Bliss is in the Forgetting

What you know about memory is entirely wrong. It’s time for a new script to replace the old one.

Anthony Fieldman
10 min readMay 14, 2022


Blissful © Anthony Fieldman 2016

They say ignorance is bliss.

Most of us use the expression as a cautionary tale: that the burden of memory can be overwhelming. It’s true. The world is full of people who have problems letting go of the past, even when that past is filled with trauma—with things we’d rather forget, if only we knew how.

Language is ripe with expressions of advice for letting go and moving on.

Live and let live. Get over yourself. What’s done is done. Let go or be dragged. Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today. And, my favorite, the journey is inevitable; the baggage, optional.

And yet, many people suffer—in ways large and small—from an unwillingness or inability to do what they know is for their own good.

Why is that?

The Meaning We Make

There are many reasons we form, then drag, memories around with us. One of the biggest ones is our near-universal penchant for assigning value to our experiences, primarily as a means of understanding our place among others: our relative social currency—or worth.

Belonging—or its cousin, acceptance—is one of the three drivers of all human activity. We are, after all, a purely social species, our identities inextricably linked to the context of others’. Smart. Attractive. Wealthy. Annoying. Funny. Sensitive. Weird. Caring. Worthy. Unloveable. Strong. Talented. Second-class. Vain. Selfish. There isn’t one descriptive adjective we use for people that could exist or carry meaning outside of social life.

Everything is relative.

And so, our minds are in a constant state of meaning-making, looking to understand then harness the lessons—good and bad—that help us belong.

Most of this activity is fed by fear; the fear of not belonging. Our memories are a roadmap of safe and unsafe roads: what we say; how we dress; who we trust; how we think others see us; how our choices and attributes measure up to others’; and whether we feel worthy of membership in the clan, or are satisfied with our specific place in it.



Anthony Fieldman

Architect | Photographer | Writer | Philosopher | Polyglot | Windmill Jouster | Nomade Civilisée