On “The Forgetting Pill Erases Painful Memories Forever”

9 Mar

I always think of the nature of memory as something uncontrollable. We can’t choose what to remember or forget and it seems experiences that are particularly traumatic are the hardest to put out of our minds. Now it seems we’ll soon be able to forget our past. More specifically, we’ll be able to pinpoint just what memory we want gone. Poof. Like it never happened. Sounds terrifying if you ask me.

My issue with this idea of “erasing memory” is that for one, I can’t conceptualize the thought of erasing specific memories. I’m not sure about you, but my brain often seems to work like a large collection of 5-second films. My memories flood through my mind constantly, but only in short bursts. I find it extremely difficult to deeply focus on any given experience without getting side-tracked. One minute I’m thinking about how embarrassed I felt when my pants fell down in 4th grade, and the next thing you know, I’m thinking about the awesome spinach omelette I devoured for breakfast today. Seriously — I just remembered that.

The idea that a “forgetting pill” can just delete any one memory is unfathomable because it depends on your ability to conjure up a memory and deeply focus on the associated emotions. It sounds like if I attempted something like this, I would lose way more than just one memory. Since my brain seems to “jump” around constantly, I’m not sure how drug administers could enforce the isolation aspect of a single experience.

I hate to sound so cliché, but I do believe what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I’m all for this treatment being offered to those who suffer from serious cases of PSTD or addictions that inhibit a healthy and normal life. Negative and painful experiences shape us. They help us to learn, to grow, to be stronger. If we had the ability to just erase everything we didn’t like, we’d all be a bunch of happy-go-lucky shallow fakes. Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh here,  but as someone who has gone through the traumatic experience of losing a mother, I can honestly say I wouldn’t be willing to give up that memory. This experience is mine — something I cherish and like to hold on to.

This article reminded me of the novel The Giver by Lois Lowry. Without giving away any spoilers, the basis of the story is that everyone lives in an Utopian society. There are no feelings or emotions; individuals can simply take a pill when they stub their toe and all pain is relieved. Jonas, the main character, is given a set of memories of what life once was — pain, hunger, love, desire, sadness. Who was Jonas without these memories and experiences that make us unique? Nobody, in my book.

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