We are an accumulation of our past experiences. We all carry around stories about who we believe ourselves to be.
The idea of “selective amnesia” came to me a few nights ago after work. I walked home under the thick trees in Hyde Park and called my friend back. She was worried about her her friend who was just diagnosed with bipolar disorder. We talked about the need for honesty and compassion as a balm for the stigma and misunderstandings around mental illness. We talked about our inner narrators and the importance of being aware of the voice in our heads, and always remembering to be soft and gentle to ourselves. I told her about my inner narrator and the tendency I have to latch on to personal stories in my mind that get rehashed again and again and cause me so much pain. Sometimes I forget that this is just a story I’m telling myself.
She told me about how her inner narrator hinders her from getting too close in relationships. I listened carefully and thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could have selective amnesia? It’d be great if we could selectively forget very specific past traumas that get dragged along with us year after year. Imagine clearing away all these emotional and impactful memories leaving us with the person we actually are at this very moment? No more baggage, no more outdated narration.
Although, maybe it would be like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Even the good is tangled around the bad, and removing one part of it would change the whole picture.
It reminds me of a scene from one of best movies of all time ‘Her’. It’s when Scarlett Johansson tells Joaquin Phoenix about an argument they had and how she felt by it.
“I caught myself thinking about it over and over. And then I realized that I was simply remembering it as something that was wrong with me. That was the story I was telling myself – that I was somehow inferior. Isn’t that interesting? The past is just a story we tell ourselves.”
That is interesting, because that means that we have the power to re-write our story.