The Controversy of False Memory Syndrome

A major controversy is occurring in the mental health field regarding the different methods of therapy in order to retrieve suppressed memories from clients who are experiencing mental disorders. There is a large list of emotional mental disorders, to name a few can range from depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic attacks and childhood trauma. The problem is in which method of recovered memory therapy is most effective and valid. Abstract False memory syndrome can be a factual memory created out of an experience that never existed. Depending on the memory it may be stored in a separate region of the brain.

Memories that involve a traumatic incident like; (fear, anger, rejection, betrayal, childhood abuse) can become a suppressed memory stored in the area of the brain called the node. The importance of recalling an actual memory is critical in order to provide valuable treatment to the client. There are many regression therapies available but at the therapist’s discretion can choose hypnosis (not a reliable source), or Eye movement Desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Studies have proven EMDR is a useful tool to help a person who is suffering from memories involved in a traumatic experience.

Con: Psychologist induced suggestions An example of False Memory Syndrome (FMS) according Bonn (1997) Elizabeth Loftus is a well known professor of psychology is an expert on (FMS) and is well aware of the controversy problem that stems from trauma that was retrieved during early childhood, and has no doubt that abuse does occur. One of the concerns that professor Loftus has is with methods used to retrieve repressed memories from childhood trauma such as; “Memory Work” techniques used in role play, dream work, hypnosis, visualization group therapy and suggestion by a therapist. Con: Hypnosis

As an example provided by (Martin Gardner 370) therapists may decide to use the method of hypnosis for a person who has suffered from childhood sexual trauma and has repressed memories will be urged repeatedly to remember details of the childhood event even if it is only a fragment of a memory. To aid in the hypnosis the therapists may help facilitate these memories and while under hypnosis the client is persuaded into coming up with details of the traumatic event. Because the client may be highly suggestible in this relaxed state, the client may see images that are completely new.

With the constant prodding of the therapist to give details, it is not uncommon for the client to give a very detailed account of childhood molestation. This convinces both the client and the therapist that the memory must be true in order for the client to come up with such a dramatic detail. But to a better trained psychiatrist, says Gardner (370), these details only indicate the opposite. “Childhood memories are notoriously vague, by recalling minute details is a strong sign of fantasizing”.

Hypnosis is the power of suggestion towards a client with an open mind who is under the influence of hypnosis. There are individuals who become easily absorbed in imaginative activity (Barnier & McConkey, 2004; Silva & Kirch, 1992). In my opinion, it would be safe to say some people are more susceptible to acting out or playing along with the possibilities of an imaginary event. Con: Vulnerabilities There are other reasons why people cannot distinguish real memories from an actual event that occurs in their most vulnerable state; such as in children and the elderly.

In very young children their frontal lobe have not fully matured and in older adults their frontal lobe functioning may decline (Jacoby et al 2005, Jacoby & Rhodes, 2006). The frontal lobe is responsible for controlling emotion and is important for memory, language, judgmental decisions and impulse control, along with problem solving and social behaviors to name a few (Kolb & Wishaw, 1990). In many cases referring to the elderly declarative memory is the type of memory that could cause problems as they age due to the hippocampus becomes vulnerable to degenerative disorders.

As in the case of Alzheimer’s disease, this can cause recent information to disappear within seconds. An elderly person who suffers from short term memory loss can be easily taken advantage of. For instance, say there is a person with criminal intent that has performed work in exchange for payment for services performed and has provided payment already could coheres the Alzheimer’s person to persistently suggest that payment was never paid for work and will persuade this misinformation to have this elderly person make them believe it and unfortunately could end up paying for services again.

Pro: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Another therapeutic therapy that involves a patient and therapist that will assist in “Moving and freeing up blocked traumatic energy so that the patient can return to normal is through the use of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)” (Carol Boulware, MFT, PHD website 2006). According to Dr. Shapiro the theory of rapid eye movement gently sends the patient back to revisit the traumatic moment or incident, recalling feelings surrounding experience, as well as any negative thoughts, feeling and memories.

Pro: Alleviation of mental disorders The method to EMDR technique is to have the patient sub come to their negative emotions and focus on an object the therapist sways from side to side in front of the patient and as the patient watches the movement the patient releases the memory making it become vivid and then the brain will process the emotion resulting in a more relaxed and peaceful resolved feeling. EMDR is a right eye, left eye stimulation, which constantly activates the opposite sides of the brain and somehow releases all those negative emotional experiences that are jammed in the nervous system.

This technique allows the neurophysiological system to release itself from the obstruction and reconnect to its proper location of the brain. Conclusion In my opinion hypnotic testimonies are unreliable and should not be allowed to be used in court, due to the probability of producing false memories from a forgotten suppressed memory. Also, long term memory requires you to revisit your experiences periodically so that if memories become unused they can become distorted overtime. Memories are not created equal, they are either memories of specific events, learned procedures by performing an action, or are either straight facts.

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