Memories edited

My friend Patrick, read a science fiction book by Blake Crouch, “Recursion”, that elaborates on the possibility of removing those cells in the brain where bad memories are stored.

The concept is quite tempting if we consider how many people re-live their darkest nightmares over and over again without being able to move forward with their lives because their pain is like an anchor around their souls.

The question is: would you contemplate the idea of deleting forever your painful memories?
When we think of that question, there seem to be two major groups of memories that one may be tempted to remove from the memory: those that are general and those that are very specific.

Let’s analyze those dark memories and see if we would really want them removed for good. The sole idea of having just good memories is quite appealing, mostly because the relief of not having bad memories constantly coming back to haunt us may feel like a dream come true.

What could happen if we could remove the general bad memories? What if we could remove those cells of our brain that store our most basic fears? Removing the memories of those moments when we were rejected, for example, seems like the panacea for some of the biggest problems any human being may have to live with every day.

Let me introduce you to one guy I used to date. He may be similar to many other people you may know.
Life was not fair to him. A never-ending succession of episodes of rejection left him in a state of total mistrust and constant pain. He was not fully aware he was harboring all that pain without been able to let go and up to what extent he would constantly allow those memories of his past influence his every action and reaction of each minute of his days.
What happened was certainly tragic, he had been removed from his natal home when he was only six months old because his parents were neglecting him. Imagining those first six months of a baby in such a precarious environment explains many of his weak traits. He was then taken to an orphanage and he was adopted three months later. He had to adapt to three different homes before he even turned one. He had to learn all those faces and voices and it was impossible for him to experience attunement or attachment of any kind.

His adoptive parents changed his birth name negating his very essence, making him more convenient.
His adoptive mother was authoritarian and his adoptive father would beat him regularly to make him a good person.
Even if he succeeded later in life and amassed fortune, his soul was so broken that he couldn’t give anything to anybody else. The concept of living by strict rules made his life really cold and limited. He was absolutely incapable of being happy. Every time something good came his way, he would feel guilty and boycotted any and all chances of laughter and peace. He walked all the paths necessary to poison his health and his spirit and when he could have opened up and trusted, he retreated in fear and disbelief. To this day, torture never leaves his side, I had to leave him and his torture behind.

Now, if those horrible memories of persistent rejection could be erased, would someone like that be able to be optimistic and trusting to open up to receive and enjoy love? The idea seems so noble and worth exploring that we could only wish scientists get some inspiration from Crouch’s idea. As a Jules Vernes, Crouch may be a prophet of the future of psychology.

But the philosophical conundrum my friend Patrick posed is way more interesting: what if some more specific memories of pain could be removed from our brains? Would we be who we are today without the pain of those memories?

What if the memory of the loss of a loved one could be removed forever? Wouldn’t that be like travelling a road to nowhere? Should we remove the memory of that loved one altogether? Just so our life makes sense. Would removing them from our memory honor our own existence?

The memory of losing my father is a pain that never goes away. If those cells in my brain that remember the day I lost him, could be removed, what kind of perception of his existence would I be left with?

I would certainly remember him, but I would be very aware that I lost him because he is nowhere to be found, therefore, my logical brain would know he is no longer here, and the pain would be back. Messy right?
Faced with that alternative, should I remove every memory of him?
Still, how would I justify my own existence?

An idea that may be tempting, the idea of avoidance of pain, seems to be defeated by the logical conclusion that we are essentially made of myriads of memories that are needed to make our lives real.

May it be that we need some level of pain to make us what we are?

Is the pursuit of absolute peace of mind and happiness unrealistic?

Maybe it is just a matter of balance…

Photos by Francisco Gonzalez, Gustavo Torres and Gabby Orcutt on Unsplash.

© Adriana Avellino and Questions from Life – 2019- 2099. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author / owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Adriana Avellino and Questions from Life – with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

2 thoughts on “Memories edited

  1. Mmmh, I am ambivalent.

    In general, I think it is not desirable to lose memory at all and it is better to self-reflect and try to unmask often unconscious patterns of thinking and beliefs (both trigger emotions like fear) and therefore behavioral patterns.

    On the other hand, repression and loss of memory (an escalation of repression of memories incl. related emotions) is a valuable and healthy psychological coping mechanism – like a self defense of the soul if the pain is too huge. As long as, you are functional, don`t suffer and do not harm other people, it is often recommended to keep your abyss closed.

    I guess, it is a case by case decision but in most cases, it is better to face ones issues – in particular if they effect your life. Professional support (coach, therapist etc) might be helpful …but men tend to repress, refuse to self-reflect and to get away from their emotions and needs much too often….
    In many cases, they are even not aware of the fact that they have got problems. Instead they externalize (another psychological coping mechanism), which means the circumstances or other people are responsible for their difficulties.


  2. I so agree with you! but I have noticed that some people like that guy I mentioned, are so broken that they do not even realize how much they hurt others. Just as his father would severely bruise him in order to make him good, they justify the pain they inflict on others as the way to achieve better things. The book somehow plants the seed of the idea of the annihilation of painful memories “surgically” in what I perceive as the easy way out some people are desperate for. And I just fantasize of easy solutions… some “surgeries” seem so appealing… 🙂


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