Repressed memories

Childhood sexual abuse is a heinous and unthinkable crime. Victims of these crimes suffer the consequences for a long time, sometimes even a lifetime. I do believe that there are cases that the effect on the child was so traumatic that they “repressed” these memories. Especially if the perpetrator was someone, they depended on to fulfill basic day-to-day care or there was a strong bond of trust between the victim and the perpetrator. I believe this to be true because other traumatic events have had similar reports, such as a natural disaster; a child watching the brutal murder of his parents; and war. But this particular reaction even in these situations is rare. Moreover, because of the strength of the emotion involved in the trauma it could leave a very detailed and strong impression, even though buried very deep in the mind. Exposure of these crimes almost guarantees a public outcry. 

In recent years, there is a sudden increase in “recovered” memories. Unfortunately, many of these cases have been proven false but not before destroying many lives and relationships. Because of many high profile cases, the accuracy of all memories has been brought into question and also has created an increase in skepticism. 

 While society does not want to believe such atrocities exist, they are anxious to believe the innocent and punish the perpetrator. It is difficult to retrieve memory in its purest form and it takes a highly skilled and conscientious therapist to retrieve memories without manipulating the facts, but it vital for the protection of the victims to find a way to minimize false memories causing destruction of the lives of the innocently accused. 

 Unfortunately, there have been too many cases where either an over zealous or fame seeking therapist has used “guided” imagery, suggestion and other means of creating memories. There are several things I believe therapists can do to minimize the unintentional creation of memories. 

1. First, a professional should remember the portion of their oath that states “First do no harm.” Keeping this in mind, I believe a good therapist would be willing to abide by self-monitoring guidelines such as the following.

2. Remember there truly is no such thing as a “classic case”. 

3. Attack suspected cases from “unbiased” position.

4. Use caution when recommending reading materials or exercises or other therapy related activities.

5. Work with another therapist to create a check and balance atmosphere.

6. Know your subject. Therapists need to thoroughly comprehend how memory works as well as the susceptibility of such.

7. Also, they should not work in areas they are unfamiliar with unless a specialist in that specific arena closely monitors them.

8. Remember the harm that can be done through misguided therapy.

9. Professionals need to attend to their powers. Keeping in mind that they hold a lot of power when working in vulnerable situations.

 It’s important that they remember how the patient’s perception and direction is often very much in their control and they have an obligation to use this power properly. Not only are therapists hurting their patients and those that are unjustly accused, but they are also doing damage to the field of psychotherapy by creating a perspective of “recovered memory” that obscures the authenticity of valid memories. Persons whom have sought assistance in a life crises or function have now become victims once again. Keep in mind that with even the mildest influence, the therapist can bring into question the entire validity of the claim.

If you follow the consensus in many psychology textbooks, “forgetting is often not memories discarded but memories hard to find,” it would make sense that particularly painful memories have been hidden in dark recesses of the mind. Using the library analogy, then the “book” containing these traumatic events has only been locked into a special storage room of the library and we need only to find the right key (cue) to retrieve it. In all traumas where the memory is buried there is a delicate balance. 

According to James McGaugh (1994) a highly emotionally charged event would create vivid and intrusive memories. However, in the case of long- term abuse the victim may have shut-down emotions related to the abuse and following McGaugh’s theory, the memories would more easily be buried. Repressed memory is a type of disassociation that develops to enable the victim to survive. Not just as a defense mechanism as in “betrayal trauma”, but also as a preservation of a perception or need of a person. 

 

 

Reference

McGough, James  Nature 371, 702 – 704 (20 October 1994); doi:10.1038/371702a0.

Myers, David (1994). Psychology, Sixth Edition in Modules.

 

Over-Population

Like a forest it bears undergrowth that snags at one’s feet and vines that entangle anything encountering them. No light that surpasses the inadequate opening could penetrate the thick masses of its occupants with their bright hues that are veiled in darkness. Each occupant waits patiently to be released and lay bare its pigments its own portentous magnificence. With each having its own stories to tell, they hang around in silence choosing to keep the confidences in which they have been entitled. Hope swells within each that they still serve a purpose and will not become a forgotten one. They wait in silent suspension, longing to receive a coveted invitation to play a vital role in some symphonic affair.

The gaping hole beckons to me and I often dare to venture rather than pass; with each visit identical to the previous. A cramped dark space in which it is difficult to catch one’s breathe, the smell is that of days gone by. My face exchanges space with something silk and smooth (not so unpleasant) while my shoulder is brushed against by something rough, dry and scratchy.

Soon I am engulfed in the midst of many creatures of varying textures. After an exhaustive struggle I disengage myself tossing behind me something periwinkle, only to be attacked again by a creature magenta in color. Once more I break free as I fling it behind me.

Again and again I am overwhelmed by these creatures. Their fabulous colors burst forth from each as they are plunged into the light. I continue to liberate myself creating a palette vibrant with colors of olive, crimson, umber, cerulean blue and so many more. Repeating this until at last, all that remains in my closet is the pewter suit I wore two days before and an expose` of discarded pocketbooks, blankets, hats, shoes, gloves and belts, as well as some clothes long forgotten.

