Wednesday, July 31, 2013

True Tales of False Memories

True Tales of False Memories

Melody Gavigan runs a newsletter to free her readers from the effects of something that never existed. It's called The Retractor, and it traffics in manufactured memories of childhood sexual abuse.

Awareness of actual childhood sexual abuse has brought with it an avalanche of allegations by adult women that they were violated decades ago. And a whole new breed of helper--the "traumatist"--has invented itself just in time to dredge "hidden" memories by hypnosis and "narcoanalysis."

In professional publications, symposia, and of course the courtroom, bona fide psychologists battle over the beginnings of memory, particularly autobiographical memory, and its nature. "As behavioral scientists, we have great appreciation for the fact that memories can be distorted," declared 17 noted psychologists, all university affiliated, in a letter to the APS Observer (Vol. 6, No. 2).

However, "few cases of childhood sexual abuse remembered in adulthood are verifiable. In the vast majority of cases, we will never know."

Untouched by professional skepticism and undeterred by the damage to families caused by manufactured memories, the traumatists dig on. Melody Gavigan's story is standard fare.

At 35, reeling from a childhood in an alcoholic family, two divorces, the birth of a daughter, difficulty adjusting to a new (happy) marriage, hating the Los Angeles smog, unemployed, and thoroughly depressed, she checked herself into a treatment center. There she was put on a regimen of psychotropic drugs that "clouded my mind."

"We started these intensive therapy sessions, but I was always left feeling abandoned because the therapist never asked me about my husbands, my job difficulties, or about when I started to get depressed."

Instead, he insisted one of her parents had sexually abused her. "I knew this was not true," Gavigan admits, but she yielded to pressure and made up stories about her father abusing her. "Above all, I wanted to get well. I thought this was the way." Eventually, dissatisfaction got the best of her. She quit the treatment center, had a brief brush with hypnotherapy, and wound up with a credentialed clinical psychologist who specialized in inducing trances with prolonged eye contact. He insisted that Melody--and her brother--had been sodomized by their father.

"All the therapists I consulted only wanted to work on my childhood," she said. "None of the things bothering me had anything to do with my childhood."
She discarded the therapist, the drugs, and the trances. "When my mind cleared, I was able to see what had happened. I had been duped! I felt so stupid. It took a lot of guts to admit this to myself-and even more to restore dignity to my parents for past accusations."

She started The Retractor with four other women soon after and found an audience through the False Memory Syndrome (FMS) Foundation a young organization composed largely of parents stung by what they believe are false allegations of abuse.

Gavigan, a computer specialist now living in Nevada, is only too happy to help others who might be in the same boat. In addition to The Retractor (P.O. Box 5012, Reno, NV 89513), she can be reached via computer bulletin boards dedicated to psychological support, under FMS.

Gleanings from The Retractor.

"The people who get false memory syndrome are usually highly intelligent and sensitive women" with "vulnerabilities such as dependency, low tolerance of ambiguity, and naive idealism."

"We became stuck in our childhood... because of our belief that we missed out on our childhood."

"I read books that told me if I had trouble sleeping, depression, vague aches and pains, that I was probably abused and hadn't remembered it yet. I was told that the memories would come when I was ready."

"What happened to us? Were we brainwashed? How did we fall so easily to the temptation of one global 'answer' to all our symptoms? Where did all that anger and rage really come from if we weren't really abused like we were led to believe?"

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