We Have A Bad Memory For Negative Events
Memory and Repression: you either store it away or you throw it out. Sometimes it’s a conscious choice you make, but more often than not it’s an automatic response mechanism. A decision your subconscious makes with one goal in mind: allow only the most pleasant experiences to wallow in the dark alleys of memory lane. To use Russell Brand’s words, we don’t have a “very good memory for hatred” or for any other emotion that favours pain over pleasure.
One year ago, I would sit up at night, anxiety rushing through my veins. An army of electrified ants would attack my body, invade my skin and set up camp in several strategic locations. Whenever they ran their drills, I would scratch so hard that blood was gushing from the battle wounds. These ants were not just any ants. They were the kind that can endure extreme conditions, so even ice packs would fail to freeze them to silence. The freezer-burnt patches of skin served only as a reminder of these desperate attempts.
I tried to soothe the ants — spoil them with coconut oil massages and calming meditation. Their ignorant resistance to my love would then infuriate me so much that I declared war, leaving behind no signs of progress, but only traces of self-destruction. I would wake up every morning, drenched in sweat, and walk away from another bloody scene of a movie that seemed to have no end.
I was literally in a battle with cancer. And Lymphoma was the name of this particular army of ants.
I can talk about this painful memory only in disbelief because quite frankly, the memory does not seem real.
Recalling every detail of these sleepless nights is difficult nowadays. I can’t quite remember them, although this was only one year ago. Repression has set in and lowered its foggy curtain in a silent attempt to suffocate these memories.
Albeit well intentioned, I don’t always welcome repression because it muzzles real events until they seize to exist.
Why Repressing Painful Events Is Often Not Helpful At All
“After a while when I see a picture of [George W. Bush] now, because he’s like a little bit monkey-like, I think, ‘Aw he was alright.’ I’ve forgotten about all them wars and everything.”
Here, Russell Brand describes our natural tendency to forget all negative events.
Under the banner of natural repression, we tend to forget past dark times marked by war and death, even though it’s crucial for us to remember those days in the light of forthcoming war and death.
We simply cannot learn from mistakes that have ceased to exist.
It’s time to whip our Amygdalae into shape! These are the almond-shaped groups of nuclei in your brain, which are found to perform a primary role in the processing of memory, decision-making, and emotional reactions.
We need to be consciously aware of the subconscious mechanism our Amygdalae utilizes to repress painful events. The goal should not be to commemorate only pleasurable moments in our lives.
The goal should be to remember those experiences that allow us to flourish as individuals and as a collective.
And if those painful memories were a direct result of war and death, then allow them to serve as historic examples for the ineffectiveness of violence.
We must choose to remember war and death to prevent more of the same.
The Russell Brand quotes were taken from his interview with Mehdi Hasan. If you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to watch it. Lots of great takeaways!
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