It’s a common thought that a lapse in memory is a bad thing. People link forgetfulness to mental illnesses like Alzheimer’s and dementia. However, there’s a theorized psychological behavior that motivation to forget is a positive thing, especially threatening memories. This behavior is called Motivated Forgetting.
Motivated forgetting happens when a person consciously (suppression) or unconsciously (repression) wipes unwanted memories from their mind. These kinds of memories are particularly traumatizing like war memories, rape, or a murder happening right in front of a person.
PTSD, or Post-traumatic stress disorder, is an example of a mental condition associated with bad memories. It can be triggered by a terrifying event that was either experienced or witnessed. People diagnosed with PTSD can have flashbacks to that event, nightmares, and severe anxiety.
If these images stay with them, they might not be able to function properly. They live the rest of their lives scared or anxious. They’re stuck in the past, incapable of moving forward, and are unable to enjoy the present.
It’s particularly scary because an anxiety attack can happen at any time because triggers are everywhere.
That’s where motivated forgetting comes in. It can be seen as a positive way of forgetting.
15 Reasons Why Motivated Forgetting Will Clarify and Purify Your Life
#1. Block bad memories
Motivated forgetting does not entirely erase the traumatic memories from your mind. Instead, it stores them deep within that makes it hard to retrieve. When a trigger comes up, you either purposefully block them or unintentionally have a difficult time remembering.
When you do this, there’s a reduced risk of the symptoms of PTSD showing up.
#2. A brand new start
Blocking these images from your mind is like a restart button on your life. You won’t have to live in fear or anxiety anymore. You can go on as you were before the event happened.
#3. Live a relatively normal life
You will not have to worry about triggers and anxiety. You can live life normally. In your mind, nothing is wrong.
However, these memories aren’t completely gone. Repression is said to have psychological effects still. For instance, an abused child may have a hard time forming relationships in the future.
These effects are not known to the person. They unconsciously happen, so you don’t have to live with the weight of that event directly in your mind.
#4. Make room for new and good ones
With the unwanted events somehow out of your head, you can create better ones. Since these memories are blocked, you can live a relatively normal life. You feel somewhat light and free to go on adventures and meet new people without the weight of the past.
There’s a chance that the abundance of these beautiful memories can overpower the bad ones and maybe completely remove them from your mind. With more positivity, you will also exude positivity toward other people and all the things you do.
#5. Steer your mind away
One way to block threatening memories is by distracting yourself with other thoughts. Instead of letting the trigger take effect and letting the memory consume you, divert your thoughts to something else. Maybe a happier memory, a list of chores you need to do, or letting your imagination run wild with things you wish would happen.
Using fictional scenarios as a distraction can enhance your imagination. That could be the start of a great book or movie.
#6. It can train and challenge your mind
There are theories explaining the negative impacts of motivated forgetting. However, as said above, it can enhance your imagination. You try so hard to forget the bad memory that you replace it with images of events you want to happen.
Continually using your imagination can improve creativity. Because of the story you create in your mind, problem-solving skills can also be enhanced. You think of countless scenarios and outcomes so that when you’re faced with a challenge in real life, your mind starts to work to get out of it.
#7. Form new relationships
A traumatic event can prevent you from socializing. You live in constant fear and anxiety that you forget that there are people in the world that won’t hurt you.
With the bad memories blocked, they don’t hold you back from meeting new people. You are free and tend to be more confident. You have a clearer mind to decide which people have a positive influence in your life and let them in. You can see which ones mean harm and opt to avoid them.
When you have a positive force surrounding you, negativity will have a difficult time getting past it. These people can be the avenue for you to gain new and better memories that can overpower the threatening ones. Having good people in your life will motivate you to become better.
#8. Strengthen existing relationships
Fear and anxiety can make you do things you should not do, like push people away. Disconnecting from people can make your situation worse. You won’t have anyone to help you out of the darkness.
Feeling alone and lonely, you start to spiral further into anxiety and depression. That’s why having loving and healthy relationships are essential.
