Bad Memories And How To Dispel Them

2 minutes

We all have moments in life when we’re reminded of something that we’d rather prefer to forget. A bad memory is one which causes unpleasant sensations – be it a humiliating gaffe at a party or an event which scared you out of your wits. Whether a bad memory stems from an embarrassing moment or a traumatic incident, it can linger for days, months and even years after the event. However it is actually possible to make yourself forget bad memories. In fact, not only is it possible, but a study has shown that the brain actually has two very different systems for doing it.

The Research

The researchers of this study say their findings may lead to the development of new therapies aimed at people with disorders of memory control. Lead author, Roland Benoit of the Medical Research Council (MRC) Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge, said:

“This study is the first demonstration of two distinct mechanisms that cause such forgetting: one by shutting down the remembering system, and the other by facilitating the remembering system to occupy awareness with a substitute memory.”

Two Ways To Negate Unpleasant Memories

Simply put, if you want to get something unpleasant out of your memory, there are two ways to go about it. You can directly suppress the memory every time it emerges, or you can use substitution to overwrite it with something else. The researchers further explain that,

One mechanism, direct suppression, disengages episodic retrieval through the systemic inhibition of Hippocampal processing that originates from right Dorsolateral Prefrontal cortex (PFC). Two, the opposite mechanism, thought substitution, instead engages retrieval processes to occupy the limited focus of awareness with a substitute memory. It is mediated by interactions between left caudal and Midventrolateral PFC that support the selective retrieval of substitutes in the context of Prepotent, unwanted memories.

In a Summary in the same journal, the authors concluded: “These findings suggest that we are not at the mercy of passive forgetting; rather, our memories can be shaped by two opposite mechanisms of mnemonic control.”

Application of this dual-method theory has shown that both ways are effective and both can drive unwanted thoughts away, but they also work in completely opposite directions. And, since some people might be better at one method than the other, this provides them with an alternative if there’s a niggling memory of your actions that you just can’t seem to dispel.

Arshi Gupta

Arshi Gupta is a young blogger who loves to travel to unexplored places to get a feel of different cultures. She is interested in reading, photography and binge-watching TV shows & movies. Though YourDOST she would like to share her thoughts to youth of the Nation.