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#MicroblogMondays 49: The Forgetting Pill

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Wired had an article a few years ago (written by Jonah Lehrer, so it may not be as factual as I wish) about a pill being developed a la Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  He writes,

Even more startling, an equally small family of compounds could turn out to be a universal eraser of history, a pill that we could take whenever we wanted to forget anything.  And researchers have found one of these compounds.  In the very near future, the act of remembering will become a choice.

As someone who constantly fears about forgetting things, I’m not sure I would be able to bring myself to swallow the pill, but I suppose my feelings would change if I was trying to forget something incredibly traumatic that was impacting my day-to-day life.

Would you use it if you could erase one memory but have all the rest of your memories remain intact?


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1. Jessica 15. shilpa 29. Traci York, Writer
2. Anks 16. Geets 30. Laurel Regan @ Alphabet Salad
3. Naba 17. Loribeth (The Road Less Travelled) 31. Junebug
4. Mary Francis 18. Parul | Happiness & Food 32. Regina
5. Persnickety 19. Teacups & Typewriters 33. Mali (No Kidding in NZ)
6. Middle Girl 20. Paradoxicalsprite 34. Mali (A Separate Life)
7. Sadie 21. One and Done? 35. Aly @ Breathe Gently
8. Rajlakshmi 22. Lacey Bean 36. deathstar
9. Lindsay | Solo Mama 23. Baby Blue Sunday 37. Stephanie (Travelcraft Journal)
10. Lori Lavender Luz 24. Journeywoman 38. Vinitha
11. Good Families Do 25. Failing at Haiku 39. Cristy
12. Isabelle 26. Waiting for Baby Bray
13. Mom, Eventually? 27. Mrs. Gamgee
14. Non Sequitur Chica 28. A.



1 Jessica { 08.03.15 at 6:22 am }

If the forgetting pill is sold on the market, then maybe fewer people would need psychotherapy.

2 anks { 08.03.15 at 6:59 am }

Yes I would. Somethings are best forgotten…

3 A.M.S. { 08.03.15 at 7:26 am }

It would have to allow for very specific forgetting. Would it allow me to forget the one moment that still causes me to wake up screaming in the night, but allow me to keep the other memories that surround it? Could I erase those embarrassing middle school gaffes that my brain likes to use to remind me of just how uncool I am, while letting me remember the fun I was having leading up to the states and the pointing?

Unfortunately, I am too aware of how much my unpleasant and painful memories shape who I am to risk removing them.

4 Mary Francis { 08.03.15 at 7:40 am }

Painful memories are essential to our survival: they keep us from repeating a harmful experience. The other aspect, memories associated with emotional trauma are harder, but do as you say, help to shape us.

The memories I’d lose without hesitation are those when I embarrassed myself by doing something really crass or stupid. And no, there will be no ‘ for instance’ – es!

5 Persnickety { 08.03.15 at 7:55 am }

I don’t know. The bad memories are just as much a shaper as the good ones. I can understand wanting to forget truly horrible events, but sometimes you need those too- if only to avoid the next time.

6 Middle Girl { 08.03.15 at 8:10 am }

I wouldn’t trust a pill to erase any specific memory. But, even if such a thing did exist and I was inclined to trust it worked, I still wouldn’t take it. Memories, good and bad, are part of who we are, for better or worse.

What if there were a way to side-step any bad things in the first place?

7 Sadie { 08.03.15 at 8:13 am }

I really don’t think I would, simply because as cliched as it sounds, I think it’s also human nature that you need those awful, traumatic moments to place the amazing ones in such relief; sometimes only because of the awful does the amazing become recognizable for what it is. I might make one exception, and that would be to assist me in forgetting particular aspects of personal relationships. I feel like it would make forgiveness so much easier.

8 Lindsay | Solo Mama { 08.03.15 at 9:12 am }

I’ve thought really hard about this and you know what? I don’t think I’d want to erase any memories. Now maybe that says a lot about my life and privilege – I’ve not lived through something horrific enough to want to forget it. Or maybe it’s because I believe the experiences and memories I have make me who I am today, and I like it that way.

