Repression was considered by Freud as the "cornerstone
on which the whole structure of psychoanalysis rests" (Complete
Works of Freud. Vol XIV, p.16). It is the central defense mechanism
upon which all other of the analytic defense mechanisms are based.
Repression is held to be an "unconscious" defense mechanism where the contents of the "unconscious" ("memories", emotions, wishes....) are kept hidden from conscious awareness, so protecting the individual from psychological threat.
A century after its origins, and its permeation into twentieth
century thought- there is no scientific evidence for the concept
of repression. The concept of repression followed Freud's rejection
Classically, the contents of the unconscious are "uncovered"
via hypnosis, abreaction and catharsis, slips of the tongue,
dream analysis- or the free associations and interpretations
The concept of dissociation has similar nineteenth century
historical origins to those of repression. Given the dominance
of the Freudian concept of repression, it was virtually ignored
Dissociation is a concept which is a little more subtle than repression. It is claimed that at the time of the event, that the various sensations and perceptions (sights, sounds, tastes, smells, feelings....) are failed to be integrated as a conscious memory. Only later, even after decades, do these "fragmented" experiences become "integrated" as a "memory".
Like repression, the concept of dissociation relies on the validity of this concept of memory- and the techniques employed in the "integration" of the memory.
While clinicians claim a belief in this mechanism, there is no controlled scientific evidence to support the relationship between these vague experiences and the validity of the historical accuracy of the "memories recovered".
Dissociation is a prominent concept in a range of disorders,
from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder to the unsupported diagnosis
of Multiple Personality (now Dissociative Identity Disorder).
The original methods associated with recovered memories originate
with Sigmund Freud in 1897. He used both the suggestive methods
of hypnosis and his "pressure technique" to induce
scenes of childhood sexual abuse in 18 women who had no spontaneous
account of this. Hypnosis involved the method of inducing a state
of relaxation during which suggestions are made and imaginative
processes encouraged. His "pressure technique" (which
therapists may regard as a form of "body work" today)
involved the placing of the hands on the head and asking the
patient to state the first thing that comes to mind. If the "repressed
memory" does not emerge, the process continues until it
does. While it appears like a physical therapy, Freud wrote that
his pressure technique was "the most convenient" method
of applying "suggestion". Following criticism from
those who demanded evidence, Freud was to abandon these particular
methods in favour of his talking cure of classical psychoanalysis.
This revelation came to Freud after severe criticism of his "Seduction
Theory" and year-long analysis of his own memories and dreams.
"Formal" suggestive methods such as hypnosis were not
necessary- the free associations, words and interpretations of
the analyst are sufficient. The creative origin of Freud's theory
of unconscious repression arose from the interpretation and analysis
of his own dreams, alongside the influence of Ear Nose and Throat
Surgeon Wilhelm Fleiss. In fact, Freud's theory of mind and the
Oedipal Complex is based on his own recovered memories- from
the age of two and a half, where the biological development of
his brain was insufficient to form and store such narrative memory.
The validity of the "memories" for Freud, like modern-day
recovered memory therapists, was based on the intense emotion
displayed on their recovery. In similar reasoning to a number
of current professional statements regarding recovered memory
and the distinction between "narrative and historical truth",
Freud considered that historical reality did not matter in the
therapeutic context- only emotional validity. Only the reality
within therapy. ever, who would not get distressed if one came
to believe one had been abused as a child, especially if by ones
own parents, or a person who was previously well-loved and respected?
