Comments on: My Lie: A True Story of False Memory ~ an interview with author Meredith Maran conversation and contention, for your attention Sun, 10 Apr 2011 19:13:52 +0000 hourly 1 By: vindalf Sun, 10 Apr 2011 19:13:52 +0000 Doug –

You are very welcome!
There were actually 4 parts to my original draft of the above comments. I got frustrated over how to explain associations between certain convoluted concepts, popularized by various activist-advocates, and the complex social processes through which popular concensus about reality is constructed – in a manner that would be easily understandable by everyone. And then I got distracted by various global disasters & upheavals…

You are quite obviously more than capable of, and willing to, educate yourself about ‘material’ that you might not have a prior familiarity with – so I’ve concluded that my frustration & worries were unfounded, and I should just get on with it.

By the way, there are 2 extremely valuable UK resources relating to much of this subject matter – “Beatrix Campbell and the SRA Myth” :
and the “Sub-culture Alternatives Freedom Foundation (S.A.F.F.)” site.

My intention in this discussion IS NOT “to bash” feminists or feminism. My intention is to understand and communicate what really happened, and why things happened the way they did. The subject matter necessarily makes some self-proclaimed feminists and their activities a focus of the discussion. In my opinion, some of these ‘feminists’ made serious mistakes with tragic consequences, but I absolutely DO NOT believe in a “feminazi” conspiracy against male persons.

Why bother with “re-storying” the history of social awareness about child sexual abuse? Why go to all the trouble of convincing an entire society of people, that their society had been entirely ignorant of and unconcerned about the sexual abuse of children, (especially when such a sweeping generalization was demonstrably untrue) – ?

Because defining characteristics of feminist research demanded this.
First, feminist research has to be conducted by women – and previous research into human sexuality and all manifestations of sexual violence, including incest and other sexual abuse of minors, had overwhelmingly been conducted by men – so Feminist research into incest & child sexual abuse (CSA) couldn’t “build on” that prior research, or even refer to it or acknowledge that it existed except to critique and denounce it.

Furthermore, Feminist research is always political – it is always concerned to reduce the power imbalances inherent to a patriarchal society – it is about empowering the powerless and giving a voice to the voiceless. Feminist researchers desire to allow the subjects of their research (in this case, child victims and adult survivors of child abuse) to speak for themselves, to gain ownership of their experience by being recognised as the sole expert or authority on their experience. A cornerstone of feminist doctrine is that sexual violence is something that happens to women and girls, only rarely to men or boys. As the principle victims of sexual violence and abuse, only women can understand the reality of that experience, only women can define it, categorize it, measure it and analyze it – because it is THEIR experience. For Feminists, real knowledge & understanding of CSA in our society would therefore have to originate with the more recent research conducted by women.

But there were other reasons why prior research on human sexuality and adult-child sexual interactions had to be ignored or dismissed as “patriarchal misinformation”, some of which are rarely publicly acknowledged. One of those reasons was “the problem of non-traumatizing child sexual abuse”.

The Trouble With Kinsey-
Alfred Kinsey and principle co-researchers like Wardell Pomeroy being men, and not having been victims of sexual violence themselves, was not the only trouble Feminist researchers had with Kinsey Institute research.
Kinsey and his team were quantitative researchers , they were primarily interested in collecting & analyzing descriptive and numerical data – what sex acts, how often, at what ages, etc. They were less interested, although not entirely disinterested, in qualitative research – what impact did this sexual activity have on the individuals involved or on society as a whole, for example.
Feminist researchers deliberately orient their research the other direction – they are primarily interested in qualitative data and don’t usually assign much value to statistical data, (although that doesn’t stop them from generating and publicly proclaiming their own stats, in service to their “changing society for the better” social marketing goals).

Kinsey and his team collected almost 10,000 detailed sexual life histories before the publication of their first book “Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male”. This was the greatest, most detailed data base on human sexuality available to science at that time and, because specific sexual behaviours could be studied within the context of a comprehensive life history, one that could be endlessly mined for insight that more limited surveys, (such as an incest questionnaire), could not provide. But for Feminist CSA researchers thirty years later, this database might have seemed more of an info minefield than an info gold mine – because it contained clear statements by some men, and a few women, that they had sexual experiences with adults when they were minors which not only failed to be seriously traumatizing for them but in some cases even constituted happy, sexually stimulating, memories for them as adults. There was even more dangerous information than that – there were also a few cases where interviewees stated that as a minor they had desired a sexual experience with an adult in their lives, had sucessfully pursued their desire, had initiated sexual interaction with that adult person, enjoyed the encounter and had no regrets about it.

