Dementia, Memory, and the Narrative Unconscious
Mark Freeman, Ph.D., Professor, Psychology, College of the Holy Cross
Psychology Professor Mark Freeman reflects on his mother's struggle with dementia, and how her loss of memory affects her identity. He recounts times when she calls him, panic-stricken, because she doesn't know where she is. He reassures her that she is fine at the assisted living facility near where he lives and works. "You'll be OK, Ma," he says, in an effort to help her calm down and reconnect with the world they share.
Listen to Mark Freeman's lecture.
It is commonly understood that the phenomenon of personal identity is in significant part a function of memory.This understanding has been long shared by philosophers, psychologists, and others, the basic supposition being that the very idea of identity – which, for the time being, might be seen as the experience of one’s continuity in time even amidst all the changes one undergoes – relies upon the “preservation,” so to speak, of the past in and through memory and the “persistence” of this past into the present. More recently, it has come to be understood, by some, that personal identity is a function not just of memory but of narrative, the very sense of our own singularity and particularity emerging through story, both lived and told (e.g., Freeman, 1993 [Freeman, Rewriting Self]; McAdams, 1997 [McAdams, Stories We Live By]; McAdams, Josselson, & Lieblich, 2006) [McAdams, Identity and Story].
Along these lines, the philosopher Paul Ricoeur (1991)[Ricoeur] has written, “my life” may be understood “ as a story in its nascent state . . . an activity and a passion in search of a narrative.” It is for this reason that he wishes “to grant to experience as such a virtual narrativity which stems, not from the projection of literature onto life, but which constitutes a genuine demand for narrative” (p. 29). We are “entangled” in stories, Ricoeur insists; narrating, of the sort we do when we pause to tell those larger stories that comprise our lives, is a “secondary process” that is “grafted” onto this entanglement. In this sense, the actual stories we tell about ourselves are most appropriately understood as a continuation and extension of those “unspoken stories” we routinely live. “Our life,” therefore, Ricoeur continues, “when then embraced in a single glance, appears to us as the field of a constructive activity, borrowed from narrative understanding, by which we attempt to discover and not simply to impose from outside the narrative identity which constitutes us ” (p. 32). Ricoeur has done well in this context to articulate the interrelationship between the “narrativity” that is part and parcel of life itself, the actual narratives we tell about our lives, and the narrative identity that grows out of the two.
It is precisely this interrelationship that has been broken in the case of my mother, 86 years and suffering for several years now from dementia. “Our life” is no longer her life, and the “attempt to discover . . . the narrative identity which constitutes us” is only minimally operative. Indeed, her life, to the extent that it can be “embraced in a single glance,” yields something quite different than the panoramic landscape of the past we might ordinarily see. By all indications, it frequently yields a kind of kind of icy tundra, a vast expanse of nothingness. At these times she has no idea whatsoever where she is or who she is. For a while, this would happen sometimes upon her waking from a nap and finding everything around her unfamiliar and strange. It’s hard to imagine what her world must be like. Occasionally, I wake up in the middle of the night, in a hotel room for instance, and have no idea where I am or how I got there. But after a few weird moments, I can remember and go back to sleep. But this is exactly what my mother cannot do. It’s not at all like being in a “new place.” That can be interesting and exciting. Instead, she has said, it’s like being in “another world.”
Lately, this has been happening more regularly, and not just from post-nap confusion. In a distinct sense, “Where am I?” becomes fused with “Where am I?” As for the result, it can be sheer panic. There is another result too. She needs to find me, immediately, and she sometimes calls, frantically, trying to reach me. (I’m one of three sons, and I’m the one who lives just a mile or two away from her assisted living residence, and for that reason, among others, there’s a special connection.) The night before I wrote this, for instance, she had called in a panic, one of the aides by her side, and told me in a shaky voice that she was at Holy Cross (where I work). “I doubt that, Ma,” I said. “You’re at home, at Tatnuck Park.” She then asked the aide where she was; yes, you’re in your own apartment, where you’ve been living.” “Well, that’s news to me.” My voice calms her down. “You’ll be OK, Ma. This happens once in awhile, and eventually things start to look familiar again. So just take it easy. I’ll be over in a little while.” It’s become quite a responsibility. I’m referring here not just to the fact that my family and I live close by and that we need to be “on call.” (I could in fact get a phone call any minute.) I’m referring to the fact that my mother’s very sense of “location,” in a recognizable world, has come to depend in part on me. I can help return her to the world and to herself, such as it is, at least for a while. It was a good thing I arrived when I did, she told me one day a while back. Had I not done so, she said, she might have screamed.