After 100 years, a working party report was published under the
names of its authors (not the Royal College of Psychiatrists,
as the profession was deeply split) that there was no scientific
evidence for repression. This report was one of the last of many
from professional societies which have gradually become more
critical in the face of the lack of such evidence. Unconscious
repression is no more than a clinical belief. Memories may be
recovered by; Counselling Hypnosis Eye Movement Desensitisation
and Reprocessing (EMDR) Guided Imagery Dream Interpretation Bodywork
"Physical Therapies" Survivor Groups Self-help books
and videos Exposure to media (films, videos, books, articles,
talk shows). Psychodrama Journaling Inner Child Therapy Spiritual
Therapies (Prayer, Spirit Guides, Alternative) Drug-induced or
hypnotic abreactions Coercive Interviewing Spontaneously in some
psychological states This is not an exhaustive list. These methods
rely on how humans form beliefs. Anyone has the potential to
recover memories. It is a matter of how meaning is placed on
genuine current distress. The individual is placed in a position
where there is the illusion of choice. Through the use of the
language of care, the distressed person feels as if they have
a choice when in fact there is no alternative but to believe.
If you remember-you were abused. If you do not, you are in denial,
or the memories have been repressed or dissociated until you
The problem with the practices mentioned above -- which are used to some degree by about 25% of psychotherapists according to a study by Poole, et. al (1995) that looked at Ph.D. level clinical psychologists in the United States and Great Britain -- is that when they are used, they increase the risk of influence and suggestibility. An extensive body of research in the area of hypnosis, for example, has shown repeatedly that images that arise under hypnosis are strongly held as accurate, may contain many details and may be associated with strong emotion. None of these things indicates historical accuracy. Whether they occur in or out of therapy, some memories may be historically accurate, some distorted or confabulated and some false.
The methods associated with recovered memories have been advocated or used within government and private services Australia-wide over the past decade. This has included the widespread promotion of repressed and dissociated memories, satanic and ritiual abuse, and multiple personality.
Recovered memories ultimately affect all in society. They affect those who;
A survey by the False Memory Syndrome Foundation in the US, of six affected families, found between 42 and 90 lives were touched by the accusation of one person. This included mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, husbands, wives, partners, friends etc )
A survey of the first 83 Australian families, conducted by Psychologist Merle Elson in 1996-97 found in these cases that the;
In Australia, an early survey of 65 therapists (mainly based in Victoria) revealed 424 persons being treated for satanic or ritual abuse, 116 of who were young children. [Satanic Ritual Abuse. Proceedings of Australian Association For Multiple Personality & Dissociation Conference. Monash Medical Center, Melbourne, Sept. 1992] [Now Australian Association for Trauma & Dissocation, amalgamated with Australasian Society for Traumatic Stress Studies in 1997] Five hundred and eighty four were also claimed to have reported to have contacted one of many rape crisis services in New South Wales in one year alone. [ Mullinar, L & Hunt, C. Breaking The Silence.] Consequently, there are at least 1000 reported cases of this form of extreme abuse being uncovered by government and privately-based therapists in the early stage of the satanic ritual abuse epidemic alone. The total number affected by recovered memories of a comparatively less extreme (but never-the-less as serious in their effects) remains currently unknown. Given the above, as a starting figure of thousands of individuals reporting recovered memories in Australia is not unreasonable, with a similar number of accused, and tens of thousands affected indirectly within the social system. By becoming a member of the AFMA, information can be gathered to assess the extent of the phenomenon.
It can certainly be claimed that for every allegation at least ten others or more are affected, if three generations of a family where each only had two children. This is a conservative estimate, as figures from the above research, conducted in the US and Australia, clearly indicate that for each false accusation between eighteen to fourty-two other individuals are affected.
In the case of Merle Elson's Australian survey results, for every 1000 persons who recover memories, there is the potential for some 18, 000 family members are affected. Through this rippling multiplier effect, one false accusation severely affects the lives of many.
Without a full inquiry and review, the exact number claiming recovered memories is unknown. A review of compensation schemes, therapy practices, criminal trials, and coronal records of suicides or assaults and homicides since the 1980s may help to reveal the full impact of this ideology in Australia.
Yes. Without a full review, the exact number remains unknown.
A survey of the first 83 Australian families reporting being affected by recovered memories found that six successful suicides had occurred in the person who had recovered memories.
The number of persons who have suicided following a false accusation arising solely from unsubstantiated allegations based on recovered memories is not known. The AFMA is aware of cases where this has occurred.
