I always imagine that our mind is an attic full of stuff, and the more crowded it is the less thing you dan put in the attic over time, and naturally, that explains why I keep on forgetting things. Have you ever imagined what would it be if you never really forgot things?
While it is easy to imagine that memory is something you can easily plug in and out, in reality, it is a little bit more complex than that. Memory is a relay of electric current that goes between cells in our brains in a certain way. For example, the smell of specific food will activate the part of the brain that processes smell that usually correlates with good taste. This way, even before you savor that delicious chocolate dessert you can feel your mouth waters. In a way, memory is not a physical thing in your brain. It is an action where there are a group of cells fires or activated, and different fired-up neurons will generate different memories.
Imagine a bunch of supporters is sitting in a stadium. If only one supporter is standing up, nothing meaningful happens. However, if everyone is coordinated in a certain wave, then the supporters can form a ‘wave’ and a lot of other coordinated movements. Our brain works similarly, in which our brain cells are being coordinated in such a coordinated way. Different patterns of fired cells will generate different memories. If you imagine this, with our limited brain cells we would be able to store a big amount of memories, right? So how do we forget things?
The three types of forgetting things
There are at least 3 different ways of forgetting, which are decay (with the cooler name of passive oblivescence that you will forget after reading this), displacement, and interference.
1. Decay or the slow fade of memory. There are a few opinions on how this happens. The first one is that the connection between the cells becomes less active because you don’t activate the connection enough over time. It is also might be caused by the fact we learn a lot of new things and correlate this old thing we learn into new memories.
2. Displacement or motivated forgetting happens when someone intentionally suppresses negative memory of the past. This is harder than how it looks as we need a lot of other encouragement to be able to do this. The researcher still doesn’t know why this motivated forgetting (or therapy, if you may) is possible, but our brain seems to be able to block some part of the brain that triggers the bad memories over time.
3. Interference or targeted. This happens every night when our brain declutters a small unimportant thing we see during the day. Our brain will prune connections between cells and erase some unneeded memories. Our brain knows that if it is important, we will re-learn it the day after. I believe this is the main cause of all the things I forgot every day. But this forgetting is necessary to keep us healthy, because imagine if we remember all the sight, sounds, face, smell, color, and every other possible piece of information in your life. It will be stressful, right?
How to forget less
Continuous exposure to things we have to remember will surely help us remember, this will help us fire the brain cell connection more often. The more often these connection fires, the faster this connection will fire. For me, I write down a list of things I have to do and therefore I get more ‘exposure’ to things I have to do. It is as written in our gift makers manual - write down everything important!
What about you, do you have any foolproof tips to forget things less?