Objectively, at the very least because of the inherent social power imbalance between an adult and a child, (or youth), any sexual acts involving an adult and a minor have to be considered abusive. This is true even if the younger person didn’t perceive themselves being abused at the time, and even if that person never does place such an interpretation on that encounter – to the end of their days. A lot more is known and understood today, about self-protective rationalizations developed by both child sexual abusers and their victims, than was understood when Kinsey was collecting his life histories. In the light of that understanding, we commonly interpret statements like; “I had sex with my nanny before I was ten and it was fantastic – made a man of me, actually”, as a manifestation of DENIAL.

No doubt to the consternation of Feminist CSA researchers, Kinsey and his team generally avoided interpreting what their interviewees told them. With quantitative clinical neutrality, they took their respondents’s statements literally. If their respondent claimed to have enjoyed sexual interactions with an older relative, that’s what they recorded and reported.

I can imagine Feminist CSA researchers encountering such data and in their mind shrieking: “But you CAN’T SAY THAT – because that is exactly how child abusers rationalize their offending behaviour, claiming the child was the aggressor, the child seduced them, the child ‘wanted it’ and ‘enjoyed it’, claiming it was sex education, a natural part of ‘growing up’, and that no one is really harmed by it. It doesn’t matter if that’s the exact wording your respondent used – DON’T PUBLISH IT that way, you fools!”

For Feminist and other more recent CSA researchers, that kind of neutrality is considered to be socially irresponsible. If respondents to THEIR surveys made such statements, those responses would be excluded from the data set, or interpreted i.e., “2 respondents exhibited denial about their childhood abuse experiences, making self-protective rationalizations about those episodes”. Feminist and other more recent CSA researchers would do this, because part of the point of doing CSA research at all – for them – is to influence people’s beliefs about adult-child sexual interaction, to ensure that everyone interprets such interactions as very serious child abuse, and subsequently ensure that everyone supports maximal precautions to prevent CSA, supports maximal reporting of suspected CSA , supports maximal prosecution of CSA suspects and supports maximal sentencing of convicted child sex abusers. (High levels of support for these things seems an objectively “good” thing for our society, to me, so long as they are not misused through false allegations and witchhunting).

Some of these Feminist and recent CSA researchers and advocate-activists perceive that they have been engaged in a war – a war against organized pedophiles, who are both openly and surreptitiously seducing people into acceptance of unrestrained sexual liberty – over the population’s attitudes toward child sexual abuse. They interpret certain events over the past 40 years as moments of crisis where the child abusers were winning that alleged war, and believe it is their duty to push the pendulum toward universal public abhorrence of adult-child sex as forcefully as they can manage. Some of these folk were no doubt delighted by the Satanic Panic, even if they weren’t genuine true believers themselves, not only because of the constant daytime tv obsession with the subject of child abuse that the Panic incited, but also because child sexual abuse was being equated with large scal kidnapping conspiracies, extreme sexual torture, murder-sacrifice of the most innocent, and revolting acts of cannibalism. They might have participated in encouraging & promoting Satanic Panic, thinking that if enough people had such associations embedded in the back of their minds it would be very difficult for pedophile conspiracists to sell them on “child sex is just a bit of harmless fun…”

What’s really interesting about all this, however, is that the people who have insisted that all child abuse victim claimants must be accorded unquestioned belief, have insisted that people who were involved in adult-child sexual interactions are the only expert authorities on their own experience, have insisted that such person’s own accounts of that experience must be ‘heard’ and represented in research on the subject, are the same people who are most anxious to ignore/ censor/ or reinterpret personal accounts of such experiences which contradict what they want the public to perceive about adult-child sexual interactions. And when an academic researcher such as Susan Clancy – who is absolutely not an advocate for pedophilic liberty – finds that her own surveys about adult-child sexual experiences replicate similarly unorthodox accounts to those found within the Kinsey data and is honest enough to state that fact, these people mount vicious campaigns of harassment and slander against her.

