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Home arrow False and "Recovered" Memories arrow False Memory Syndrome - Articles arrow Guide on How to Differentiate Between True and False Memories

Guide on How to Differentiate Between True and False Memories

It is important to differentiate between true and false "recovered" memories.  In many cases of recovered memory therapy, clients have memories of childhood sexual abuse which never happened.  False Memory Syndrome is devastating the lives of those affected and tearing families apart all over the country.

Rather than examining the memory itself, the important clues are in the WAY the memory was recovered and the effect it has had on the person.  Here are clues which would indicate a "recovered" memory is false:

    1. She [or he] often claim she never had memories of sexual or physical abuse before therapy.  (Those who HAVE been abused as children say they would love to forget the abuse, but they cannot.  As a general rule, people don't "forget" real abuse.)

    2.  She says her counselor helped her remember childhood abuse through some form of relaxation technique.

    3.  She says her memories came from reading Courage to Heal by Bass and Davis or other similar self-help books.

    4.  Her parents and siblings don't think the new-found memories are true.

    5.  The therapist suggested she cut off all contact with her parents, family, or others who do not agree with her new memories.  (1)

    6. She "remembers" being abused before the age of 2.  (Roseanne said she can "remember" being abused on the diaper table at 6 months of age.) (2)

    7.  She "remembers" experiences in the womb or in past lifetimes.

    8.  She says she was sexually abused for years and years with absolutely no memory or knowledge of it at the time, and only just "remembered" it years later.

    9.  She is now unable to carry on her daily activities, care for her family, or continue her job because of the "memories." (3)

    10.  Since recovering her memories she's been in and out of mental hospitals for depression and suicidal thoughts.

    11. She just doesn't seem to respond to the usual treatments.

    12. The therapist has given her so many prescribed drugs, she can't think straight.

    13. She is led to believe she has multiple personality disorder or dissociative identity disorder.

    14. She attends support groups that pressure for more memories.

    15. Once someone has recalled memories that are false, more and more memories seem to pour in.  As the false memories continue to flood in they become more and more horrible.

    16.  At first, the false memories involve being physically or sexually abused by just one person.  But as time goes on, she starts believing she was sexually abused by others, or even by whole groups of people.

    17.  She may have terrifying childhood memories of ritual abuse or torture, so that she would not have been able to attend school at the time.  But there is nothing in the school records about absences.  She may remember killing and eating babies, or giving birth by C-section, but there are no scars or other evidence.

    18.  Many of her "recovered memories" are beyond belief or sound like they are from the Twilight Zone.  Common sense has gone out the window.  A therapist is hurting his or her client by validating any and all "memories."

Child abuse is horrendous, but encouraging someone to believe
they have been abused when they have not, is barbaric. 

By: Barbara R. Skees, R.N., psychiatric nurse,
P.O. Box 5627, Fort Wayne, Indiana, 46895.


(1) Sometimes it is not the therapist that suggests this but other significant support persons .e.g support groups, close friends, other 'victims'.

(2) All research shows that normal infants under the age of two do not have the cerebral structure to form permanent memories.

(3) Before these 'memories' she was usually a healthy, functioning adult.  Often they go from a happy, bright individual to pan-faced, depressed, un-emotional people who find it difficult to get emotional about anything.