Memory: What's Motivating You to Forget

It’s hard to believe, but you have mechanisms designed to make you forget things.

It’s true.

There are parts of yourself that are built to make you forget.

You’re probably thinking, how could that be, why would the mind intentionally make me forget.

Well, there are advantages to forgetting.

For starters, majority of the info that come across day to day is useful only for the short-term. Keeping them in long-term storage would flood the mind with useless information. Therefore, it’s important to have a mechanism in place that throws out or ‘forgets’ what’s unnecessary. Otherwise, the mind would become a cluttered mess and sorting through the mess would be time consuming.

Also, at times, some events or experiences are just too painful or upsetting to remember. Thinking about them produce overwhelming anxiety or difficulty. As a defense mechanism, the mind will block out and forget such memories so you can focus on what’s important in the moment.

These are commonly known examples of motivated forgetting that you probably are already aware.

There are other examples that are not so commonly known.


Habits by nature are designed to keep you in a routine. In their effort to keep you acting or thinking a certain way, habits will do everything they can to ensure you stick to your habituated routine. That is the purpose of habits. That’s what they are designed to do.

Surprisingly, habits are extremely sly. They have all sorts of tricks up their sleeve to ensure you stay in old patterns. One involves having you forget anything that would change or have you doing something outside of what you’re habitually ingrained to do.

For example, you read a great book for organizing your life. The problem is, organizing means going against your habituated pattern of being messy. That habit is not going give up easy. To keep you in the old pattern, it’s going to try to make you forget everything you learned so you don’t put them into practice.

Fears & Anxiety

Fears is a feeling of danger or threat we experience, whether the threat is real or imagined. Just like habits, fears are extremely sly and manipulative. If there is something you fear doing, you can bet it is actively working to make you forget.

Suppose you set a goal to lose weight, which requires going to the gym. The problem is, you are self-conscious and afraid to workout around other people. That fear is going to do everything it can so you avoid the gym, including forgetting the goal. The thought of the goal will create tension, anxiety, anxiousness, which will distract you and make it difficult to think. It will even create feelings like there are all these other priorities on your plate. Then, before you know it, you’ve forgotten the goal.


Beliefs are thoughts you think to be true. In your head reside all sorts of beliefs about who you are and what you can or cannot do. You might have a belief that you are a good soccer player, bad at math, or passionate about technology.

Like habits, beliefs are designed to have us act within the confines of our strongly held beliefs. If you believe that Bob Dylan, Jay-Z, or Taylor Swift is the greatest artist in the world, you’re going to get excited when their songs come on. If you believe gambling is wrong, people who gamble will turn you off.

In the same-way, if you don't believe capable or worthy of a thing, those beliefs will have you act in ways that push away that thing, including making you forget about it. You’ll find yourself getting tired, exhausted, or overwhelmed. As you get lost in these feelings, you’ll slowly forget what it is you were trying to do.

These are some internal processes actively trying to make you forget.

The next time you think you have a bad memory, realize maybe your memory is not bad, it’s just that your mechanisms are very GOOD at making you forget.

That means, if you are stuck in a pattern of forgetting in some part of your life, think about how your habits, fears, and beliefs can be getting in the way.

Do you fear the task?

Are old habits sabotaging your efforts?

Are poor beliefs getting the better of you?

More specifically, do you:

Unconsciously forget to do the report because deep down you don’t feel deserving of a promotion?

Or maybe you perform bad in exams, because you are afraid you’ll be teased by other students as a know it all?

Answering these questions requires going inside and looking a litter deeper into yourself, which isn’t always easy or pleasant.

But if you can put in the time and effort, you can unlock major blocks affecting your memory.

Often memory issues go away magically.

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