Erasing Memories

Two Pencil Erasers
Begone, Bad Memories: How would you like to erase some of your memories, perhaps zapping away the more painful moments in your life, never to be tortured by them again? In the news earlier this fall, State University New York Downstate Medical Center researchers reported discovering a molecular mechanism responsible for sustaining long-term memories in the brain. According to the researchers, they were able to block this molecule, which led to the erasure of long-term memories, similar to how you would erase a computer disc.

Future Possibilities: Although science is nowhere near being able to delete our memory molecules, the possibility is an interesting one to think about. Researchers hope that one day they will be able to do this as treatment for certain conditions that are caused by brain connections, including phantom limb syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

What Do You Think?: If you had the chance to erase some of your memories, would you do it? How about getting rid of all those memories of oppression or discrimination you may have experienced as a Deaf person? Or those depressing feelings from a particularly upsetting break-up. Even memories of childhood abuse. Is it a good or a bad option to be able to erase certain memories?

We wonder how doing so might change other aspects of someone’s personality. Erasing memories of traumatic incidents such as rape or torture might free someone from continuously re-experiencing trauma, and might be relatively easier to justify erasing than just any bad memory. Other difficult life events, such as the death of someone close to you or a particularly frustrating work experience, serve a sort of purpose in helping us grow and develop sensitivity and empathy. Without these memories of sad or trying moments in our lives, we might not appreciate the good parts of our lives as much. Tell us what you think.

  1. Dela November 15, 2006

    That would be great…but what if they accidently erase the memories I want to keep. There are some possibilities of errors in the “trial and error” stage??

  2. Wolfers November 15, 2006

    I’m not keen on that idea of ‘erasing memories’ even if it is bad memories. Bad memories can help strengthen us. After all I have seen too many sheltered happy folks and when a TEENSY bad situation occurs, they all overreact to it as it is the end of the world. I have seen folks that grew up with bad memories becoming resilient and strong- knowing what they could be pushed and still come up on the top. I have PTSD myself and I credit it for strengthening my determination to live as I want, not to hide behind the blankets.

  3. deafie November 16, 2006

    reminds me of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”

  4. MikeS November 16, 2006

    Typical pathology misstep. Erase the environmental stressors, not the individual.

  5. ASC November 16, 2006

    We agree that the idea of erasing memories is like opening a can of worms. There’s no telling where it might lead to and what kind of impact it might have on other memories. It seems to us that experiences of oppression/discrimination actually benefit us in a way. If we didn’t have these memories, people wouldn’t be as motivated to fight for social justice. This is just one example.

    This topic also brings up questions related to healing and resilience.

  6. Jared Evans November 16, 2006

    I believe that a person is a sum of all their experiences. Remove some experiences and that person is diminished in some ways.

    For example, I was at a recent presentation about Deaf people who had firsthand experiences of the WWII Holocaust. What they went through was terrible beyond words, but seeing what they went through, they reminded me that humans can be capable of both terrible and great things. Because of them and their shared stories, the holocaust will not happen again.

    People can become stronger and good things can eventually result if you can channel the bad experiences into more positive action.

  7. Katie November 16, 2006

    Basically, I agree with what you said, but holocausts are still happening in Africa and other places. Yes, sharing stories is important, but the world needs to pay more attention to what is really happening in the world! Hotel Rwanda, for instance.

  8. Jared Evans November 16, 2006

    I wasn’t clear enough in my post: I was referring to another one in Europe where many of the survivors still live. As long as they are there to share their stories, we won’t be seeing another one in Europe.

    I am aware of the genocides that are happening in several countries worldwide. After WWII, when the whole structure of Nazi Germany has been dismantled and cleared, we could as a collective stand vigilant to make sure we don’t approach a point where the Holocaust can happen again.

    I’m not sure that this preventive solution would work with the other countries since each party (political or religious) still exist after the genocide acts took place. They continue to harbor terrible feelings against one other. In this case, their bad experiences would continue to threaten the delicate peace.

  9. DriEdRoSes November 16, 2006

    Erasing our ‘bad’ memories is an atrocious, unspeakable idea itself. Let alone, for it to actually be something physically possible.

    It will cause a chain of reaction all the way back to history – repeating itself in ways beyond imaginable, despite many things in the world today that still continue (like some of you mentioned earlier with the genocide happening in Africa) only we would not learn from the past. We would be forgiving and It would turn us into a race, a species so uneducated and ignorant. The ugliness in the world would escalate, we would be killing ourselves without even knowing it…also results in changes with individuals as well will happen. They will lose depth in emotion, knowledge, experience and values. It will throw the universal balance off track and cause chains of pandemodium and mayhem.

  10. MikeS November 16, 2006

    DriedRoses, I like the way you descibed the chaos. Yes, we must maintain the socio-cognitive learning processes. Without it, we can’t evolve.

    ASC, it’s time for healing, yes. We can forgive, but never forget.

    Deafie, I have another movie in mind, “Eraser.”

  11. jewel February 27, 2007

    This is a bunch of crock. These are overexagerrated claims by the stupid researchers who really have nothing. All you people who think memory erasing is unethical., immoral, and blah blah blah can save your breath., you are really stupid if you actually beleieve this idiotic researcher claims.

