One of my favorite movies is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which shows a relationship played out in reverse -- it begins with the couple’s nasty breakup, and works its way back to first warm fuzzy feelings they had when they met. The gimmick is that each partner went to a clinic to have their memories of the other erased from their minds.
It sounds fantastical, but scientists think that someday that might actually be a reality. Recently they’ve isolated some genes in mice that they’re pretty convinced are “memory” genes, and have hopes that someday they’ll be able to wipe traumatic memories from human brains.
That’s an intriguing concept for someone going through painful divorce … I really had to think on that one for a while. If I could take a pill or do a brains scan (or however they might do it) and erase the memories of the things that made my marriage so painful it became unlivable, would I?
Why wouldn’t I want to erase the tears and heartache, the raw-edged memories of hurtful words and actions, the feelings of inadequacy and failure, and ultimately the desolate emotions that flooded my soul when I finally realized nothing was ever going to get better?
Because it’s part of who I am, and even though it hurts, I think ultimately it’s helped me to be a better person. I certainly have a lot more compassion and a lot less judgment for others than I did a few years ago.
Of course some say ignorance is bliss, and maybe going in for routine memory-erasing sessions could have kept my marriage together, but what would be the point? It would all be fake. To keep with the movie analogies, I’d be a real life Stepford Wife.
Life is messy and complicated and awful and wonderful, and all of our experiences add up to shape our worldview and how we interact with and relate to others. The breakdown of my marriage forced me to face at my own shortcomings and overcome my demons. My limits have been stretched pretty far, and I’m stronger now for it.
If we never have to overcome anything, if we stick our heads in the proverbial sand by wiping out our painful memories, we’ll never gain the knowledge and experience to become kinder, gentler people. Aren’t we supposed to learn from our mistakes? How would that be possible if we couldn’t remember them? It seems we’d be doomed to repeat them.
And I’m a person that would rather move forward and onward than running around on an endless loop.
Would you erase any of your memories if you could?
Image via Joo Soo(Peter) Lee/Flickr