Future memory. We are not as familiar with the idea of ‘remembering the future’ as we are with remembering the past. Researchers on the cortex region of the brain are, however, familiar with the concept. It is the ability to respond appropriately to a previously anticipated event.
The story that I am providing here no doubt happened to me because my body-brain-mind was altered as a result of my mother’s abuse of me. I describe here how I survived a dangerous situation that perhaps happened BECAUSE of my dissociation at the same time that it did not happen BECAUSE of my dissociation.
The truth is I will never know which version is the truth.
This experience happened to me the year we spent in Tucson. As an example of how the future self might work for me, I finished my practice session of hitting balls from the throwing machine on the high school’s tennis court as the last bell of the day. After returning the equipment and picking up my text books, I cut across the soft green lawn toward the school parking lot on my walk home.
Shortly after I left the lawn and crossed onto the parking lot pavement, I had the experience of lifting my left foot into the air to place it behind the bumper of a parked car on my right, and at the same time had the experience of never completing my step. In that split instant I was standing 15 feet away, far from where I had lifted my foot in the first place with no memory of how I had gotten there.
I paused and looked behind me. The car I had been stepping behind and the car parked directly across the lot behind it, had each been put into reverse at exactly the same time. Their young teenage drivers had evidently failed to look behind them as each of them punched their foot down on the accelerator. The bumpers of the cars met with full force as they violently rammed into one another. Had I not somehow miraculously been removed from harm, I would have been cut in half because between them is exactly where I should have been in mid stride when these two cars crashed into one another.
But there I was instead, calm and unscathed, detachedly watching the scene from a remote distance. Everything seemed to happen simultaneously, faster than you can clap your hands together.
I had no memory of movement from the time I lifted my foot into the air for the step behind that car to the time I stood watching in safety. To my knowledge, I never completed that step. I have no memory of my foot ever hitting the pavement. I knew that according to the timing of the accident and where I should have been walking, that as fast as they were moving and as hard as they hit, I should have been over there, crushed, cut in half, bloody and dying.
I was not scared. I was not relieved. I was not out of breath. My heart was not pounding. I was not shaking. All I felt was a distant mild sense of both wonderment and curiosity, along with some cool version of appreciation that this “miracle” had happened. But that was it. I wasn’t surprised. I did not try to find an explanation.
I did no more than wonder for the length of time it took the drivers to get out of their cars. As they yelled at one another and shook their fists in threatening rage, I simply turned around calmly and continued my walk home.
I never told anyone this happened. It didn’t dawn on me that it had any significance, value or importance. It just happened to me. I did not even retell it to myself for many, many years though I never forgot it. It has just happened in the way everything else had ever happened in my reality. It just happened with some version of me in the “movie” at that point in time and space.
If I had not been somehow transported from the one place to the other one, then there would have been no Linda left to wonder. Yet the Linda left the scene left behind the Linda that had been standing there watching, and the Linda who had been in mid step behind the car, and even left behind the Linda that should have been cut in half. All of them felt equal, and as equally unreal to me as did the Linda that walked away. They all still feel equally as unreal to me now as the Linda that is sitting here doing this writing will feel to me tomorrow.
I have only some version of an explicit awareness and cognitive agreement that all of these Linda’s are connected and related to one another – even the invisible one that did not die. It is a closer connection and relationship than can exist between any other two people because at least we are all related as we share this one single body at various points in time. This common sharing of this one body called Linda is what keeps us attached to any sense that this ongoing life belongs to any one of us.
In terms of future memory, I will never know if it was by some using particular ability that I could detect all the signs of the impending collision before it happened in a way similar to how I knew about the powder puff that should not have been in any way visible to me when I was working with an art therapy client. Certainly I should have noticed that the motors of both cars were running when I reached them in my walking. But I never had any conscious awareness of either danger or of the movement of my body to avoid it.
It doesn’t matter to me whether I was spared because of heightened survival instincts, because of a miracle, or because I was involved in something that has always existed purely as life’s great mystery. I guess what I find most interesting is that I could not even notice that something unusual had happened. I literally just took it in stride and walked away. Or at least some one of me did.