HSAM—a Medical Condition Where People Can Not Forget
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While the Bible depicts forgetting mostly in dire terms related to apostasy, it also presents some instances when it is a blessing. There are some things we should forget. We do not want to be like the fifty-five individuals in the U.S. who have been diagnosed with hyperthymesia, also known as Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, HSAM. These people spend an excessive amount of time thinking about their pasts and display extraordinary ability to recall specific events.
Alexandre Wolfe is one of the fifty-five. In an interview for National Public Radio, she described how she remembers every detail of a mundane activity like driving to Target for groceries which occurred more than ten years ago. She remembers what she wore and ate every day for the past decade. She remembers if the fan in the bedroom was running on this date last year. Sometimes this extraordinary ability is an advantage, but at other times—many other times—it is a curse.
One interviewee in the NPR report says that he remembers all the wrongs done against him and all the wrongs he has committed, and that very scenario is the basis of an episode from the television show House. A middle aged character with hyperthymesia remembers everything she said and did since the onset of puberty. She also remembers the wrongs people have done to her and those memories haunt and harass her. The episode demonstrates, as the NPR story states, that "we need to forget as much as we need to remember."
Jeffrey Arthurs, South Hamilton, Massachusetts; sources: Alix Spiegel, "When Memories Never Fade, The Past Can Poison the Present," NPR (12-27-15); House, Season 7, Episode 12, "You Must Remember This."