PSYCHOLOGY TERM PAPER
Memory is the main faculty of retaining and recalling past experiences.
A repressed memory, is one that is retained in the sub conscious mind, in which
one is not aware of it but where it can still affect both conscious thoughts,
memory, and behavior. When memory is distorted, the result can be referred to
what has been called the “False Memory Syndrome”(Thomas Billing Publishing
1995) : a condition in which a person’s identity and interpersonal
relationships are entered around a memory of traumatic experience which is
obviously false but the person strongly believes that it isn’t. However, the
syndrome is not only characterized by false memories alone. We all have
memories that are inaccurate. Instead, the syndrome may be diagnosed when the
memory is so severely disoriented that it changes the individual’s entire
personality and lifestyle, therefore, disrupting all sorts of other behaviors.
The means of personality disorder is on purpose. False memory syndrome is
especially destructive because the person carefully avoids any confrontation
what so ever with any evidence that might challenge the memory. So this
syndrome takes on a life of its own, keeping itself to be alone and resistant
to correction. The person may become so focused on the memory that he or she
may be effectively distracted from coping with real problems in his or her life.
There are many models which try to explain how memory works.
Nevertheless, we do not know exactly how memory works. One of the most
questionable models of memory is the one which assumes that every experience a
person has had is “recorded” in memory and that, “some of these memories are
from traumatic events too terrible to want to remember”(Thomas Billings
Publishing 1995). . These terrible memories are locked away in the sub conscious
mind, (i.e. repressed, only to be remembered in adulthood when some triggering
event opens the door to the unconscious). Both before and after the repressed
memory is remembered, it causes physical and mental disorders in a person.
Some people have made an effort to explain their pain. Even Cancer, was
known to form in some through repressed memories of incest in the body.
Scientists have studied related phenomenon such as people whose hands bleed in
certain religious settings. Presumably such people, called stigmatics, “are not
revealing unconscious memories of being crucified as young children, but rather
are demonstrating a psychogenic abnormality that springs from their conscious
fixation on the suffering of Christ(Copeland Publishing 1989). Similarly, it is
possible the idea, that “one was sexually abused might increase the frequency
of some physical symptoms, regardless of whether or not the abuse really
occurred”(Peter Bedricks Publishing 1994).
This view of memory has two elements: (1) the accuracy element and (2)
the causal element. The reason why this memory is questionable is not because
people don’t have unpleasant or painful experiences they would rather forget,
nor is it claiming that children often experience both wonderful and brutal
things for which they have no right or wrong sense for and are incapable of
understanding them, much less relating it to others. It is questionable because,
(a) one is having problems of functioning as a healthy human being and (b) one
remembers being abused as a child therefore, (A) one was abused as a child and
(B) the childhood abuse is the cause of one’s adulthood problems. There is no
evidence that supports the claim that we remember everything that we experience.
In fact, there is plenty of evidence to support the claim that it is impossible
for us to even recall to all the elements of any given experience. There is no
evidence to support the claim that all memories of experiences happened as they
remembered to have happened or that they have even happened at all. We can never
even say how accurate our memories really are. Finally, “the connection between
abuse and health or behavior does not conclude that ill health, mental pain, is
a ‘sign’ of having been abused.”(Peter Bedricks Publishing 1994). However many
psychologists don’t believe in this theory by the ‘False Memory” experts. Here
are a few of the unproved, unscientifically researched notions that are being
discussed by the doubtful psychologists: “If you doubt that you were abused as
a child or think that it might be your imagination, this is a sign of ‘post-
incest syndrome’. If you can not remember any specific instances of being
abused, but still have a feeling that something abusive happened to you, ‘it
probably did’. When a person can not remember his or her childhood or have very
fuzzy memories, ‘incest must always be considered as a possibility’. (last), If
you have any suspicion at all, if you have any memory, no matter how vague, it
probably really happened”(Copeland Publishings 1989). It is said, that it is
more likely that you are blocking the memories, denying and that it ever
There have been many symptoms that suggest that they were from past
abuse. These symptoms range from headaches to irritable bladder. In fact, there
was a list of over 900 different symptoms that had been presented as proof of
early abuse. When they researched the expert view, they found that not one of
the symptoms could be shown to be a solid indication of a previous abuse.
