truth, I still experience all of these things today. 

The difference is that Memory Palaces cut through all of it, provided that I use them and use them in the right way. For me, the right way is the Magnetic Memory Method and it applies to just about everything I – or you – could ever want to learn. Of course, as I teach it, the MMM is a “method” and not a “system,” which enables users to adapt the basic principles to their own learning style. Most people don’t need to change much, but the whole purpose of how I designed it for myself was to make what really is impossible for a person with my frenzied brain possible. These techniques are an almost fool proof means of getting things into my mind so that I can find them whenever I want.

Think of it like this: The Magnetic Memory Method is like a wheelchair and a ramp. Without the ramp, the chair cannot be wheeled up to the next level. Without the wheelchair, the person cannot be moved anywhere. Put them together, however, and there’s no level that cannot be reached.

The Magnetic Memory Method is a structured means by which both the chair and the ramp can be built in stages in order to bring the material in the chair to wherever in the mind you want it to go.

But it’s not about wheelchairs and ramps …

It’s about Memory Palaces.

Mental constructs based on familiar places. That’s the key: familiar places. When you get more advanced, you can use less familiar places from deep in memory and even invented Memory Palaces or Memory Palaces based on video games, TV shows, etc.

Thus, instead of trying to catch butterflies with a hula hoop, see if you can’t just catch one Memory Palace in your mind. Start with your own house. Using the Magnetic Memory Method principles of not trapping yourself and not crossing your own path, create a linear journey through the Memory Palace.

Then, spend some time just traveling that journey. Make it really vivid in your imagination. If you can’t actually see it in your mind’s eye …

Stop trying.

Feel it instead. Feel it as a structure, a series of squares that are connected.

You can also feel the journey in terms of time. How long would it take you to move from the bedroom to the kitchen? Approximately how many steps?

When done with eyes closed, even a non-visual person can begin to attribute visual elements to this inner sense.

Because the journey is known in real life and has now been recreated in the mind, you can move on to the next step.

Assuming that you’ve got ten stations along your Memory Palace journey and assuming that you’ve got ten Spanish words lined up, then you’re ready to work on memorizing the first Spanish word by placing it at the first location. All of this is premised upon the absolute certainty that you know where to find that word later when you’re looking for it as part of your Magnetic Memory Method Recall Rehearsal procedures. Of course, there are ways that you can read about in the book that help you make sure that you’re picking the best possible words, and you can experiment with all of these.

The most important thing is to get started.

John Cage once said, “begin anywhere,” and that remains true. But if you’re struggling to find a place to start, start by embedding your home in your mind and try to always focus on what is possible.

That is in fact the number one lesson I have ever learned. I used to focus so much on what was impossible that I hypnotized myself into taking zero action. But through all kinds of mysterious and interesting and strange circumstances, I learned to focus only on the possible, something I have to relearn all the time.

Miraculously, when I use Memory Palaces in the right way, they never fail me.

And barring some terrible brain trauma – and even then (if you’ve heard my Podcast interview with Michael Gusman then you’ll know why I’m making this exception), I don’t think Memory Palaces that are correctly built can ever fail.

I sum, if I can make the following suggestions that I think will help you deal with the effects of your medication, based on the understanding that I’m not a doctor (at least not the medical kind, just a dude with a PhD), work on Memory Palaces as described by the Magnetic Memory Method, but also:

* Meditation
* Good diet and fitness
* Writing down your dreams (ideally every morning)
* Writing down your aspirations (ideally ever day)
* Writing down at least ten things you are grateful for (ideally ever day)

Do this writing by hand so that you train your brain to connect your gratitude and wishes with movements of the hand, with mechanical acts of doing that are not integrated with computers. The research Richard Wiseman presents in 59 Seconds shows you why this is important, but it also just makes sense when you think of the difference between blunt force writing via typing and the elegance of handwriting …

Or the lack of it, which reminds me that if you ever get bored of writing down the same thing every day, try writing with your non-dominant hand instead. It took me only a short time to develop this skill and it has really happy effects. I guess it lights up different centers of the brain.

I don’t know if writing with your non-dominant hand will do that for you, but if you’re going to pick up these habits, then you might as well give writing with your non-dominant hand a try too. It cannot hurt.

I hope these thoughts help. Let me know if you have any questions or if there is anything further I can do for you. 🙂

Anthony Metivier is the founder of the Magnetic Memory Method, a systematic, 21st Century approach to memorizing foreign language vocabulary, dreams, names, music, poetry and much more in ways that are easy, elegant, effective and fun.

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