Words and Psychotherapy



I have written earlier on this blog about how being told I had a false memory and was suffering from false memory syndrome rendered me unable to speak my truth. It was not that I beleived the false memory rhetoric to be true,  but that the use of this rhetoric and its widespread distribution in the media lead to me feeling that I couldn’t form words,  or as as if any words I wanted to speak were taken out of my mouth.

How does a person communicate their memories?

They can use different forms of communication, with their bodies, through music, images etc.

But in the end it is difficult if you can’t use words. If the words have been taken away, or if you have been prevented from using them because to speak them identifies you as a brainwashed irational idiot.

In the last few years I have struggled to make words my own again. I have read a lot about so-called false memory and started to write this blog.

I have also been doing psychotherapy.

99% of my psychotherapy does not involve talking about memories of abuse. It is about dealing with the day to day problems I have because I was silenced – both by the original abuse and by the false memory movement. It is about how I can survive in my work-life without being a doormat. Or how to repair a friendship after an argument which I don’t remember – because was I dissociated at the time.

It took me a long time to understand that my therapist didn’t secretly beleive that my memory was false – whatever they said to the contrary. It took me even longer to understand what dissociation is, and how to recognise when I am doing it.

In order to understand that one is dissociating , one needs tools. And these tools can be words that are communicated internally. It means that parts that have been silenced find words to communcate their experiences.

No-one can communicate with words if they haven’t been taught a language. And psychotherapy enables the parts that can’t speak to find a language.

One result of this psychotherapy is that I am able to work full-time which wasn’t possible before. I also even able to be assertive at my job – at least some of the time. And when I am not able to be assertive I am better able to understand what is happening.

So the idea that providing psychotherapy for abuse survivors might cost too much makes no sense to me.







On trauma

I found this quote in an article by James Berger  and I thought it was interesting. Berger is writing from the context of Disibility Studies and reflecting on why it is that the study of trauma and the study of disability are quite seperate. this is especially the case if one thinks that trauma can cause lasting disability. Berger writes,
“Trauma is not sacred.
Trauma is utterly secular.
It is simply something that happens.
It has causes, which are both social and personal;
and it has consequences,
again both social and personal.
Its devastating impacts challenge existing symbolic resources,
and thus it may appear,
or seem best described
in terms ofthe sublime
or the sacred
or the apocalyptic.
But it is not.
The value of trauma as a descriptive term
for historical catastrophe,
it seems to me,
is its lack of connotation,
its negativity or blankness.
It is what has happened.

The false memory movement and The New Scientist magazine

The New Scientist is a popular scientific magazine. This means it is always having to make choices about how to balance factual information with making things exiting and readable to a wide audience.
When the paper was criticised for comparing evolution with creationism, one of its journalists repplied
“If we run very straight, sober covers, we sell fewer mags, we get fewer clicks and nobody blogs about us, so fewer people read what we produce. Now, I’d argue that this week’s cover has got us a lot of attention, and as a result lots of people will read my story. Many will learn something about evolution. Public understanding will increase. So which way do you want it?”
The editor of The New Scientist, replied defending the article, saying that it is

“an ideas magazine—that means writing about hypotheses as well as theories”.

When it comes to the issue of recovered memory, a recent issue of the New Scientist seems to be firmly on the side of the hypothesis ( if you can call it that ) put forward by the false memory movement. So much so that they appear to describe recovered memory therapy as a concept that is precisely defined and widely accepted.
This prompted a letter sent to the New Scientist from Prof Bernice Andrews.
Discussing the issues of “lost” memories and therapy, you report me saying that memories that re-emerge spontaneously are more likely to be real than those from recovered-memory therapy (10 October, p 8). To put the record straight, I did not use the term “recovered-memory therapy” and would never do so. It is a term with no specific definition, often used indiscriminately to describe any therapy (appropriate or otherwise) that might have preceded memories of abuse.
In my role as an expert witness in the courts I recognise that recovering a memory in therapy per se does not necessarily render it unreliable, and the majority of therapists do not use inappropriate practices. In legal cases it is necessary to weigh up a variety of factors that might increase or decrease the likelihood of a memory being reliable before giving an opinion. It is important that experts ground the testimony they provide in scientific evidence rather than opinion, whether they are representing the prosecution or the defence.
For the avoidance of doubt, I do not believe that memories recovered in all forms of therapy are less likely to be real, because there is no consistent scientific evidence to support such a claim. It is, however, universally recognised that certain therapeutic techniques such as hypnosis may be risky if used inappropriately.
London, UK
I am in agreement with  Andrews regarding hypnosis and it seems to me that the New Scientist could write an informative and interesting article about its inappropriate and appropriate use without involving literature and sources from the false memory movement.
I also think that recovered memory therapy is a term used by the false memory movement and not a specific definition.