Most people can't remember what they ate for dinner yesterday, never mind how they celebrated their 17th birthday or what headlined the news that day. Marilu Henner, on the other hand, can remember virtually every day of her life.
Henner, who many remember as the character Elaine O'Connor Nardo on the sitcom Taxi, is one of only 12 documented cases of Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, or HSAM. People with HSAM have an abnormal ability to remember the intimate details of events in their lives and what was going on in the world on any given day in vivid, experiential fashion.
In her recently released book Total Memory Makeover: Uncover Your Past, Take Charge of Your Future, Henner recalls the memory games she played as a child.
These exercises, writes Henner, were a way to "mentally challenge and exercise my brain to the point that I could 'time-travel' back to: What did we do each day of our vacation? What was I doing when I was exactly to the day my younger brother Lorin's age? My niece Lizzy's age? And it was not just about touching down on a fleeting image or a feeling from the past, but rather going deeper and deeper into memories and specific moments, exploring my past thoughts through the lens of the present."
In Total Memory Makeover, which just made The New York Times Bestseller list, Henner guides readers through exactly that process, helping them create connections between their past memories, present lives and the futures they hope to create. Henner sees memory as both a vast reservoir of information and an opportunity for self-exploration -- a contention confirmed by research that suggests that everything we've ever experienced is stored somewhere on our mental hard drives.