In the movie, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", the character Clementine goes to a doctor who has the extraordinary claim that he can erase the memories of that painful relationship right out of one's mind. Seem farfetched in real life?
Doctors have discovered a drug used for treating high blood pressure may also block the memories of traumatic moments in one's life. The drug propranolol inhibits adrenaline in the brain, which adversely affects the amygdala, or emotional area of memory. It allows the person to remember the facts of the incident (stored in the hippocampus), yet seem to feel neutral about the traumatic memory. The research has been replicated, and the findings have been supported.
In an article published in 2012, propranolol is being combined with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help "permanently" erase the fear/memory that is producing an anxiety disorder in the patient. According to the authors, it gives an opportunity to interfere with memory reconsolidation, and promote extinction of the memory, not just behavioral changes produced from CBT only. The findings of the study did not support the hypothesis that propranolol would result in memory extinction. "Failed" studies still build the knowledge of the field.
Will there be a time in the near future that we will be able to go to the doctor and get a prescription to get that man out of our head? As the movie shows, even though it is painful, there are wonderful memories simultaneously being destroyed. Would one want to lose both?