Conscious Forgetting

To forget means to aver from memory, to refuse to dwell — in other words, to let go, to loosen one’s hold, particularly on memory. To forget does not mean to make yourself brain-dead. Conscious forgetting means letting go of the event, not insisting it stay in the foreground, but rather moving it off a stage, allowing it to be relegated to the background.

We practice conscious forgetting by refusing to summon up the fiery material, we refuse to recollect. To forget is an active, not a passive, endeavor. It means to not haul up certain materials or turn them over and over, to not work oneself up by repetitive thoughts, pictures, or emotions. Conscious forgetting means willfully dropping the practice of obsessing, intentionally outdistancing and losing sight of it, not looking back, thereby living in a new landscape, creating new life and new experiences to think about instead of the old ones. This kind of forgetting does not erase memory, it lays the emotion surrounding the memory to rest.

— Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD, Women Who Run With the Wolves, p. 402

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