The use of the term flashback for a vivid image or sequence of images occurring while a patient is awake first appeared in the substance abuse literature to describe altered states of awareness with drug use, especially LSD.
Decades later, the content of flashbacks began to be treated as historically accurate in the sexual abuse and trauma literature. There is no evidence that flashbacks represent historically accurate memories.
Intrusive images that are not depictions of real events can also occur in some forms of common and easily treated psychological disorder, such as some which are related to anxiety disorders.
Contextual factors such as expectation, in addition to the suggestibility of patients and the social construct of role-playing, influence in a crucial way the creating and content of flashbacks." (Fred Frankel, M.D., International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Vol. XLII, No. 4, October 1994, p.332.) A flashback is not proof that abuse occurred.
This is a central feature of the recovered memory debate. There is no scientific evidence for this, a view now gradually being admitted by professional societies across the world. Empirical research on memory fails to demonstrate this, and tends to report the opposite: trauma results in being unable to forget, not being unable to remember.
While there is no scientific evidence for such claims, clinicians believe that such mechanisms do occur. However, such a belief is not separate from the historical origins of the concepts, and the methods and logic used to uncover repressed or dissociated memories.
This statement is consistent with the Statements of professional
societies, which, over the years, have gradually come to recognise
this formally in the face of rigorous public debate and scrutiny;
The tragedy of recovered memories is that the debacle was entirely avoidable if professional practice required the clinician to conform to accepted scientific knowledge. That is, if clinicians abided by their stated Codes of Ethics and Professional Practice.
There has been a large body of research arising over many decades which indicates it is remarkably easy to influence people so that they come to believe memories that are false. This can occur in persons who are not necessarily psychologically disordered. At a time of emotional vulnerability, the potential for this is increased. A review may be found in a paper by Garry and Loftus, (1994, International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Vol XLII No. 4) from an empirical scientific perspective.
The ideas and practices associated with recovered memories continue in Australia in 1999, some seven years after the issue was raised internationally, and four years after the AFMA was formed. The belief remains while the language has changed.
Family members continue to be estranged, in some cases coming up to a decade.
The fact is that anyone can engage in psychological practices in Australia, provided they do not use a legally restricted title, or hold out to have qualifications they do not possess (eg. medical).
Psychological practices were first regulated in Australia
following the 1963 Anderson Royal Commission. As a recommendation
from this, in Australia, the State of Victoria was the first
to proclaim its Psychological Practices Act in 1965. It took
well over two decades for similar Acts to occur across all States
of Australia, with New South Wales (the most populated State
of Australia) being the last. However, in 1995,Victorian Psychological
Practices Act (1965) was changed to the Psychologists Registration
Act (1987)- with the emphasis changed to registering qualifications,
not the general regulation of psychological practices. The trend
now is towards deregulation.
Despite complaints being lodged, the answer is-No.
A case occurred in Adelaide, South Australia, prior to the phenomenon of recovered memory being public through the FMSF in the US and AFMA in Australia. This was unsuccessful.
A current suit has been lodged by a retractor and her father as third party in the Victorian Supreme Court, handled by Woodhams OKeefe Solicitors and Barrister Mr Phillip Priest QC.
In April 1999, a suit was been filed in the New South Wales Supreme Court relating to a case concerning gross allegations of Satanic Ritual Abuse in a Daycare setting. This was a case concerning allegations by children.
Yes. Cases are continuing to be prosecuted across Australia in 1999. Frequently elderly persons are being faced with jail and massive legal fees, after the destruction of their relationships with their children and families.
Legislative changes have also occurred at the behest of government services that have been associated with recovered memory cases and also claims of satanic and/or ritual abuse. The Evidence Acts of NSW and Victoria were recently changed restricting access of legal defence counsel to the records and details of counselling and or therapy, with similar changes in the offing elsewhere. Joint trials with multiple complainants are occurring with the consequent risk of contamination of evidence- the likely outcome in such trials is generally a guilty verdict. Persons become financially ruined when they have to defend themselves against false accusation based solely on uncorroborated recovered memories.
