The Two Selves

The Two Selves

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Daniel Kahnemann was the first psychologist who won a Nobel Prize for economics.

In his book, ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’, he talks about how there are two selves to everyone – a ‘Remembering Self’ and an ‘Experiencing Self’.

He explains it with an example. One of his students approached him at the end of a lecture and told him about a symphony he had been listening to. “It was absolutely glorious music and at the very end of the recording, there was a dreadful screeching sound. And then he added, really quite emotionally, it ruined the whole experience”.

According to Kahneman, the student’s experience was not ruined; it was the memory of the experience that was ruined.

Though the student enjoyed those 20 minutes of good music, that experience did not count because he was left with a bad memory of it.

The ‘experiencing self’ lives in the present. It’s the ‘experiencing self’ that the doctor approaches when she asks, “Does it hurt now?”. The ‘remembering self’ is the one that keeps score, and maintains the story of our life, and it’s the one that answers when the doctor asks the question, “How have you been feeling lately?” The ‘experiencing self’ lives moment to moment; but not all those experiences make it to the memory.

The ‘remembering self’ is a storyteller and keeps what we derive from our experiences. The ‘experiencing self’ lives in the present.

There are many areas where this concept of two selves applies.

Take the case of parenting: Parents generally have a very good memory of raising their children. However, their day to day experience of raising them may not be very pleasant.

How about holidays? If you had a great holiday but it ends with you losing your passport and wallet, the ‘remembering self’ will paint the story with quite a bit of pain.

Same is the case with investing, you will forget the volatility of the equity market as long as the returns are good.

Enjoy the journey, which is equally important, don’t only remember the destination and stay blessed forever.