Intentional Forgetfulness

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

The question I have today has bothered me for a long time. While I was normal for most of my life, the past few years have been evolving many problems for me.

For example, I have had numerous problems with skills such as driving. Once it had been an easy, low-attention activity but now I notice things are changing. Now, instead of driving being second nature, I am starting to overly concentrate on things such as whether I am correctly positioned in a lane. Furthermore, even with all the concentration on a very small skill, I fail to perform this skill effectively (for example, staying in the lane). The worst thing, however, is that I have not found a way to stop concentrating on one thing for my own safety. I feel like I am a deadly risk on the road because of this and I am often very scared to continue driving.

Furthermore, the situation in other areas of my life is not very good. For example, I’m studying to become a chemist, and I consider chemistry and studying skills to be the bulk of what I know. However, as I try to think about these subjects, I often feel the irresistible urge to forget these subjects. It sounds stupid, but my mind will sometimes say to me, “forget chemistry” or “forget how to study”. I always have to harshly resist the urge to do so. However, when I think I have the problems solved, my mind often finds other ways to incite the same urge. Or my mind will cajole me to “try to forget something”. I feel like if this goes on for much longer, my knowledge of topics like these (and others) may start to be lost. I don’t know what may happen and I am in the dark about this topic. As I write, my day is completely occupied by trying to resist the urge.

The scariest feeling is that, as each day passes, these problems seem to be getting worse. Two Around 2 and a half years ago, when these problems started, they barely got my attention. Now, however, they are so much worse. I feel in the dark and don’t know what to do. I’m scared to tell people because I’m afraid there may be repercussions on relationships and my life. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Also, may I remain anonymous? Thank you in advance for you advice.

A. It’s possible that you are not forgetting intentionally. It may be that something is physically wrong. It would be wise to have a medical evaluation to determine what might be wrong. Discuss all of your concerns with the physician and be certain to mention that this problem is increasingly interfering with your life.

If medical problems are ruled out, then a psychological origin can be explored. A mental health evaluation will determine what may be wrong. Being evaluated by both medical and mental health professionals can assist you uncovering what may be wrong.

Have you recently experienced a life change? Trauma? Are you experiencing a great deal of stress? Recent life changes, trauma or stress might be contributing to the problem. It may also be related to obsessive-compulsive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder.

In the meantime, you may want to read about the concept of hyper-intention. The basic premise of hyper-intention is that a person’s fears or problems are made worse by their intense focus on them. Frankl says that the solution to hyper-intention is paradoxical intention. Paradoxical intention means that you do the opposite of what you would normally do in response to something that you fear. You can read more about these concepts in a book called Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.

Medical and mental health evaluations might uncover the source of your problems. Subsequently, consider psychotherapy if it has been indicated. I hope that you are able to find the help that you desire. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle
Mental Health & Criminal Justice Blog

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 18 Oct 2013

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2013). Intentional Forgetfulness. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/10/18/intentional-forgetfulness/