May 27, 2021•304 words
Reading time: 2 min
Following up on this (In The Quarantine 5: Would you delete haunting memories?).
I talked about a "what-if" scenario for deleting memories.
On further reflection, it's not as far fetched as it might seem. For almost all of us, memory is fleeting. It's lossy and details change every time we recall it. (Every time we recall a memory, we're recalling our most recent recollection of the memory, not the first, original impression of the memory itself (or at least I remember reading around two years ago)). Most of the things we encounter are forgotten very quickly (see the forgetting curve).
Yet, why is it that some memories are hard to forget, including those that give us significant grief or otherwise sadness?
"Active recall" is a highly effective study method if you want to commit something to your long-term memory. It's the act of recalling what you want to remember, from memory. Whenever we think about (or actively recall) the memory that resulted in negative emotions, we strengthen the connections in our brain (to some extent physically and chemically), imprinting the memory in our minds more strongly.
One strategy I use to forget things (e.g. if I'm asked to or I want to) is to consciously not think about it. By consciously avoiding the topic, not letting your monkey brain reading out topic, and not specifically recalling any of the details of the event, it is possible to slowly, over time, weaken the connections in your brain sufficiently to specifically and consciously forget things.
Not letting your inner voice read out the topic (e.g. by immediately thinking about something else or emptying your mind) is important as this prevents you from recalling the topic when you're consciously avoiding the topic/details.
I say "in the" quarantine. Not really anymore. I'm free.