Re: The Reality of Repressed Memory

From: Alexandra Bilak (
Date: Fri Nov 10 1995 - 10:50:17 GMT

Summary of "The Reality Of Repressed Memory" by Elizabeth F. Loftus

It is difficult to actually believe in the authenticity of
these repressed memories, and many criticisms have been formulated
against its unconvincing nature and lack of scientific evidence.

Is part of our difficulty the suggestion that widespread abuse is a
fact rather than a fabrication? Remember how outraged the public was
at the Cleveland child abuse cases uncovered by Dr. Marietta Higgs,
are we all "shooting the messenger" i.e. the therapist, rather than
accepting and tackling the problem?
But it is difficult to evaluate the truthfulness of these
claims, precisely because the quality of the memories vary from one
case to another (some people seem to remember in detail something
that happened to them when they were only a year old!).

I agree it does seem at odds with neuro biology to suggest that with
the right therapy one can remember infancy, and even birth, when a
biological approach suggests that the structures and systems required
for memory are not complete at this stage of development.

On the one hand, these memories have been proved to be
authentic when for example an exterior eye witness has been able to
confirm them, and on the other hand an element of doubt remains when
one thinks about the possibility of the patient having heard someone
talk about an event and having simply memorized the story and not the
event itself. The patient may as well be lying or simply fantasising.

In the Loftus article, Ganaway suggests that memories (although
false) are honestly believed, if this is the case, then unless they
can actually be shown to be false, it would surely be impossible to
differentiate between truth and reality.

One could ask oneself at this point why therapists would want
to suggest such worrying things to their patients. It seems that they
believe in the necessity of these memories to be conscious and in the
unhealthiness of them being kept aside, "hidden". Also one of the
reasons might be that therapists simply wish to confirm their own
beliefs, instead of looking elsewhere for "real" evidence. But one
can't help wondering whether these memories that arise after
therapeutical treatment are real "unblocked" past memories or just
fantasise and illusions.

It does appear odd that the "memories" are uncovered at a time when,
it is suggested, the person can cope with them, I would have thought
that attending therapy sessions for some psychological disorder would
be just the time that person couldn't cope with them! Or is it just
that everyone needs something or someone to blame for their
dysfunctional state - preferably somebody else.

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