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Home arrow False and "Recovered" Memories arrow False Memory Syndrome - Articles arrow Recovered Memory Therapy and False Memories

Recovered Memory Therapy and False Memories

Article Index
Recovered Memory Therapy and False Memories
Initiation of Patients into RMT
Generating False Memories
The Dark Side of Recovery
The Care and Maintenance of False Memories
How Memory Really Works
Why Recovered Memory Therapy is Bad Therapy
Other Kinds of FMS
A Word About the Future

How Memory Really Works

In Freud's theory of "repression" the mind automatically banishes traumatic events from memory to prevent overwhelming anxiety.  Freud further theorized that repressed memories cause "neurosis," which could be cured if the memories were made conscious.  While all this is taught in introductory psychology courses and has been taken by novelists and screenwriters to be a truism, Freud's repression theory has never been verified by rigorous scientific proof.

Freud, were he alive today, would be traumatized to see how RMT has redefined his pet concept.  While Freud talked of the repression of single traumatic episodes, today's therapists maintain that dozens of similar traumatic episodes occurring over years are repressed with 100% efficiency.

The well known syndrome of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder shows us that verifiable traumatic events, rather than disappearing from memory, leave trauma victims haunted by intrusive memories in which the victim relives the trauma.  For those who were in Nazi concentration camps or underwent torture as POWs in Vietnam, this can become a serious lifelong problem.

People forget most of what occurs to them, including some events that were pleasant or significant to them at the time.  If an event is lost from memory, there is no scientific way to prove whether it was "repressed" or simply forgotten.  And there is no reason that memories of sexual abuse should be handled any differently than childhood memories of physical abuse or of emergency surgery.

Events that have slipped away from memory cannot be recalled with the accuracy of a videotape.  Individuals forget not only insignificant events in their entirety, but also significant events.  Some events (traumatic or not) are recalled, but with significant details altered.

A study of children whose school was attacked by a sniper showed that some who were not on the school grounds later insisted they had personal recollections of being in school during the attack.  These false memories apparently were inspired by exposure to the stories of those who truly experienced the trauma.

Memories can be deliberately distorted in adults by presenting a display of visual information, and later exposing subjects to verbal disinformation about what they saw.  This disinformation often becomes incorporated into memory, contaminating the ultimate memories that are recalled.

To be sure, some who enter therapy were abused as children, but they have always remembered this abuse.  They do not need special help in "memory recovery" to tell the therapist what happened to them.