Through it all, “she” – whatever remains of her identity – can sense that something is radically amiss. She doesn’t know quite what. But it’s quite clear to her, still, that there is something missing, that something that was once there no longer is. So it is that when she begins to re-gather herself she says things like, “I don’t have a brain” or “I’m like a child now,” “mindless,” ” or, following a Yiddish phrase that her mother would sometimes utter in her own later years, “Oh, what a person becomes.”
It’s exactly at this juncture that I want to begin the exploration at hand. On the one hand, in episodes like the ones I’ve been recounting there would seem to be fairly little in the way of autobiographical memory or narrative. Nothing is recognizable and again, by her own account, she has no idea where or who she is. It is against the backdrop of this sort of situation that I referred in a recent piece to “life without narrative” (2008a)[Freeman, Life without narrative] As against those who argue that we don’t really live narratives but simply impose them after the fact onto the past – the supposition therefore being that “real life” is narrative-free – I argued in this piece that a narrative-free life, far from leading in the direction of the real, leads instead to the void. The real, the humanly real, I went on to suggest, is inextricably bound to narrative. My mother’s life shows this with painful clarity, precisely through the absence – or the near absence – of narrative.
I did go on to offer a qualification of sorts to this notion of life without narrative. Even though much of my mother’s memory and in turn narrative had been largely erased from the scene, there still remained some dimension of narrative and identity alike. This was why, even after a panic-stricken and terrifying episode of dis-location she can still step back from this very dislocatedness and say something about it. “Oh my god,” she says. “Oh my god.” “Oh my god.” Oh what a person becomes. She simply can’t believe that this is what it’s come to. But who exactly is this “she” who’s been stunned into disbelief? What is it that leads her to retain this sense, albeit damaged, of identity? And where does this “myth,” as I’ll call it, come from?
There is, again, a puzzle here. Even in the face of the demise of memory and narrative, such that everything can appear utterly alien and unfamiliar, there is an acknowledgment of this very alienness and unfamiliarity as well as the recognition that she herself is to “blame.” That’s not all. There also remains a fairly strong wall of defenses. When I tell her that her “lapses” have occurred before, she is either completely mystified, finding it inconceivable, or positively annoyed, as in, “I think I would know if this happened before.” This bespeaks not only a sense of identity but a relatively strong one at that. Sometimes she does appear to herself to be “dumb,” “mindless,” like a “moron.” (Those are her words, not mine.) But there are other times when she’s ready to blast us for even thinking that she could forget these harsh episodes. In her case, at least, the myth of identity is stubborn indeed. Again, why?
Its tenacity has come as something of a surprise. Let me take a few moments to say why this is so by referring to the trajectory of her illness as well as my understanding of it – which, as it turns out, has needed some correction along the way. In a piece I did a while back, I actually suggested the possibility that dementia, insofar as it entailed a movement beyond narrative, might actually bear within it a certain promise (Freeman, 2008b)[Freeman, Beyond narrative]. This possibility was borne out of a quite basic dynamic I had observed in my mother: She would become most agitated and upset when her narrative self was on the line, when the very being she had always been was being challenged, thwarted, or denied; and she would become most at ease, even happy at times, when that same narrative self was in abeyance, such as on a summer night, listening to some good music, maybe with a glass of wine. Agitation would become serenity; consciousness of self would give way to consciousness of Other; the narrative she carried with her, still – that of a competent, self-sufficient woman, who had been the brightest of six children, who had picked up the pieces after her husband’s untimely death, who had managed a busy office and more – would be put on hold.
