The Art Of Forgetting

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I’m not a psychiatrist, and although I work in the medical profession I mainly work in trauma. I have realised that the power of the mind far out ways physical strength in so many ways. There are various views about how much of the brain is actually being used at any one time, and these theories are still under discussion and investigation. See – how much of our brain do we use

Busy mind – overdrive

I have spent many nights lay awake not being able to sleep because my mind is bouncing with thoughts or ideas. I have also had days when I have recalled past events either from decades ago or more recently, which sometimes triggers feelings of self-doubt or utter sadness. Although on the flip side it is just as easy to recall happier moments which bring feelings of warmth and contentment.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art Of Forgetting

It can be considered that our trains of thought can be built on habits. For example, every one of us can attach a memory to a certain song (either good or bad). Or we may recall when we first had a certain meal. For me, I can recall walking along the River Avon in Evesham every time I consume a chocolate lime (see quite man). This is a positive recall. However, I can now associate a certain song with being punched in the back, or a fragrance being attached to a specific human.

Trying to forget

But is it possible that we can train ourselves to think differently to help improve our mental health or to forget an abusive relationship?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art Of Forgetting

I once joined a slimming club many years ago. It was utter agony. Throughout my period of membership, I was constantly recalling how lovely chocolate tasted, or how lovely KFC chicken actually smelt on an empty stomach. In fact, I failed at being a vegetarian because my will power over a bacon sandwich was just not strong enough.

But is it fair to argue or consider that people who slim, or people who try to refrain from smoking suffer the same torments as someone who has just left an abusive relationship. Are we drawn to the evils because we are used to it and we are only addicted because our minds crave the routine of which we are now used to?


Many years ago, I went on a course, I really cannot recall what it was about, but one thing really stuck in my head, and I’m going to share it with you now.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art Of Forgetting

The host said to us all “whatever you do, I plead with you not to think of a red balloon”. Well yes you guessed it, everyone, including myself thought of a red balloon. I don’t know the science behind it, perhaps it was a suggestive thought, but the power that individual had over my free thoughts was phenomenal.

So, to put this into perspective; when you try to avoid certain foods because of a diet – all you can think about is that food. If you are trying to forget an ex, they instantly spring to mind. When you try and forget why you flinch every time a certain word is mentioned you are flashed back to a specific event.

No longer will I be held to ransom by the actions of an ex. I have moved on but she still accommodates an area of my mind. I’m fighting depression, but my life has so many associations attached to such events. I have tried to stop but when I do I often find my mind wonders back to those moments. Perhaps my brain is seeking safety in a place it recognises. If this is the case it’s an uncomfortable state to live in.


If you have noticed, to the regular readers of this blog, I have not written much over the past couple of days. Not because I had nothing to say (far from it), but because I wanted to spend my research and writing time trying something new  out.

I heard a song on the radio whilst making a coffee. Instantly, I recalled an uncomfortable memory about my ex. My mouth went dry and I could feel my heart race. It was if they had a presence in the room. I felt instantly vulnerable. To be honest with you I felt quite scared by my lack of strength even after all this time.

It fails to make sense

It was an unreasonable action. I knew she wasn’t there. I know she is miles away. But the power of my thoughts was shocking. It had utter control of my physical self.

It was at this moment that I tried something new. The song was playing but I refused to switch the radio off. So, I picked up the dog and hugged her. I would hope to think that the next time I hear that specific song I will now associate it with hugging the dog as opposed to blocking a punch. Even now as I write this I am recalling lifted the dog and holding her like a small child. That is surely a better memory to associate with.

Ctrl, Alt, Delete

It would be impossible to wipe clean your whole life. We are after all, a product of past events. I remember when my son was younger and he did something which required a stern word. Instantly, I recalled being told the same thing by my parents – or did I just sound like my (adopted) mother at that specific moment?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Art Of Forgetting

I remember as a teenager in the 1980’s I could recall any phone number. Being able to dial the numbers like how a secretary types, with speed and not looking at the phone. I think I could recall probably about seven or eight numbers instantly. In fact if you gave me the first few numbers of a specific telephone number I could probably still continue the rest. 0121 475…., 0121 443….. But we don’t need to anymore. Modern phones only require you to remember the name of the person you are about to call.

But modern life and its instruments almost reinforces negative memories. When I flick through my ‘Pictures’ file for this blog, I come across a range of photographs that were taken many years ago. Instantly, my mind is flashed back to that moment of capture. This is also the case with things such as Facebook, for example. I have read many comments that people have written stating that they have looked up an ex on Facebook. Why, the pictures are fake (see humiliation) but your memories are real. They are an ex for a reason. No-one (that I know of) has stayed in a toxic relationship because they liked their abusers ‘smile’ – of which is all you see in a photograph.

If you look at that picture remember them kicking the shit out of you or screaming in your face. Remember your mind is suggesting something. I would like to suggest a red balloon.

Time will tell

Ironically, I am not asking you to stop reading my blogs in case it makes the reader recall negative events or thoughts. I write these because I want to share my experiences and offer an alternative to what you are experiencing. It might even be that you are reading my blogs and saying “yes, I’ve had that too, I’m, therefore, not alone”.

But I want to offer a glimmer of hope. Perhaps the ability to think differently is an indication that I am recovering. Perhaps I am getting better.  I hope so. My depression took away my best years and my ex tried to smash the remaining. I don’t want to lose any more. Is that an unreasonable ask?

Venture (adventure)

I want to continue to write. And I want to continue with my experiment of disassociation. It’s about time I tried to break the cycle, I hope it works. But I would love to hear from anyone else that tries this approach and to see if it works. Perhaps I might be on to something here and if it makes anyone rich, remember you heard it here first!!





2 Replies to “The Art Of Forgetting”

  1. This is interesting. In my life there are incidences where my mind has forgotten the main event but held onto the beginning and ending of those events. My brain made the decision for me to forget.

    Your article is interesting to me because you suggest there might be a possibility to “manually” initiate forgetting an event by changing the association the mind has referenced for specific events. I think you’re onto something. The red balloon is an excellent example of that association of the mind with events. “Manually” retraining the mind, as in the example of your dog, I’m going to give your revelation of forgetting (retraining) a try.

    Thank you for offering your blog to help others to recover from abuse.

    1. Hello Hal
      I can only suggest this method as I’m not qualified enough to offer anything more.
      For me it is still early days but I’m willing to try anything. Equally, I am also willing to offer an idea to anyone else out there willing to listen.
      My dog method does indeed seem to work and following research there seems to be similar methods of ‘retraining the mind’ already out there.
      Let me know how you get on with it.

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