The Good Times Define Us, Not the Bad

"People construct life narratives in order to maintain an ongoing sense of unified and purposeful identity," she adds. "These life narratives are punctuated by particular life events that were assigned high levels of subjective impact and meaning.

"Despite the fact that a very wide range of events and experiences was reported by participants [in her study] as being self-defining, a systematic pattern of benefaction was found for the emotions associated with these self-defining memories."

Those rose-colored glasses are back.

"These findings suggest that healthy individuals work to build a positive narrative identity that will yield an overall optimistic tone to the most important recalled events from their lives," she concludes.

That doesn't work for everyone, of course. Walker's team found that good and bad memories fade evenly for people who are depressed.

But the human memory system seems to be designed to put bad things aside, at least in the absence of depression, and dwell on the good.

And that, Walker concludes, "allows people to cope with tragedies, celebrate joyful moments and look forward to tomorrow."

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