Memory, worry and depression


If you’re worried about memory and fear that may be damaged beyond repair than give some thought to something you know quite well – remembering is one of those processes where the more you try to remember something the worse it gets. Trying to remember is always a fruitless process. If someone says to you, “what kind of refrigerator do you have?” The answer either comes to you are it does not. If it does not, trying to remember will produce nothing. You have to wait until the answer comes suddenly and spontaneously into your mind. Memory is a spontaneous process. It is not something you can control.


Of course you can discover some ways of encouraging the spontaneous ideas to appear. Witness that common exchange between mother and child.

“Where is my schoolbag?”


Where did you have it last?”

The wise child should realize that the mother is not being obstructive and difficult, but is encouraging the child to think about the places and activities associated with the bag and then the memory and perhaps the bag may reappear. We cannot force a memory out of our mind like an inch of toothpaste  out of the tube, but we can create conditions in which the memory may spontaneously appear.

Many of my depressed clients (Dorothy Rowe’s)are not greatly pleased when I point out to them that, depression quite apart their ability to remember recent events is decreasing because they are getting older. But of course this  is what happens to all of us, and most of us adapt to this change by finding systematic ways of reminding ourselves of things that we need to remember. I organize my work by using a thick notepad where I note down all the things I have to do and all the information that in earlier years I would’ve remembered without difficulty. I also write lists of work to be prepared,  and then the pleasure of crossing items off the list. I never go shopping without a list, and if I find that there is something at home that I need to bring to work I put a note in my makeup bag to remind me when I’m getting dressed and for the next morning. As well as helping my memory, all this list writing helps me feel that I have my life well organized and well controlled.

But sometimes all this organization is threatened by events over which I have no control. Then I start to worry, and it is then that I have to find, yet again, that peaceful place within myself.   Dorothy Rowe:   Depression: the way out of your prison. 2nd edition New York  1983, 1996.

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