These latter experiences had been fairly rare. Much of the time, in fact, she had been “difficult,” even ornery. She could still drive, she insisted; she could still take care of her papers; she could still take her medicine on her own. “I’ve been doing it for years, Mark!” “Things are a little different now, Ma.” “I’m not an imbecile,” she might say. “You’re treating me like a child.” Moving to an assisted-living residence didn’t help matters. She couldn’t stand the bus trips, or that everyone went to bed right after dinner, or that so many of them used walkers or wheelchairs. For a time, we would remind her that she had some challenges too; perhaps, then, we ventured, she wouldn’t be quite so down on where she had landed and who she had landed with. “You’ve got some pretty significant memory problems,” we might say. But she would simply forget that she had these problems, which, in turn, would increase her rage at having been “put” in assisted living. She would also forget where she put things: her purse, her wallet, her checkbook, her comb, her watch, her keys; the list goes on. Never, however, would she acknowledge having misplaced them. No; the cleaning lady must have put them somewhere, or they were stolen. We had a lock put on her closet door, just to reassure her that there would be a place where her things would remain safe and secure. And when we would locate her “stolen” items, under a pile of clothes or tucked away in a drawer, she would simply be mystified It was inconceivable that she had put them there, and nothing could convince her otherwise. There is still a story in view at this juncture, the story of a competent, whole person who drives and keeps her own books and remembers where she put things. And the fact that aspects of this story were in the process of being challenged, radically, could be extremely upsetting. “Sometimes you just live too long,” she had said. She was indeed a kind of prisoner of her own remembered narrative, and it had resulted in some very tough times.
But again, there were moments that would take her away from herself and her story. My mother had always loved music and dancing, and good food and drink. My wife and I would therefore do whatever we could to get her to these happy spaces in her life. Sometimes there would be utter abandon; she would be at an outdoor concert, for instance, and literally be dancing in her seat – more than she ever had, more than she ever would have in the past. For a few moments, life would become worthwhile again. It was around this time that there had emerged a very disturbing thought the more she would deteriorate, the less narrative there would be; and the less narrative there would be, the more she would be able to be present to the moment, just as she was at that concert. Therein was dementia’s tragic promise: the progressive dissolution of the self – not unlike Murdoch’s notion of “unselfing” – would pave the way toward an attentiveness to the Other (see also Shenk, 2001)[Shenk, Forgetting]. “We cease to be,” Murdoch (1970)[Murdoch, Sovereignty] writes, “in order to attend to the existence of something else, a natural object, a person in need” (p. 58). And through this very attentiveness, there would emerge new dimensions of connectedness, oneness.
Unselfing, therefore, serves to move one beyond narrative. Conversely, moving beyond narrative, dementia-style, might serve the process of unselfing, letting-go. I even flirted with the idea that there might be some relationship between certain dementia-founded experiences and certain forms of mystical experience. For obvious reasons, I was quick to qualify the idea: I neither wished to romanticize dementia nor to pathologize mysticism. But it might still be the case, I suggested, that each of these modes of experience, in their respective movements beyond narrative, offered some measure of deliverance from the noisy narrative self. Was it true? Would my mother become more and more enraptured with otherness as her narrative self continued to decline?
There was a brief time when she did seem to be quite in love with the world I had jotted down the experiences of one day, in particular, when everything really did seem to have an almost mystical edge to it. It was a beautiful New England fall day. And so, my mother and I decided to take a drive, up a country road, toward Mt. Wachusett, which offers vistas of the valley below, the mountains of New Hampshire to the north, and, on a crystal clear day like this one, the Boston skyline. I tuned the car stereo to a local classical station. Up we went, climbing the road to the mountain, music playing, the sky blue, the leaves beginning to turn. She is transfixed. “Beautiful.” “It must be peak now.” “Such a pretty road.” “Beautiful, beautiful day.” “What a day.” “Spectacular day for a ride like this.” “What a spectacular, beautiful day.”
It is not easy to make sense of these kinds of utterances. There are times when my mother speaks when words simply spill out, appropriately; even now, still, she often seems to know what to say – that is, she knows what’s generally said – in a given context. “What have you been doing today, Ma?” I might ask. “Oh, reading, picking up.” But the books remain unopened and the apartment is in the same state of disarray it was in last time. I don’t mean to suggest that she is lying. Indeed, she can no doubt comfort herself with the fact that, in her mind, she may very well have been reading and picking up. But it is sometimes difficult to know what her words actually refer to. That was true of our ride together that fall day. At times, it was as if she was enacting the version of self that once was, the one who would swoon over beautiful fall days.
