Hypnotic Amnesia?… Forget It!
Every so often I get a question like this one… “Can you make me forget something? I had this bad thing happen to me (a car wreck, a romantic breakup or someone dying) and I want to get it out of my mind, obliterate it, never think about it again.”
When people hear that amnesia is possible with hypnosis they sometimes start thinking about what they’d like to forget. But this approach comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of how memory works. Just because you don’t remember an event doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect you!
Let me give you a couple of different examples.
I’ve talked to a lot of people with phobias over the years (extreme fears). Phobias are usually caused by an event somewhere in the past. A spider phobia may have been caused by a scary incident with a spider or even watching a scary movie with spiders in it. Many of these people don’t remember how their phobia started. They have amnesia for the event but it still affects them!
You probably don’t remember when, but at some point when you were a child you figured out what a chair was. You don’t remember this moment yet you still know what a chair is. I repeat: just because you don’t remember an event doesn’t mean what happened doesn’t affect you.
So, you can have amnesia for a traumatic event and still have that event affect you. In the case of someone who had experienced a car wreck, they might be overly nervous when in a car, someone who had experienced a painful breakup might avoid relationships, someone who had lost someone they loved might be afraid to love anyone else – even if they didn’t remember the event that precipitated those feelings.
Can You Take The “Sting” Out Of Memories?
I usually explain to folks that it’s better to reprocess those memories until the sting is taken out of them. Most people tell me that they never considered that option because they never believed it was possible. In other words, they can’t connect to the possibility that they could ever think about those events without a significant amount of pain.
Think about it for a minute though… We all have had unpleasant things happen to us, some of them we may still be upset about and others don’t bother us so much anymore. What is the main difference between the things that bother us and the things that don’t? It’s the way we think about them. It’s what we do inside our heads that controls how we feel about them.
Hey, it’s one thing to go through something painful once but to relive it again and again in your mind is another thing. The problem is that most people don’t know how to reprocess those painful memories in a way that helps us think about them differently.
NLP has developed several processes for taking the emotion out of memories. Probably the simplest is the NLP Fast Phobia Cure. Though its name includes “phobia,” it can be used on any unpleasant memory.
Learn From Your Mistakes
Reprocessing memories has another big advantage over amnesia. It can involve people learning from mistakes. One theory goes that we only experience fear or a painful memory because our unconscious mind doesn’t know how to deal with that type of situation. It creates those negative feelings to keep us from getting anywhere near that type of situation in the future. Well, that’s fine if we’re talking about getting bit by a snake but not about falling in love or driving a car. Once the unconscious learns the lesson, we can then comfortable and more safely approach that kind of situation again or avoid it more intelligently.
NLP processes such as re-imprinting can help us to “learn the lesson.”
- Don’t use amnesia to try to help someone forget something
- It’s much better to deal with these painful memories than to try and avoid them
- NLP offers some wonderful processes to help you do this.
So what good is amnesia? I’ll cover that in Hypnotic Amnesia Part II . . .