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Why shoving things under the rug doesn't work

Early in my training, I had to take several cognitive psychology lessons. One of the most classical cognitive psychology phenomena I learned about was what is called the Ziegarnik effect. A century ago, Zeigarnik lived and worked in Vienna. She had many questions about memory and how it worked. One day, she was watching waiters at a café take complicated orders from 10+ people and not write everything down, and remember. She was amazed that the waiters could do that. So she did an experiment. She tested the memory twice: once before they took the order, and once after. Before passing orders to the chef, the chefs recalled the order perfectly. After they passed it on, they forgot it. We humans can’t lose a memory until we digest it.

What does this mean for us? If we can't fully process something that is meaningful to us, we can't let it go. But once we process meaningful things in the past and what they mean for us. We all have things we have been avoiding for years. The same principle applies to couples therapy, too. We must process regrettable incidents. Shoving things under the rug doesn't work.


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