But there were other times too, when it seemed quite real and connected, when the ocean of colors before her gave her a measure of reprieve from the strange, difficult world she’d come to inhabit. And, for a moment or two – and I assure you, only for a moment or two – I envied her. That day, I really couldn’t be there, with the world, like she seemed to be. I kept moving in and out, between the welter of colors and this or that issue that had to be thought about – including, of course, my mother’s fate. But that day, for a few hours, she was . . . happy. Or something like it. I won’t pretend to know exactly where she was, but wherever it was, it did seem to bring her a kind of oneness, a full immersion into the world, untouched by all the chattering stuff inside our heads that keeps us from being present to things. Dementia’s tragic promise, intensified.
But the promise would begin to fade. Later on that fall, she was often agitated, and even went on several “rampages” (as they were described by staff at her residence). The food was awful, and she let everyone around her in the dining room know it. She yelled at people, for who knows what infraction – enough so that one of her very few friends, an older Jewish man, whose wife was dying and who would “kibitz” with her in language colorfully sprinkled with the Yiddish they both knew and loved, had scolded her for her rudeness and told her to “act like a lady.” And then, yet again, there were the “thefts” from her apartment. As for why the ever-present “they” would take her beaten old watch but leave a new piece of jewelry behind, the reason was simple enough: they didn’t have a blessed clue about what was of value and what was not. “Those people, what do they know?” Everything has an explanation, and the explanation inevitably has to do with what’s been taken from her. She is of course right about this: so much in her life, once full and present, has gone missing.
Things stayed fairly calm for a while. But then the theft fantasies reemerged, and the yelling and rage. A new medicine would take the edge off things, but it would also leave her even more at sea. It was difficult to know what she would do all day. She could do some reading, but judging by the stack of books in her apartment, she couldn’t quite get into any of them. So the pile grew. She did occasionally straighten up, but not much. And there were the occasional crossword puzzles, partially finished, a group activity now and then, and, when the spirit struck her, some small talk with her fellow residents. But it was also clear that there were long spells of nothingness, times in which she would sit, or lie in her bed, and just . . . be. She began to wear the same clothes, day in and day out; her hair would be unkempt; she started to shuffle when she walked. Dosage would have to be recalibrated; there was the need to find some middle ground between her paranoid rage and this dreadful void.
But this was also a new phase. Even after taking her off the medicines that might be sapping her spirit, she frequently remained dulled and lost. I mean this quite literally. One day, when I stopped by her apartment for a while, the telephone directory was open to the page that included her name and number. On top of the page, she had scrawled her name. The ink was heavy and dark, the “F” circled; clearly, she had written it again and again. And in the column of names, hers was underlined, roughly. Once again, I will not pretend to know exactly what was going through her mind at the time. But there can be little doubt that she was trying, somehow, to find what seemed to be irretrievably lost. She was just “foggy.” “I don’t know what I did all day,” she would say. “Got to get my head on straight. I have to get started, get my head on straight, start getting into a program of some sort.” There was a lingering desire to resume, to return, somehow, to her old self and her old life, the one that had included schedules and routines, “taking care of things.”
The presence of this desire brings up a paradox tied the idea of personal identity. On the one hand, this notion of identity connotes individuality, the singularity and unrepeatability of my life and my story. Eliade (1954)[Eliade, Myth of Eternal Return] and others (e.g., Gusdorf, 1980)[Gusdorf, Conditions and limits] have written about the emergence of individuality in terms of the movement from mythical time, the time of cycles and repetition, to historical time, the time of linearity and newness. The emergence of the “autobiographical subject,” as we might call it, characterized by a more or less singular identity, is inseparable from the emergence of historical consciousness and, more specifically, historical time. “The man” – or woman – “who takes the trouble to tell of himself,” Gusdorf writes, “knows that the present differs from the past and that it will not be repeated in the future; he has become more aware of differences than of similarities; given the constant change, given the uncertainty of events and of men, he believes it a useful and valuable thing to fix his own image so that he can be certain it will not disappear like all things in this world” (p. 30). In place of eternal recurrence and essential sameness there is change and difference; in place of certainty there is uncertainty and accident; in place of perpetual reappearance there is disappearance and death, the sense of an ending, final and irrevocable. So it is that Eliade speaks of the “terror” and Gusdorf the “perilous domain” of history.
