There’s a concept in the television world known as Flanderization, which refers to the slow exaggeration of a character’s minor traits until they becomes all-consuming and defining.

We see this in most sitcoms, but shows like The Simpsons (where the term originated) and The Office are particularly guilty of Flanderizing their characters into cheap caricatures of themselves, barely resembling the more well-rounded individuals we originally met.

Now, for sitcoms this makes sense. Take one aspect of a character and run with it for comedic effect, exaggerating it bit by bit so it’s not noticeable in the process, but only when you look back with a larger perspective.

Where we run into trouble is the Flanderization of our own memories.

You may have vivid memories of an event that happened to you 5, 10, or even 20 years ago. It might be an incredibly positive event, or something traumatic that you’ve held onto over the years. Unbeknownst to you, every time you replay that memory, you’re Flanderizing it just a bit. It’s impossible to avoid… There are certain aspects of that memory that resonate with you the most, so you focus on those parts more than others as you replay the event in your head. As this process compounds over the course of years or decades, you’ve unintentionally exaggerated different parts of the memory until it doesn’t quite resemble what actually happened.

Blissful memories become even more so, while traumatic experiences can feel even more vivid years down the line. It becomes harder to let go of our painful past, and sometimes we get caught in a thought loop about “the good ol’ days”, not realizing the degree to which we’ve romanticized these memories slowly throughout the seasons.

I’m not telling you that all your memories are faulty. I’m just telling you that… maybe it wasn’t as bad as you remember. Maybe it wasn’t so much better than it is now.

When you understand the true power of Flanderization, it will become easier to let go of your past and focus on building your future. Why bother watching a cheap remake of a classic film when you can go out and shoot the next blockbuster?


December 8th, 2016

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  1. Karl says:

    Well said Mark !

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