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Learning and Remembering

The Difficulty With Remembering by Jane Thurnell-Read

It may be a sign of my age but I’m getting more and more interested in the subject of remembering. Altzheimer’s disease and pre-senile dementia are problems that are frequently discussed, but my own interest in the problems of remembering are more subtle and the effects more diverse. Difficulties in remembering have implications for everyday life and also for teachers and students.

Neuro-linguistic programming looks at 3 different modes for thinking and remembering: visual, auditory and kinesthetic.  Visual thinking involves pictures, auditory thinking involves sounds and kinesthetic thinking involves movement and/or feelings. So, if I ask you to remember what you wore yesterday, then this would be a visual memory. If I ask you to remember what someone said to you or the words of a song then I am asking you to recall an auditory memory. If I ask you to tell me how you felt yesterday or how to change gear in a car I am asking for a kinesthetic memory. Of course, in real life often a memory will be a mixture of these. So, if I asked kinesiologists how to test a particular muscle they might well access this information visually (an image of their teacher doing it or the picture in the manual) and in an auditory manner (hearing again the voice of someone explaining it to them) and also in a kinesthetic manner (remembering how it felt to do the muscle test  in the past). All of these different modes will  re-enforce each other, but usually one mode will dominate. As well as having a preferred modality many people will also have a weak modality.

If you have problems with visual remembering you are unlikely to be an artist. You may have difficulty remembering faces, but, if you prefer the auditory modality, you might be good at remembering names. You will get impatient watching demonstrations because it is difficult to remember the visual content.  You will find diagrams unhelpful. Students who are poor in visual remembering  but good at  kinesthetic  remembering are included in the students who want to start practising before the teacher has finished demonstrating what to do: they learn by doing rather than by watching or listening.
If you have problems with auditory remembering you are unlikely to be a musician. You may have difficulty in remembering names or retaining a talk. Students who are poor in auditory remembering but good at kinesthetic remembering will want to write down (writing is a movement) what the teacher  says. These people get really frustrated when attending seminars, and the teacher tells everyone to put their pens down because there is no need to write everything down as it's in the notes - not true for them- this is the way they understand and remember.)

If you have problems with kinesthetic remembering  you are unlikely to be a dancer or a dramatic actor. You may find you keep repeating the same mistake over and over again, because you forget how you felt when you did the wrong thing. Students who are poor in kinesthetic remembering will often have difficulty when they first start “doing” kinesiology; muscle testing may not come easily to these students.

A good teacher will make sure that he/she uses all these modalities in teaching, so that each student can access the information using their preferred modality. As students, we should all be aware of our preferred modality, but we need also to work on out weaker modalities.  Remembering is a highly important skill not only for teachers and students but also for every day life.



Kinesthetic remembering particularly interests me as I used to have difficulties in this area. One particular problem brought this home to me. When I taught in London I used to stay with friends who lived outside London. Every time I stayed with them I had to leave the house at 6.45 a.m. to avoid the traffic jams and then in the evening I either left immediately after the workshop and sat in a traffic jam or had to wait around until the worst of the rush hour was passed. I found this very tiring and stressful. Each time this happened I would resolve that next time I came to London I would not stay with them, but each time I did. Eventually I realised that each time I planned a trip to London  I did not remember how bad I had felt coping with London traffic on the previous visit. Using Health Kinesiology techniques I improved my kinesthetic remembering and now do not stay with these friends. I have also found that I am now generally much better at learning from my mistakes.

My problems with kinesthetic remembering  also explains in part why I had so much difficulty learning to muscle test when I started doing kinesiology. (Remember: kinesthetic remembering is also about remembering movements).Everyone around me was so much more confident and competent than me. To begin with I was clumsy and it took me a long time to get the “feel” of muscle testing. I used to arrive at Touch for Health meetings late in order to avoid the practice sessions, where I would unfavourably compare myself with my peers. If the practice sessions occurred after I had arrived, I would rush off to help with some administrative task rather than show my uncertainty about muscle testing. Eventually I became competent and professional but it was a hard struggle for me as it did not come naturally.

Kinesthetic remembering involves remembering good feelings as well as bad feelings and movement. Someone who is bad at kinesthetic remembering may find that they have particular problems in intimate relationships. When things are difficult in the relationship they may have difficulty remembering how good it usually is and so want to end the relationship. When things are good, they forget how bad things can get and so do not try to solve the on-going problems of the relationship. (The best time to solve the bad times are when things are good). This can lead to the relationship swinging between highs of passionate love and lows of absolute loathing.

Being good at all types of remembering can dramatically enhance our self confidence, our ability to function in the world and to live life to  our true potential.

Copyright 2014 Jane Thurnell-Read