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Misconceptions About Body Memories

[Excerpt from Survivor Psychology: The Dark Side of a Mental Health Mission by Susan Smith, pp. 169-170.  Upton Books and SIRS Mandarin, Boca Raton, FL.  Copyright © 1995.  Order it from Amazon.com.]


Six Categories of Misconceptions About Body Memories

According to the survivor manifestoes and the answers given by the therapists in my survey, there are six common categories of misconceptions regarding body memories.  Survivor psychologists tend to explain body memories as:

1) a "sensory memory" or somatic storage mode in which physical symptoms of repressed memories manifest in variety of ways from cancer to pimples; 2) a biological explanation of memory; 3) the memory stigmata theory; 4) a variation of the slogan popularized by The Courage to Heal — "The body remembers what the mind forgets;" 5) the logical fallacy of the false cause; and 6) mumbo jumbo.

Category #1: Somatic Complaints/Sensory Memory Storage Theory-

Diseases, various types of pain and other somatic sensations are reframed as "body memories."

Category #2: Cellular/Biological Memory Storage Theory-

The therapists and counselors talk vaguely about "cellular memory storage," yet few were able to offer any explanation for how the cells "stored" memories.  The study subjects who attempted to explain cellular memory storage offered sadly deluded and scientifically illiterate explanations.

Category #3: Memory Stigmata Theory-

Various mundane physiological reactions are literally interpreted by the therapist as actual representations of events that had occurred in the past.  Physiological or emotional reactions during regressions, trances, abreactions and formal hypnosis are considered "proof" of repressed abuse.

Category #4: The Courage to Heal Slogan-

The body memory theories are variations of the slogan "The body remembers what the mind forgets."

Category #5: The Logical Fallacy of the False Cause Theory--

Creating an explanation for a physiological/emotional/psychological syndrome or a mysterious or mundane event, after the fact.  Making sense out of that which had no explanation and usually needed none before traumatic reframing and survivor logic indoctrination.  From the transcripts it is obvious that these therapists are reframing medical diagnoses in emotional terms, and apparently taking a lengthy, but superficial medical history from clients.  In some cases therapists appear to be acting outside of the range of their profession and even diverting clients away from medical doctors and medical help.  This is not only unethical, it may be dangerous.

Category #6: Mumbo Jumbo, or completely meaningless or indecipherable explanations.

The complete transcripts of questions 10, 11, 12 and 12A of the structured interview survey follow this section and the misconceptions are highlighted in bold type and numbered to show how prevalent these six categories of misconceptions are and to show how they are used as persuasion tactics on clients using the three models of persuasion.  Various coercive therapeutic modalities and ideologies have already been explained.  The modalities and ideologies are also named, so expect to see "state dependent learning theory," "attentional bias," "selective reinforcement" of so-called symptoms, and so on, in parentheses along side the therapist's answers as well.  The approximate percentages of clients each therapist claims experience body memories is also highlighted in bold type.  The questions pertaining to body memories are listed below.

Question #10: Could you describe the concept of body memories?

Question #11: Could you explain how the body stores memories?

Question #12: Approximately what percentage of your clients experience body memories?

Question #12A: How can you tell when a client is experiencing a body memory?