If you remember (get it?) the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, it centers around a man who wants to erase his memories of his painful relationship so he can get over his broken heart and move on with his life. Not a bad idea. There are definitely days I wouldn't mind having a spotless mind -- I think there are things we'd all like to erase from the brain's playlist. But that's just a movie. It will never happen. Orrrrrr ... will it? Reportedly, it could happen sooner than we think. Those crafty scientists are working on a way to erase traumatic memories ... and they think they've got it figured out.
Right now in the Netherlands, some people are undergoing experimentation to erase brutal memories. People who are already undergoing electroconvulsive therapy to fight depression are shown traumatic slideshows. (Doesn't sound like a great idea so far!)
A week later, the subjects were shown one traumatic photo as a "trigger." Some of them were then shocked. The ones who were shocked couldn't remember as many of the pictures as the people who were not shocked.
The study hopes to help those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Certainly, erasing memories in some cases could be an astonishingly good thing. In fact, nature already has a way of doing this. How many times have you heard about people who had a car accident or heart attack or got hit by a train or something and remember none of it? In some cases, ignorance is bliss.
However, in others, bad memories are needed. They are a way to not continue to perpetuate bad behavior. Imagine what would happen if a toddler got burned by a hot stove and then forgot about it. Human beings would never learn what to avoid if we didn't have painful memories of the things that hurt us.
But other memories, such as those from childhood abuse, molestation, or rape, could probably be safely discarded and only be beneficial to the subject's quality of life.
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If this therapy ever makes it to the mainstream, it could be tricky because it will no doubt be monetized and people who have enough money will simply pay to erase memories of their exes or anything else that is bugging them. But sometimes it's the bad stuff that makes us stronger, makes us who we are, and makes us more capable of handling the next shitty thing life throws at us. Not to mention it's those crappy memories of your crappy ex that keep you from going back to someone who isn't good for you.
Still, provided it didn't cost too much money, there might be a couple of memories I'd get zapped. However, if ... what was I saying?
Any memories you'd care to forget?
Image via Megyarsh/Flickr