Written By Doreen Hammond - Life is full of ups and downs. While some may have more of the ups, others may experience more of the downs. Somehow, the human mind keeps some memories, whether pleasant or not, while it forgets others.
At a recent gathering of old friends, the issue of some of the experiences they have tried to expunge without success came up.
Nii, a colleague in the office started first. He was unemployed and his fiancée broke up with him. The break up was not his pain. What he can’t forget is how he honoured his fiancée’s brother’s invitation to slaughter and dress the goat which was to be used for her wedding reception after hooking up with a new dude a few months after the break up.
For the head, legs and entrails of the goat, he performed the task to the admiration of all. Thoughts of how he smelled like a goat after slaughtering the animal and the teasing are somethings he doesn’t want to remember but can’t forget either.
Even though some may consider the experience as humiliating, the critical question is: would you have dressed the goat to receive that package to kill your hunger or would you have rejected the offer and gone hungry?
Well, as other colleagues and I laughed about this experience, my laughter became uncontrollable as Yaw Duah shared his story.
He had just qualified as a driver and was making his debut trip to Kumasi from Accra. To cut down his fuel cost, he went to the Neoplan station to pick some passengers. Three ladies, who claimed they wanted quick service returned their tickets and joined him. When two of the buses they had left at the station came to overtake them, the ladies realised they had bargained for the wrong driver.
Then the unexpected happened, a flat tyre. As he kept pacing around the car, with no idea what to do, the impatient passengers descended heavily on him with insults.
It took the intervention of a taxi driver, now turned palm wine tapper, to fix the tyre!
Upon arrival in Kumasi six hours later, he did not have the confidence to collect the fare from the flippant ladies. This is an experience he has tried so hard to forget without success!
Then came my turn. I was home, some 16 years ago, when my younger sister who had a six -month old baby called to tell me that her baby had had constipation for a week and was feeling restless. She needed help from big sister. I had watched my mother fill an enema syringe with plain, clean, warm water to do the trick a couple of times, with instant relief and so I recommended same.
I drove off to her place and administered it, except that there was no instant result. For 15 minutes, which seemed to pass like an hour, there was still no result. I quickly called my eldest sister, a nurse midwife.
She sounded disturbed and advised that we took the baby to the hospital immediately. I started sweating profusely as I descended the stairs with baby and mum in tow, hospital bound. Just then, we heard a loud burst from the baby! I sighed for great relief as I cleaned baby up. This episode is one of the many things I never want to remember but always do.
And so the question is: why do we have memories that never go away, while some fade?
Dr Akwasi Osei, the Chief Executive Officer of the Mental Health Authority, explains this with two main theories. The first is biological which says that memory is encoded in some proteins called Engram in parts of the brain. This engram, he says, tends to fade away with time, causing us to forget.
But depending on how strongly the memory has been encoded, it may not fade away so easily. A very pleasant event or a very traumatic event tends to be very strongly encoded and is likely to remain in the memory for a long time compared to a passing event.
The second major theory is psychological, by courtesy of Sigmund Freud. It says that there are some things we just don't want to remember because they are unpleasant and these are repressed in our unconscious mind (deepest subconscious mind).
These we cannot remember on our own except under some special techniques, or under the influence of some drugs or alcohol or in our sleep. Other things we want to remember and these are at best pushed by us into our conscious or subconscious mind and we can recall them at will.
According to this theory then, we actually do not forget anything. We only "forget" what we want to and remember what we want to.
Sounds complicated but the fact remains that there are some experiences we simply don’t want to remember!
Dear reader, do you have an experience you don’t ever want to remember but can’t forget either? What was it?