It Rains It Pours

My brain is always flooded with characters and no place to put them, so I make notes. Sometimes I’ll find myself building these characters, making them come to life, but still I have no story in which they can live.

Finally, in a rush while I’m running in the rain to my car a story idea comes to my head. Oh my God! It’s perfect, and I have just the character to play the victim, old Sour Sam, and I could make Sweet Suzie the villain it would be perfect! But the rain is pouring so hard I can’t see my car. Come on I have to find my car! I have to write this down before I forget! I just know I’ll forget because the rain will wash it all away.

Why couldn’t this have come while I was on the train with notepad in hand? I knew it was there, just waiting for the right moment to jump out at me, and I wanted to be ready. I felt it building; the whole scenario, how it would begin, the climax, even how it would end.

This rain is so cold, and I’m starting to shake, but I can still feel the ideas jumping around in my head. There’s my car! Hold on to that idea! Just a little longer I’m almost there. There’s a notepad and pen on the front seat just waiting to allow the release of captured thoughts to the custody of paper. This is such a great storyline; I can’t wait to get started. The kids are over at their aunt’s house tonight, so the timing is perfect. I’ll be able to work on it all night.

Oh, I dropped my keys!

My hair and clothing is soaked, and the rain is pouring down my face, because of the wind, this umbrella seems to have provided me with little protection. My feet are soaked because the water is up over my shoes. My keys are somewhere in this water. I am feeling around with my hands where I thought they would be. My fingers are starting to stiffen up from the wet cold.

Oh there they are!

Just two more minutes and I can write down these ideas. Quick get in the car turn on the heat. This stupid umbrella doesn’t want to cooperate. I’ll be home ‘bout the time I dry off. Fortunately, I keep a towel in the back seat and I put it to good use.

As I drive out of the parking lot my eyes catch the note pad and realize there was something I wanted to write down.

Now what was it?

Back To School

This is an older post. Probably sometime in 2004.

Here I am, 40 something and going back to school. It has been over 15 years since I last stepped foot into a college classroom. Then, I wasn’t so much running from my past as chasing toward an unrealistic future.
A future I had created in my mind, and now, I was determined it would become a reality, “beginning a new chapter” per say. I dove headfirst into a dream that I knew not how feasible it was, only that I needed to dive in and do it now.
Finally, I had a future,and I wasn’t going to miss out because I stopped to “count the cost.” As with every young person, I thought I was indestructible. I was the first person in all of time to realize I could have the whole world. I was the only person with grandiose dreams, of becoming so much more than any other person I knew.
At 25, I was the oldest freshman on campus. Most of the students were lucky if they had seen their 18th birthday. They had finally broken free of their parents’ rule and were now making their own decisions, setting their own standards. One could only pray their parents influence ran deep.
While others were out partying, I was in the dorm studying. I had already sown my “wild oats.” I had already had my own taste of reality, so I thought. I was buckled down to earn a degree, so I could right all the wrongs in the world.
I was determined to get my degree and get it as quickly as possible, so I became a workaholic. I worked full-time and studied constantly. I took no interest in school events. I attended Bible College so church involvement was required, which meant you attended at least three services a week.
I amazed myself with my grades, yet I felt I deserved them. I had studied hard. I was very focused on my goal. So focused that I forgot to eat and forgot to sleep. I just didn’t have time. When I first got sick, the doctor told me to take a semester off. Only one, then I wouldn’t lose my status. Instead, I got desperate. I registered for summer classes – it’s not like I had any place better to be. By taking summer classes, I was able to stay on campus, but more important than having some place to lay my head, was that I could retain my health insurance.
What drove me so hard? What caused me to put my health at risk? Did I really think that I could right all the wrongs in the world? That’s what I believed then. Perhaps, it was more an attempt to distance myself as far from my family as I could. Did I really believe I could make a difference in the world? I wanted to teach, but why? Perhaps I felt I wanted to do some good in life. Do something to change a child’s life, and somehow in the process put my childhood further behind me.
Did I feel that I could change the world, or change my life? Did I somehow believe that by changing the world I could change who I was and what made me that way? Is it possible that I believed that by helping children create happy memories I could bury my memories? Or is it possible that I really believed that getting a degree was the first step in my ability to set all the wrongs in the world right?
Now, I no longer wish to change the whole world! I only want to influence the small little space that I occupy, and if at times that consists only of me and what is inside, that’s okay. I only want to be a little more of  “what is right” in the world and a little less of  “what is wrong” in the world.

NOT ALL DENTIST ARE CREATED EQUAL

My family always ends up going to whatever dentists our
insurance dictates. I mean we usually have a limited number of options, but all
this said to explain why there seems to be a regular rotation of dentists.

The past three dentists have changed for other reasons. One
dentist was originally chosen because he was conveniently located near
work.
  He was okay. He didn’t try to
carry a conversation with you while he had your mouth propped open and he
appeared to be thorough and efficient.
 