Therapists must be careful in declaring that abuse has in fact occurred.
Whole industries have been built up to really look into the cases of
sexual abuse of children. Therapists who are supposed to help children recover
from the trauma of the abuse are hired to interrogate the child, in order to
find out if they have been abused. But often the therapist suggests the abuse to
the child, has ‘memories’ of being abused.
Increasingly throughout the continent, grown children under going
therapeutic programs have come to believe that they suffer from “repressed
memories” of incest and sexual abuse. While some reports of incest and sexual
abuse are surely true, these delayed memories are too often the result of False
Memory Syndrome caused by a disastrous “therapeutic” program(Thomas ; Billing
Publishing 1995) . False Memory Syndrome has a devastating effect on the victim
and produces a continuing dependency on the very program that creates the
syndrome. False Memory Syndrome proceeds to destroy the psychological well
being not only of the victim but through false accusations of incest and sexual
abuse on other members of the victim’s family.
The dangers of the memory are visible: not only are false memories
treated as real memories, but real memories of real abuse may be treated as
false memories and may provide real abusers with a believable defense. In the
end, no one benefits from a memory which is untrue. Whatever the theory of
memory, if it does not support evidence and attempt to verify claims of
recollected abuse, it is a theory which will cause more harm than good.
Carl Jung, an early Freudian disciple, extended this model of memory, by
adding another area of repressed memories to the unconscious mind, an area that
was not based on past experiences at all: the “collection unconscious” (Peter
Bedricks Publishing 1995). The collective unconscious is the deposit for acts
and mental patterns shared either by members of a culture or by all humans.
Under certain conditions these become viewed as: images, patterns and symbols,
that are often seen in dreams or fantasies and that appear as themes in
mythology, religion and fairy tales. Under these conditions it avoids the
problem of determining whether or not a memory is accurate by claiming that the
memory is not of a personal experience at all. It also confuses several types
of mental states. It completely blurs the distinction between dream states and
conscious states by eliminating the difference between remembering a sense
experience one actually had and remembering a sense experience one never
actually had. The story of Hansel and Gretel might be pulled in for “scientific”
support of the idea. Assumptions might be made regarding the unconscious desire
of all children to be loved by their parents: as children, love could only be
understood in terms of ego satisfaction but as adults love is understood
primarily in sexual terms. Because of our mental restrictions, we can not bear
the thought of wanting to be loved sexually by our parents, so this desire must
be expressed in a totally different way: our parents love us sexually. But there
is no evidence for this based upon our past or current relationship with our
parents, so the mind creates the evidence by remembering being sexually abused
as a child.(Copeland Publishings 1989)
Thus, the memory we have as adults of being sexually abused by our
parents is actually the expression of the desire to be loved by our mother and
father (in most cases). It has nothing to do with any real experience; it has
everything to do with a human desire. It also serves as a convenient excuse to
relieve us of all responsibility for our failures and incompetence.
How accurate and reliable is memory? We’re often wrong in thinking we
accurately remember things. Studies on memory have shown that we often
construct our memories from others that help us fill in the gaps in our memories
of certain events.(Thomas ; Billings Publishing 1995) That is why, for example,
a police officer investigating a crime should not show a picture of a single
individual to a victim and ask if the victim recognizes the assailant. If the
victim is then presented a line up and picks out the individual whose picture
the victim had been shown, there is no way of knowing whether the victim is
remembering the assailant or the picture.
Another interesting fact about memory is that studies have shown that
there is no connection between the result feeling a person has about memory and
that memory being accurate. Also, opposed to what many believe, hypnosis does
not aid memory’s accuracy because subjects are unconscience while under
hypnosis.(Copeland Publishing 1989) It is possible to create false memories in
people’s minds by suggestion.
Why would someone remember something so horrible if it really did not
happen?This is a haunting question, but there are several possible
explanations which might shed light on some of the false memories. A
pseudomemory, for example, may be a kind of symbolic expression of troubled
family relationships. It may be that in such a position people more readily
believe things happened when they didn’t. When people enter therapy, they do so
to get better. They want to change. People also tend to look for some
explanation for why they have a problem. Victims come to trust the person they
have chosen to help them.