By: doug Mon, 28 Feb 2011 23:02:05 +0000 vindalf –
once again, you provide me with lots of material with which i was not previously familiar. thank you very much. you covered a lot of questions that i was meaning to look deeper into.
you seem to have anticipated something that i elaborate on (hopefully not too indirectly) in my most recent post – how an environment premised on one even reasonable sounding, but ultimately flawed premise, can lead to the most outrageous and unhinged of conclusions. ms. maran herself describes this when she stated: “[…]It sort of made the incredible credible. It’s sort of a reverse logic in a way. Once I realized that I had bought a lie on the other side of the equation — the lie that [molestation] rarely happens — then it became very possible to believe anything that argued the other point…” in this case, the idea that incest was or is under-recognised sounds uncontroversial enough. the idea of repressed memories is uncontroversial to the layman as well… the 2 together brought us a witch-hunt.
going back to freud, i’d like to ask if you are also aware of velikovsky’s ‘worlds in collision’? it’s a lesser known early effort to use repressed memories as an excuse for lack of anecdotal evidence for major events for which there was already a lack of physical evidence… in this case the major event was that of a near planetary collision between earth and a giant comet.

By: vindalf Mon, 21 Feb 2011 11:06:08 +0000 Part Two –

One of the ways in which Ms Maran and others taught their audiences to believe that they, and the rest of their society, had always believed that child sexual abuse – especially incestuous abuse – was extremely rare, was the endless recitation of memes like this;
“As recently as [10 or 20 or 30] years ago, the Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry placed the incidence rate for incest at between 1.1 and 1.9 per million ( Henderson, 1975)”

This citation is accurate, but somewhat disingenuous. How the term “incest” is defined greatly affects incidence rate estimates. “Henderson 1975” might have used a definition closer to the old legal definition in some States – restricted to immediate blood relations “living like a married couple” and engaged in a sexual relationship that has produced or is likely to produce children – which would generate a very low incidence, perhaps even “one-in-a-million”. [Some ‘feminist’ commentators have claimed that the existence of these specifically procreative incest prohibition laws meant that fathers could not be charged with sexually abusing their children in any fashion that fell short of a procreative relationship. This is nonsense, of course, as there were other statutes under which parental molestation and sexual assaults could be and were prosecuted in those jurisdictions]

More recent and Feminist researchers have used definitions ranging from “any sexual contact”, “any unwanted touching”, “any touching”, “any sexual interaction with or without contact” between family members, and naturally the broader the definition the higher the self-reported incidence rate of survey participants.
The lowest incidence rate estimates could be based on relevant criminal conviction rates. The highest incidence rate estimates appear to be derived from survey research that counted “symptoms of abuse in respondent life history” as a “yes” response from participants who actually said “no”. This deductive inference of unacknowledged abuse, based on alleged symptoms of abuse in life history is VERY IMPORTANT and will come up again in this discussion.

The presentation of this Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry citation, with the inference that it represented “the state of expert, and probably popular, opinion at that time”, seems deliberately misleading. The Kinsey Institute report, long before 1975, gave an incidence rate of 1 out of 100 girls reporting a sexual experience with their father or other male relatives, and Kinsey was much more influential with both professionals and the general public than an obscure article from a “Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry”.

How could feminist activists “teach” an audience, that the listeners themselves had believed child sexual abuse to be very rare. Wouldn’t their pre-existing perceptions about abuse prevalence contradict that?

“For most of what they believe that they know, human beings lack personal or direct information; they must rely on what other people think. In some domains, people suffer from a “crippled epistemology,” in the sense that they know very few things, and what they [do] know is [often] wrong” – Cass Sunstein

Unless they had a reason to do so, most people would not have bothered researching statistics of incest & child sexual abuse rate estimates. For most people, such information would have lain in a “crippled epistemology” domain at best. This might be compounded by unfounded perceptions of what other people know, what the prevailing social or expert concensus on the topic might be, such as “pluralistic ignorance” or “false concensus”. Even if an audience member thought to themselves: “Well…I couldn’t say for certain what the incest rate really is, but I wouldn’t have said one-in-a-million – that seems ridiculously low” they could still be easily persuaded to believe that EVERYONE ELSE thinks child sexual abuse is that uncommon, and therefore a claim that “until recently, incest was believed to be very rare” wouldn’t contradict their perception of reality.

There are undeniable truths underlying several feminist incest activist portrayals, of historic injustice experienced by child sexual abuse victims.

