Sunday, November 23, 2014

Repressed Memories Are Not Real

I was very disappointed to see the Marilyn vos Savant column in today's Parade magazine. Yes, yes, I know Parade is old-school, but it's still read by millions of people, and vos Savant's column is usually good for a little bit of reality. Not this time.

E.P., the writer from Colorado Springs, is mostly asking why hypnosis can't be used to help people get over traumatic memories, and that's the part that vos Savant answers. But she ignores the writer's premise -- that "we all know" that hypnosis can retrieve suppressed memories.

That part is completely untrue, and the common belief to the contrary is harmful, as shown in a recent article in Pacific Standard magazine, titled The Most Dangerous Idea in Mental Health. Back in the days of the satanic cult "recovered" memory craze of the 1980s, researchers like Elizabeth Loftus debunked the idea.

It's too bad vos Savant couldn't spare a few lines of her response to remind everyone that what "we all know" about recovered memories is, in fact, not known at all.


Michael Leddy said...

Not smart. I once knew a person whose life was badly damaged by “recovered” memories, the products of therapy.

On a much more trivial note, vos Savant recently bungled a question about the use of so as a sentence starter. She didn’t seem to get the point of the question, which was about speakers using so as an automatic prefatory word when answering a question.

Makes me want to say that IQ ain’t nothin’ but a number.

Daughter Number Three said...

It makes me wonder if she did include a response on this point, but it was removed by the Parade editors, who don't know/don't care about the importance of the issue. Maybe I'll write to her.

Gina said...

It depends on how skillful the psychologist is in treating the person who suffered early psychological trauma, usually the reason for the repressed memories.

I had repressed memories of abuse in my childhood. They were repressed as a coping mechanism in order to insure my survival among the people who were abusing me. It wasn't until I left that environment and had reached adulthood that I felt safe from them. At that point, the memories began to emerge on their own. I didn't need hypnosis. My mind released the memories to my consciousness as I was ready to deal with them. This happens more often than not, actually, and can cause a great deal of psychic pain if the person is not getting his needed support. Then the person turns to self-medicating in some way to deal with the pain.

My therapist was skillful and experienced in treating survivors of psychological trauma. What breaks my heart and also hurts others who suffered from early psychological trauma are the therapists who are NOT skillful or experienced or they have their own unresolved psychological issues. These therapists have done damage. Unfortunately, they are the therapists who make the news and get all the attention....and damage the entire mental health community who are trying to help people heal from early psychological trauma.