The Truth About Memory and Giving Yourself Permission to Forget

Image of People on the BeachWe’ve all been there: kicking ourselves because we can't remember someone's name or an "important" date like a friend's birthday or anniversary. You might be pleasantly surprised to learn that forgetting isn't so bad.  

The reality is that it’s just not possible for most of us to remember every specific detail of every single day. There are actually some reasons why it's good to forget things from time to time.

Consider these points regarding adapting a new philosophy on forgetting: 

1. Your brain isn't "made" to remember everything. According to some memory experts, the human brain has evolved to remember events related to your five senses: taste, touch, smell, hearing, and vision.

  • In other words, if you experienced something while tasting a fine vintage wine for the first time, you'll likely remember the experience. 
     
  • When you saw the images of John Lennon's death or Princess Diana's wedding on television, you can likely remember where you were and whom you were with.
  • Images, emotions, and experiences are all important when it comes to remembering.

2. Dates and faces will likely be forgotten. You'll likely only remember things that have relation to one of your five senses and that have special meaning to you.

3. Forgetting helps clear your brain. Sometimes, it's necessary to forget simply to make some room in your brain. Imagine that your memory is like a giant file cabinet. When you have too much "stuff" filed in there, it's much more difficult to find the files you need to reference.

  • You have a lot of memory and information "files" to sift through.
  • When you forget, it's like taking some of the old, unnecessary files from the cabinet and putting them through the shredder. Then there's less info to sort through the next time.

4. Some individuals do remember everything. However, remembering everything isn't all it's cracked up to be. Some people have super autobiographical or photographic memories. These individuals can remember details of everything that's ever happened to them specifically by day and date. Their memory is like a giant calendar where no event is omitted. 

  • However, some of these people admit this is not a good thing because, in addition to the positive, they also remember every detail of all negative situations they've been through. 
     
  • Many acknowledge that it's quite uncomfortable to never forget when a partner wronged them. Or what it's like reliving every moment of a past trauma or feeling the emotions associated with the death of a loved one from years ago.

5. Forgetting helps you move on. As difficult as it might be, you can give yourself permission to forget about lost love. If you don't, it's very difficult to move on.

  • Let go of those feelings and memories of your former love and make a true effort to forget.
  • You are strong and ready to move into the future looking to find another loving, caring partner.

6. We forget minutiae every day. If you were able to store every single experience in your memory, your mind would become bombarded with some pretty unimportant stuff. It's certainly not necessary to remember every piddling thing that happened the last 24 hours.

  • Does it really matter what you ate for  breakfast this morning or what you wore to work yesterday?      

 

When you accept the fact that your memory is fallible, you'll be a much happier person. Give yourself permission to forget that which is unnecessary to remember. Acknowledge that forgetting something is okay. In the meantime, use your smartphone apps to take notes or voice recordings of the memories you want to remember.

 

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