Shock treatment returns under newfangled name

Terrifying memories got you down? Don’t fret – get them shocked out of your system with an old method under a newfangled name called “extinction therapy.”

Horrifying memories erased through shock treatment?/Ryn Gargulinski

Horrifying memories erased through shock treatment?/Ryn Gargulinski

Here’s what happens:

A person recalls a horrifying memory and, well, becomes horrified.

That memory, however, has a brief period where it can be altered or “modified,” right after it’s recalled and before it’s checked back into the brain to be stored anew.

When it is altered with a “mild” shock on the wrist, the terror can be erased.

Memories are recalled by exposing folks to something that will trigger the horrifying memory, such as the sound of gunshots, demon groans, or whatever will bring back their specific fears.

So far, some researchers found the effects of such extinction therapy last for at least one year, with a story at saying it could possibly be a permanent alteration of the brain.

Drugs tested on animals have shown the same memory-blocking effect as the shock therapy, but those drugs just so happen to be toxic to humans. Oh well.

Some are a bit cautious about throwing extinction therapy out the world.

University of Arizona regent’s professor and cognitive scientist Lynn Nadel has been quoted in several articles concerning the procedure.

“We know that [fear] extinction tends to be context specific,” he says in an article on “If you’re using extinction on someone with post-traumatic stress disorder from the war, they might feel safe if they have a flashback in the laboratory but not in the real world.”

What the heck good is that? Why even bother with the shock treatment if the person has to sit around in a lab to feel safe anyway?

Besides, this newfangled shock treatment sounds way too creepy and a bit like the 1971 flick Clockwork Orange.

Clockwork’s main character, a gang leader named Alex, is purged of his violent tendencies by being forced to watch scenes of bloody mayhem with his eyes wired open and an electrical gadget stuck to his head as Beethoven streams lovingly in the background.

And we have to wonder what’s next – another breakthrough called lobotomy?


What do you think?

Would you trust shock treatment? Have you ever undergone any?

How do you deal with terrifying or painful memories?


About Rynski

Writer, artist, performer who specializes in the weird, wacky and sometimes creepy. Learn more at
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30 Responses to Shock treatment returns under newfangled name

  1. Jennatoolz says:

    Hello Ryn!! I’ve always wanted to watch that Clockwork Orange movie…but I haven’t got around to it. Sounds pretty interesting!

    Hmm I have a question: What if you’re terrified of shock thera–err I mean, extinction therapy? Would it work to help cure your fear? Lol

    • Rynski says:

      hiya jenna –
      i would highly recommend clockwork orange, one of my favorite flicks, for sure! although i would NOT highly rec shock therapy. never had it, but it seems like it could really screw up your head, not to mention neurotransmitters and such.
      you also bring up a VERY GOOD point – i guess those who fear shocks would not do well with “extinction therapy” – hahah.

  2. radmax says:

    Mornin’ Rynski! Face ’em, head on. If you cannot face your fears they can control you. This could lead to anxiety, paranoia or even insanity, similar to the effects of prolonged exposure to hip-hop…

    • Rynski says:

      hey there radmax –
      yes, fears faced head-on are the ones that have the best chance of subsiding, in my experience.
      facing them, however, can be a bear!
      i agree that shoving them deeper, or “pretending” to ignore them, will just make matters worse. down in the deep recesses fear tends to breed and ferment and, as you mentioned, could lead to more horrible ailments….maybe even WORSE than prolonged hip-hop exposure – hahhahah – maybe even WORSE than prolonged exposure to opera!!!

      • Jennatoolz says:

        Agreed! It’s a good idea to face your fears…and sometimes that can be a very difficult thing to do, but the feeling you get when you know you’ve conquered a fear is one of the best!

        Cheers to facing your fears!

      • Rynski says:

        yes! cheers to facing your fears.
        i’ve even gone back to places that “haunted” me for years – only to look around and realize whatever i so feared could no longer hurt me. breakthrough-o-rama. love it.

      • radmax says:

        🙂 Opera, along with psychotic passages of chaotic orchestral pieces definitely cause dementia Rynski!

      • Rynski says:

        hahhaha! i’ll agree somewhat – although i am listening to a chaotic orchestral piece right now and everything seems to be fine although i am listening to a chaotic orchestral piece right now and everything seems to be fine although i am listening to a chaotic orchestral piece right now and everything seems to be fine although i am

      • radmax says:

        Ok Rynski…I want you to move very slowly towards the stereo…that’s it, you can do it…now turn the darn thing off…good, good…you’re doing fine dear… 🙂

      • Rynski says:


  3. tiponeill says:

    The treatment in Clockwork Orange was Aversion Therapy – making something unpleasant which was enjoyed.
    This is totally different from Extinction Therapy, the goal of which is to make something unpleasant less unpleasant.
    And both are completely different from “shock therapy” which is slang for Electroconvulsive Therapy – a treatment for depression.
    As for Clockwork Orange – it is a masterpiece both as a film and as a novel, and they are so different that one needs to both read the novel and see the movie.

    • Rynski says:

      hi tiponeill, and THANK YOU for clearing up the differences between all three treatments. i think i’ll still remain a non-fan of any of the above.
      i do agree – and am a huge fan – of both the novel and movie Clockwork Orange. the novel began, for me, as a horror – as it took some time to get used to the language (although I do remember a glossary at the back of the edition i had). once into it, though, it was amazing.
      thanks again for input.

  4. leftfield says:

    It is far from clear at this point (based on the info available here) that this therapy will be helpful to people suffering from fears and phobias.  Still, this is how science advances; someone posits a hypothesis and then tests said hypothesis.  It is understood that the overwhelming majority of new ideas in any endeavor will not advance the cause.  It is also understood that rejecting ideas based on assumption stymies human progress.

