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Why Can’t I Remember Things From My Past (5 Reasons)

This blog will explain “why can’t I remember things from my past?” It will provide and discuss various causes as to why some people forget major events from their past.

Why Can’t I Remember Things From My Past?

Some people have vivid memories from different phases of their initial life, whereas others remember nothing or very little from their formative years as they enter adulthood. No matter how much you try to scratch your brain, you may not be able to come up with anything significant instead of a few blurred images that drift away when you try to make sense of it or analyze it.

If you are someone who usually hears friends and close ones talking and reminiscing their childhood memories while you stand there blankly with empty gaps rather than nostalgic moments. You are quite confident that you have not experienced any traumatic event, so what explains the blackout? Why can’t you seem to recollect anything? Is it because you might have gone through extremely distressing?

The answer is no, not definitely. It is normal to forget things from time to time, and it is also normal to become slightly more forgetful as people age. Childhood or infantile amnesia is the loss of memories from the initial few years of life, and it is normal. So, if you are somebody who doesn’t remember from your childhood, then don’t fret you are most likely included in the majority of the population.

No Recollection of Past Is Not Always Linked With Trauma

You must have listened to the theories of people that trauma can help you develop a coping mechanism to shield your mind against painful memories by making you forget about the event. If you can’t recollect several childhood memories, it is possible to think there is some trauma underlying the surface.

While the possibility of trauma is valid, this may not be the case. An overview of the theory of repressed memory can be the explanation for it.

Theory of Repressed Memory

Sigmund Freud was the first person to associate memory loss with childhood trauma or repressed memories. The concept caught a wave in the 1990s  when therapists recommended an association between unexplained psychological and mental symptoms and forgotten childhood trauma.

Therapists and psychologists supported clients while they tried to navigate and explore through their repressed memories. However, several ‘recovered memories’ later were discovered to be made up and false unethical intervention by the therapists. 

Nevertheless, the possibility of repressed memories in people who have a traumatic and abusive past is not ruled out by the experts. However, further research is needed to be certain about this field.

Abuse survivors may have disconnected memories or gaps in memory around the time the abuse took place. They may struggle in connecting their life events with their timeline or doubt their memory–but they remember certain bits and chunks of the event.

Traumatic Past and Its Connection With Memory

While it is highly unlikely that you have completely forgotten the traumatic past, research suggests that going through abuse can influence how the brain makes memories.

Some people respond to this event by dissociation or mental detachment from the event, which can influence how the brain recalls what happened. Some others may simply deny the event took place and blanks it out, which is not the same as forgetting the event.

Either way, the traumatic event is not gone from memory. Survivors of abuse and trauma are likely to remember some part of the event, if only partially. However, this isn’t enough to completely understand the details.

Additionally, you are expected to remember events that have happened more than once. For instance, If you have been experiencing parental neglect and abuse, then you are most likely to retain the memories of such instances where you were left emotionally abandoned.

Other Possibilities

Inability to remember childhood events or other things from the past is not only due to traumatic events. 

Initial Memories Lack Emotional Association

The emotional element, in any event, makes for a stronger chance for it to be retained in the memory. You may find evidence from your own life, where you remember certain memories clearly. These memories hold a significant emotional value for you, i.elove, grief, happiness, or loss.

Young children and toddlers have not developed a complete and diverse range of emotions. Resultantly, childhood experiences are not registered with the emotional significance as the ones made during adulthood or adolescence. As these moments lack emotional connection, they have a high chance of fading away as people age.

Cognitive Development Influences Storage And Retrieval By The Memory

Cognitive growth and development occur in initial childhood. This comprises the ability to retain information and details of the events for prolonged durations.

The generation of new neurons in the hippocampus is also linked with cognitive development. As the neurons are added, the brain involves them in the preexisting pathways. It is regarded as developmental progress but not as good for the already formed memories. These neurons may block off early memories or interfere with the memory pathways. However, experts and researchers are still studying how that is possible. 