He practiced by himself, with no apparent partner. So when you made an
appointment with him it was his hands that ended up in your mouth. He had a
staff. A receptionist, billing clerk and some type of maintenance. They
appeared to be a family working together to fulfill his dreams. We did have an
occasional issue with his billing clerk. Who would conveniently have difficulty
with her command of the English language anytime we wanted to address our bill,
which kind of soured the taste in my mouth (no pun intended).
  Then when I changed jobs I once again changed
dentists based on location. This time we went with a big name “practice”, one
that had offices that appeared all over the country; the dentists and
assistants all came from the top schools. They had a beautiful reception area
and exam areas. Very clean and bright and conservatively decorated. I was shocked
when my first exam resulted in an $11,900 estimate for my personalized dental
plan. This was not the total cost, this was my share after my insurances
coverage.
  This estimate consisted of
pulling nine teeth that included my four front upper teeth. Thus the new
implants were strongly advised. Putting screw sockets and screws in my mouth
didn’t seem at all appealing. In addition I didn’t get my cleaning that day. My
daughters both had their cleanings scheduled at the same time.
  Their “dental plan” was just as shocking. Cavities
that hadn’t even been hinted at in the last dental cleaning and exam just six
months earlier. We were looking at another $1800 for one and $2700 for the
other.
   Needless to say I decided a second
opinion was in order. It was several months before I found another dentist that
I felt would be thorough and honest, based on recommendations from
coworkers.
  Wow is about all I can say.
This dentist, appeared to be quite popular, it took me nearly six months to get
in. He had a waiting room designed to hold about five people and about twelve
were waiting to be seen and treated. His chair side manner seemed just about
right. He gave a thorough exam and identified two teeth that needed attention. The
same two teeth that I was well aware of. My dental plan with this doctor now
came to about $800 out of pocket. To me much more reasonable and realistic. His
exam rooms were very small and the room décor was probably from when he first
set up practice nearly twenty years earlier. There was a newspaper article
framed and posted in regards to his bi-annual trips to Haiti with Medical
Missionaries. He has been actively involved since 1996. I found him to be
pretty down to earth, and left his office feeling like I may have found the
dentist that is for me.
 

An Awesome Day

There’s two ways I can approach today. Both of them are correct and both are pretty accurate. It’s just a matter of choice. The first and for some the easiest view is this…

I had difficulty climbing out of bed this morning. I am absolutely exhausted and in constant pain.  I have Fibromyalgia and it has been flaring up for the past two weeks. There are three dogs that lay sprawled across the floor tripping me up at 3:30 in the morning when they refuse to budge until my leg is nearly on the other side of them. The bathroom light blew out halfway through my shower, I finished in the dark. Someone, most likely that two year old running through my house, set the timer on the TV and it automatically comes on at 4 every morning. I’m unable to figure out how to turn it off, and it spooks the begeebees out of me every morning. This morning was no exception and I managed to spill my coffee all over the front of the cabinet and the floor. Get that cleaned up and make a new cup. There is a sink full of dishes because I forgot to run the dishwasher, I choose to ignore these. Gawd! My house is crowded four generations under one roof. On the way to my car this morning I trip over the half finished trampoline on my front lawn and again over some riding toy that belongs to my grandchildren. I get into my car this morning, that my daughter borrowed over the weekend, and it is littered with food packaging from a fast food joint, a half empty can of tea and her make-up. Some of her weekend stuff, blanket and shoes are in the backseat. Along with some Goodwill that I keep forgetting to drop off and some canned goods that I forgot to bring in the house last week. My seat and my mirrors all need readjusted, there goes another five minutes. I’m finally driving down the road when I realize I forgot my beautiful “second” cup of coffee sitting on the counter, and there is an accident that is diverting the traffic. Or…

It took me six minutes this morning but thank you Lord that I am able to get out of bed still, all by myself. I am so grateful for a hot shower and left overs make an awesome lunch. Once I get moving I’m usually okay as long as I don’t stop. There is my constant companion, the Siberian Husky, Akira, sprawled all over the floor, she always has love for me no matter what my mood. I step over her and she stirs enough to say “Good morning oh and an uneventful night ma’am.” Oh the Lord is good! Just enough moonlight to see I do have a light bulb on the dresser so I have light in which to dress by. As I go down the hall to peek in on the grandbabies, I receive another Good morning from the Goldie, Chester.  I thank the good Lord for the beautiful babies that I am blessed enough to get to interact with every day. They are precious sleeping there and I cry as I realize no one could understand just how blessed I feel at that very moment as I look at those sleeping faces.  After spilling my cup of coffee, I am reminded of a time when we couldn’t afford coffee and I had actually learned to get through the day without, it wasn’t easy let me tell you. So grateful for the flavored coffees I now get to enjoy. I step out the door and the presence of my car confirms my daughter arrived home safely. As I trip over the trampoline I am reminded to send a thank you card to the gifter. Climbing in my car I see that my daughter did get something to eat while she was out yesterday. I hear about an accident on the Freeway and am reminded how awesome my GPS is and change the route.  Nearly every morning, about ten minutes from work I am greeted with a beautiful and refreshing sunrise. How can it not be an awesome day with a beginning so extravagant as that?

This is another day the Lord has gifted us: expect an Awesome Day.