In the 2004 move Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Joel Barish attempts to undergo a quick procedure to erase his failed relationship with his lost love Clementine from his memory after she had already erased him. The company which does this work, Lacuna, performs this task with a machine and in a single night while the patient sleeps. They claim that though this is in fact brain damage, it is only to the extent of a heavy night of drinking. The promise of healing wounds with voluntary, specific, retrograde amnesia may seem like a glorious idea, but realistically this could never happen in real life.
Because of the complexity of the brain and its structures, finding and correctly destroying the areas and only the areas which deal with an ex-lover would be impossible. Inducing a retrograde amnesia would require greater destruction and deterioration of the brain, and could never be nearly so specific. A traumatic enough event may induce a certain level of repression, but unlikely would it erase the complete memory of a person. The complete erasure of painful memories is not possible especially due to their emotional nature, however there is a drug called propranolol which blocks the effect of adrenaline on receptors and consequently inhibits the emotionally arousing part of memories. In a study where a control group was given propranolol after a car crash while the others were given the placebos, those who took the actual drug had little response to tapes recreating the accident. Forty-three percent of those who had taken the placebo still showed a physical reaction.
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind we are lead to ask ourselves whether it is better to have loved and lost or to erase both the pain and the joy of the experience completely - this question is also often pondered by researchers and philosophers. I believe, as this film also expresses at its core, that it is better to remember the hurt and the happiness than to exist as a stoic shell of a human.
^Lacuna's machine erasing Joel's memories of Clementine