At the same time, the idea of personal identity retains a connection to the mythical, to the idea of sameness or continuity in difference, the idea that throughout or despite all the changes we undergo there remains a kind of ur-self, a persistent sense of what one was – even if what one is, currently, runs counter to this very sense. Now, William James, in his justly famous treatment of identity in The Principles of Psychology (1950 )[James, Principles of Psychology], has suggested that it has something to do with the capacity to identify the different “objects” one encounters, including one’s previous states of consciousness, as “one’s own.” That it is to say, his conception of identity relies precisely on memory, on the presence of memories, of past selves, continuous with the present self and thus able to be identified as “mine.” James speaks of a “warmth” and “intimacy” in this context, even an “aroma” and and an “echo.”
And by a natural consequence, we shall assimilate them to each other and to the warm and intimate self we now feel within us as we think, and separate them as a collection from whatever selves have not this mark, much as out of a herd of cattle let loose for the winter on some wide western prairie the owner picks out and sorts together when the time for the round-up comes in the spring, all the beasts on which he finds his own particular brand.
The various members of the collection thus set apart are felt to belong with each other whenever they are thought at all. The animal warmth, etc., is their herd-mark, the brand from which they can never more escape. (pp. 333-334)
A classic statement of the myth of identity, and, on some level, a compelling one. “And thus it is,” James continues,
that Peter, awakening in the same bed with Paul, and recalling what both had in mind before they went to sleep, reidentifies and appropriates the “warm” ideas as his, and is never tempted to confuse them with those cold and pale-appearing ones which he ascribes to Paul. As well might he confound Paul’s body, which he only sees, with his own body, which he sees but also feels. Each of us when he awakens says, Here’s the same old self again, just as he says, Here’s the same old bed, the same old room, the same old world. (p. 334)
But there is a curious fact that emerges in cases like my mother’s – namely, that when she awakens, she cannot say “Here’s the same old bed, the same old room, the same old world.” As I noted earlier, it’s more like being in another world altogether. She knows this and feels it and can speak about it; and so even in the ostensible absence of memories, such that virtually nothing is familiar (except, again, me or my immediate family) – the sense of identity remains. It’s very curious.
My being present at times like these is a mixed bag. On the one hand, I can calm her down, help her return to some semblance of reality. But at the very moment I do she sometimes becomes acutely and painfully conscious of what has been lost. I suppose it’s better than panic. And I suppose it’s better than the utter void she sometimes falls into as well. But it’s extremely disturbing in its own right, bespeaking a kind of existential liminality, state of being in-between presence and absence – or, put another way, a state of being wherein there is, at one and the same time, both the absence of presence, the absence of tangible memorial touchstones, and the presence of absence, the felt pressure and pain of there being something missing.
In the piece I mentioned earlier, “Life without narrative” (2008a)[Freeman, Life without narrative], I had essentially crafted a corrective to my earlier thoughts regarding dementia’s tragic promise. In that earlier work, you’ll recall, I held out a kind of perverse hope that as the disease continued there would be less memory and less self and, consequently, a kind of selfless oneness. That promise proved to be shortlived. Such oneness, I came to see, still requires a self, in contact enough with the world as to be able to draw nourishment from it. Murdoch’s “unselfing,” therefore, is only partial; to be fully present to the world, there needs to be someone there, to witness it and savor it, an “I” who sees and feels, a self actively engaged with reality. It’s a matter of relation. As this “I” begins to lose its foothold in reality, there comes to be less world to witness, and less nourishment, less sustenance. The story I told in “Life without narrative” was thus one of nothingness rather than oneness, tragic demise rather than tragic promise.
But this story needs some measure of correction too. As noted earlier, although I did offer a qualification to the notion of life without narrative by virtue of the fact that my mother could sometimes become aware of her situation, conscious of its very nothingness, this consciousness seemed at the time to be a kind of weak layover, that would itself fade away in due time, like an ember that would suddenly flare up and then die down again, eventually to be extinguished. But it hasn’t happened this way. Even amidst the further deterioration of her memory, short-term and long-term alike, elements, significant elements, of identity remain. These are most visibly manifested in her lamentations regarding her sorry state, the “Oh my gods” that pour forth when she struggles, whether over walking or thinking. But it’s also manifested, albeit less visibly, in her comportment and her social graces, particularly when in the company of relative strangers or newcomers to her life. She can snap out of the void, if only for a moment or two, and speak on the telephone as if everything’s just fine and she can meet someone new and appear to be her old charming self. These latter instances are substantially different than the former in that they don’t seem to involve self-consciousness; there’s something more rote about them and, in that sense, may be more about the stubborn rules of social etiquette than they are about the stubborn myth of identity.
