Real Life 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' Pill Is a Terrible Idea

Love & Learn 8

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?

Probably not.

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

divorce, in the news, love, marriage, single moms


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the4m... the4mutts

What about victims of sexual assault, or who were molested as children? I bet erasing those things would be a fantastic thing for them!

But personally, I dont think science should be milling around the idea of erasing memories. Who knows what the long term effects would be?

kisse... kisses5050


 One persons memories effect another person's think about the ripple effect... the butterfly effect if you will if one change in one persons life is made.

MsLin... MsLinneyMinnie

4mutts thats the very first thing i thought afternreading this

MsLin... MsLinneyMinnie

except in a date rape drug concept- molest/ rape child/woman then give her the pill- this drug would be dangerous for the safety of females

nonmember avatar mel

Our memories help create who we are and why we act the way we do. Even if we don't remember the pain we still have deep psychological connections around our pain. Part of learning about yourself and releasing the pain is coming to understand it, work through it , and learn from it. If someone doesn't remember their sexual abuse it doesn't mean all behaviors that stem from the abuse will end. It means they will have a harder time figuring out why they act the way they do and who they are under the pain. I think this would make life hard confusing and have consequences we cant even fathom.

nonmember avatar Cass

Oh boy. Without even reading the article you link to, I can already smell bullshit. Let's say we have two identical twins. They each have the same genome, but different memories. Although their epigenetic code (small differences in the way their genes are expressed brought about by things like changes in methylation and coiling) differs, it is not significant enough to create complex memories, which are instead stored as patterns of neuronal firing.

Now, there is plenty of evidence that certain medications can be administered shortly after trauma to prevent PTSD. With that being said, the memory itself is still there, but the emotional significance is lessened. The only way to delete memories is through physical damage.

summe... summerblythe

Best idea ever. I would definitely do it.

nonmember avatar Ronald Warrick

Typical Calvinist conservative stuff. "If it's new and it makes life easier and more pleasant, I'm against it, because life is supposed to be hard and unpleasant." Pah.

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