How is it that we delete experiences?

9 Jun

Have you ever taken a trip down memory lane with your family, only to discover everyone remembers a story differently? Well, in my case, I remember my entire childhood differently than my two sisters. In fact, I hardly remember it at all except for a sense of simply not being good enough. We were the children of an alcoholic father, and it seems to me I’ve deleted a lot of those memories in an effort to protect myself.

Today we’re taking a pause from our Logical Smart Series to talk about how we interpret experiences, and specifically the tendency to delete.


What is deleting? “Deletion occurs when we selectively pay attention to certain aspects of our experience and not others. Deletion means we overlook or omit certain sensory information. Without deletion, we photo 3would be faced with much too much information to handle in our conscious minds.” (James & Woodsmall)

How is it that we delete information?

As human beings, we’re constantly taking in information through our five senses and processing it at an average rate “of about 20,000,000 bits of information per second” (The Biology of Belief by Dr Bruce Lipton). Our conscious mind can only absorb 40 bits of data per second and most of this information absorption and assimilation takes place unconsciously. Attempting to process all this information consciously might be challenging, but it wouldn’t be sustainable or practical. Therefore, in order to be sane, we need to filtre and use only relevant information. Another take: The subconscious mind can process 500,000 times more than the conscious mind can.

Newer memory theories suggest that short term memory is famously limited in capacity to remember about 4 + or –1 chunks of information at once (Cowan 2001) as opposed to Miller’s famous magic number of 7 + or -2 (1956). “A chunk is the largest meaningful unit in the presented material that the person recognizes—thus, it depends on the knowledge of the person what counts as a chunk.” (Wikipedia)


Our individual filters are determined by our perceptions of energy, time, space and matter, as well as the language we use, our understanding of words and gestures, our memories, the unique way we go about making decisions, the patterns we look for when selecting information, our values and beliefs, plus our overall attitude.

We then delete, distort and generalize information according to our unique filters. Once incoming information passes through our filters a thought is constructed. This ongoing process results in thoughts coming together to create internal representations (personal maps of how we see the world). These take the form of sensory perceptions: visual (sight), auditory (hearing), kinaesthetic (feeling & touch), olfactory (smelling) and gustatory (tasting).

So for me, I deleted a lot of my childhood – but with the deletion of the bad, also comes the deletion of the good.

The other day, my sisters were asking if I remembered standing up and fighting off a bully. There was a group of boys who would harass us while we were at our cottage. And one day, apparently, I had had enough of it. According to my sisters, I stood up to the bully and fought him off – I literally acted as the hero.

I'm on the top at the far left.
I’m on the top at the far left.

They also say that I was so academically keen it was a bit intimidating – a lot to live up to for them. That’s a funny one too, because I can remember trying really hard to do well in school, but I sure don’t remember feeling academically superior. In fact, I quite distinctly remember feeling lesser in comparison to my peers.

Those are two stories where I deleted any ‘strength’ and was left only with that feeling of not being good enough. If you look at the model in this post, you’ll see deletion is something we do in response to an external event, e.g. my father or a bully, be it deleting, distorting or generalizing (the last two of which we’ll talk about in future posts), which then feeds into how we map that experience across our intelligences. For me, deleting those moment of success meant I mapped a sense of “lesser than” across my intelligences. The outcome of which is that I’ve had to work hard to correct that emotional imprinting.

Chances are you’ve born your fair share of challenges. They can be painful, and the pain can fester or distort our perception. So how do you release yourself from that pattern?

For me, it involved many different moments – but the biggest release is to realize the pattern in the first place. Instead of judging myself as not enough, I’m working hard to change that story with love of myself.

Perception won’t change by glancing at a model; it really begins with becoming aware of habits. Another good step, one I’m learning now and continuing to adopt while looking back upon childhood: love yourself. No strings attached, no expectations required – just love yourself.

What about yourself? How have you reacted to the challenging moments in your life? What perceptions have been created that you carried in your sense of self? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Till next week!


Camille Boivin is founder of Sister Leadership, certified in EQi 2.0 and EQ360, a master practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), has been coaching high-level women and men for over six years, and is now opening her expertise to those emerging in business. Camille pulls her blog topics from her unique coaching approach that combines her training as a EQi 2.0 and EQ360 certified facilitator with the dig-deeper tools of NLP.

Get in touch here if you’d like to talk with Cam about group or one-on-one coaching, and EQ assessments. With the miracle of Skype and telephones – distance is no issue!


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