Thursday, December 08, 2005

Recovered Memories

Interesting interview in Reason with Susan Clancy on recovered memories of sexual abuse and alien abductions.

Reason: How prevalent is belief in recovered memories? Are they still commonly accepted as evidence in legal proceedings?

Clancy: Yes. It is unbelievable. All of the scientific research shows that repression is just preposterous. But most therapists believe that repression exists. And most people in the world believe that the concept of repression is real. I think that's because of movies and Hollywood, we see it depicted, it's just culturally out there.

Reason: But in the scientific community—

Clancy: It's dead. Dead, dead, dead. For five decades we've known that memory is reconstructive in nature; we've known that memories can be created. The whole issue of repression didn't become a hot topic until the 90s. And for the past ten years scientists have been arguing that repression is preposterous.

A few years ago I had a childhood friend who was having a marital problems that eventually caused her to start seeing a psychologist. I had by then become wary of the whole "recovered memory" movement and warned her to be careful about memories being induced. She assured me that wasn't the type of therapist she was seeing. Within 6 months she announced that she had remembered a whole series of sexual abuse incidents by her uncle and grandfather. From there her mental health took a dramatic downward spiral.

I don't know if she indeed was ever abused but I ultimately had to end the friendship because of her erratic behavior. Even if repressed memories were revealed, which I don't believe, they did nothing to help and actually destroyed this person's life.

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