Do you know what is essential for a good memory? The ability to forget. To completely and thoroughly forget. Forgetting, like breathing or sleeping, is physiologically normal. This is at odds with our modern compulsion to record and remember everything and is a perfect recipe for anxiety.
Deb Roy, a cognitive science professor at MIT studying language, recorded 8-10 hours daily of the first three years of his son’s home life. He compiled a quarter million hours of audio and video, creating a 200,000 gigabyte “ultimate memory machine.” Consider how much information each of us is exposed to in 24 hours, on streets, subways, screens and in sleep. Imagine recording and remembering all this. Thankfully, we were never meant to.
Fact: We are evolutionarily programmed to forget. Our brains evolved over millennia with built-in forgetfulness. Our brain is engineered to remember tastes, smells, voices, touch and visions, not names. Our brain is engineered to solve problems (How do we keep track of cattle? Mathematics; How do I communicate? Language), not remember disjointed facts. A fact not linked to a sense, an emotion, or a concept is quickly forgotten.