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---------- Forwarded message ---------- 
Date: Tue, 21 Nov 1995 06:13:30 UTC
Subject: Re:  Wanted: information on False Memory Syndrome
NOTE:  Although nobody else has put a spoiler in, I am going to.
This post deals with False Memories [as opposed to FMS or FMSF].  If you 
have trouble with anything to do with that topic, DON'T READ THIS POST.  
You have hereby been warned.
Rick ( wrote:
: > (tankchick) wrote:
: Julia wrote:
: >I have heard - and talked to - many other men and women who have
: >survived abuse in their childhood and are quite sure that these ARE
: >in fact their memories. From what I've read about this Foundation and
: >this syndrome - there is no scientific proof to show that you CAN
: >brainwash someone to that degree.  Though,I must admit I have read of and
: >heard of cases where "toxic" therapists have encouraged sexual abuse and
: >satanic cults when the problem is highly different. 
: I don't understand the last part of the last sentence. I think you mean
: (do you?) that some therapists have been overzealously suggesting
: sexual abuse histories to clients displaying PTSD symptoms associated
: with SA and other traumas. That is really unfortunate, incompetent, and
: tragic. But that isn't 'false memory' - it's a response, from a vulnerable
: mind, to suggestion and maybe their attempt to get validation through 
: abuse scenarios. Which doesn't mean they weren't abused, just that the
: stories may not be true or completely true. But again, that isn't 'false
: memory.' As to a 'syndrome' - a syndrome is a collection of conditions,
Actually, that is exactly what is often referred to as "false memory", 
depending on whose works you are looking at.  I recently did a paper for 
one of my psychology classes on "False Memories", and did a LOT of 
reading on the subject -- of both the "pro" and the "con" side.  Much of 
the work on the "pro" side, including all of the Loftus papers I was able 
to find,  use an example similar to what was given above [therapist 
suggesting SA as the explanation for the symptoms a patient presents 
with, and the patient eventually coming up with SA scenarios, which in 
fact did NOT occur in history [although other abuse incidents may or may 
not have occurred], and for which they had no inkling even existed before 
entering therapy, as being the prototype example for "False Memories".  
There are many documented cases of such events occurring.  Whether such 
events are able to form some kind of "syndrome" or not is up for debate, 
of course.
However, the scenario you just gave, Rick, *IS* what false memories are 
all about.  Person A has a problem for which they go to a therapist 
about.  The problem could be anything from having trouble sleeping at 
night through to having PTSD or an eating disorder.  They have no idea 
that they were sexually [or, satanically, or whatever is appropriate to 
the scenario] abused; in many instances that have been cited in the 
literature, they have no idea that they were abused in ANY way shape or 
form at ALL.  The therapist, for whatever reason [sometimes honest 
belief, other times with malicious intent, other times due to personal 
agendas which interfere with their work], believes the patient is a 
survivor of sexual abuse [or satanic abuse, or some other form of 
abuse].  The *therapist* suggests this "diagnosis" to the patient.  Over 
time, often combined with more suggestion, or with therapy methods that 
have come into question [such as suggestive hypnotherapy, , the use of 
drugs, etc.], the patient comes to believe that they were SA'd, and they 
develop the memories to support such a belief.  In a certain chunk of 
individuals who go through such a process [the exact percent is debated, 
but estimates range from about 8% up to about 65%], the memories that 
come up with did NOT in fact occur in "real life" [i.e. in history, in 
the life of the patient, etc.].  I.e. they are a false memory.
Why the patient ends up having the memories is subject to any of a number 
of possible reasons.  In some cases, it is because they are highly 
suggestible, and the techniques used by the therapist are highly 
suggestive -- in essence, the memory is "implanted" and the individual is 
able to fill in enough details to make it seem "real".  In various 
studies, mildly traumatic memories have been successfully "implanted" 
into individuals.  Ethically, nobody is going to go about *deliberately* 
attempting to implant memories of something like sexual abuse, so studies 
to absolutely show that it can be done are NOT going to happen.  The 
closest that can be done is to look at individuals after the fact, 
evaluate hypnosis transcripts, etc.,a and see what happened.  There are 
very well documented cases of highly suggestive techniques being used on 
unsuspecting patients., or on, for example, children in legal cases.  
Leading questions, given to the "right" person, can lead to getting the 
answers that are "desired", unfortunately.  What IS up for debate is how 
many [i.e. "what percent"] of individuals exposed to those methods go on 
to "fall into" the "trap" and end up "going along" with the suggestions, 
for whatever reason.  For some, as Rick suggested, it may be a desire for 
validation, for others, it may be because now they have a plausible 
"answer" to why they have the problems they do, still for others, it may 
simply be because they are highly suggestible, believe in their 
therapist, and end up going along with the suggestions.  In many, if not 
most, cases there is simply a case of bad therapy [though not 
necessarily a bad therapist; just a therapist using improper methods] 
combined with a highly suggestive person who has a problem and is looking 
for answers and a solution -- there's no malice involved, although it can 
obviously end up doing a lot of harm to a lot of people.
: A bunch of quacks and loonies.