It is true that Freud’s Oedipal theory of inherent feelings of attraction to and sexual fantasies about the opposite sex parent, were used to justify casting doubt on the reality of some female abuse complaints, exemplified by John Henry Wigmore’s “Treatise on Evidence” (1934) , but it is not true that abuse complainants were universally disbelieved and therefore no incest offenders were ever charged or convicted:

“The historian Philip Jenkins has found that incest accounted for 4% of the charges against sex offenders in New Jersey in 1949, and 3% of charges against sex offenders in Indiana between 1949 and 1956. When charges of incest were brought in California, the conviction rate was significantly higher than for rape, or “lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor,” and just as high as for sexual misdemeanors falling under “contributing to the delinquency of minors.” 75% of the incest cases that were brought before the court in California in 1951 ended in conviction. On the one hand, this high conviction rate reflects the fact that, unlike other “morals” cases, charges of incest could not be reduced to a lesser charge. On the other, the high conviction rate also reflects a tendency to believe rather than discredit the prosecuting witness
Thus the advice given to judges by the American Bar Association in 1936 that complaints of sexual abuse often stemmed from a girl’s “erotic imagination” seems to have had a limited impact on incest trials–precisely the cases where one might assume that Freudian ideas would be most relevant”

“Similarly, in describing the details of 159 cases of father-daughter incest, Kirson Weinberg never questioned whether incest victims were telling the truth. “In father-daughter incest,” he writes, “the daughters were the most frequent informants. Many daughters told their mothers or siblings and some informed cousins, neighbors, or personal friends … some relatives went with the daughters to the authorities; other relatives had the father arrested themselves. That these “informants” might have been lying apparently never occurred to him, for in his ensuing discussion of these cases he never doubts the stories as they were related by the (usually adolescent) daughter”.

With regard to the UK, Carol Smart says:
“the idea that agencies, professionals and governments did not ‘know’ about sexual abuse or that there was a monolithic silence prior to the 1980s does a disservice to campaigners and feminists who, following the implementation
of the Punishment of Incest Act in 1908, fought hard to extend the definition of adult–child sexual contact as harmful. Borrowing from Foucault’s work on Victorian sexuality it might be more appropriate to question the assumption that there really was a silence over sexual matters of this kind…”

Florence Rush’s indictment of Freud, in “The Freudian Cover-up”, suggesting that repeated and persistent incrimination of fathers by his patients made him uneasy, that his abandoning the seduction theory amounted to “one man’s attempt to hide illegal or immoral sex practices” on behalf of a pedophilic social elite, is simply false. The truth of the matter is a very complex story:

This is not about defending Freud’s reputation from feminist indictment, in fact the truth reveals him to be an even lower form of fraudulent poser than merely “a lapdog to the Patriarchy”. The truth is that “the Seduction Theory” was entirely an obsessive fantasy constructed from HIS OWN imagination. His patients didn’t verbally report infantile abuse experiences, in fact:
“The very essence of the seduction theory entailed that only unconscious memories of early childhood sexual abuse could result in hysterical or obsessional symptoms, which is inconsistent with the notion of patients coming to him with reports of childhood sexual abuse; on Freud’s theory the putative memories were deeply repressed and not accessible to consciousness in normal circumstances”

“In his original 1896 paper, Freud had made it abundantly clear that when his early patients had come to him they had no memories of incest at all. Since they are so crucial, Freud’s exact words should perhaps be quoted again: ‘Before they come for analysis,’ he writes, ‘the patients know nothing about these scenes”

“How then, did these patients know what kind of scenes they were expected to reproduce? Freud himself, it will be recalled, implicitly answers this question. ‘They are indignant as a rule,’ he writes, ‘if we warn them that such scenes are going to emerge.’ It was thus evidently Freud’s habit to inform his patients of the kind of scenes he expected to emerge. But if his patients were indignant when they were told they were going to reproduce scenes of child sexual abuse, how did Freud persuade them to do this? Once again Freud himself gives us the answer. ‘Only the strongest compulsion of the treatment can induce them to embark on a reproduction of them”

“His theoretical speculations had led him to the conclusion that ‘hysteria’ was a single disease, and that the ‘pathogen’ which caused it was repressed sexual abuse. His task was to persuade patients to reproduce the pathogenic memories which, according to his theories, were lodged in a submerged part of their minds”

“The way to do this was to persuade the patient to reproduce scenes of childhood sexual abuse. If they declined, it was his job, as a conscientious physician, to use his ‘pressure technique’ and to make sure that they followed the treatment he prescribed. For, as he writes, ‘We must insist on this, we must repeat the pressure and represent ourselves as infallible, till at least we are really told something”

“There is a great deal of evidence, most of it in Freud’s own frank and astonishing words, that he went out of his way to persuade, encourage, cajole and sometimes bully his female patients to reproduce scenes of child sexual abuse which he himself had reconstructed from their symptoms or their associations”

And THERE IT IS AGAIN! The deductive inference of unacknowledged abuse, based on alleged “symptoms of abuse history”! Practicing “abuse divination”, i.e., successful (more often unsuccesful) conjecture by unusual insight or good luck.

