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Hypnosis and false memories
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koala
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 20, 2006 10:47 pm    Post subject: Hypnosis and false memories Reply with quote

Beyond the Satanic ritual abuse scares which were directly based on questioning children, a large number of adults came forward in the 1980s and 1990s and claimed to have recovered memories of severe, often Satanic ritual abuse in their childhood. Later investigators diagnosed many of these adults as mentally ill. While criminal charges were rarely pressed because of the long time that had passed since the alleged abuse, media coverage of these adult testimonies nevertheless contributed to the belief that Satanic abuse was, in fact, a widespread phenomenon.

Many of the women who reported such memories had previously seen therapists specializing in child sexual abuse, or read books like The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis, which encouraged them to recover their allegedly existing memories of severe abuse in their childhood. At the time, some child abuse therapists used a technique known as recovered memory therapy (RMT), which worked from the presumption that the patients were so severely abused that their memories of it were repressed in childhood and could only be recovered by a specialist. This approach has involved hypnosis and drugs to stimulate the recovery of memories of abuse.

Critics of recovered memory therapy, like Richard Ofshe and Ethan Watters (Making Monsters. False Memories, Psychotherapy, And Sexual Hysteria), view this practice as fraudulent and dangerous. They base this assertion on several claims:

Traumatic experiences which obviously have happened, such as war time experiences, are not "repressed"—they are either forgotten or remembered clearly in spite of attempts to suppress them.
The "memories" recovered in RMT are highly detailed. According to RMT literature, the human brain stores very vivid memories which can be recalled in detail, like a video tape. This belief contradicts virtually all research on the way memories work.
The patient is given very extensive lists of "symptoms" including sleeplessness, headaches, the feeling of being different from others etc. If several of these symptoms are found, the therapist suggests to the patient that they were probably sexually abused. If the patient denies this, they are "in denial" and require more extensive therapy.
During the questioning, patients are openly encouraged to ignore their own feelings and memories and to assume that the abuse has happened. They then explore together with this therapist, over a prolonged period of many months or even years, how the abuse happened. The possibility that the abuse has not happened at all is usually not considered.
According to these critics, RMT techniques used for "reincarnation therapy" or "alien abduction therapy" are comparable to the techniques used in Satanic ritual abuse therapy. To verify the false memory hypothesis, researchers like Elizabeth Loftus have successfully produced false memories of various childhood incidents in test subjects. This is viewed as further evidence that comprehensive false memories can be produced in therapy.

RMT critics also point to the bizarre nature of Satanic ritual abuse stories and claim that, in many cases, such stories are provably untrue. They believe that all or most SRA memories are produced by the therapists through extensive suggestive questioning. Some of them also believe that multiple personality disorder is primarily or exclusively a product of that therapy or self-suggestion. RMT practitioners generally deny such claims, or hold that they are only true in a minority of cases, and believe that their work is sound when practiced properly. However, critics respond that the failure of mental health professionals to distinguish false memories from real ones abnegates this entire line of therapy.
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