Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud was right when he said 'you only remember what you want to remember'.
A new study conducted by researchers from Lund University in Sweden has confirmed that we can train ourselves to forget things.
Psychology researcher Gerd Thomas Waldhauser carried out neuroimaging studies in which volunteers were asked to practice forgetting or attempting to forget facts.
It was evident from EEG measurements that the same parts of the brain became activated when the participants restrained a motor impulse, as when they suppressed a memory.
Waldhauser says forgetting could be helpful in several situations. For example, people suffering from depression often dwell on negative thoughts, which might best be repressed or forgotten.
The theory also holds significance for people with post-traumatic stress disorder, as the trauma makes it difficult for the affected person to act rationally and to resolve situations.
However, the possible consequences of a deliberate repression of memories are still not clearly established.
"We know that 'forgotten' or repressed feelings often manifest themselves as physiological reactions," said Waldhauser.
He pointed out that the volunteers were trained to forget neutral information in a controlled laboratory environment. However, training to forget a traumatic event would be more complex.
Waldhauser says the inhibition of memory eases off after a few hours. But, the more often information is suppressed, the more difficult it becomes to retrieve.