By: vindalf Mon, 21 Feb 2011 04:10:10 +0000 Part one –

I’ve been going over this excellent interview, other interviews, excerpts from the book. I do think the book has value, for our society at this time, and that Ms Maran’s efforts to be honest with herself and her audience is courageous and admirable.

It is apparent to me, nevertheless, that there remains potential for further growth. She may still be lying to herself, and subsequently presenting some misleading ideas to her readers. Perhaps someday there will be a sequel: “My Lies”.

Meredith shows some understanding that her crusading journalism on the subject of incest had a social marketing aspect – an intent to influence people’s perceptions and attitudes about a social problem (incest/child sexual abuse) to bring about changes in their personal and collective behaviour:
“It became sort of a meme — a widely believed idea that incest was in fact the embodiment of male domination and violence. So, fighting incest, personally and politically, became a way of fighting women’s oppression”.

Influencing perceptions and attitudes wouldn’t come simply through telling the stories of victims and/or offenders, it would also require “re-storying” the history of social awareness about child sexual abuse, child victim advocacy, and prosecution of sexual offenses involving minors. People would have to be taught that they and the rest of their society had always believed that child sexual abuse – especially incestuous abuse – was extremely rare, that almost everyone was in profound denial about it, and that this ignorance & denial were intentionally inculcated in us through deliberate deceptions, promulgated by powerful males and their spineless subservient female accomplices, to protect male sexual dominance privilege.

As Meredith says: “The myth is that only feminists care whether women and children have been sexually abused”. Actually, the myth is a lot more comprehensive than that, as evidenced by the believes expressed by this academic – who may very well have been influenced in their perceptions by the propaganda campaign Meredith and other feminist writers participated in:

“…a climate of tyrannical scepticism about incest and child abuse which would remain almost unchallenged throughout most of the century. Only in the last twenty years has it become possible to oppose this climate effectively. This is almost entirely due to the influence of feminism. For during the late 1970s and the early 1980s many feminist writers and therapists began to recognise the frequency with which real cases of sexual abuse were subject to denial. Quite deliberately they started to draw back the veil of patriarchy and to reveal the reality which had been concealed behind it”.

This re-storying continues to grow with the telling, to the point of ‘feminist’ incest activists and researchers openly proclaiming that their community is solely responsible for all public and professional awareness of child sexual abuse: “The Politics of Child Sexual Abuse – Emotion, Social Movements, and the State” by Nancy Whittier –

“As recently as 1970, child sexual abuse was seen as extremely rare and usually harmless. Over thirty years later, the media regularly covers child sexual abuse cases, many survivors speak openly about their experiences, and a thriving network of public and private organizations seek to prevent child sexual abuse and remedy its effects. This is the story of these dramatic changes and the activists who helped bring them about.
The Politics of Child Sexual Abuse is the first study of activism against child sexual abuse, tracing its emergence in feminist anti-rape efforts, its development into mainstream self-help, and its entry into mass media and public policy. Nancy Whittier deftly charts the development of the movement’s “therapeutic politics,” demonstrating that activists viewed tactics for changing emotions and one’s sense of self as necessary for widespread social change and combined them with efforts to change institutions and the state. Though activism originated with feminists, as the movement grew and spread to include the goals of non-feminist survivors, opponents, therapists, law enforcement, and elected officials, participants were pulled toward formulations of child sexual abuse as a medical or criminal problem and away from emphases on gender and power. In the process, the movement…succeeded beyond its wildest dreams…”

True zealots like Carolyn Gage evidence no modesty when proclaiming the importance of whatever accomplishment their community claims sole responsibility for:

“Incest… How important is that in light of the Gulf Coast volcano, or the endless wars around the world, or global warming…? I mean, really. Isn’t it just more of the West’s navel-gazing, my-mother-didn’t-love-me narcissism…? I mean, really?
I mean REALLY. It is the root, it is the ground zero, it is the central organizing paradigm of the patriarchy. Yes, really, I mean the patriarchy. That male-dominated system that, in the words of Robin Morgan, institutionalizes dissociation. What does that mean? It means it splits off profit motive from the murder of animals. It sees an oil leak as good for the Gross National Product, because it generates jobs and stimulates technology. Ditto war. The military is the largest consumer of goods in the US.
Where do people think this unnatural contempt for our natural environment and for our fellow beings begins? Dissociation can be imposed and enforced at any point in a person’s life, but the earlier it begins the more likely it is to “take.”
So… Just how important is incest in light of ALL the problems in the world today? Very. Priority. Central to the solution. Never equivocate on that. Never. And when you save a child you strike the most powerful blow against the empire. And when that child is yourself, you have raised the dead.”

