• Issue 87 / May - June 2012

    Poor Memory and Its Causes

    Hakan Coruh

    Memory is one of the purposes of the brain, and it is described as the ability to protect acquired information consciously and connect it with the past (Mayda, 2010). Having a good memory is a crucial ability in everyone's life. We all know of individuals and scholars who have strong memory, so remarkable that they have never forgotten any information they learned in the past. Simonides of Ceos who lived 5th century BC was able to keep in his memory thousands of poems. Cicero was known for his ability to remember names. Zayd bin Thabit, a companion of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, mastered Hebrew in 15-20 days. Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (d. 1960) also had a very strong memory. His teacher, Fethullah Efendi, in Siirt, modern Turkey, had decided to test Bediuzzaman's memory and handed him a work called the Maqamat al-Hariri (Sessions of Hariri: a book of fifty short stories written by Abu Muhammad al Qasim ibn Ali al-Hariri [1054-1122]). Bediuzzaman was able to repeat everything by heart after reading a page just once. His teacher stated his amazement by saying: "It is indeed rare, that this degree of memory and intelligence are combined in one person." Of course, everyone wishes to have such a good memory; however, why do so many people complain about forgetfulness and weakness of memory?

    Nowadays, forgetfulness has become a very common problem among both young and older people (Bambroo, 2010). There are various elements that lead to forgetfulness and poor memory; carelessness, not knowing the principles of memorization, and not using information are some of them (Tarhan, 2007). Therefore, the factors that cause weakness of memory are extremely critical. This article elucidates the causes of poor memory from emotional aspects such as depression, stress, and a confused mind as well as the behavioral aspects of alcohol and drug addiction, and alternative religious inspirations to help tackle the causes of bad memory.

    Firstly, depression and a stressful lifestyle are deeply critical causes of bad memory and can lead to forgetfulness (Bambroo, 2010). Today depression has become a very common disease that can occur at any age. There are many reasons causing depression. Events like loss of a beloved person are usually accompanied by depression and result in problems with memory (MYLN, 2008). In addition, all negative emotions such as anxiety and anger can hamper the ability of our brains to remember. In particular, depression is the primary negative emotion to influence our memory because it interferes with our ability to concentrate (Edmonds, 2009). Some people might keep forgetting things, even though they need to concentrate to be able to work or study. Turning negative emotions that come from depression into a positive philosophy of life will aid the memorization ability.

    Secondly, a confused mind is one of the most significant reasons for poor memory. Every day we get new information from everywhere, and we are exposed to more knowledge than we need. Even though some of them can be beneficial, most are useless to the effect that they dominate over the useful ones. Some scholars support the idea that mental pollution is one of the main reasons for poor memory nowadays (G├╝len, 2007).

    Next, some experts highlight that neglecting the emotional dimension is another reason for poor memory. A theater actor perfectly memorizes his role because he learns to pretend the emotions. Interest enhances emotional power, therefore it is said that interest is the teacher of learning. The left part of the brain does logical functions; however, the right part of the brain carries out emotional and artistic functions (Tarhan, 2007). In addition, Prof. Robert Ornstein, from the University of California, explains that people who use both parts of their brain in a balanced way, have five times more brain capacity than others (Tarhan, 2007). Therefore, using only the left hemisphere of the brain and neglecting emotions can result in having a weak memory, as well as forgetting information in a short time. For example, if we memorize five words without using emotional dimension, we can save them for a little time; however, if we create connections and acronyms among them or produce a story, these kinds of emotional aspects help us to save them for a long time.

    Furthermore, alcohol and drug addiction can weaken the human memory. It has long been known that cannabis (an illegal drug, "marijuana," made from the dried leaves and flowers of the hemp plant) causes memory loss by acting on the hippocampus, which is the area in the brain that rules most of our cognitive functions (Hood, 2009). Moreover, according to scientific research, heavy alcohol use clearly damages retrospective memory, namely, the learning, preservation, and recovery of previously presented materials (Buddy T., 2006). Furthermore, excessive alcohol consumption can result in blackouts-periods of temporary memory loss or amnesia. When a person consumes alcohol, the body immediately starts to break it down. The brain receives less oxygen when alcohol is present, and alcohol has a damaging effect on the central nervous system (Wellness Trader, 2010).

    Religious inspirations, as well as religious life can help us cope with poor memory. According to Shatibi, an Andalusian Muslim scholar, there are five main purposes of the religions. They are protection of religion, protection of life, protection of progeny, protection of the mind, and protection of wealth. All religions and nations may observe these higher objectives (Shatibi, 1388). In this respect, all actions that might harm the mind are prohibited by Islam, and all activities that lead to the development of mind are recommended. Alcohol use and drug abuse are prohibited because they damage the mind. Moreover, the depression and stresses that often accompany modern day life can be overcome by remembering to place trust in God in every situation regardless if it is good or bad. As Bediuzzaman indicates "Those who attain true belief can challenge the universe, and in proportion to their belief's strength, be relieved of the pressures of events. Relying on God, they travel safely through the mountainous waves of events in the ship of life. Having entrusted their burdens to the Absolutely Powerful One's Hand of Power, they voyage through the world comfortably until their last day" (Nursi, 2010).

    Hakan Coruh is a PhD student in Qur'anic exegesis at ACU National, Melbourne, Australia.


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