You know when you’re talking about something, then you get interrupted and you lose your train of thought? Happens to us all. What I want to know is that if it’s that easy to just simply, absolutely forget a thought involuntarily, why can’t we do it actively?

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You know when you’re talking about something, then you get interrupted and you lose your train of thought? Happens to us all. What I want to know is that if it’s that easy to just simply, absolutely forget a thought involuntarily, why can’t we do it actively?

In: 31

Because thinking is not just an active process, it’s both active and passive.

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Compare it to breathing.

We breathe without thinking about it. it’s a passive process.

We CAN stop breathing by thinking about it, but only for a short time because our instincts (passive) overwrite our active thoughts.

We can stop thinking about something for a bit. Focusing on something else is the easiest way.

But we cant FORGET something willingly.

Because remembering is a passive process that we can’t really control.

We forget things because they aren’t “written” or “stored” (or “retrieved”) properly in (from) our brain, not because it was actively erased–because we didn’t think about them enough, or frequently enough, or whatever. By thinking about something to try to forget it, you actually strengthen the memory.

If you think of a box of sand with a smooth surface, creating a memory is like drawing a picture in the sand. But once you draw something, you can’t smooth it out again so that it’s like you didn’t draw anything in the first place. The only way that your drawing disappears is if you draw other things over it. Or maybe if you leave it outside for a long period and it’s exposed to the elements and eventually smoothed over again.

It’s believed that when you try to suppress a thought, a region of your brain remains actively scanning just to make sure the thought is being suppressed – but this process of scanning is essentially conjuring the thought. This is the supposed mechanism behind ironic thought suppression – the more you try to stop a thought, the more it will occur. Maybe there’s something similar at play in trying to forget something. Your brain would keep checking to see if the memory is still there, inadvertently activating it and reinforcing its storage.

I am just speculating, but it could be worth considering.

There was probably an evolutionary disadvantage to voluntarily forgetting things, and those who could, died off. That’s usually the answer to questions like these. It’s in our best survivalistic interests to remember everything we possibly can. Forgetting things can get us killed. If one of our ancestors had the ability to break the neurons or synapses that create memories, they are long gone from the gene pool. Our brains just don’t work that way *(anymore?)*. But hey, there’s always medical science; it might be possible someday!

Because what you were just talking about is in short term memory, which has limited space and holds things only for a short time. Most thoughts we want to forget are usually already in our long term storage, which has more space and is as close to permanent as any of our squishy body parts.

That being said, if you’re wanting to forget something traumatic that just happened, playing Tetris or word games has been found to be helpful for keeping intrusive memories from developing.