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The Choice to Forget

Autor:   •  February 5, 2019  •  1,367 Words (6 Pages)  •  48 Views

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This type of forgetfulness is something I have not only experienced in my life, but also viewed in the lives of others. At age seventeen, my mother passed away. The death, event, and experience lasted about five days. I would say I was at an average stability for someone whose mother was dying; not emotionally unstable, but also not emotionally distant. After the event, I began to have night terrors. These terrors not only kept me up all night, but led me to days of depression and anxiety. This lasted for months, and my brain didn’t automatically forget the event- I wish it did. However, after a few months I realized I could make myself forget the memory. Was this maybe not a safe decision? Possibly. However, that is exactly what I did. I started pushing out the memories. Everything that happened that week became distant. In less than a month, my memory of the week my Mom died was distant and foggy. As I came to forget these details, my night terrors began to leave me. Along with my terrors, my depression and anxiety began to stop as well.

It has now been three years since the death of my Mom. I wouldn’t say I’ve forgotten the entire week she died, but the largest memories that kept me up at night are either forgotten or deeply suppressed in my mind.

Although my experience did not support the Donald Levis study that some children have an automatic suppression mechanism, I do have a personal connection with someone who does support the study. A few months ago, my husband was working on the roof of a building, he came to the edge to talk to a co-worker, but the cable he was leaning on broke. My husband fell twenty-two feet to a welcoming cement ground. He was then rushed to the ICU and spent a week in the hospital whilst being monitored by multiple doctors. Months have gone by, and my Husband still asks me about the accident- how he fell, what happened, who visited him and what did he say? Unfortunately and fortunately- his body automatically forgot the event and even days after while in the hospital. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity our bodies give us to forget traumatic events in our lives. Although, sometimes frustrating to not remember what happened, I honestly believe it is for the best to leave the unknown alone. My husband and I’s experiences are a personal testimony of the studies and theories given in support of motivated forgetfulness. Often, we motivate ourselves to forget, and other times it is an automatic mechanism, but either way I agree with the Lebonese writer, Kahlil Gibran, that sometimes “forgetfulness is freedom.”


Geraerts, E., Hauer, B. A., & Wessel, I. (2010). Effects of suppressing negative memories on intrusions and autobiographical memory specificity. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 24(3), 387-398. doi:10.1002/acp.1684.

Levis, D. J. (1999). The traumatic memory debate: A failure in scientific communication and cooperation. Applied & Preventive Psychology, 8(1), 71-76. doi:10.1016/S0962-1849(99)80012-2.

Myers, David G & Dewall, C. Nathan. (2015). Psychology eleventh edition. New York. Worth Publishers.

Van Harmelen, A., Elzinga, B. M., Kievit, R. A., & Spinhoven, P. (2011). Intrusions of autobiographical memories in individuals reporting childhood emotional maltreatment. European Journal Of Psychotraumatology, 2 doi:10.3402/ejpt.v2i0.7336.


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