Researchers at MIT suggest that we’ve moved closer to creating a pill that would remove bad memories. Researches say they have identified a gene that plays a critical role in “memory extinction.” Old “bad” memories would be replaced with new ones, which would, in turn, provide a pill for addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This information troubles me. So much so that I want to vomit.
I can not speak for soldiers who suffer from PTSD, but I can tell you how victims of childhood sexual abuse deal with PTSD, and “bad memories.” Here’s a bit of my story. My memories of childhood sexual abuse were buried for decades. Although I was not aware that my bad memories even existed, I was filled with misery. Try being miserable and exhibiting bad behavior, and not having a clue as to what was going on. Not being aware of the “bad memories” made no difference.
When I was approximately 50 years of age my mother revealed past events that triggered tons of bad memories. So bad that I had nightmares of being raped that caused me to vomit and slide into panic attacks. For fear of losing my sanity I turned to a psychologist for help. We began long term therapy, and with the help of medication I became more receptive to the demands of therapy. This led to a review of my past behavior, conversations with family members, visits to the sites of the past abuse, journaling, self exploration, etc… I can provide only a snap shot of my experiences on a blog, but I can say that I would not want to replace the bad memories with good ones.
We are a product of our biological makeup and our life experiences — nature and nurture. My memories are my history, and partially determine who I am. Because of the abuse, I did not know how to trust, to feel, and ultimately how to love. But through long term therapy I learned all of the above, and even became a writer. I went through hell but my therapist brought me into the light, and life is better than I could have imagined. Please don’t take away my bad memories. I’ll just manage them as I do now, and taste the sweetness of life.
You can read more about my experiences in my latest book, “Mnemosyne: A Love Affair with Memory.”