Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Resurfacing Memory Lane

At the gentle prodding of my husband, BJ, I finally emptied out the last of the boxes since our move in March. For six months I have been inches away from completing the task yet I had thousands of reasons why I just didn’t have the time.  It’s embarrassing to admit but for six months there have been five boxes neatly stacked against one of my living room walls. I just got used to seeing them like they had become some weird part of the furniture.

I sorted through some articles I had saved in the last box and stopped to read one in particular. This is usually what takes me so long to finish a task. Something that is totally unrelated to what I am doing leads me away. Far, far away.

“What are you doing?”

I looked up from the article and Mr. Organized and Focused, was standing in front of me with his hands on his hips.

“I’m doing what you asked.” I placed the article on the stack with the others. “Almost done.”

He laughed and gave me a pat on the head. “Thank you.”

He knows me so well.

It was the title of the 2009 article published by Reuters that sparked my interest. ‘Scientists Find a Way to Block Fearful Memories,’ and I could hardly wait to read it. It seems that there is a period of time, ten minutes to six hours, that a fearful memory can be altered before it is stored in the brain.

Once I finished putting everything in its place, I decided to put this blocking fearful memories theory to the test. I recreated the experiment described in the article. I painted a blue square on a piece of paper. Then asked BJ to give me a mild shock each time I looked at it. He was kind enough to use the 110 outlet instead of the 220. Once we had created the fear memory the first half of the experiment was complete. We made ice cream sundaes with French vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup and chopped nuts. Actually, the ice cream wasn’t part of the test but we needed something to do during the 10 minute waiting period. Again I looked at the blue square, this time without the shock. Supposedly, we had reversed the fear memory.  

I was run over by the family car when I was three years old. I can remember getting into the car, pulling on the gearshift until it thunked from Park into Neutral. The car rolled backward slowly at first then it picked up speed. I panicked. I tried to get out of the car only to lose my balance and ended up hanging by the inside handle.  In the next moment I heard my mother screaming. My hand slipped from the handle and my right leg swung beneath the left front tire.  What I remember most clearly on the way to the hospital was asking my mother if the doctor was going to give me a shot. I hated shots.

From then on, our family doctor called me lucky. Another quarter of an inch higher and my pelvis would have been crushed. Since I was very bendy at three, my leg wasn’t even broken, just badly bruised.

Later the same year I was standing at our front door screen. My mother had it double locked to prevent me from repeating the joy ride. A stray dog happened by, looked in the door, through the back window, and saw our cat playing in the yard. He bounded toward the door and used his body as a battering ram. The door came completely off its hinges and I was trapped beneath it while the dog stood on it barking at, well nothing. The cat was gone.

I don’t have a fear of cars, gearshifts, driveways, tires or getting shots. I’m not afraid of strange dogs running by me or cats or even screen doors, but I’ll tell you what, now every time I see a blue square, I scream bloody murder.