Why do some bad memories stay with us while others fade away? I remember that, when I had my wisdom teeth out, it was a deeply painful and unpleasant experience, one that made me wince whenever I thought about it. But as time passed, the wince-worthy feelings faded. I still remember that day clearly enough, but now it’s almost as if it happened to someone else. The remembered pain has faded away, leaving the memories of the sights and sounds and smells and thoughts intact. Where did my pain go?
Perhaps it’s one of the responsibilities of the unconscious mind to let painful memories go, after first absorbing the meaning of the painful event and learning from it, preserving the learnings and then letting the pain go, its task complete?
Pain, like unpleasant feelings, has its uses. It gets your attention and encourages you to stop! And vividly remembered pain can remind you not to do it again. But how unpleasant it would be if every painful experience were remembered as if it were happening again! So — usually — we learn from the experience and then let the pain go. Usually. Not always.