With a clear mind, you can see that you are surrounded by love and strength. You realize that you need relationships to help you up and keep you from doing things that can hurt you more. Keeping good people in your life will prevent you from spiraling.
#9. It’s a coping strategy
When you try to deal with or overcome particular problems with some methods, you are coping.
Motivated forgetting helps you deal with traumatic events by not dealing with them at all. Instead, you keep them locked in a box deep within your mind. This makes it difficult to retrieve.
Instead of facing your fear and letting it consume you, you can choose to forget the event and live life as you would.
#10. It can be a form of defense
The difference between coping and defense is that coping deals with present feelings caused by the past, while defense fights against current events.
When it comes to traumatic events, the two are similar. Motivated forgetting as a defense battles actions you might do to harm yourself. Motivated forgetting prevents you from remembering unwanted memories, thus preventing you from the effects of it like anxiety, depression, and sometimes suicide.
#11. Anxiety from that memory goes away
Living with anxiety is never good. People who experience an extremely traumatizing situation have things worse because of severe anxiety. This can lead to panic or anxiety attacks and suicidal thoughts.
When you prevent a bad memory form resurfacing, you also prevent the effects that come with it, like anxiety. As time goes on, with that particular memory locked up, you get used to living normally again, and the anxiety and fear caused by it will soon fade away, too. Maybe not entirely but just enough to live normally again.
#12. It can distract you from the painful memories
When something triggers the painful memory to resurface, your mind chooses to wander off somewhere else. It does this to cope with the trauma the event caused.
Motivated forgetting helps with this. It urges your mind to think of something else rather than what’s causing you pain.
#13. Prompt you to take up new hobbies
There are many ways to distract yourself other than steering your thoughts. Keeping things in your head can only do so much. Motivated forgetting can urge you to take up new hobbies. These hobbies can further your healing as they not only keep your mind busy but also your body.
With more free time away from being anxious, you can enhance the skills you already have but forgot about because of the horrifying event. You will also be more open to discovering new interests, like knitting, singing, or writing.
Photography is a great way to keep your mind active and imaginative. Dancing or physical activities can let your frustrations out.
Who knows? These hobbies might turn into income-generating activities if you hone them. They can turn your life around in more ways than one. Your mind and body will be freed from the restraints of the past, and you might make an honest living out of the hobbies.
#14. Open to new adventures
The pain of a traumatizing event can keep you secluded and stuck. The fear of the event repeating keeps you from trying something new. When you break free from that mental prison, you will find that there is more to life than pain and suffering. That’s what motivated forgetting can do. It replaces fear with excitement and anxiety with curiosity.
These adventures can be the avenue to other ways of motivated forgetting that can heal you from the trauma. You can meet great people along the way. You can gain marvelous and unforgettable memories that can drive the bad ones away. You might pick up a variety of interests and hobbies.
Adventures are more than a distraction. They hold a sense of excitement and wonder that keeps the mind positively active. These adventures don’t even have to be big. It’s better also to appreciate the small things.
Late-night drives with loved ones, entering a talent competition, or even just ordering something different from a restaurant. Anything that excites you counts as an adventure.
#15. You can move forward and grow
With evil memories locked up, you can break free from that mental prison and heal from the trauma and pain. You are now open to everything said above.
Motivated forgetting will help you move forward and grow.
What does this article want to get across? It wants to show you that the traumatic experience is not the end of the world.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel. You can have the motivation to move past whatever was holding you back. You don’t have to be stuck in a bad place. You don’t have to push people away. You can move forward and be happy.
It might take some work and some time, but you will be able to live normally again. You can get rid of fear and anxiety. Motivated Forgetting can be the button to restart your life.
There will still be remnants of that time, but we want to prove that you are stronger than it. You have the power to take your life back. Build relationships, take up a hobby, distract yourself. In no time, you will start to feel like yourself again. You may even be a better version of your past self. Because of the new experiences, you’ve improved and gotten better.
We hope that this content opened your eyes to the possibility of a better future. With some time, effort, and new memories, you will start to heal.