Ingrid Bergman once said, "Happiness is good health and a bad memory. As it turns out, she was on to something.
According to a new report in Scientific American, our mental health is heavily influenced by our ability to forget. Yes, ability. What is widely considered a negative character trait or a sign of old age and dementia, is actually a skill that you can hone to make your mind less cluttered.
They use as an example Solomon Shereshevsky, a mnemonist who could remember the most insignificant details and recite entire speeches perfectly after only hearing them once. Despite his amazing ability, remembering all that information crowded his brain and made him extremely confused. He couldn't understand stories as a whole because he became too caught up in the details.
Although Shereshevsky was a unique case, similarly, people with normal memories can get caught up in certain events and stunt their mental development. Therefore, letting go of memories, especially unpleasant ones, actually alleviates depression and makes people sharper and faster learners.
They also found that people can actually learn to get better at forgetting things, which could start a whole new wave of suppression therapy for people who have mood disorders. So, instead of the age-old wisdom that you need to drudge up repressed memories and face them, psychiatrists might start encouraging the opposite.