Monday, March 23, 2020


By Mary Kennedy                                                 

Do you remember when Amy Klobuchar "forgot" the name of the president of Mexico in the Democratic debates? People used the word "forget" loosely and even Senator Klobuchar said sadly, "I forgot."

Here's the thing, she didn't really forget. We've all had these momentary lapses. We don't really "forget" the information we're trying to retrieve, it just temporarily escapes us. How is this possible?

Memories are fragile.  Memory includes flashbacks to your childhood days at the beach to a "note to self" reminder to pick up cat food on the way home.  Without memory, we'd never learn from past experiences and it's essential for our sense of self. Here's a beach scene that I remember from trips to Emerald Isle when my kids were young.

As we get older (spoiler alert, this is going to happen to all of us!), retrieval takes a bit longer. You don't "forget" the information, it just takes longer to access it. I always tell my patients not to be discouraged or frustrated if this happens. It seems that the best thing to do is back away from the task for awhile. The word or phrase will come to you at a later time. Chasing it just delays it!

There's some evidence that some memories are stored phonetically. Here's an example. When I was visiting friends in New Mexico recently, my friend and I were blanking on the name George Clooney. We could picture his face, but we couldn't come up with his name. I'm sure that's happened to you at some time. Here's how it was resolved. 

My friend said tentatively, "Can you think of his first name?"
"No," I answered, "but it has a hard sound, like a G or a C. Maybe a K. Or maybe that's the last name."
She thought for a moment ."Could it be a G or a C for both names?"
We looked at each other and said in unison, "George Clooney!"

We didn't "forget" who George Clooney was, we were just temporarily blanking on his name.

The next time you have one of these lapses, just go with the flow and don't stress out over it. Chasing it is a fool's errand. It will come to you in time, I promise!

Until next time, happy memories during these difficult days.

Mary Kennedy



catladymac said...

ow ! This happens t o me often enough that I was beginning to worry. Thanks for this !

Ashley Montgomery said...

This happens to me all the time!

Dr. Mary Kennedy said...

Don't worry, it's completely normal! Thanks for stopping by, Catlady and Ashley!