Mysteries of the Mind: How Forgetting Helps Healing

Almost every aspect of the human mind is a mystery to us even today. Dreams, thoughts, learning, imagination, skill development – there is no concrete information on how all of these are processed by our brain. There is very little known from statistics and studies about how different responses are obtained for the same stimuli by different people. The factors involved are innumerable – past experiences, peers, upbringing, habits etc. It is believed that there is as much to learn about the human mind as there is to learn about the Universe. Isn’t that simply amazing?

There is as much to learn about the human mind as there is to learn about the Universe.

Personally, there are two things about the human mind that intrigues me – Our ability to dream and our ability to forget. In this article, I wish to dive deep into the latter. Particularly, why forgetting is important and how it helps us keep ourselves sane when life throws disastrous curveballs our way.

Why we forget?

The fundamental responsibility of the human mind is to learn how to make sound decisions. (Not talking about relationship and love life decisions. But decisions like applying the brake at the right moment, ducking when something comes your way or using mittens while taking out food from the oven). The human mind teaches itself to protect the body by making the right decisions at the right time. Therefore the human mind is more of an intelligent decision-making device than a memory device.

Traditionally, forgetting has been regarded as a passive decay over time of the information recorded and stored in the brain. But forgetfulness is not necessarily the sign of faulty memory. Through computational models and animal work, it has been established that intelligent memory systems need forgetting.

Experts believe that forgetting may be the brain’s frontline strategy in processing incoming information. In simple terms, making space for new more useful information by discarding the older, less unuseful ones. Isn’t that what we do with our memory storage devices as well?

Forgetting and Healing

Time heals Everything

We are all familiar with this age-old adage. It is often used by us to console ourselves or our loved ones after facing a great loss from which we are sure we will never move on from.

But is it really Time that heals us?

Imagine losing a loved one, encountering a near-death experience or being a holocaust survivor. At that moment when the incident occurs, the mind is in a state of shock and goes through a great degree of pain. But as time passes by and the mind is exposed to more peaceful and pleasant experiences, the memory of the incident begins to fade away. The mind realises that there is no benefit to itself or the body in remembering these incidents. Thus with time, the mind lets go of such memories and begins to heal itself.

But, what if you felt the same pain every single time you thought of that incident? Even after months, years or decades for every single moment? Would our mind and body be able to endure it? Would any of the well-known healing techniques work if the mind remembered every minute detail of the incident in great detail for the rest of our life? No. It would go insane. We would go insane.

Having said so, Forgetting and Healing are not essentially the same. But healing without being able to forget (to a certain extent) is almost always impossible. While we might forget the details, the incident as a whole stays with us for the rest of our lives like a dull scar that remains long after the wound has healed.

That is all I had for today. What is your take on Forgetting and Healing? Are they really independent? Tell me in the comments below.

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2 thoughts on “Mysteries of the Mind: How Forgetting Helps Healing

  1. Very interesting take and well written.

    Here is my take on experiences in general (good or bad). I feel it works more like making a cup of tea. At the beginning, you have a clear glass of water. Once you boil it with tea leaves and strain it, it leaves behind a colored fluid with tea’s essence absorbed in it. The memory of each experience might fade away , the essence of it remains. So in a true sense, are we really healed ?! Or have we become a changed person (for the better or worse) because of the experience ?!

  2. A very nice analogy, Harish 🙂 Yes, the experience fades away but the essence remains slowly becoming a part of our personality.

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