Peer Support for Abuse Survivors
The Recovered Memory Debate
source: Pat Stubbs
In fairness I felt a need to include one page covering the debate amongst the professionals and the not so professional (layman) over the validity of MPD or DID and the bigger issues regarding “false memory syndrome.” Many of these sites are very difficult to read by the very nature of their arguments. Please make sure you are in a good place mentally before you attempt to review some of these links.
I’ll start with a little background information directly from the web site of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. The FMS Foundation is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization formed in March 1992 and located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
According to John F. Kihlstrom, PhD, Professor of Psychology at Yale University, “When the memory is distorted, or confabulated, the result can be what has been called the False Memory Syndrome: a condition in which a person’s identity and interpersonal relationships are centered around a memory of traumatic experience which is objectively false but in which the person strongly believes. Note that the syndrome is not characterized by false memories as such. We all have memories that are inaccurate. Rather, the syndrome may be diagnosed when the memory is so deeply ingrained that it orients the individual’s entire personality and lifestyle, in turn disrupting all sorts of other adaptive behaviors. The analogy to personality disorder is intentional. False memory syndrome is especially destructive because the person assiduously avoids confrontation with any evidence that might challenge the memory. Thus it takes on a life of its own, encapsulated, and resistant to correction. The person may become so focused on the memory that he or she may be effectively distracted from coping with the real problems in his or her life.”
Does The Foundation Speak Out Against Child Abuse?
My response is: If this wasn’t so sad I’d be laughing. First and foremost there is no such thing is “false memory syndrome.” This was a term coined solely by the Foundation in an attempt to support their claims. Second, the very nature of abusers is they don’t want to be found out. Child abuse has been happening for many years sometimes under the guise of “religion” sometimes under “parental responsibility.” To say that the FMSF is against child abuse is not accurate at all. Many of these parents who belong or are involved with the foundation are abusers themselves, who of course do not wish to have their dirty laundry aired, particularly this many years later. The sad fact is that many times in order to continue living a survivor will push memories into the dark recesses of their mind, or worse yet say ok, but maybe I deserved it. I never talked about it because I was afraid someone would confirm what I believed in my heart: that I made her hurt me.
After a traumatic event later in life, the memories of the original abuse are more likely to come to the surface since the psyche is more vulnerable at that time. For instance, I knew I was abused, hell everyone knew it. The schools, the neighbors and the doctors. I don’t recall all the details of the abuse, which by the way is fine by me. My father does not and never did deny that I was abused by his second wife. He just never did anything when it was happening because he didn’t want to deal with the consequences of having to find someone else to take care of his children. But make no mistake when you have 3 or more children telling you there’s abuse and it’s been happening for years and you can corroborate it with neighbors it would be pretty difficult to ignore it. Eventually he did the right thing, it only took seven years for him to do it.
Better late than never. Well let’s look at that for a moment. One brother is now dead, committed suicide because the memories were too much for him. Another brother is in a state hospital in the midwest where’s he’s been for over 10 years and the 3rd brother is missing and has been for going on two years. Last but not least is me, presumedly the weakest of the bunch, I survived only by using the coping mechanism of dissociation. The old, ‘no that didn’t happen to me, it must have been someone else’ switcheroo. I didn’t see a need to talk about the abuse until my brother committed suicide. When he died, my entire world came crashing down around me. My brother and I at least consoled ourselves that we weren’t insane by corroborating for each other long before anyone questioned us. There still is not a day that goes by that I don’t wish I could trade places with my brother. Surviving is hard work, remembering is even harder.
Do I think there are bad doctors out there trying to make a buck off this, heck yes. But there were bad doctors long before anyone thought about the concept of implanting memories. Those doctors just took advantage of a new situation. Just as not all parents are “bad” not every doctor tries to “implant memories.” The fact that the FMSF denies even the accuracy of flashbacks is laughable since one need only talk to a Vietnam Veteran or visit any VA hospital to know that flashbacks are real. Cruel as it is, many and most survivors of both child abuse and wars are destined to relive the nightmares aka flashbacks until they learn to deal with the contents within them.
At the heart of this issue is whether there are scientific ways to prove ‘memory accuracy’ and ‘can memories be implanted?’ I do not claim to be able to scientifically address these issues but than again neither can the FMSF. The only thing that the FMSF has proven is that they are better at politics than the average consumer. The FMSF has also proven, given the right amount of flexing they can influence the media with whining, particularly on the unfairness of journalists giving them an unfavorable review. For the abusers they are the perfect ally and forum in which to hide behind, and that is very sad indeed.
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