Intentional Forgetting and Accidental Remembering – Gail Kenning

The importance of remembering, and not forgetting, is paramount, today. Media, devices, and a renewed focus on story-telling encourage us to ‘capture’ memories and to ‘hold on to them’. Neurological disorders such as amnesia and dementia cause alarm because they appear to threaten the essence of who we believe we are – our memories. However, forgetting is a healthy part of brain activity, and what we forget and remember, and when and how, reflects concerns, needs and priorities. 

Gail used auto-ethnographic approaches to understand what we remember and what we forget in our everyday lives. She used simplified ‘life-logging’ approaches over a period of time and analysed her memories of the days’ activities at the end of each day, after a week, and after a month. 

The research raises issues around what is irretrievably, forgotten and what is temporarily forgotten, and what is seemingly forgotten only to be remembered when triggered by a person, sensation, object, experience or word. The work builds on understandings of the differences between recall and remembering. It shows how acknowledging differences in memory can support in the recognition of personhood in people living with dementia—who have impaired explicit memory, but where implicit or emotional memory is retained.