Throughout our lives, we make many memories, some good and others not so pretty. For the ones that we wish we could forget, there may be a way to achieve this. Erasing memories is possible, but you must be willing to go seriously out of your way to achieve your goal.
In most cases, people “erase” memories—or its effects—of domestic violence, childhood abuse, combat experience, or something along those lines. Still, if you really wanted to, that embarrassing moment in fifth grade when you accidentally ripped your pants could be good as gone.
How to Erase Memories
Over the past decade, scientists and governments have been studying potential scientific methods to help people suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD can result in anxiety towards anything that may trigger the memory of the traumatic episode or even recurring nightmares of the memory.
Treatment for PTSD includes psychotherapy and some other methods that show us just how erasable and malleable memories are.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
Can you imagine having a technological power that stops your bad memories dead in their tracks before they can wreak havoc? Well, TMS is that technology. Experts consider the method a potential cure for conditions like PTSD resulting from traumatic memories.
More people are beginning to accept TMS as the final treatment option for memory-related psychological conditions. The method is non-invasive (no introduction of electrodes into the brain). It only relies on magnetic fields to stimulate specific areas of your brain. This triggers a reaction that stops targeted memories.
Not Erase, but Change
Scientists recently discovered that our memories are not as permanent as we thought. Research on both animals and humans has shown that using drugs like propranolol—a high blood pressure medication—can rewire our brains to the point where we lessen the effects of emotional memories. This research is backed by the discovery that every memory is locked in different connections in your brain. When you form a memory, proteins stimulate specific brain cells to help create new connections.
For instance, if bikes scare you, it is because you, or someone close to you, had a bad experience with one. As you take your prescription, you will only be scared of bikes without defaulting to the bad experience. Research may also suggest that a placebo (usually a sugar pill that the user believes is the real drug) can alter behaviors that may dissipate the psychosomatic effects of a bad memory.
Doctors are looking at other possible ways drugs can implant false memories and substituting memories.
Have you ever heard of the think/no-think paradigm? This theory states that it is possible to erase memories by using the higher functions of your brain, i.e., rationality and reasoning. Using these higher functions, you try to stop your bad memories by suppressing them as soon as you think about them.
Finding a reason to justify why whatever happened had to happen—any reason that stops the memory will do—is key in this technique. After doing this for several months, you should be able to “erase” the memories almost completely.
The Key Takeaway
Whether you should erase your memories is not a straightforward answer. That problem seems like it belongs to the ethics department. However, some people genuinely need to forget. For those who do, TMS, memory alteration, and memory suppression are helpful resources.