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Neuroscientists Working to Develop Drugs that Erase Painful Memories---What do You Think?

Posted by Bonnie Bright on March 11, 2011 at 1:28pm

I recently watched a 3-minute video that made me very uncomfortable. It discusses how neuroscience doctors are working to develop drug treatments that could erase traumatic memories form people's minds. In a country where 1 in 5 veterens come home suffering PTSD or depression--or perhaps in the wake of a massive natural disaster like the Japan quake and tsunami (not to mention Chile, Haiti, Hurricane Katrina and so many others)--revolutionary drug treatment like this could ease pain and suffering on a huge scale.

Part of the problem with trauma, as Robert Stolorow suggests in Trauma and Human Existence, is that trauma initiates a sense of loss of security and of anxiety about the unpredictability of our world after the initial event occurs. The anxiety involves the impression of uncanniness, or the feeling “not-being-at-home” in the world. Everyday meaning in life collapses as the world takes on a strange and alien tone, and the one who experiences trauma feels incongruent, isolated, and bizarre because he simply cannot see how anyone else could possibly experience the rupture and ensuing chaos in the same way. And we all know the potential side effects: inability to sleep, nightmares, flashbacks, emotional numbing, hyperviligence, being easily startled, heart palpitations, panic attacks, depression, despair, thoughts of suicide...the list goes on. Trauma literally turns a person's life upside down. What would it be to simply take a pill and make it all go away a trauma victim can feel at home again?

Donald Kalsched, in The Inner World of Trauma, uses the word trauma to mean any experience that causes unbearable psychic pain or anxiety. For an experience to be "unbearable" means that it overwhelms the usual defensive measures which protect us from perceiving horror and pain. Perhaps, with a simple pill, we could prevent that overwhelm. But, do painful memories serve a purpose? And if we simply repress them, where do they go? If memories are completely repressed, the theory of the unconscious insists they will only pop up somewhere else with even greater force---demanding to be engaged.

Here's the link to the video (hint: click the "x" to close the other video ads running during playback): What do you think?

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"The upheaval of our world and the upheaval of our consciousness are one and the same.”
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