The ‘feminist’ incest activist and researcher community are no less than the saviours of mankind, by their own estimation, it seems. Their perceived importance and consequent social authority today is a direct outgrowth of efforts by Ms Maran, and others like her, to teach their audiences that they and the rest of their society had always believed that child sexual abuse – especially incestuous abuse – was extremely rare, thateveryone (except feminists, of course) was in profound denial about it…

By: emmablue Sat, 25 Dec 2010 20:35:36 +0000 Something that bothers me about this entire subject is that it appears that many, on both sides, believe that a completely “healthy” or uninjured person walks around with a continuous present memory of everything that ever happened in his or her life, which of course is ridiculous.

We have many layers of memory, from most recent to very deep. Ask anyone to quickly answer the question “what did you have for breakfast last Tuesday?” and he will hesitate and maybe will not remember or will refuse to bother trying to remember. Does that prove a traumatic event happend at breakfast last Tuesday?

Anyone who works with memory problems related to things like Ahlzheimers or head injury knows that the whole process has very little to do with traumatized emotions. A traumatized person may be reluctant to voice a memory, or may have difficulty finding words, and often is forced into the label of “recovered” memory.

I have even been told, when I asserted to a counselor that I always knew about certain events, that when a memory “is recovered” it “feels” like one always knew.

Which is hogwash. For one thing, these stories of recovered memory seem to include the dramatic “aha!” and the people clearly state that they did not always remember and for another, since in my case I was dealing with a problem brother-in-law from my teenage years, I went through lots of stages of thinking about what to do about it, from protecting myself through evaluating whether or not I should speak to this person or that person, and ultimately did not speak of it for years. So how could that continuous memory be only a “feeling” associated with a “recovered” memory?

It seems to me that these counselors say whatever they think will sell their theory to a client and they don’t care about the physiology of the brain’s own handling of memories or about the client’s actual condition.

By: vindalf Sat, 04 Dec 2010 12:35:25 +0000 Doug,

Thanks for replying.
From that discussion: “After reading the booklet, seven of the 24 participants (29 percent) remembered either partially or fully the false event constructed for them…”

I’m inclined to suggest that ought to read: …24 participants CLAIMED TO REMEMBER, either partially or fully, the false event…

Lying about our life histories, knowingly, intentionally, under various circumstances and with a variety of motivations, is a rampant phenomenon in the modern world. It has been greatly encouraged by deconstructionist arguments that there is no such thing as an objective reality, by “re-storying” therapy wherein people are encouraged to invent a fictitious life history that makes them happier than their ugly (or simply boringly mundane) reality, and many other social processes of relatively recent ascendance.

By: Phoenix Fri, 03 Dec 2010 21:49:26 +0000 doug,

Very nice argument. I like how you laid it out so concisely. So here is what I gathered from what you said….maybe with a bit of my own interpretation and addition.

1. trauma-related stress causes constriction of various sorts within the body. This is a well-documented process and I doubt anyone would disagree. So, you propose that the stress-related constriction happens with the mind’s ability to collect details about the environment around them and retain those details in memory. In short, the memories encoded during a trauma event experience a sort of tunnel vision meaning that some details are grasped clearly while the others are fuzzy or non-existent. Because the other details have never been or were improperly captured by the brain, their recall is simply not possible or suspect, at the least.

2. It sounds like you argue the scientific veracity of the model of repressed memories altogether.

I have to head out for an important impromptu meeting, but when I get back…I’d like to continue this discussion. Sorry to post and run.

