A phrase attributed to philosopher and psychologist John Dewey is: “we naturally remember what interests us and why we care.” Some may agree with this statement, but the truth is that not all of our memories show a clear use or a way they benefit us in any way. It is very common, for example, to preserve clearly unpleasant or negative memories in certain respects which, despite the reactions of rejection they produce in us, resist oblivion.
It is normal for this to happen, in fact. If anything characterizes memories, it is that they all appear unnamed, regardless of rational criteria, and in a rather haphazard manner. Our conscience it has no absolute control over memory. Either way, he adapts to whatever help he can get from her, and complies when the memories retrieved are unnecessary, distracting, or in bad taste. This is the double break in the functioning of the brain: it is so creative that, by force, it is somewhat unpredictable. For better and for worse.
Of course, it is a problem that we are not able to retrieve the memories we need to be inspired, but it can be even worse if certain negative memories are presented to us in a way. persistent, Which can happen even if we do not think of something indirectly related to this past experience.
The neuroscience behind the suppression of intrusive memories
In reality, it cannot be affected on the memory system to the point of completely avoiding the appearance of memories of a certain type. What can be done is to influence the process of retrieving these memories, make us less aware of them, and not cause us so many problems once they have arisen. This is not only true for memories that pass through consciousness, as it can also be applied to any kind of unpleasant experience going on.
Fortunately, there are ways to cut these small, everyday conflicts with our memories. We know them, in part thanks to a study published in 2012 that can be read in the journal Neuron. The researchers who participated in it looked for neurological keys that can help us forget negative or unwanted memories, even with PTSD. These scientists reported two opposing mechanisms that work in parallel to remove such evocations from the map: deletion and the replacement.
Deletion and replacement
Deletion is a process that involves the memory inhibition, While the substitution helps transfer to consciousness new memories that replace the deleted part, even if these are practically made up. Despite teamwork, both mechanisms are involved different neural structures.
While the deletion involves the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the substitution comes from different areas of the same prefrontal lobe, an area of the brain associated with end-to-end planning and strategies.
What does this study tell us?
The above study provides evidence on the possibility of intervene in the appearance of unwanted memories. On the one hand, we can block its appearance by suppressing it, and on the other hand, we can think of other things. Or, what is the same, through the findings of the study, it is suggested that in many cases, it only takes a little mental training to achieve some degree of control over recovery. past experiences.
Going deeper into the gra, useful techniques for shortening the life of negative memories use the logic of deletion and substitution. Fundamentally, it is about exerting control over the focus into which attention is directed and away from negative experiences. It might sound like a very simple answer, but the truth is, it’s not that much. After all, to suppress a thought is in part to recognize that it is there, that it exists. Therefore, the best thing you can do is practice and improve your mastery of attention.
What are the techniques for eliminating negative memories?
Traditional meditation and meditation Mindfulness has been shown to be effective in clearing intrusive memories. Both are forms of “mental training” that affect connections between different neural tissues and appear to facilitate attention control while minimizing the effect of unpleasant sensations, according to some studies.
How to adapt this to my case?
The best of mindfulness control methods is that they can take many forms. There are so many ways to meditate and it is relatively easy to find one that is suitable for each case. For the rest, these practices are associated with an increase in the quality of life not only in terms of negative memories: they also serve to sleep more easily, reduce stress, and even treat chronic pain.
On the other hand, to know how to adapt mindfulness as a tool to the different needs that arise, one must first learn the basics of mindfulness.