Repressed Memories Revisited

by M.H.

I recently received this material as an e-mail from a therapist friend to whom I had sent a copy of the recent Washington Post article entitled, "Was Repressed Memory a 19th-Century Creation?" He is credentialed both as physician and clinical psychologist and among his interests are primal therapy, hypnotherapy, evolutionary principles and neurology.
-- John A. Speyrer, Editor, The Primal Psychotherapy Page

I just read the smear piece on repressed memories of trauma. There has been for a couple of decades at least now an attempt by drug companies and abusive individuals in the spook circles to frankly discredit trauma theory altogether hitting several birds with one dirty stone.

By discrediting the very real effects of trauma on the individual and the memory function they will allow future generations of kids to be abused or simply manipulated without any consequence for the abuser in court or in the eyes of public opinion. Another greedy goal is to discredit serious indepth therapies in order to boost massive drug sales on the reductionistic assumption that all mental issues are biochemical and genetic in origin and thus drugs are the only real cure.

This false theory will allow the whole population to be abused in various subtle ways yet no real steps will be taken to correct the psychosocial and economic roots of psychological disorders on the basis that all these symptoms and depressions are chemical in nature and not due to abusive and traumatic environments.

They will claim that absent mothers and broken families, etc., have no effect on mental illness so just push medications and keep the healthy economy running even when the reality of the matter is that newer generations of kids are very unhappy and confused, overweight and ill in many ways due to negligent parenting covered up by politically and economically correct concepts.

In reality the economy is such that mothers can't mother any more due to working and some of them don't even want to mother or even give birth as evidenced by increasing rates of unnecessary C sections they ask for. if the family and parenting function is to be restored then the incomes will dwindle and the consumerism cycle will falter to the anger and rage of many parties who erroneously believe that cold consumerism is happiness.

Other parties are simply greedy and don't care about psychopathology or suffering. and why bother to do therapy or change the pathogenic lifestyle when you can drug peoples' sorrows with lucrative meds? Meds themselves have a place but with prolonged overuse as a fix they are the easy way out of the massive epidemic of unhappiness and psychopathology.

Deep therapy is harder to do, exposes the social illnesses and abuses and demands sweeping changes to the socioeconomic system to prevent negligence and suffering which are the roots of the psychiatric suffering. Such an approach would be costly and require courage to change oneself and the pathogenic system.

So forget it. just tell them its genetic and chemical and use only the lucrative drug modality. Also there is always denial operating in the society as a whole. admitting trauma theory is admitting wrongdoing and then guilt or shame, so people would rather resist the trauma theory of psychopathology so as to minimize guilt feelings too.

It is a multifaceted story, but trauma theory is rock solid and soon with MRI scans and PET scans exploring brains before and after therapy, trauma theory will be easily verifiable once one has the will and funds to do this confirming research. Everyday in the clinic I see physical and mental symptoms vanish once the person expresses the suffering deeply and connects it in consciousness to the original insult or unmet need.

Dr. van der Kolk, is a mainstream physician reaffirming scientifically some trauma information you and I have known for a long while now. But others, instead of weeding solid cases from fake cases of child abuse claims, these deniers of repression want to sink the whole theory altogether, the baby with the bath water! And their motives are questionable to say the least.

I don't believe claims that since popular literature doesn't mention repressed trauma examples, before the 1800s, then repressed trauma must not exist!! There is a logical false step here and A does not necessarily lead to B here. Really bizarre. What about the medical or psychological or hypnosis literature chockful of examples and case studies proving trauma and its repression in some patients?

It seems in the book, Betrayal Trauma, the author attempted to scientifically explain why some trauma victims forget completely while others recall. It agrees with my concept of hierarchy of hurts elaborated in my graduate thesis. it is to the effect that one trauma might dictate the forgetting of a lesser one.

For example, if you are totally young and dependant on a caretaker and that person beats you then it is scarier to accept that than to eventually forget it, thus encapsulating it and allowing the rest of the psyche to at least function, though at sub optimal levels.

Back to the Freyd's book called Betrayal Trauma. She speaks of a genre of trauma that leads to memory repression and not a specific trauma. I hope you can get it as I don't know if its still in print.

The article, Was Repressed Memory a 19th Century Creation?, to which reference is made, was written by Shankar Vendantam of The Washington Post, (Feb 28, 2006 issue).

The author has also written:

Other articles on this website relating to the repressed memory issue:

The False Memory Syndrome and its Implications in Primal Therapy
The Skeptical Inquirer Magazine Inquires About Primal Therapy
Primal Scream: A Persistent New Age Therapy "Skeptical Inquirer" Magazine Article Review
Others Reply to Martin Gardner's Attack On Primal Therapy
Searching Literary Fiction for the Elusive Repressed Memory Syndrome
On False Memories, Primal Therapy and its Alternatives

Return to the Primal Psychotherapy Page