Would you erase bad memories?



The first time that I sat in a therapist's office, across a well-appointed room from his kind, bespeckled eyes half-hidden behind a notepad, I was in full-on tears in less than five minutes. It was our initial meeting and he was going through the standard have-you-ever intake form. When he arrived at, Have you ever been sexually assaulted?, the tears welled in my eyes and he had his answer before I managed a weak, Yes.

We spent that summer working through a lot of trauma, the above included. Therapy sessions brought out repressed memories as his questions explored the vast database of my mind. At different points, I began to doubt the authenticity of my formerly repressed memories - what if I was unconsciously exaggerating? He assured me that repression was a common coping mechanism for dealing with childhood and adolescent trauma. It felt good to let it all out session after session, but at some point I wondered, Now how do I pack this all away and move on?

Move on, I did. Physically and geographically, when the summer ended, my responsibilities took me back to the Caribbean. This summer preceded the invention of either Zoom or FaceTime, so our relationship simply ended with a handshake and sincere thank-you. Over the years, the memories and trauma have faded, but triggers, benign and unassuming, exist and test my resilience and intentions. What if I could simply erase the parts of my memory that have caused this trauma to follow me into adulthood? Wouldn't that be nice? Or would it? Certainly there would be pitfalls to such manipulation of the mind.<