    There is no way they can isolate and delete a specific memory. I don’t know why they even attempt these futile claims. Memories are spread throughout the brain, how can they isolate and delete specific ones? It cannot be done and they don’t tell you that.

    I am a sufferer of severe ptsd. I wish something like this could be done for people as bad off and suffering as I do. I would even opt for total amnesia as a cure. I am actually mentally disabled because of this. I even tried the so-called “memory erasing pill, propropanol” and it did not do anything.

    These stupid scientists., why don’t they shut up. What are they trying to prove with these misleading claims?, false hope for those suffering so they can get more publicity to make money to buy another Rolls Royce? Anyone who takes them seriously is a stupid jackass.

  12. Lina Ibarrondo July 10, 2007

    I wish there were such a thing to erase a single memory, if it could be done. I’m so desperate for something like that. I don’t care what people think or even if they don’t agree with it. As long as the individual knows the terms of the conditions, that’s all that matters. I had something very traumatic happen to me that I desperately want to be rid of. I’m enslaved to it & it affects me through out. I’ll be willing to suffer any consequences that come along with it. To hold in so much anger because someone decided to change your life without your say so & you now have to live with that the rest of your life is something I wouldn’t wish on anybody.

  13. Angelina November 11, 2007

    I personally think that it is a great idea to erase certain memories. Why let others get a hold of that horrible memory and grow depressed or suicidal or even psychotic? God had created each and every one of us to be happy, not for us to rot in misery. I say that this invention should one day be built so that we can forget all of the terrible things that eat away at our hearts and forget the past that had torn at our hearts.

  14. Kim November 26, 2007

    The opportunity to free someone for PTSD, reoccuring memories of abuse, a violent attack, so forth and so on, will always come with pro’s and con’s. This article only mentions one aspect of the research at Downstate, originally the research was focusing on retaining long term memories in Alzheimer’s patients. Either way the discovery, if valid, could be a wonderful opportunity worldwide, for those who want to forget and those who want to remember.

  15. Caela March 10, 2008

    Although I agree that some memories are important in the process of shaping a preson, I firmly believe that some are better forgotten. I have gone through a lot in my life, with deaths, family mental illnesses, my mom’s horrible dating and marrying choices, and I think that all of those things have made me a stronger, better person. However there is one thing that I wish I could erase from my memory and my life completely. When I was 11 my current step dad molested me almost every night over the course of 5 months before I was brave enough to tell my mom. My mom was almost never home so he was also able to emotionally abuse my sisters and I, neglect us, and abuse our dogs. All of these were horrible, and I’m currently struggling with PTSD as a result of it. To make matters worse he completely got away with everything that he did. Not guilty for all three charges. Now I don’t know maybe peices of that experience did make me stronger, but I would give anything to be able to forget at least the molesting. And I don’t think that I should be ashamed to want that. If those memories did anything to me,they weakened me,and they still taunt me everyday. Ever since I have wondered what kind of person I might be if that had never happened,if I didn’t have a constant shaddow over every part of my life. As a teenage girl I should want to lose my virginity with the perfect guy and want it to be amazing. Instead I dread it because I have no idea how I will react,for me it isn’t something to look forward to,but something to get out of the way. I used to be a straight A student and now I struggle just to get out of bed and go to school,and often times fail. I feel like he is still making me weaker every day, and that I could be a much better,happier person if I was oblivious to the fact that it ever happened.

    I know that my personal story is irrevelevant, but I do have a point. I know for a fact that there are other people out there with stories like mine, and stories way worse. I know that PTSD is affecting more people than I can imagine as we speak. The truth is, the world would be a much better place if these horrible,unthinkable things never happened to begin with. But that’s not going to happen. So all we can really do is try to undo the damage, and if the only way to do that for some people is erasing it-so be it. I don’t think that someone should be considered weak for wanting to forget a traumatic event, it’s natural. I don’t know if it is the best or healthiest option, but for me it is definitely the most appealing. I don’t know maybe it’s just forbidden fruit, but I can still dream.

  16. Jennie March 11, 2008

    I would do anything to erase the memory of my rape. It was a very brutal and horrific event in my life. It is tearing away at me every day and has affected every aspect of my life. It has been 2 years and I struggle every day. I just want to finally graduate, get married and have children. What some people dont know is is that you do not gt a break from PTSD. It is there when you wake up and even while you sleep. I pray I get the opportunity to erase my memories!!

  17. Gdesign March 13, 2008

    Hi, I know this is old topic from two year ago, but I found it today anyhow. Interestingly, it is a good topic to bring it up. It would be nice to erase bad memories in our life…. In my opinion, it is going to be hard to erase bad memories because there is a still scar. On the other hand, it is good to vent out of your chest from your bad memories and it would help you to accept whatever that happens in the past and present. Sometimes, you have to explain from your own experience to help other people to understand your point of view and it, conceivably, helps them to decide to make the right choice. It would help you to build your strength and improvement of your life in a better way. I know it is not going to be easy. As we know, life is tough. The best thing is to think positive and look at bright side. 🙂

  18. Julie March 13, 2008

    Hi. I would not want to change or forget any of my memories, both good and bad. Yes, painful memories are terrible to deal with, but they make us who we are: individuals sharing a common humanity.


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