Does Holding Back Emotions Harm Memory?

Holding back emotions are truly poison for your mental and physical well-being. It is the most common reason people suffer from addictions, depression and other disorders. So, when we hold on to emotions and don’t express them we are doing a lot of damage to ourselves that can have lasting effects on our ability to memorize or retain memories.

According to a study conducted on female undergraduates at Stanford University, emotions that are not allowed to be expressed have negatively affected memory. The students were shown slides of people who had different types of injuries — some slight and some very serious. They were asked to react to the slides either normally, or to show no emotion at all. The results, published in The Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, showed that it didn’t make any difference the degree of the injuries, if emotions were suppressed, cognition (the processing of information) – especially short-term memory, was negatively affected.

Researchers in the Stanford study, Drs. Jane Richards and James Gross, stated that although cardiovascular changes do occur in the body when emotions are suppressed, that does not have an effect on the memory. They believe memory is impaired because of an unrelated shift in the brain during emotional suppression the redirects the brain’s neurons away from memory processing.

Numerous studies have found that emotions DO have a powerful impact on how to remember, and your memory. We remember things in our past most vividly from emotional and sensory events (autobiographical memories) — like the excitement and flavor of the hot dogs at your first baseball game with your father; or your grandmother’s cooking and the fun you had with your cousins at the big holiday dinners. These events are recalled with more clarity and detail than other events that have no emotional impact in your life.

Developmentally, emotion-enhanced memory retention can go back to our early ancestors, who used trial and error as a way to find their way in the world. Survival depended on repeating what worked, and discarding what didn’t, in life or death situations. Genetically, this “flight or flight” instinct became imbedded in all species, including human, and allows us to continue to evolve, and instinctively retain, what our ancestors have learned and passed on to us.

When you go to a party and meet a bunch of new people, which faces are you going to remember?   You remember he man who told the funniest jokes, the woman who made you angry because she was rude to the waiter — the ones who had an emotional impact on you.

Emotions and memory are very closely related. The limbic system, a portion of the emotion system of the brain, is in charge of transferring information into memory.   From years of experiments and surgical experience, we now know that the main location for this transfer is a portion of the temporal lobe called the hippocampus — absolutely necessary for making new memories! The hippocampus is affected first with Alzheimer’s Disease, and is known to be directly affected by estrogen levels (which may be why more women get Alzheimer’s than men.).

The body has the ability to eliminate toxins automatically through its system, while the brain is not so fortunate. We can eliminate toxic thoughts by expressing them, but when we repress them we are holding those poisons in, and it has an effect on our ability to learn, memorize and retain memories. The best way to improve memory is to identify the toxins, find a way to deal with them, and then eliminate them from our psyche.

So, holding on to our emotions influence our ability to memorize or retain what we hear, see or learn. Our emotions guide our memory, and that impact can be good or bad, but suppressing them is never a positive!

 Memory Training


Wikipedia: Emotion and Memory – Suppressing Emotions During Unpleasant Events May Affect Memory Recall –

Ezine: Holding Back Emotions Can Cause Anxiety, Depression And Insomnia – Journal Writing Can Help – Memory, Learning, and Emotion: the Hippocampus –

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