3 Surprising Things To Know About Memory, From A Neurologist

Hear us out: Having a “bad” memory can actually be good for your brain. Of course, a strong memory is crucial for cognition, but according to Small, “you need memory and forgetting to work in balance to sculpt your cognitive abilities, your creative abilities, and your emotional well-being.” In other words? As important as it is to remember the details, sometimes it’s good to forget. 

For example, Small discusses the importance of forgetting in the context of trauma. When your brain is unable to “forget” the emotional stress of a certain event, that’s how post-traumatic stress disorder can arise. “That disorder is fundamentally because your emotional memory is off-kilter,” he says. “You need to forget some of the emotional valence of those memories, otherwise you might not be able to function [in everyday life].” 

That’s not to say you should forget important details, facts, and/or lessons from a traumatic event, but Small says letting go of the emotional stress is important for natural brain function. “It is beneficial to sculpt down the emotional memories to allow us to live going forward.” 

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