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I Want to Forget

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

Many people have made the self observation that it is much easier to recall unhappy events than those that were happy and pleasant. Now, a study done by the Department of Psychology at the University of North Caroline at Chapel Hill demonstrates that memories connected with powerful emotions, happy or sad are difficult to forget. In fact, the study demonstrated the fact that it is the combination of visual images and powerful emotions that cause memories to be very vivid and resistant to forgetting.

This study demonstrates the reason why events such as the assassination of President Kennedy and the disaster at the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001 remains fixed in peoples’ minds. Even though the Kennedy assassination occurred back during the early 1960’s most of us who lived through it retain clear memories of where we were and what we were doing when the news came through. These memories were reinforced by watching the images of the assassination and all the events afterwards on television. Most of us also remember experiencing deep grief, just as if we had lost a personal member of our family.

In the same way, most of us have imprinted on our minds, the attack of 911. The stunning and repeated replay of the actual attack on and collapse of the towers were traumatizing. Emotionally, we were shocked by the fact that everything we took for granted about our personal safety and security in the world was shaken to the core.

The researchers point out that the study demonstrates the fact that there are limits to how much control we have over our minds. They suggest that further studies are needed to learn to help people forget those awful events they no longer wish to remember. They report that even a mild emotional reaction can provoke memories of earlier traumatic events that we would like to forget about. Further studies need to be conducted on treatment methods to help people gain control over their minds and ability to remember and forget those things they choose to.

In the mean time I want to point out that there are current strategies that people can use to help themselves gain a greater sense of control over unpleasant emotions and memories:

1. Meditation with pleasant visualizations

2. Exercise

3. Sleep

4. Yoga

5. Avoid television news and violent programs and movies.

These are the very things that can provoke those unpleasant emotions and memories and, thereby, increase anxiety and depression

What are your comments about this issue?

Keep Reading By Author Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.
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