Forgetting – Can you tell yourself to forget?

September 13, 2022

Forgetting is one of the most under rated skills among human beings. We are all taught to remember. Rewards are forthcoming when we do. Names, places, geography, algebra. People who ace recalling, excel. But forgetting is so vital to survival. Not every experience is rewarding. Everything that occurred in your life did not fill your jug with joy! Can forgetting be intentional?
 
Can you will your way to forgetting?
 
When we wish to forget, we adopt a host of strategies. Moving on, diverting our attention or suppression our thoughts. You may have heard the term acceptance if you were trying to forget. Acceptance is, well, the ability to accept what ever happened. Diverting is listening to music, reading a book or watching a movie. Suppression is to put on your best smile, get back to work, and act as though nothing happened. Living, so to speak, will allow you to forget. Can forgetting be intentional?
 
Science seems to suggest that you can tell your brain to forget. In one experiment, scientists made a group of people attempt to remember a string of words. The words were associated with pictures. They then split the group into two. One group was asked to forget the words and pictures before remembering another set. The second group was not.
 
On testing, the scientists found that the group that had been asked to forget had poor recall. They were unable to remember as many words. Simply by telling themselves not to remember, they had poor recollection.
 
You may argue that it is easy to perform such exercises on meaningless words and pictures. When you are troubled, the memories are haunting and real. True, but memory is a process. Any memory, good or bad. By first accepting and then training your mind to forget, you are more likely to do so. Forgetting is a undervalued skill.

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