Focusing, therefore, on those times when this self-consciousness emerges, I ask again: Who exactly is it who feels this frustrated sense of loss, who’s somehow retained a memory, however indistinct, of her own integral self? And where does this come from?
“Alzheimer’s disease,” Cohen and Eisdorfer (2001)[Cohen, Loss of self] write, “is a cruel disorder. However, no matter how devastating it is, the essential humanity of the ‘person-turned-patient’ remains. . . . As the disease progresses,” they continue, “there is little or no hope of recovery of memory. But people do not consist of memory alone. People have needs as well as feelings, imagination, desires, drives, will, and moral being” (p. 22). There is surely some validity to this set of ideas: aspects of humanity may be retained even in the face of the profound deterioration of memory; they pick up, in a sense, where memory leaves off, thereby allowing central aspects of personhood and identity to remain. I want to move in a somewhat different direction, however, in closing. What I want to suggest, with all due caution and tentativeness, is that even when the personal dimensions of autobiographical memory are largely erased, it may very well be that collective, supra-personal dimensions remain. By supra-personal, I refer to those aspects of memory that are derived not from firsthand personal experience but from the vast variety of secondhand sources that are folded into “my past,” “my history.”
I have spoken in some related work of the “narrative unconscious,” which refers broadly to “those culturally-rooted aspects of one’s history that remain uncharted and that, consequently, have yet to be incorporated into one’s story” (2002, p. 193; see also 2006). As I have also noted, we become aware of the existence of this unconscious “during those moments when our own historical and cultural situatedness comes into view” (p. 200). I am not of course suggesting that my mother herself has experienced these coming-to-awareness moments; that would require a level of reflective consciousness, historical consciousness, that has been superseded. But it could very well be that the narrative unconscious remains operative, in evidence more to others, such as me, than to her. Consider for a moment a wish that she had expressed a while back, not too long after she had begun to grow confused and frustrated over her existence. “I want to be a person,” she said.
It’s unlikely that she would, or could, utter that statement now. Times have changed. But I do think that the basic sentiment remains: she seems to have a memory, such as it is, of how to be a person if not this person. That is, she seems to have a kind of generic idea of what being a person, and having an identity, means. The phrase I referred to earlier – “Oh, what a person becomes” – signals this awareness. So too do her complaints about being brainless, mindless, or like a child. There is an image in view, still, of who she once was. But this image is less tied to the particulars of her past experience than to their culturally-rooted and culturally-fashioned schematic contours. One might say that she has a memory of the form of personal identity if not the content, the concrete substance.
This mode of memory – or, perhaps more appropriately, remembrance – seems to surface most often in the context of communicative exchange with people like me and other intimates – i.e., those who matter and who, at some point in the past, had an entirely different image of who she was and what she was all about. As I suggested earlier, there is little doubt but that my presence can sometimes bring about this sort of lamenting, indeed shame-soaked, remembrance. This underscores not only the relational dimension of memory but the relational dimension of identity as well: my mother is perhaps most not-herself – which is, in effect, her new identity – when she’s with those who had once known otherwise.
There are still some moments of levity. After some huffing and puffing during a recent walk with me, she said, “Getting’ to be an old bag!” “You’re not an old bag,” I said to her. “You’re an elderly woman.” “That’s what an old bag is!” she shot back. There also moments of insight. After one of her disoriented dislocations, when she had fretted about her brain, I asked whether I could get her a glass of wine. Yes, she could use some. But then I became a bit hesitant. “I don’t know,” I said. “You were complaining about your brain before.” “This way I won’t have the sense to complain.” We didn’t quite get senseless that day. We don’t other days either. But it’s not at all unusual for us to clink glasses, say “Cheers,” and share a kind of quiet unarticulated understanding of what’s been going on. There’s remembrance here too, of a more nostalgic sort, and it can dispel, even if temporarily, some of the feelings of loss that continue, still, to come her way.
Author's note: Given that the present article refers back at times to my earlier understanding of my mother’s situation (as told in Freeman, 2008a, 2008b), I note here that, in several instances, I have drawn explicitly on portions of these earlier pieces.
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