The hardest part of overcoming a bad experience is forgetting and moving on. Many people spend years of their life dwelling on the past or on memories of past events and feelings while they should be focusing on their future. For people who suffer from traumatic memories, we have great news. According to researchers from Dartmouth and Princeton universities, you can now move past heartbreak, the loss of a loved one, or any traumatizing event you want to leave behind.
Everyone has memories they wish they could forget and never remember again. They can vary from an embarrassing moment to a life threatening situation to even just emotional memories. Researchers call this ‘motivated forgetting’ or ‘deliberate memory loss’. Even though our recollection of events, feelings and information helps us in evaluating our past and predicting our future, intentionally forgetting painful memories can help people through hard times.
The key to changing memories is to change the context of that particular memory. This way you can decide what to remember and what to forget. Our mind already renders through millions of pieces of data daily and puts away information it doesn’t believe you’ll ever need to remember.
By intentionally pushing related things out of our mind, we can also get rid of a target memory.
For the study, people were given a list of words to memorise, which were accompanied with random images of mountains and beaches. Then some of the participants were instructed to forget the words on the first list, while researchers measured their ability to remember them. The subjects were monitored using fMRI as the tests went on. To the researchers’ surprise, the subjects who were asked to forget the list of words, actually remembered fewer words by throwing away context-related activity.
Researchers hope that they can perfect this method, which can be very useful when treating people with post traumatic stress disorder that is triggered by memories and contextuality.