Forgetfulness is good for your health


Being forgetful is often seen as a bad thing. Yet being able to forget is actually essential for our mental health. An article1 published in the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition last February reminds us why.

According to the authors, forgetfulness helps our mental health by means of three "agents". The first helps keep us calm and stable, protecting us from memories we find hard to bear. It does this by keeping them relatively out of reach or by dialling down their emotional intensity. This mechanism also facilitates forgiveness, helping us overcome hurt from the harmful actions of others.

The second agent helps preserve our clarity of mind by disposing of any insignificant details. This ensures our capacity for abstraction. By filtering this information, it enables us to see the main ideas and shared elements, as well as helping build the foundations of more general knowledge.

Finally, the third agent encourages inspiration and our capacity to rediscover and reanalyse things. It counteracts any preconceptions and fixations of the past. Thus we are able to come up with creative solutions when faced with new problems.

1) Jonathan M. Fawcett, Justin C. Hulbert The Many Faces of Forgetting: Toward a Constructive View of Forgetting in Everyday Life. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, Volume 9, Issue 1, March 2020, Pages 1-18.