Neuroplasticity explains that the development of the brain never stops even if you reach adulthood. The brain can restructure itself whenever it needs to adapt to several changes throughout life. However, it is done by rewiring the old neural networks that are no longer required. It is called synaptic pruning. It helps in the efficient working of the brain.

No Memories Are Permanent

It is pretty obvious that most memories fade away with time, even during adulthood. You have a stronger capacity to retain more information as an adult, but you may not be able to remember everything.

Memories of childhood usually fade away as you enter the teenage ages, it is when you start to develop a sense of self. Moreover, lack of childhood memories can only be odd when you compare it with the memories created in adulthood.

You may be able to remember things from 5 or even 10 years, but if you try to think back, some memories you may recall vividly but find it difficult to recall everything. Hence, not all memories are permanent. Certain things are bound to fade away with time.

If you have an excessive fear of forgetting things, you may have Athazagoraphobia.

Is It Possible To Recall And Remember The Forgotten Events?

Yes, it is possible to recall and remember the forgotten memories, but that is a challenging task that may raise ethical concerns as well. However, a trusted therapist can help you navigating and exploring the forgotten memories through the following ways:

  • Talking About The Events In Past: Discussing and communicating about the bits and pieces you remember from the old times can help in recalling the forgotten memories. You can even keep track of those bits and pieces by keeping a memory journal and keep adding the details as you start to remember any new thing.
  • Watching Albums and Videos: Childhood pictures and videos can help in recapturing old memories. Photos can facilitate recalling the small, significant details from childhood events and situations.
  • Revisiting Familiar Places: Going back to places where you once enjoyed going in your past can support recalling the details of your life. 
  • Keep Learning: Improving and strengthening memory takes time and practice. Train your mind to retain new memories, even if you age.

Conclusion

This blog explained, “why can’t I remember things from my past?” It provided and discussed various causes as to why some people forget major events from their past.

If you have lived through a difficult childhood or enjoyed a perfectly wonderful one, there is a handsome chance you’ll most likely lose most of these memories by the time you enter adulthood–and that is perfectly normal. So, even if you have gone through something extremely traumatic in the initial years of life, you might forget them completely during the development.

However, it will be worth discussing with a therapist if you recognize significant gaps in your past memories, conflicting descriptions and interpretations of the memories as told by yourself and other witnesses, and strong negative feelings associated with certain memories.

A qualified and ethical therapist can help you explore possible causes and reasons without mindlessly associating the memory issue with childhood trauma.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Why Can’t I Remember Things From My Past

Is it normal not to remember your past?

Yes, it is normal to forget things from time to time, and it is also normal to become slightly more forgetful as people age. Childhood or infantile amnesia is the loss of memories from the initial few years of life, and it is normal. So, if you are somebody who doesn’t remember from your childhood, then don’t fret you are most likely included in the majority of the population.

Why am I forgetting my past?

Some of the causes why you might be forgetting your past include stress, depression, deficiency of vitamin B-12, lack of sleep, certain prescription medicines, and infections.

Why can’t I remember my childhood memories?

Childhood amnesia is more common than you think. Some other causes of inability to remember the childhood memories are due to lack of normal cognitive development to store and retrieve, and the absence or lack of emotional association with the memories, 

Why do I have trouble recalling memories?

Some of the reasons for trouble recalling your memories include aging, infection, dehydration, and stress. Additional causes may include substance abuse, medication, poor diet, anxiety, depression, and thyroid imbalance.

Does your brain block out traumatic memories?

Scientists are of the opinion that the brain can suppress memories through a process known as state-dependent learning. When your brain makes memories in a specific state or mood, usually stress or trauma, the memories are inaccessible in the normal conscious state.

Does the body remember trauma?

Yes, our body can remember abuse and trauma. They react to new situations with coping strategies learned during life-threatening or terrifying situations. Although our body remembers but the memory can be malleable. 

References

Some perfectly healthy people can’t remember their own lives

https://www.healthline.com/health/why-cant-i-remember-my-childhood

https://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/why-cant-i-remember

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