We have all experienced some sort of heartbreak in our lives. It could be that first love, or the last one, maybe a loss of a relative or child – something that just brought us to our knees with pain and we thought we would never recover even though we do, eventually.
How many times did we just wish that we could erase that memory? I thought about that a lot when Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind came out in the theaters. If you never saw the movie, it is a boy meets girl movie but when girl breaks up with boy, she erases her memory of him. My husband and I where “hanging out” when the movie came out; not knowing what or where our relationship was, we went to see the movie. I remember telling him that if we where to go our separate ways and the ability to erase him was available – I would erase him.
I wonder if it was perspective because we where in the middle of whateveritwasthatwewheredoing and I told him I would keep the previous guy because I never wanted to make that mistake again. I also would not want to meet that guy again and relive it unknowingly, which is a possibility if you get your memory erased.
But, that is all science fiction… right? Not according to Erase Painful Memories, No Booze Required, you can erase your memory.
Reading the article on iVillage, I immediately thought of Spotless Mind and not Jason Bourne (who lost his memory due to an accident). Scientists have found a way to erase painful memories…
According to psychology researcher Gerd Thomas Waldhauser, in the same way that we can control our motor impulses (by, say, rapidly instructing the brain not to catch a scalding dish falling from the counter), we can control our memory. In an experiment that has action-movie intrigue written all over it, Waldhauser instructed volunteers to practice retrieving and forgetting certain facts while hooked up to equipment that monitored brain activity. He found that the study’s subjects were able to repeatedly block out the information they didn’t want to remember until they could no longer retrieve the memory at all. (read more)
The article goes on to talk about how this, erasing ones memory, would be helpful to those who suffer from depression and post traumatic stress. I have to wonder - how would this change you as an individual? If our memories shape us, would not remembering change us?
Other research suggests that it you can not wipe a memory but downplay it and the effects that it has on your psyche by distracting your mind.
According to a study in PLoS ONE, there is a crucial six-hour window of opportunity right after a traumatic event where you can disrupt memory consolidation by distracting the brain with other mentally challenging tasks, like playing Tetris. (read more)
I like this option slightly better and I actually think that I do that… distract my brain, with, say... Angry Birds. When ever I am overly stressed, I can usually be found playing a game with cards or on my iPod. Of course, this will also back fire, like when I was recently awoken from a nap, in a panic and now I can’t find my iPod to play Angry Birds because the stress has wiped my memory. Sigh.
Given the option, would you hold on to a memory, even a bad one or would you have it erased?