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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: In everyday life, treat small memory lapses forgivingly

Rika Kayama

"I said that," "I didn't say that," "I don't remember," "As far as I remember, it's this ..." Phrases like these are flying back and forth and causing chaos in the Diet.

    There are times when we sometimes tell white lies like "oh, I don't know" to cover up a situation that inconveniences us, but there are also times when we really do forget what we said or what was discussed. But in fact, what often really happens is that we convince ourselves that something that didn't happen actually did, or mix up events in our memories and associate them with something completely different.

    When a crime has occurred, it is not uncommon that the suspect may be arrested driving a white station wagon, even though the police announced that witnesses "apparently saw the criminal escape in a black truck." Human memory isn't very trustworthy, and I often feel that even in my work as a psychiatrist.

    I once had a patient in his 20s come to me, saying, "I grew up with my parents being extremely malicious towards me, and that caused such emotional damage that I can't sleep." After he relayed the shower of harsh words used by his parents to me, I sympathized with him, saying, "That must have been difficult for you." However, one day, the mother of the patient appeared.

    "My son has the flu, so I came to pick up his anxiety medication for him," she said. Was this the woman that had pushed my patient so far? As I thought this I braced myself while we spoke, but no matter how I looked at her, she seemed to be a kind person. "Our son, our only child, is treasure for my husband and myself, and we did our best to raise him. Seeing him struggle like this is so painful," she said, tears even coming to her eyes.

    So who is telling the truth, the mother or the son?

    If this was a court case, the answer to this question would be important, however, for a psychiatrist, it doesn't matter. Even if the patient was not being completely truthful about his parents and they were truly kind people, what is most important is that he feels that he was treated maliciously, and that he can express those feelings rather than remain quiet.

    It could be that he was experiencing a difficult situation at work, and wondered, "Why am I going through such a rough time?" Trying to make sense of his situation, he could have ended up with an unrelated reason, "Right, it must be because my parents didn't raise me right." In this way, the human mind can even rewrite our memories.

    Even with all that being said, when someone like a member of the Diet says "I don't remember," we can't simply overlook it and say, "That's right! That's because human memory is inaccurate." If politicians don't take proper responsibility for their speech and actions, then they end up in trouble. In everyday life, however, I hope that a little lapse in memory can be looked upon forgivingly by both parties. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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