Through the research I did for my paper, I would definitely agree that 
some of the FMSF are "quacks and loonies", and some definitely are perps 
in their own right.  OTOH, some really are victims of "bad therapy" as 
some put it -- the events of which they are accused simply did NOT occur; 
that isn't to say that for some of those falsely accused there wasn't 
other abuse taking place, or in other cases that the events described 
didn't occur, but in fact occurred as described, but with a DIFFERENT 
assailant.  But some members of the FMSF ARE genuinely being falsely 
accused of abuse they did not commit.
Other members of the FMSF, and other individuals who are NOT members of 
FMSF, but who do think that false memories occur in some percentage of 
cases [e.g. Ellen Bass [?], author of courage to Heal, even admits that 
there are some cases of false memory, she just feels it is a very low 
percentage of a specific subset of cases; whereas FMSF or some of its 
factions, would have one believe it is a much higher percentage of that 
subset], may very well have not been accused of abusing, they may even be 
survivors themselves, but they still believe false memories can and do occur.
There is also a chunk of people [both in and out of the FMSF] who expand 
the subset of agreed-upon false memory "scenarios" to include a much 
larger set of people.  In all the research I was able to read/see, 
everyone on *both* sides agreed that false memories DO occur, with some 
percentage [the percentage being debatable] within a very specific subset 
of people [that subset who go to the therapist with a problem, have no 
idea or suspicion that they were abused in ANY way, and the therapist 
uses questionable techniques on them [such as hypnosis with highly 
suggestible and leading scripts, a variety of drugs, etc.].  Some people 
chose to expand this group and claim that FM is widespread, or that it 
occurs in a plethora of different scenarios.  Perhaps they are correct, 
but there is little to no evidence to suggest that they are.  While it is 
entirely possible, and highly probable, that there are cases of false 
memories outside the agreed-upon subset, the number of such cases is 
likely nowhere near as high as *some* would like the public to believe 
[e.g. perhaps they claim it is a million cases when it is in fact 100; 
can we ignore those 100? No.  But should those other 999,900 cases be 
dismissed because of the 100?  Also, no.].
Looking at the issue from the other side, there is little evidence that 
suggests that traumatic "repression" of memories exists to the extent 
that some would like people to believe [i.e. for example, that the 
majority of SA survivors repress all memory of ever having been SA'd].  
There is much scientific unknown wrt repression of memories.  There is 
also much question as to whether significant numbers of people can 
totally repress traumatic events that occur over a lifetime -- i.e. can 
a large number of people repress all memories of a very abusive 
childhood, and in many cases in fact have memories of a very happy, 
unabusive childhood?].  Further, what some people refer to as "repressed" 
memories are actually not repressed memories.  Lastly, there is debate in 
the scientific community about just what definition to use for repressed 
memories [although there are a couple of widely accepted definitions; and 
using those, the term "repressed memory" is WIDELY mis-used].  Some 
repression of memories does undoubtedly exist, as do other forms of 
"forgetting that incidents occurred.  There are also people who have 
severe amnesia regarding chunks of their lives, in some cases to the 
point where they don't even have any idea of the nature of what occurred 
during the timeframes in question.  There is, however, a great deal of 
debate over what exactly memory repression entails [the problem being 
more that people misuse the term], as well has what kind of numbers of 
patients one is talking about [i.e. how common is it and how common are 
other forms of forgetting].  There is also great uncertainty as to how 
exactly memory works, but that is more form a lack of understanding human 
brain physiology then anything else.
For the original poster in this thread -- it may be more productive for 
your friend to write about False Memories, as opposed to FMS, if they are 
allowed.  While false memories are acknowledged to exist, FMS is highly 
debated, as it is unclear if the false memory cases that exist are 
somehow manifest of some "syndrome".  Speaking with the professor about 
their objectives of the paper may help; they may have erroneously used 
FMS term, or may have in fact very deliberately used it.
: Yup. Just what we *don't* need, right?  I mean it was bad enough just
: dealing with this SA stuff, then the shit hit the fan 2 years ago with
: FMS and we had a whole new set of issues and hostilities to deal with
: to add to the bubbling stew of incredibly difficult and painful recovery
: issues and processes.
Yep. A whole lot of people do NOT understand what has been "agreed" upon 
wrt False Memories.  Many people don't realise that there is only a very 
specific subset of cases that is dealt with when referring to false 
memory, although there is a percentage of other cases where false 
memories are involved, their number by most reckonings is likely very 
small, OR are cases of mistaken facts, not entirely false events, or they 
are cases where the specific memory may be entirely false,m but there was 
other abuse going on at the time.  Those latter people end up in a grey 
area of sorts, but aren't those referred to, generally, when "False 
Memories" are referred to.
Unfortunately, because there is a lot of confusion, especially among the 
general public, as to what exactly "False Memories" are, a lot of 
legitimate survivors/victims get shafted, and their stories, while 
genuine, are suspected or undermined.  Unfortunately, it also means that 
legitimate abusers [i.e. those who really DID abuse] are often able to 
hide under organizations such as the FMSF, claiming that they in fact did 
not abuse, when in fact they did.
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