How to Forget a Spoiler

Did you accidentally miss a “spoiler alert” in a review of a new television show? Or did a friend bring up a key plot point at the end of a book you’re still in the middle of reading? When you already know what’s going to happen in a story, it can be difficult to enjoy movies, books, or television shows. Luckily, there are a number of mental exercises you can use to try and forget a spoiler—like repeatedly blocking the thought until it fades, or using a ritual release. 

Blocking Thoughts of the Spoiler

Understand that blocking a thought is difficult.

Scientists have found that if they explain to people in advance that blocking a thought is a difficult process, it actually prevents “rebounding” (when the thought returns, but even stronger). So, before you get started, acknowledge that this process won’t be simple or instantaneous.

  • Don’t get frustrated if the thought of the spoiler returns throughout the process. Don’t blame yourself or get angry. Stay calm and remember that it will take time.

Let your mind go blank when you think of the spoiler.

You need a strategy for handling the thought when it pops into your mind. Start by ignoring the thought of the spoiler completely when it comes. Instead, think of nothing—picture a white wall or a blank sheet of paper.

  • Memory suppression comes more easily to certain people. If this mental exercise causes you trouble, consider moving on to the next step.

Replace the thought of the spoiler with a different one.

Try substituting the unwanted thought with a different one whenever it pops up. You could replace the memory of the spoiler with the plot of another TV show that you’ve already watched, for example.

  • An alternative is to fill your mind with opposing thoughts. Replace details of the thought with other details that are very different. For example, if you’re trying not to think of the color blue, think of red or green things, instead.

Repeat the process on a daily basis.

Forgetting a spoiler won’t happen immediately. To improve your chances of forgetting the information completely, push it out of your consciousness on a daily basis. Psychology experiments suggest it could take about a month. Over a longer period, practicing mental blocks may make it easier for you to suppress a memory.

  • This entire process of blocking thoughts can also be applied to sensory details associated with the memory of the spoiler, rather than the spoiler itself. These details might include: the face of a friend who told you the spoiler, a particular song playing in the background, or the location where you heard the spoiler mentioned. Try blocking these related memories instead of the spoiler itself.
  • Scientists have shown that once you’ve destroyed the mental framework surrounding a memory, it will be easier for the memory of the spoiler itself to fade.

Erasing the Spoiler with a Ritual Release

Picture a part of the spoiler that you want to forget.

A ritual release is a mental exercise that can help you forget a memory. To begin the exercise, transform a scene from the spoiler into a detailed mental snapshot. It could be an old-timey black-and-white photograph, or a more recent color printout. Either way, make sure the mental photograph is a three-dimensional object in your mind.

Imagine that you have set the mental photograph on fire.

Start by picturing the edges of the photo curling up and turning brown. Watch as the fire burns through the mental image until the entire photograph has finally turned to ash and crumbled away.

  • A ritual release can also be conducted using another mental image in place of the imaginary photograph. For example, you could imagine the spoiler as a car sinking into a lake or as an ice cube slowly melting away in the sun.

Repeat the ritual regularly.

The memory of the spoiler may not disappear immediately. If so, repeat the mental exercise daily until the details begin to fade away.

  • It may take about a month for the process to take hold.
  • This mental exercise may not work for everyone since old memories are never completely erased.

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