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Images and experiences of all kinds are registered by the part of the brain called the hippocampus, then sent to the frontal cortex for processing. The frontal cortex determines whether these images are to be discarded or put into long-term storage in the brain. The few seconds this takes is called short-term memory. You, as an entity with free will, decide if something is important enough to remember, though some experiences are so powerful you really have no choice.
The brain does not, as you may have heard, store the image of every leaf you have ever seen, but it may store the mage of every leaf you notice.
In the 1930s, a surgeon, Wilder Penfield, stimulated an area of a patient's brain during brain surgery, and the patient felt like she was reliving an episode from her childhood, something she probably would not have recalled consciously. This demonstrates that memories are physically stored in the brain.
Some stored memories constitute learning and can be consciously retrieved. Others contribute to attitudes--fixed ideas--that are adopted by the subconscious. It is certain of these attitudes that we seek to change by self-hypnosis. You can't just force yourself to change. Your conscious mind may not even know what these fixed ideas aare, or where they reside.