Repressed Memories

Repressed memories may have been blocked due to ‘repression which is the removal of unwanted experiences into the unconscious because the event was considered too traumatic to recall. These memories can include things from child abuse to witnessing a murder. It’s the impact on the mind so it can cope with what may be too hard for the individual to deal with at that time.

Understanding that memory is not a digital recording that provides for a totally accurate replay (Merskey, H.2010) is often overlooked in the beginning of remembering a repressed memory and also that many different triggers are involved in the recovery of repressed memories.

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Triggers are another way in which repressed memories are thought to resurface during therapy and/or basically anywhere at any time in the person’s life. A trigger can be in the form of a taste, touch, smell etc. Many times the memory is so spontaneous that it occurs in a flashback, with feelings to strong it as if the person is reliving the moment once again (Seager, W).

Psychotherapy is one way in that many can try to force their minds to recall the event more accurately (Seager, W). While most research focuses on whether people remember or forget trauma, repression, however, is a multidimensional construct, which, in addition to the memory aspect, consists of pathogenic effects on adjustment and the unconscious (Merskey, H. 2010). Moreover, since psychoanalysis regards repression as a key factor in accounting for the development and treatment of neurotic disorders, relevant research from these two domains are also taken into account.

There are two types of recovered memories: those that gradually return in recovered memory therapy (RMT) and those that are spontaneously recovered outside the context of therapy (Merskey, H. 2010). By having a better understanding of the two types not only benefits a person’s therapist to help the client work through the memories but also they help to legalize the memory and give it credit and validity (Groenveld, n. d). RMT is a term which refers to the attempts to recover long forgotten or repressed memories.

It is often used when a client is suspected to have been abused many years ago, but has no memories of it as an adult (Groenveld, n. d. ). RMT has just as many supporters as it does those who believe therapist cause clients to have “false memories”. Many therapists engaged in recovered memory therapy believe that adult problems, such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, relationship problems, sexual dysfunction, insomnia, etc are often caused by a specific form of abuse (Groenveld, n. d. ). Memories of that abuse are often believed to have been repressed so that they cannot be remembered.

Even though the abuse is not remembered, it generates some of the above symptoms in the adult (Groenveld, n. d. ). Although most memories are recovered during counseling with a therapist who believes in them, there exist a growing number of individuals who have recovered memories outside of therapy (Groenveld, n. d. ). Frequently, books like The Courage to Heal by authors Ellen Bass (2007) and Laurie Davis are used by an individual. The techniques are the same; they are simply self-administered (Menzel, n. d).

The Courage to Heal has various strengths according to book reviewer Jennifer Menzel, M. A. Authors Bass and Davis (2007) examine very traumatic experiences and offer hope to survivors of these experiences (Menzel, n. d. ). A second strength is that Bass and Davis use the word “survivor” instead of “victim. ” This works to instill hope in readers and helps to enable survivors to actively engage in the healing process (Menzel, n. d. ). A third strength is the emphasis not only on the facts of sexual abuse, but on real experiences of survivors (Menzel, n.d. ).

Menzel (n. d. ) concludes her review of The Courage to Heal as being a useful bibliotherapy tool and is highly recommended. However, as with any form of bibliotherapy, clinical judgment must be used when assigning this book in psychotherapy. One of the most repressed memories is that of childhood sexual abuse. Although controversy surrounds the relative authenticity of discontinuous versus continuous memories of childhood sexual abuse (CSA), little is known about whether such memories differ in their likelihood of corroborative evidence.

Individuals reporting CSA memories were interviewed, and two independent raters attempted to find corroborative information for the allegations (Brockman, R. 2010). Continuous CSA memories and discontinuous memories that were unexpectedly recalled outside therapy were more likely to be corroborated than anticipated discontinuous memories recovered in therapy (Brockman, R. 2010).

Evidence that suggestion during therapy possibly mediates these differences comes from the additional finding that individuals who recalled the memories outside therapy were marked more surprised at the existence of their memories than were individuals who initially recalled the memories in therapy (Brockman, R. 2010).

These results indicate that discontinuous CSA memories spontaneously retrieved outside of therapy may be accurate, while implicating expectations arising from suggestions during therapy in producing false CSA memories (Brockman, R. 2010). Still the question of why people repress memories and are able to retrieve them at a later date along with how true those memories might be is still one that needs to be further explained.

Whatever the terminology applied, be it repression, dissociation or forgetting, humans have a capacity to not consciously know about aspects of their traumas for extended periods of time (Middleton et al, 2005) are all factors to include in the memory. Also multiple factors including the age at which traumas occurred, the relationships to the person responsible or the nature and extent of the traumas influence what will be accessible to memory (Middleton, 2005).

Professionals have the responsibility during an intake interview to put forth the question of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse to the person.

The rationale for this prescription is that a clinician who asks conveys to the client that the client will be believed and that the clinician will join with the client in working through the memories and emotions linked with childhood sexual abuse (Loftus, 1993). Asking about sexual abuse along with a list of other past life events makes sense given the high instance of actual abuse, but the concern is how the issue is raised and what therapists do when clients initially deny an abusive past. Works Cited

Brockman, R.. (2010). Aspects of Psychodynamic Neuropsychiatry I: Episodic Memory, Transference, and the Oddball Paradigm. Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry, 38(4), 693-710. Retrieved May 6, 2012, from ProQuest Psychology Journals. (Document ID: 2256258471). Groenveld, J. (n. d. ). Repressed memories and Recovered Memory Therapy (RMT). Retrieved May 8, 2009 from http://www. caic. org. au/fms. sra/rmt/htm Loftus, E. (1993). The Reality of Repressed Memories.

American Psychological Association, 48, 518-537. Retrieved from http://faculty:Washington. edu/elofus Menzel, J. (n. d). The courage to heal: A guide for women survivors of child sexual abuse (3rd edition). [Review of the book]. Psychologists in Independent Practice. A Division of the American Psychological Association.

Retrieved from http://www/division42. org/MembersArea/Nws_Views/articles/Reviews_Books/ Merskey, H.. (2010). Try to Remember: Psychiatry’s Clash Over Meaning, Memory, and Mind.

Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 55(2), 112-113. Retrieved May 6, 2012, from ProQuest Psychology Journals. (Document ID: 1986429491). Middleton, W. , Cromer, L. , ; Freyd, J. (2005, September). Remembering the past, anticipating a future. Australasian Psychiatry, 13(3), 223-233. Retrieved May 8, 2012, doi:10. 1111/j. 1440-1665. 2005. 02192. x Seager, W. “Schwitzgebel, Eric. Perplexities of consciousness. ” CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries Apr. 2012: 1458. Academic OneFile. Web. 6 May 2012.

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