"I feel my heart racing off and on," a patient said, a few weeks ago in my office.
"When do you feel that? Is it when you are exercising?" I asked.
"No...no. It's generally when I'm upset, Doc," she said. I observed that her eyes were moist.
"That is generally not a serious issue," I said. But I knew she wasn't done.
"It's one of my friends, Doctor. Every few years, she will repeat the same unpleasant things, and when I remind her of the past, her reply is that she does not remember."
"Well ---" I started.
"But she remembers every little favor she has done for me for the last 20 years!" she exclaimed.
I'm not a psychologist, but I had a fair idea of what was going on here. I pulled up a chair and sat down.
"Have you heard of "Unethical Amnesia" ? I asked.
A few days later, this came up again when I was sitting with some of my friends. In the last week, there was a research study out of Harvard and Kellogg School of Management, which concluded that "Unethical Amnesia" is indeed a condition which prevails in most of us. We all are social animals, and generally, we know when we do something that is morally or ethically not within the parameters of "Being a good human - being." We might hide it from the rest of the world, but it does not give us a good feeling inside. It becomes an uncomfortable memory within ourselves, and our neuronal circuitry tends to suppress these unpleasant memories. And recent studies indicate that people genuinely do tend to forget the details of their own transgressions. But this does make folks more prone to repeat these mistakes, leading to "repeat offenders."
On the other hand, when we do something to help someone, especially where nothing was expected in return, it gives us a great feeling. We genuinely feel good after a selfless act. And our neuronal circuits crystallize both the memory, and the feeling. Subsequently, it etches itself in our memory. Our personality, in the long run, becomes a sum of these memories and emotions.
Now take a moment, and think back on all the selfless deeds you have done in the last few years..... Too many, isn't it?
Now try to think of the not-so-good things you might have done during the same time frame.... Not a single instance, right? Or is it 'Unethical Amnesia' ?!!
"The next best thing to the enjoyment of a good time, is the recollection of it." ~ James L. Basford