Amnesia. The word is probably not unfamiliar to you. Amnesia has
been used as a skeleton for story outline in innumerable films,
where the hero or heroine suffers a shock or an accident and cannot
remember the past. Well, at least this portion is not a figment of
the director’s or script writer’s imagination. It is a fact that
amnesia is a state of loss of memory by a person. He cannot recall
his identity or anything about his past. The loss may be permanent
As we’ve seen in the movies, one type of
amnesia results from an injury to the head. The person cannot recall
the accident or the events following the accident. He may, however,
still be able to carry on his activities normally and continue
remaining aware of his surroundings. In these cases, unless a
portion of the brain has been damaged, memory usually returns within
a few days.
A second kind of amnesia is called
hysterical amnesia. This is a condition, when a person removes
himself from a situation he can’t bear in his personal life.
Normally, we give expression to stress and pain in some form or the
other. We either show anger and disappointment or break into a sweat
or burst into tears. Some people, however, react differently. They
prefer to shut themselves off from the situation.
What happens is that the anxiety related to
the situation is so acute that the person is forced into forgetting
everything. By forgetting his anxiety, he also forgets so many other
things, including his identity. It is almost as if the anxiety and
pain did not happen to him, but to someone else. He assumes a
new identity that seems to be totally severed from his past. He may
appear to be normal otherwise, but still be unable to recall
anything from the past. He will act very normal, without attracting
great notice, or go from place to place, wandering restlessly,
still in his assumed new identity.
Then as if by magic, he may suddenly
recover his memory. When he is ready to face things, his mind will
suddenly remember things at a small trigger. When this does not
happen, professional help, the help of a psychiatrist, is usually
sought. An amazing part of this is that when he recalls his past and
is “normal” again, he will forget events that took place during the
period he suffered amnesia. Isn’t it amazing that the brain, which
weighs just about three pounds, can wreck such changes in us?
Well, as they say, it is not the size of
the brain that is important, but how developed it is. The elephant’s
brain is bigger than a human being’s but this is not to say that it
is better developed. Shall we look at the size of the brains of some
animals? The earthworm has a brain the size of a pinhead, while that
of the rabbit is thimble-sized.