opinion |  Forgotten Lessons from the Recovered Memory Movement

opinion | Forgotten Lessons from the Recovered Memory Movement

It is important to remember that people who seek treatment are a vulnerable demographic, and they often enter therapy because they have lost a sense of coherence and are looking for a compelling narrative to express their inner turmoil. The disturbed human mind appears uniquely attuned to clues from social settings, reflecting behaviors, feelings, and beliefs with little or no conscious awareness. In her 2021 book Sleeping Beauty, neurologist Dr. Susan O’Sullivan writes persuasively about immigrant children falling into komali-like states and groups of young women having seizures with no organic cause. Her insights into the relationship between culture and these unique symptoms of psychopathology are scathing. “We embody narratives,” she explained. Some are told by powerful people – doctors, politicians, activists, public figures, celebrities. “If the disease model is clear enough and the disease basis is prominent enough, it is easy to assimilate by the individual and then pass from person to person,” she continued.

The recovered memory narrative became, along with multiple personality disorder, for a while, one of those persuasive and socially contagious models of illness. Healers, politicians, activists, and celebrities participated in making the story memorable and legitimate. The cultural currents they collectively created were powerful.

Sometimes, as with the populations studied by Dr. O’Sullivan, cultural influences on patients’ symptoms are completely unconscious, and vectors are difficult to identify. But it is impossible to ignore the influence of cultural beliefs on the emergence of restored memory therapy. The process that memory therapists describe in their books was the cyclic effect on stimulants. sick started With symptoms of vague distress and over With a compelling story of why they aren’t happy – a story that has been embraced and promoted in both the mental health profession and popular culture. In the end, the patients were New memories, new naming as a survivor and changing relationships with everyone in their lives. The shift to a new identity – a new way of being – couldn’t be more dramatic.

But what prompted therapists to buy the restored memory therapy? Certainly there has been competition for patients and financial rewards for a treatment regimen that often lasts for years. But I think these reasons are secondary. Healers’ writings from that period reveal their passion and enthusiasm for the movement. This was a group of healers who believed that they had not only discovered the key to their patients’ suffering but were also exposing hidden evil throughout society. In short, therapists were as immersed in cultural currents as their patients.

Concepts such as the influence of Dr. Hacking’s episodes and Dr. Shorter’s symptom clusters never really spread in the West. Dr. O’Sullivan found few patients, caregivers or relatives willing to think that seizures, coma-like states, or other debilitating symptoms could be caused by something as fleeting as cultural beliefs and social expectations. Americans, in particular, tend to dismiss the idea. We believe in the selfish mind. We are captains of our own ship and hate the idea that our deep sense of self may be resilient to cultural forces beyond our control.

Beginning around 1994, criticism of restored memory therapy slowed the movement down for some time. With a few notable exceptions, skeptics came from outside the mental health field. Crucially, several feminist writers—including Carol Tavris, Wendy Kaminer, Ellen Showalter and Debbie Nathan—began to question Satanic cult stories and coercive techniques for recovering memory therapy. They all faced angry accusations that they were re-harming the abused women. When Dr. Tavris challenged some principles of the movement in the pages of the New York Times Book Review, Ms. Bloom, author of The Survivor’s Secret, responded that Dr. Tavris sided with those who support pedophiles and harassers.

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