It has been the case that Civil litigation (at least in one State), based on the lower standard of proof (i.e.: balance of probability) has allowed anyone to be able to receive up to $A 50,000, without testing the evidence at criminal trial. In one State, after a review of the system, this has included a case of a pay-out of $20,000 for hypnotically recovered memories. Previous pay-outs have been made to victims claiming ritual or satanic abuse. Therapists have also been able to receive ongoing fees (with this being limited in recent years, with application required for greater funds). In lodging a claim for compensation, individuals file a criminal affidavit with police, unless exempted: This financial conflict of interest has potentially driven both civil and criminal trials.
Recovered memories generally are considered to occur in adults who recover hidden memories of abuse after a delay of many years, or even decades. However, it is possible to develop false pseudo-memories with less periods of delay, particularly if the individual has been influenced by the effects of suggestion or contaminating information.
Children are far more suggestible and hypnotisable than adults due to the nature of their stage of cognitive development. Consequently, there has been research which demonstrates the ease with which it is possible to induce false pseudo-memories for events stated to have occurred even in the recent past. This is particularly the case when inappropriate techniques and coercive interviewing are employed.
In cases involving children concepts of repression or dissociation are rarely invoked, and commonly involve issues of child welfare, custody disputes, divorce, or the role of carers (including teachers). None-the-less, there are cases where claims of related to recovered memory, including multiple personality (now Dissociative Identity Disorder), post-traumatic stress disorder and dissociation do occur.
There are clearly situations where children are in imminent danger and require protection. Sound techniques are required. Ideally, both for adults and children, these techniques and interviews should be fully recorded and documented, including the background and context.
ASCA was publicly formed in May 1995, one-week after three letters critical of repressed memories were published in The Australian newspaper. These letters were successively by Dr Kenneth Godwin (Public Officer of the AFMA at the time), Psychologist Merle Elson and Dr Andrew Gibbs. Following the last, a letter was written to the Australian calling for persons to join ASCA. ASCA was initially known as "The Australian Association for Recovered Memories", then "We Remember", and was then redefined under "Australian Survivors of Child Abuse"(ASCA).
The Board of ASCA includes persons who advocate recovered
memories, multiple personalities, and claims of gross ritual
or satanic abuse. It is well-funded and claims to speak on behalf
of "survivors", through expensive advertising within
the Australian media. The book Breaking The Silence by Liz Mullinar
(based in Australia) and Candida Hunt (based in the United Kingdom)
argues in favour of recovered memory methods, multiple personalities
and recovered memories of ritual abuse. ASCA has the patronage
of prominent Australians.
The Australian Association for Trauma and Dissociation (AAT&D) was formerly known as The Australian Association for Multiple Personality and Dissociation. Like the international organisation, the International Society for the Study of Dissociation, it has played a significant role in educating hundreds of Australian professionals in ideas such as Satanic Ritual Abuse, Multiple Personalities, Recovered/ Dissociated Memories, and the various techniques associated with recovered memory. It held a seminar entitled "Satanic Ritual Abuse" at Monash Medical Center in 1992; the next year its conference was held at the Victorian Police Academy.
It now promotes itself as an organisation sponsoring "ethical" and "scientific" professional development seminars across the States of Australia, within both government and private services. Members of its Executive have reported a number of their own cases who claim to be breeders for satanic, ritual, or organised-sadistic abusing cults. Their seminars regularly attract hundreds of Australian professionals. Its membership includes persons who work within Australian and State government institutions and services such as welfare services, hospitals, and universities. Also included are professionals and organisations within the private sector.
In 1997, the AAT& D amalgamated with the Australasian
Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. This society is particularly
interested in the concept of "dissociation" from the
point-of-view of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. A
similar proposal for amalgamation between the International Society
for the Study of Dissociation and the International Society for
Traumatic Stress studies in the same year did not occur. Such
associations demonstrate the relationship between the concept
of dissociation to a spectrum of diagnoses.
Australian False Memory Association
Email the AFMA at email@example.com
PO Box 74
Ph: 1300 88 88 77