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Grudges and memory.

Grudges and Memory

Orrin is a mental wizard. He remembers everything that ever happened to him. And that, he laments, causes much unhappiness and a rocky social life.

"That's why I harbor so many grudges," he admits. "Most people forget the slights and lapses of good manners that others are sometimes guilty of. For me there is no relief; I remember them all."

The phenomenon of such complete recall is undesirable. Memory needs to be both effective and ineffective. The brain must retain knowledge, yet must also be capable of letting go of it.

Perhaps the brain can be thought of as a sieve -- the better brains operating like better sieves: able to retain important facts, ready to let others go.

Psychoanalytic theory may contend that the desire to cling to memories of offenses, real or imaginary, provides some questionable psychic benefits. To cling to grudges and to bear them years beyond necessity affords the individual the negative joy of having been victimized. It could be the ultimate in self-pity, a rare and dangerous form of mental masochism.

With the intense preoccupation that surrounds the need for good memory, not enough is said about the importance of forgetting. It is important for individuals, and sometimes crucial for nations to forget grievances and feuds.

The eminent British scientist Sir Ian Maddock once said: "All development ... requires an interplay between learning and forgetting."

Benjamin Disraeli, prime minister to Queen Victoria, philosophized: "It is the plight of man to suffer; it is also his good fortune to forget." Who has not had reason to wonder whether persistent memory could be a curse as much as a blessing?
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Jan 1, 1989
Previous Article:Memory and the elderly.
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