Does anger dependence lead to memory loss?
“My venerable lord,” replied Agamemnon King of Men, “the account of my blind folly that you have given us is wholly true. Blinded I was—I do not deny it myself.”—Homer, The Iliad
I once knew a musician who forgot how to play the guitar when he quit drinking. Although the guy had been a daily drinker since his mid-teens (when he learned how to play guitar), the booze didn’t really become a problem till his late twenties. By his early thirties, things had gotten really ugly. Alas, after crashing yet another car, and yet another relationship, he knew it was time to call it quits. But then something really weird happened: this guy, who had played in numerous Montreal bands over the years, couldn’t seem to remember how to play the guitar. Songs that he had played hundreds (if not thousands) of times were now foreign to him. His theory—which I thought crazy at the time—was that the knowledge of how to play the guitar was stored in a part of his brain that could be accessed only via alcohol. Regardless of the reason, the poor guy had to learn how to play the guitar again from scratch, much as a friend of mine had to relearn how to speak after he suffered a stress-induced stroke.
I’ve since heard similar stories from other musicians—so much so, in fact, that I’ve come to believe that it’s probably true. When you’re sufficiently drunk—or sufficiently angry—you’re not exactly yourself. It’s almost as if you’re another person. And, alas, what Dr. Jekyll remembers, and what Mr. Hyde remembers, aren’t always the same thing. That’s why people often find it hard to remember crazy things that they did when they were drunk, and that’s why people often find it hard to remember horrible things they said when they were angry. I used to suspect that people were just lying when they said they didn’t remember. Used to think they were just embarrassed. But now I think they’re telling the truth: they really don’t remember. And that’s scary. Because we all know that we’re not ourselves when we’re wasted, but few of us realize that the same is probably true when we’re in the middle of a temper tantrum.