Psychoanalysts love repressed memories. But repressed memories are anything but substantial in nature. That is, they should hardly be considered admissible evidence in a court of law. That’s probably too hard a stance. They are circumstantial evidence, at best. Why? Human memory is weird and subject to alterations through time. And that’s to say nothing about the way an immature mind processes memories. Children get things wrong — all the time. In fact, they quite frequently misinterpret parents’ arguments or words and actions. As I already stated, their brains are immature. They aren’t necessarily capable of processing adult behavior. In other words, they don’t “just understand” what’s going on (as we often expect them to) and then retell the truth when recounting events. There’s a fiction among adults that children always tell the unvarnished truth whether we like it or not. Sure, they might tell the truth according to how they interpreted it, if they don’t have a reason to lie. The crucial part is “tell the truth according to how they interpreted it.”*
Despite the faulty nature of childish interpretation and memory storage in general, in the early 90s, there was a whole slew of cases of sexual assault and molestation brought against men over the surfacing of repressed childhood memories, which could just as easily have been implanted memories led by ostensibly well-meaning psychoanalysts. It’s difficult to make it to adulthood without some kind of trauma, which the childish brain might bury instead of processing simply because it’s easier. When truly horrendous images of child abuse come out of hypnotherapy sessions, there’s no guarantee they are actual memories. They could feel very real, though, especially as they provide a good answer for why the patient is so miserable.
In one example, a teenage girl accused her father of long-term (over the course of ten years) sexual abuse after having been through a therapy program for her eating disorder. The evidence pointed against the accusations being true, but the girl continued to believe in her allegedly repressed memories, which the clinic “needed to clarify” and, hence, the child wasn’t allowed to go home even by parental request. Of course, they also did their mandatory reporting to child protective services. These repressed memories were brought to the fore due to sessions with her therapist along with the “grisly recounting of trauma by other patients.” That last part is what I find so suspect about this story. The social atmosphere of the therapy home was one of depressed teenagers who told tales of abuse. An atmosphere like that could very well spread a social contagion of abuse to a teenage girl who is suffering and in desperate need of attention.
That being said, the teenage girl had also gone through very real trauma because her parents had divorced when she was young, forcing her to take on stepparents and at least one step-sibling. To be fair, I’m sure a divorce wouldn’t traumatize all children that deeply, but neither is it an ideal situation to have one’s safe world of mommy and daddy torn asunder when one is still in primary school. It’s going to take the normal grieving process and a lot of love to become okay with it. However, some children are more sensitive than others and have a harder time coping with their emotions even when there is no lack of love. And divorce is just the trauma the article (linked above) mentioned. Who knows what else this girl experienced to make her feel miserable and desirous of having something big and tangible to attach her misery to?
I started thinking about this due to a conversation on Facebook about the Kavanaugh case because friend Kerry Nietz pointed out that repressed memory cases were dubious at best. Alien abduction cases have come to the fore through the same process of hypnotherapy that often bring to the surface molestation and sexual assault incidents. And are we willing to give the same credence to alien abduction cases that we give to alleged sexual misconduct toward a child?
It’s a fair question, as far as I’m concerned. How far are we willing to give credence to repressed memories? I can’t imagine that all repressed memories are skewed or false. The hypnotherapy state used by psychoanalysts isn’t meant to be a deep hypnotic state, in which memories can easily be implanted. It’s meant to be a relaxed dreamlike state that allows the therapy patient to come to terms with something they may not be able to come to terms with in the conscious, waking mind. But that’s all theoretical, isn’t it? The mind is an inexplicable machine at times. A psychoanalyst may not be able to intentionally implant ideas or memories in a patient’s mind but could easily guide the direction the patient’s thoughts are going, especially if he (or she) has a preconceived bias about why the patient is suffering. Also, as I already stated, hypnotherapy is a dreamlike state. Dreams have a touchstone in reality; they can feel very real. We may even incorporate them as memories in our minds. But dreams aren’t real, and they are not exact replicas of past event. If they dredge up past events, those events are littered with surreal elements that could only exist in the mind.
I don’t have any definitive answers, even about alien abductions, even though I jokingly refer to them as demonic encounters. That may not actually be a joke. Aliens might be demonic entities. They might be demonic entities that do indeed abduct human beings. They might be non-demonic entities that do indeed abduct human beings. Then again, they could be false interpretations of a dreamlike state, eg, as someone on the same thread mentioned, they could be the brain processing its claustrophobia when experiencing sleep paralysis.
*In my own freeform blogging fashion, I was just reminded me of an Agatha Christie novel — she loved to delve into psychology — in which a child had misinterpreted the scary gloved hands of a murderer as monkey paws, and the then adult woman was still terrified of her horrifying memories of a man with hands like a beast.
And yes, I am still writing my book Order of the PenTriagon, about alien abductions, among other things.