The Truth About Repressed Memories

The very nature of abuse allegations is exceptionally complicated. It becomes even more challenging to establish a course of action when an accuser refers to repressed memories of an incident or incidents.

Throughout the psychiatric field, the reliability and validity of repressed memories are hotly debated. To illustrate, 70% of research psychologists don’t believe in repressed memories.

Dealing with the ramifications of an abuse allegation case can take a severe toll on every aspect of your life. From social strain to financial and professional consequences, the burden you’re facing is substantial, including ending up on the Child Abuse Central Index.

Therefore, you must obtain some knowledge about why repressed memories are flawed and how to disprove their validity.

Real Emotions Don’t Mean Real Facts

As per an article from the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, called ‘Debunking Myths About Trauma and Memory,’ the realness of emotions doesn’t confirm the factual nature of memories. (McNally, Richard J., “Debunking Myths About Trauma and Memory”, Can J Psychiatry, Vol 50, No 13, Nov. 2005.)

For instance, a study cited by the entry discussed test subjects falsely remembering being subject to satanic ritual abuse. Those involved showed intense-enough emotions to convince therapists that genuinely horrible things had actually happened to these people.

Results mirrored another test group who experienced false memories of being abducted by extraterrestrial beings. These individuals’ trauma response was so intense that it eclipsed that of symptoms exhibited by Vietnam War veterans.

An accuser might be convinced that these memories are all too real, based on the gravity of emotions. Still, there’s enough evidence to show that those reactions alone aren’t enough to confirm allegations as facts.

Memories and Facts Don’t Always Align

In the previously mentioned article from the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, it’s stated that memories of trauma are rarely ever forgotten. In fact, they’re remembered vividly by those who’ve experienced them. However, the same article discusses how memories aren’t perfect or exact since the brain doesn’t operate like a VCR.

Time erodes one’s memory for anything, whether it’s of past trauma or the first time you ever drove a car. Even if a repressed memory is of an actual occurrence, it is still subject to the factors that impede all other memories.

Further psychological research shows that memories can’t always be trusted, despite how clear they might seem. There’s an array of conscious and unconscious mechanisms in play that impact one’s interpretation of a situation.

Harkening back deep in the recesses of one’s mind to recall something decades ago isn’t necessarily the most reliable source of facts. Yes, the experience might be so traumatic that some details are excruciatingly visceral, to the point that it’s experienced on a sensory level. However, these are still reconstructions of the past, and can’t be taken as the exact truth.

Yet repressed memories of abuse – commonly conjured through therapeutic treatments – have been the basis of criminal cases.

The Ethical Problem of Implanted Memories

Something worth revisiting from the above sections is how repressed memories come to the surface.

Therapeutic professionals tend to utilize hypnosis techniques to treat underlying mental health issues, seeking a positive patient outcome.

Now, the purpose of this article isn’t to debate the validity of hypnosis to help someone overcome psychological issues. What should be clarified, however, is whether such techniques should be relied upon by our legal system.

As proven above, false “repressed” memories can be implanted into somebody’s mind and convince them they’ve been subjected to abuse.

Also, the results of the studies mentioned in the previous sections show that even professionals can be unduly convinced that real trauma has occurred.

Of course, this makes abuse cases even more of a tightrope walk. Alleged victims might in truth believe that you had transgressed, and they’re telling what they firmly believe to be the truth. Through mistreatment and the implanting of false memories, these individuals have been led astray.

Can Memories Actually be Repressed?

Another topic to discuss is the very nature of a memory being repressed. As discussed in the entry from the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, there are multitudes of ways to forget a life event, including a traumatizing experience.

It might be due to incomplete encoding, everyday forgetfulness, psychogenic amnesia, organic amnesia, or childhood amnesia. None of these have anything to do with memory-loss being triggered by a traumatic event.

Our memories of trauma might be deeply flawed and subject to our own reconstruction. Still, nothing is proving they disappear, only to be later coerced into consciousness, clearer than ever.

To further illustrate this fact, there’s no evidence suggesting that traumatic memories come back in a moment of recollection. Conversely, when following up with people after such an event, it was proven that most victims – as much as they’d like to – cannot forget these experiences.

Meaning, if the memory of abuse is suddenly aroused through recall techniques, such as hypnosis, it must be rigorously scrutinized. There is too much evidence suggesting that this kind of memory has either been falsely implanted or is wholly inaccurate.

What Society Believes Versus the Facts

Between 40% to 89% percent of the public believes that traumatic memories can be blocked out and forgotten. It’s even perceived for something as severe as an act of murder to be deleted from one’s mind.

This statistic exists despite the mounting evidence suggesting otherwise.

In recent years, memory retrieval techniques have been at the root of situations such as “Pizzagate,” a story involving Democrat-protected child sexual abuse cult. According to conspiracy theorists, they operated in a Washington-based pizza parlor.

Another instance of repressed memories gone awry shows a woman kidnapping two young children after believing she was shielding them from a suppressed history of sexual abuse by cults. The woman operated under the premise that these acts had to do with the Illuminati.

Much of the time, these situations arise because of advocacy programs and overzealous therapists; they get too immersed and lost in a cause. Unfortunately, they’re too involved in their own agenda to consider the lives and families they’re tearing apart. This is especially troubling since there’s enough scientific evidence showing that repressed memories shouldn’t hold much weight in our legal system.