By: doug Fri, 03 Dec 2010 17:35:09 +0000 hello vindalf –

“memory”, if meant to denote a mental play-back of objectively real, personally observed and experienced historically accurate events, is something of an intuitively held myth to begin with. Memory (as one will often hear in debates regarding false memory or the value of eye-witness testimony) is a re-constructive process — malleable to present influences, distortions, and confabulation (filling-in-blanks) — and never at all like a complete video play-back. At best, our memories are based on a true story. sometimes, though, “memories” are not even merely a distorted reflection of historically accurate events. this was famously demonstrated by dr. elizabeth loftus in her “lost in the mall” experiment which she described in Scientific American (September 1997, vol 277 #3 pages 70-75):

“My research associate, Jacqueline E. Pickrell, and I settled on trying to plant a specific memory of being lost in a shopping mall or large department store at about the age of five. Here’s how we did it. We asked our subjects, 24 individuals ranging in age from 18 to 53, to try to remember childhood events that had been recounted to us by a parent, an older sibling or another close relative. We prepared a booklet for each participant containing one-paragraph stories about three events that had actually happened to him or her and one that had not. We constructed the false event using information about a plausible shopping trip provided by a relative, who also verified that the participant had not in fact been lost at about the age of five. The lost-in-the-mall scenario included the following elements: lost for an extended period, crying, aid and comfort by an elderly woman and, finally, reunion with the family.
After reading each story in the booklet, the participants wrote what they remembered about the event. If they did not remember it, they were instructed to write, “I do not remember this.” In two follow-up interviews, we told the participants that we were interested in examining how much detail they could remember and how their memories compared with those of their relative. The event paragraphs were not read to them verbatim, but rather parts were provided as retrieval cues. The participants recalled something about 49 of the 72 true events (68 percent) immediately after the initial reading of the booklet and also in each of the two follow-up interviews. After reading the booklet, seven of the 24 participants (29 percent) remembered either partially or fully the false event constructed for them, and in the two follow-up interviews six participants (25 percent) continued to claim that they remembered the fictitious event. Statistically, there were some differences between the true memories and the false ones: participants used more words to describe the true memories, and they rated the true memories as being somewhat more clear. But if an onlooker were to observe many of our participants describe an event, it would be difficult indeed to tell whether the account was of a true or a false memory. Of course, being lost, however frightening, is not the same as being abused. But the lost-in-the-mall study is not about real experiences of being lost; it is about planting false memories of being lost. The paradigm shows a way of instilling false memories and takes a step toward allowing us to understand how this might happen in real-world settings. Moreover, the study provides evidence that people can be led to remember their past in different ways, and they can even be coaxed into “remembering” entire events that never happened.”

when you say “fantasy”, i’m sure you’re referring to those stories deemed “recovered memories” which don’t even seem to base themselves upon any reasonable assumption of actual events, and even often contradict all available evidence. we might refer to these as “false memories” just the same. false memories need not have foundations in actual events, they only need to be BELIEVED as historically accurate memories by those who hold them. but, of course, false memories aren’t the entire story when we’re talking about conspiracy theories regarding ritual abuse or alien abduction. in fact, false memory syndrome gives too much credit to some of the obvious cons, outright liars, who spread these mythologies. but even with the more flagrant abusers-of-truth there seems to be a sliding scale on a spectrum that runs from belief to willful deceit. when i was speaking to some of the people who claimed to have been abducted by aliens, i didn’t doubt (for the most part) that they actually believed that they had been abducted. but, even among the believers, i feel i was knowingly lied to as they embellished elements of their stories to make them sound irrefutable. for example, a man described to me classic sleep-paralysis as a precursor to abduction by martians. i attempted to explain sleep paralysis to him, to indicate that un-earthly visitors were not the most parsimonious explanation for his occasional nocturnal disturbances. this is when he changed course, telling me of a green glowing ooze ‘they’ had left upon his bed. this mysterious slime, he claimed, was declared to be not-of-terrestrial origin by some secret scientists who have the sample somewhere in confidential quarantine in the netherlands. clearly, i don’t think that the ‘abductee’ himself believed this tale of the ooze and the scientists, but i do think that he was embellishing so as to defend a proposition that he does truly believe, but has no real evidence of: the idea that he has been taken, and is of special interest to, extraterrestrial beings.
you are certainly right about the contextual framework creating these beliefs. meredith maran’s book is a great story that details where looking for evidence that fits a conclusion, rather than basing a conclusion upon evidence, can lead. as expressed in the interview, this story extends well beyond the abuse panic, satanism scare, and abduction conspiracies — it helps shed light upon the dynamics of many evidence-denying counter-factual claims deeply held by a variety of fringe, and not-so-fringe, groups…
i found your article (No Project Monarch = No Monarch Victims) very interesting — here’s the link:

By: vindalf Fri, 03 Dec 2010 08:07:28 +0000 What an interesting & courageous person Meredith Maran is!
I haven’t been able to read the whole book, yet, just excerpts from google books and of course all the interviews including yours.
But I maintain that, in many cases including that of Ms Maran, we are not talking about memories at all – we are talking about FANTASIES interpreted as “memories”. The whole “memory debate”, while important, is really a type of red herring.