9 Jess { 08.03.15 at 9:16 am }

I don’t think I would take the pill. I mean, I’ve had experiences where it felt like, “If only I could erase this, if only this didn’t happen, I could be happy,” but that feeling passed and instead that experience informs the person I am today. I would lose the ability to learn from that experience, to have that experience offer me empathy to others who are in similar shoes down the line. I think to erase it, for me, would be conceding victory to the thing that hurt me. (Plus, I have no faith that I wouldn’t lose something else by erasing the memory… and any pill like that HAS to have unintended consequences not known yet.)

10 Lori Lavender Luz { 08.03.15 at 9:18 am }

Oh, I would not use it (at least so far). I am the sum of my memories and the idea of losing any would drive me crazy.

11 SuzannaCatherine { 08.03.15 at 9:43 am }

Oh, goodness. No, there would be no erasing of memories here. I have found that as we age we tend to lose a lot of memories, without the “help” of pharmaceuticals. (Granted, these lost memories are not always of traumatic events, but integral parts of our past none the less.) I’ve seen it in close family members and I’ve seen it in myself.

As others have said, the sum of all our memories (both good and bad) make us who we are.

12 Isabelle { 08.03.15 at 10:43 am }

I think I’d like to keep all my memories, so no, I would not take the pill.

13 nonsequiturchica { 08.03.15 at 11:04 am }

If I had a really traumatic experience in my life then I probably would use a pill like that. However, I think that bad experiences shape how we go about life and that we need to learn from them. Plus even if YOU erased them from your memory then anyone else who was present would still have the memory.

14 shilpa { 08.03.15 at 11:10 am }

nope, i will not be taking such pill to erase my bad memories..

15 Charlotte { 08.03.15 at 12:31 pm }

Yes, I would take the pill. There is one specific memory that haunts me, and if I could rid myself of it I would.

When I first read that title of this post I thought it said “Forgetting THE Pill” and I was puzzled for just a sec lol

16 illustr8d { 08.03.15 at 1:37 pm }

I lived in my car for awhile. It wasn’t fun, but I had no choice. It was painful. People weren’t kind. And it was frightening. And it happened because people I loved abandoned me. Painful. So painful.

But it informs my behaviour. Whether there is someone homeless, or someone who looks like they’re having a hard day, I make time to try and help. At the least to look them in the eye and connect.

I was always someone who cared. But I care now to the 10th power of how I cared before. It’s personal. It matters.

If I took a forgetting pill, I’d forget the terrible experience and the pain. And become more blind to others’ pain. Which would be a terrible loss for me. So no forgetting pill.

17 One and Done? { 08.03.15 at 1:51 pm }

I don’t think I would take it. Thankfully nothing in my life has been so horrible that I would want to forget about it.

18 Lacey Bean { 08.03.15 at 2:25 pm }

I honestly don’t know! I’ve had some bad experiences, but those experiences shaped me into who I am today… so would I be the same person if I forgot them?

19 loribeth { 08.03.15 at 3:23 pm }

I might consider it. There are a few cringeworthy memories from my childhood that I still relive sometimes at 1 a.m. in bed. Nothing really awful in the grand scheme of things, and I’m sure the other parties involved don’t even remember what happened, but I wish I could take it all back, just the same.

20 Journeywoman { 08.03.15 at 4:05 pm }

No. I worry too much about forgetting things and I can’t see myself doing this voluntarily. I also would worry about it becoming a new kind of drug to do horrible things to people.

21 Valery Valentina { 08.03.15 at 4:37 pm }

I’m with Journeywoman., worrying about people making me forget. I would still have the paper with my degree, except i wouldn’t know where. Now it doesn’t matter that I cannot find the paper. Even though I already forgot a large part of what I learned.
As it is people already have such different memories of the same history, with a forgetting pill you would never know who was “right”.
Ha, imagine meeting someone new, getting serious and then taking pills together to erase past sexual memories of previous partners?

22 Jen B { 08.03.15 at 4:46 pm }

Without a doubt. I don’t need to remember a pain I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

23 A. { 08.03.15 at 5:12 pm }

Nope. Even the painful ones are important. They cultivate wisdom.

24 Traci York { 08.03.15 at 5:14 pm }

Funny thing – I wouldn’t take the pill because I’m with many other commenters here, and have forget-o-phobia, but if someone I loved went through something traumatic (knock on wood, hope it never happens) I would want them to be able to forgot. Interesting to ponder…

25 Laurel Regan { 08.03.15 at 5:17 pm }

If I could turn back time and erase the actual happening I want to forget, then I’d take the pill – but I wouldn’t take it just to erase the memory of whatever happened. If it happened, it’s part of my history, so I want (or need) to remember it.

