My Brain is Wired to Forget

Everybody has ways of defending themselves against thoughts or feelings that are just too hard to face. Know anybody who says, “Oh, it’s nothing,” when it really is a pretty big deal – like an abcessed tooth, for example? Or “I don’t really feel sad,” when a pet dies? That’s minimizing, a defense that allows you to feel calm instead of flooded by strong feelings.

It’s normal to have defenses. And it is also normal for a person to have one or two ways of defending themselves that they use a lot more than others. Favorite defenses, defenses to turn to automatically every time the going gets tough.

The more a defense is used, the more it becomes “wired” in the brain, and this happens pretty early in childhood. In other words, the kid’s brain thinks, “Well, it worked last time, let’s try it this time.” If it works often enough, it gets used over and over. If it doesn’t work, it loses its appeal and doesn’t get chosen very often.

My go-to defense is forgetting. I was carefully and systematically taught to forget what happened in cult settings. I was taught not to speak to outsiders about anything that happened because it was none of their business. I was threatened with harm to myself, my pets, or my brother if I remembered and told somebody and I was also hypnotized to forget. Anybody ever heard the phrase “Remember to forget and forget to remember?”

I learned very well how to forget. To the best of my knowledge I told nobody until my early fifties – and when I say nobody, that includes myself. I was totally amnesic for what happened back then.

Besides serving the cult well, my skill at forgetting protected me most of the time against constant terror, fear, and guilt. I couldn’t have strong feelings about what I didn’t know. Instead, those feelings were dampened and displaced onto other things. But forgetting spread out over innocuous things, too. I no longer forgot “that:” I forgot everything.

Of course, everybody forgets to some extent. Things they stop using, like algebra, fade out and make room for more useful things, like how to use email. But I experience that in spades. In school, after I took the final exam, the course material rapidly faded until in a few months it was as if I had never taken the course.

I lived in a house for twenty-five years starting in my late twenties. Now I am driving myself nuts trying to remember details. Where did I store the towels? The dog food? Who did we give the purple couch to? What did we sit on before we got the purple couch, and what happened to that first couch or those first chairs, if there was no couch?

I knew a man who could remember lots of facts, including a huge number of nice meals he ate. I imagine that his mind was filled with sensory details that wove a rich tapestry. And the pleasure he got recalling them! His life must have seemed much fuller than mine, even though I had more varied experiences than he did, to put it mildly. Knowing that this is possible for some people makes me sad because, when I look back, I remember so little that my life seems really empty.

I had hopes that dealing with the abusive events that taught me not to remember would free me up to remember more every-day things, but the results were temporary, for the most part. I’ve come to an acceptance that things may get a little better, but I can’t expect anything spectacular.

As I explained in a previous post, I went a little crazy fearing I had incipient dementia from memory loss. Now I have started to be able to separate my base-line memory problems from new developments. It’s reassuring to find out that not much is new. Still, I wish I were more like that lucky man. <sigh>


Upcoming Holidays

3/30 Good Friday/Death of Jesus Christ
3/31 Full Moon (Blue Moon: second full moon of the month)
4/1 Easter Sunday
4/1 April Fool’s Day
4/8 Day of the Masters
4/29 Full Moon
4/16 – 4/23 Grand Climax/Da Meur/ (Preparation for sacrifice in some Satanic sects)
4/30 Walpurgisnacht/May Eve
5/1 Beltane/May Day/ Labour Day in Europe
5/13 Mothers’ Day
5/28 Memorial Day
5/29 Full moon

Dates important to Neo-Nazi groups
4/20 Hitler’s birthday (Note: Hitler was born on Easter, so Nazis celebrate his actual birthday, 4/20, and Easter of the current year. His alternate birthday is 4/1 this year.)
4/30 Anniversary of Hitler’s death
(Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lamas, Halloween, solstices, equinoxes, and full moons.)