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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Some memories are better left remembered

Rika Kayama

In sworn testimony and other Diet proceedings, we often hear the person testifying repeatedly say, "I have no memory of that." This scene is nothing new. Many people probably think, "There's no way they really forgot. They are just pretending to not remember!" But actually, there is a possibility that the person really has forgotten. It turns out that humans can do that.

    Through recent research in psychology and neurology, scientists have come to discover that through "intentional suppression" training, it is possible to forget something you no longer want to remember. If you repeat to yourself over and over, "I will definitely forget this," it is said that you really can forget a name or other information relating to the event.

    If we can precisely understand this mechanism of "intentional suppression," our lives could become significantly easier. When it comes to the shock of a breakup or the death of a relative, we could think, "OK, I'm going to just forget this," and follow some kind of steps to erase the memory. Then we would no longer have to experience the pain and sadness that comes after those events.

    Still, is it really a good thing to forget every bad thing that has ever happened to you? While there are many people who may have experiences that they want to erase from their memories, pain or suffering can also push humans to develop and grow. For example, if you are dumped by someone you loved and you end up crying for days and days, somewhere along the way, there may be a moment when you decide, "The next time I find someone I love, I will definitely be sure to be a better partner to them than I was to the person I lost."

    So what would you do? If in the near future, an "intentional suppression manual" was published, boasting that "if you read this, you can forget all the sadness you have ever felt," would you accept it? If it were me, I think I would surely reply, "Heartbreaking events are also precious memories," and refuse the manual. Of course, that being said, there are terrible experiences like abuse from parents or being the victim of a crime that if you can forget just a portion of the pain, then you will be better off. Excluding those particular experiences, can't it be said that all memories should be accepted as important pages in our life stories and should continue to be remembered?

    People who answer "I have no memory of that" might be geniuses who have mastered erasing their memories through their own self-training. However, just in case we really do become able to get rid of uncomfortable or unwanted memories in such a way, I just can't believe that will help illuminate the truth or become the strength for you or the rest of society to truly move forward and make progress. Even if admitting something carries a heavy burden of responsibility that could lead to difficult situations, I think we should not say, "I don't remember," or "My memory of that is fuzzy," but instead I would like us to do our best to remember and firmly recount what we have done or said. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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