26 Jill A. { 08.03.15 at 5:24 pm }

I don’t think I would want a pill to forget. The things I’m willing to forget are too minor to need medication, such as pictures or stories I’ve read that I found upsetting with no redeeming features. If I forgot I had a daughter who died, the rest of my life would make no sense. Maybe as a morning after type pill? After rape, after surgery? I don’t know. Think of the drugs that used to be used for childbirth, the Twilight Sleep drugs. Or the way people freak out with Ambien when they have done things and don’t have any memory of it.

However, if they can ever come up with tranquilizers for specific memories, I think I would like that. The ability to occasionally pacify my emotional response to a specific memory? I’d be all for that. But that would leave me in control of whether or not to use it on specific occasions. I think that would be very useful.

27 Regina Martins { 08.03.15 at 5:38 pm }

It sounds like something out of a Philip K. Dick novel. Science-fiction is real :-).

28 torthuil { 08.03.15 at 7:13 pm }

I actually find this scary. Assuming the bad memory came from something really awful and traumatic, it frightens me to think that something awful might have happened to me and I have no idea it happened. Also supposedly other people still know what happened? they could still remind me of the event. And then I would know something happened but not what. Also, would you remember taking the pill? So I’d know I took this pill to erase a memory but not what the memory was. Can you say ANXIETY INDUCING!

29 Mali { 08.03.15 at 8:15 pm }

I’ve always prided myself on my memory. Fear of forgetting things kept me awake many nights when I was going through my ectopic pregnancies and infertility. And now, I want to remember those experiences, as I’ve seen how they have changed me. I fear developing Alzheimer’s or dementia (as my mother and aunt are both suffering). So voluntarily forgetting something – even one of the largely inconsequential ones that make me feel horrible at 1 am in the morning – just doesn’t seem like something I’d want to do.

Though it would be nice if I could forget the pain of neuralgia, so that I didn’t panic every time I feel a twinge.

30 Aly @ Breathe Gently { 08.03.15 at 10:16 pm }

I wish I could erase the heartache of our first IF journey; but then, I don’t – because it shaped me and prepared me for doing it again in round 2. It’s bittersweet. x

31 Working mom of 2 { 08.03.15 at 10:58 pm }

I haven’t had any events so bad that I would erase them, even my m/cs. I think I would want to erase something like rape tho. I wish I could erase knowledge of some things though.

32 Stephanie (Travelcraft Journal) { 08.04.15 at 12:27 am }

I don’t think I would.

Also, it seems like poeople who have been through horrible, traumatic things often say they wouldn’t change what happened because it made them who they are. So I wonder if forgetting the trauma would have a positive impact on your life or not.

33 Vinitha { 08.04.15 at 6:15 am }

I don’t think I will be taking the pill. Erasing just the memory not the actual happening doesn’t do for me. Somebody make the pill to erase the parts of past too. 🙂

34 nabanita { 08.04.15 at 7:24 am }

I don’t think I can bring myself to swallow the pill ..Memories are too precious, even the bad ones…I fear I’ll lose my memory anyways so willingly taking a pill is scary , not something I want to do..

35 Justine { 08.04.15 at 8:00 am }

I don’t think I’d take a forgetting pill. I already forget too much of what I need to remember, and some of the worst memories shape who I am. Maybe a better pill would be something that allows you to cope better with the things that you’d rather forget.

36 Cristy { 08.04.15 at 1:49 pm }

Yes and no. There are some things in a moment that are so painful that I wish they would be erased. But the sweetness that comes from some of those memories later as well as the invaluable lessons. So ultimately no.

37 deathstar { 08.05.15 at 3:44 am }

There were things said to me that I wish I could forget because they continue to hurt and haunt me. Unfortunately getting hurt overshadows the positive ones for me and I have to continually remind myself not to listen to those negative voices. I prefer to stay quite busy but at 4am, I tend to get drowned out by the HEY, THIS IS THE REASON WHY YOUR LIFE SUCKS RIGHT NOW show and fortunately, I drown it out with chanting but still I’d love to forget those negative voices.

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