    Minor issues of human behavior will often be self-resolving, but more serious issues, e.g. phobias and fears that are debilitating, require professional therapy.  This might be something that falls under the category of “facing problems head-on”, though this is a very ill-defined phrase. 

    I recall doing a class report in sixth grade on the newly discovered phenomenon of light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation, aka laser light.  My teacher’s comment at the time: “Interesting, but I don’t see how this could ever be useful.”

    • radmax says:

      “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”…all you need to know about modern psychoanalysis. Nurse Ratchet still scares the hell out of me. 😉

    • Rynski says:

      you’re so right, leftfield. and the worst thing folks can do is shut their minds to things before the full potential is realized.
      also agree therapy is a huge help for deep-seated fears and other issues that need extra attention to be resolved.
      very cool sixth grade report – what a great example! i wonder if your teacher has since changed his/her mind on the usefulness of such.

  5. Ferraribubba says:

    Hey Rynski: A Clockwork Orange? Saw it when it first came out, and I was profoundly moved by it. It’s honesty hit me right between the legs. I’ve been around violent people all my like, both in my profession and in my avocations and I could identify with Alex and his band of Drogs. Strange as it may sound, I don’t know which frightened me more . . . being inside the police barricades for 30 straight hours while covering the 1965 Watts Riots and seeing numerous dead bodies on the sidewalks and streets or having some nimrod that I had put in charge of receiving the year-end NYSE stocks on new years eve tell me that he forgot to turn the machine on and I had 2 empty pages to fill 2 hours before press start. One was danger to my life, the other could have been fatal to my career. A lobotomy was what was need that night. I’ve found that after being in as life or death situation, especially when I was a cop in the L.A. area, and after a shooting (and I was only involved in 2 in 7 years) I never felt so alive in my life. During, the fear was pumping out of my ears like an oil well gusher and I kind of like went on auto-pilot. After it was over, my knees buckled and I shook so bad I had to sit down. Maybe it’s just me, but you know, when all the reports were filled out and all the statements were taken, I went home, showered, ate a great rare steak, and had some of the best sex of my life. Too bad my girlfriend wasn’t home to share it. (That’s a joke son, to lighten things up a little bit.) Was I happy that I was part of the ending of another human being’s life? No. I was just so damn happy to still be alive. Like the old saying goes, ‘Better to be judged by 12 than to be carried by 6.’ Yer pal, Ferrari Bubba

    • Rynski says:

      wow, ferraribubba – thanks for your comment. you’ve certainly faced A LOT of terrifying stuff. each situation sounds like a fine terror all its own.
      on the press example, i actually have a poem that posits the biggest fear for the writer/artist is a
      fear comes in many flavors, for sure. glad you survived them all. nice quote at the end.

  6. Bill Reed says:

    Read “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” for information on “Annihilation Therapy” the practice of daily ECT treatments until the old personality is “annihilated.” This whole subject creeps me out; “A Clockwork Orange” indeed!

  7. azmouse says:

    Back when I was in college and taking criminal psychology and abnormal psychology, my professor and I would argue over this topic…well, the old school shock therapy. We would talk for hours over the phone in the evenings. I thought it was barbaric and she was trying to get me to see that, although it’s not needed for everyone, it had helped many people over the years.

    I still see it as ‘old school’ and creepy…like leech therapy. Stuff we used to do before we knew better.

    Clockwork Orange is my son’s favorite movie!

    • Rynski says:

      your son has excellent taste in movies, az!
      leech therapy ranks up there with shocks, for sure. yuck!
      hey – maybe the leech therapy can be combined with the memory extinction therapy, and the leeches used to suck out the parts of the brain that hold the terrifying memories? i think i’m on to something….

      • azmouse says:

        I think you are too. lol
        All sounds so medieval.
        Of course I believe women took the brunt of the unusual treatments. We were suppose to always be docile and ‘cooperative’, or if we didn’t wife/mother to people’s liking, then a little shock could take care of those things.

  8. Carolyn Classen says:

    Then there’s the 2004 movie “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” in which a couple (Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet) go to a doctor’s office to erase bad memories of their relationship.  I am surprised at your poll that so many voters so far (25%) say that they have not had any horrifying memories and that their lives are “bowls of cherries.”

    • Rynski says:

      i remember that movie! that was a good one, wasn’t it? the details are fuzzy – maybe my memory is being erased? – but i remember liking that one.

      that is a surprising number of cherry bowl lives in the poll, there…how wonderful for them. unless, of course, they are just so good at “pretending to ignore” horrific memories that the memories just faded away until a later date when they will surge up out of nowhere and make them slap a bus driver or something – hahaha.

      • azmouse says:

        I’m one of the ‘bowl of cherries’ folks. For the most part, life has been pretty easy and nice.

        I look at things my own way. Anything I’ve gone through, good or bad, was just meant to happen for my ‘big picture’, whatever that may be. I’m not particularly religious in my personal life, so I just feel I’m suppose to go through what I go through to be me. It keeps me from feeling traumatized or upset, or ‘why me’ kinda feelings. It all just had to happen.

      • Rynski says:

        sounds like you have a healthy way of looking at and getting through just about anything, azmouse! good for you!
        i agree that things are prob. all part of some grand scheme, but  that doesn’t mean some have not terrified or terrorized me.

  9. Term Papers says:

    Memories are recalled by exposing folks to something that will trigger the horrifying memory, such as the sound of gunshots, demon groans, or whatever will bring back their specific fears.

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