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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Erase Painful Memories, Don’t Worry Be Happy



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We are becoming a neurotic suffering-phobic society. We want–nay, increasingly demand, NO SUFFERING!–as distinguished from mitigating or lightening others’ load by “suffering with,” which is the root meaning of “compassion.”  

As I have written elsewhere at more length, our flight from pain is driving us to increasingly extreme behaviors and distorted policies.

Now, scientists may have found a way to erase painful memories. From the Daily Mail story:

It sounds like the stuff of Hollywood fiction. But a pill that wipes out bad memories could eventually become reality, scientists believe.

Experiments on mice found those given fingolimod, a drug used to treat multiple sclerosis, completely forgot about previous experiences that had brought them physical pain. The US study, at Virginia Commonwealth University, offers hope of a drug that could eradicate memories of traumatic events from years ago and help patients overcome phobias, eating disorders and even sexual hang-ups.

Color me doubtful. Our minds are not so simple as that. Just because we lost conscious memory of trauma, doesn’t mean it would still not have impact. 

But let’s assume it would work: Even if it could be done, and even if we could keep the “good” while jettisoning memories of the bad–another issue–would that really be wise? 

But there are ethical concerns that it could eradicate the very essence of what makes us human as well as have damaging psychological consequences, preventing those who take it from learning from their mistakes.

Ah, who cares? Wisdom is so overrated.  

I think many would embrace such a self-erasure, and not just for truly traumatic experiences that destroy lives. We are a society that increasingly senses itself entitled to never experience painful or emotionally difficult experiences.

No regret. No guilt. No remorse. Even, no grief. Notice that at the onset of even the worst trauma, the immediate talk is of getting to the “healing” rather than actually experiencing the mourning.

Oh well, Don’t worry, be happy.



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