I’m intrigued by the parallels between the process Ms Maran talks about experiencing and what I described in “No Project Monarch = No Monarch Victims” :
[ There are many ways to interpret these bizarre, mysterious episodes in our lives, or the impression of having “lost” time or blocked memory. RA-MC evangelists hang out in places where such personal episodes are likely to be discussed, in part because they have a specific interpretation/explanation for such experiences that they wish to “educate” others about (really, seduce others into adopting).

It’s only a matter of interpretation, you see. The same experiences that an average person may have had, that they occaisionally wonder about but aren’t really troubled by – when given the RA-MC interpretation – may slowly (or suddenly) take on sinister, malevolent tones. This may turn these memories into troubling ones, a cause for concern & worry where before they were not, and turn them into the subject of obsessive contemplation. Lengthy contemplation of the RA-MC interpretation and its sinister implications can lead to fantasizing extensions to the original memory, generating further doubt about the person’s memory, the life history they have always believed to be truth about themselves, even “who they really are” or the nature of reality itself. The RA-MC evangelist will be happy to discuss all this with the target person, to “help” them of course, to guide them into uncovering “the truth” about themselves and their unexplained experience(s)]

Replace RA-MC with “planet incest”, and the parallel is striking.

By: doug Tue, 30 Nov 2010 04:49:18 +0000 phoenix –
thanks for that question.
i think it’s important to draw a clear distinction between incomplete memories and repressed memories. incomplete memories are not unexpected regarding traumatic events due to the attentional hyper-focus for central aspects at the expense of lesser details. for example, a person may be mugged by a man with a gun and be unable to recall the aggressor’s facial features, but he/she may be able to recall the gun itself in vivid detail. the focus can be so singly directed at the gun that other elements are disregarded. the idea that these details could be recalled during hypnosis, or any other type of recovered memory therapy is almost surely entirely wrong, as these details most likely were never coded into any memory at all. it is not common for an individual to forget the trauma altogether. intense emotion, stress, seem to enhance memories for traumatic events rather than diminish them. arguably, this is the very nature of post-traumatic stress: unwanted and vivid recall of highly stressful events remembered only too clearly. ironically, the theory of repression seems to have been inappropriately devolved from the realization that PTSD subjects display an absent-mindedness and marked forgetfulness for mundane daily events. this could be because their minds are preoccupied with past trauma far too often. somewhere along the way, this forgetting among PTSD subjects came to be wrongly used as supporting evidence that the trauma itself may be repressed, or forgotten. there is something called “psychogenic amnesia”, and though some advocates of repression theory will claim that psychogenic amnesia and repression are one and the same, this simply isn’t true. the not-so-common psychogenic case displays their amnesia directly following the trauma, and this is concurrent with massive retrograde amnesia. it involves a loss of personal identity, and it very rarely lasts too terribly long (i think a couple of weeks in one recorded case). to be sure, the psychogenic amnesiac isn’t carrying about daily affairs with no one any the wiser that something is wrong. the tell-tale concurrent problems manifested in psychogenic amnesia make sense if you’ve ever studied the brain. highly dubious is the idea that specific memories may be neatly redacted from autobiographical memory.
as for “identifying real versus false claims of abuse”, this is actually a question i’ve continually put to those who advance repression theory, and i’ve had no satisfactory answer from any of them. any time i meet a group of self-proclaimed ritual abuse victims or people who feel they were abducted by aliens, there seem to be liars and the otherwise mentally deranged represented among them, but not always. they believe their tales, and if we can not distinguish a legitimate recovered memory from any of their confabulations, we certainly can not accept recovered memories in and of themselves as evidence of their own veracity. corroboration is a must.
an indispensable resource in this discussion is the book ‘remembering trauma’ by professor richard mcnally, who has been good enough to speak with me and answer many of my questions throughout my research.
i agree with you that unilateral opinions and false generalizations do nobody any good, and one certainly shouldn’t simply dismiss any claim of abuse out-of-hand. just the same, we must concede what we do and don’t know about memory, the brain, and trauma, which indicate that we should approach claims of recovered memories with caution and skepticism.