Taking Recovered Memories Seriously

Lawrence E. Hedges*

ABSTRACT: The current "recovered memory" controversy uncritically collapses various kinds of clinical and research findings over quite different types of remembering and forgetting.  This paper examines the popular video camera theory of memory which erroneously assumes that (a) humans record in accurate detailed memory the facts of their existence, (b) massive amnesia or repression for externally generated traumatic stimuli is a common occurrence, (c) accurate recall for factual details of early childhood experience is a possibility and (d) under altered states which are hypnotically, chemically, or psychotherapeutically induced, the "veil of repression" can be lifted and long-ago facts uncovered.  This video camera theory of memory is considered in light of four theories of memory — primary repression, splitting, dissociation, and secondary repression — that have emerged in psychoanalysis.  None of these supports the video camera notion.

Greens' (1986) formulations of "the dead mother," Khan's (1963) formulations regarding "cumulative trauma," and Winnicott's (1965) formulations regarding the nature of infantile memories and how they may be revived for psychoanalytic study do offer explanatory hypotheses for the kinds of memory emerging in "recovery" therapy.  But though these concepts support the emergence of infantile memory in the here-and-now transference situation, the techniques advocated by the recovery community would be seen by these psychoanalysts as providing relief through acting out of the transference and resistance memories, rather than providing a therapeutically transformative approach.  Therapists who collude in "believing," "validating," and "supporting redress" not only ally with the client in avoiding the terrifying and painful reliving of crucial early childhood memories, but also create serious liability problems for themselves.

Explanations and therapeutic techniques which uncritically collapse a variety of types of memory, forms of transference and resistance, and diverse developmental issues will produce confusion and error.  The people recovering memories of early childhood trauma must be taken seriously — and they deserve much more understanding than they are presently getting.  The heart of psychoanalysis has always been about taking recovered memories seriously.  A variety of suggestions of how to do so are made.
  

PART ONE
The Emerging Scandal Around Recovered Memories

PART TWO
Four Developmentally Determined Forms of Memory

PART THREE
"To Believe or Not to Believe"

References

Bollas, C. (1987). Shadow of the Object: Psychoanalysis of the Unthought Known (Currently Out of Print). London: Free Association Press.

Cameron, N. (1963). Personality Development and Psychopathology: A Dynamic Approach (Hardcover). Boston: Yale University Press.

Fingarette, H. (1969). Self Deception (Hardcover). New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Fraiberg, S. (1982). Pathological defenses in infancy. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 51, 612-635.

Freud, A. (1951). Observations on child development. In A. Freud (1968), Indications for Child Analysis and Other Papers (Hardcover). New York: International University Press.

Freud, A. (1952). The role of bodily illness in the mental life of children. In A. Freud (1968), Indications for Child Analysis and Other Papers (Hardcover). New York: International University Press.

Freud, A. (1958). Child observation and prediction of development. In A. Freud (1970). Research at the Hampstead Child-Therapy Clinic and Other Papers (Hardcover). New York: International University Press.

Freud, S. (1895a). Project for a scientific psychology. Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud (Volume 1, pp. 283-388) (Hardcover). London: Hogarth Press.

Freud, S. (1895b). Studies on Hysteria. Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological works of Sigmund Freud (Volume 2) (Hardcover). London: Hogarth Press.

Freud, S. (1914). Recollecting, repeating and working through. (Further Recommendations on the Technique of Psycho-Analysis II). Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud (Volume 12, pp. 145-156) (Hardcover). London: Hogarth Press.

Freud, S. (1920). Beyond the pleasure principle. Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological works of Sigmund Freud (Volume 18, pp. 3-64) (Hardcover). London: Hogarth Press.

Freud, 5. (1926). Inhibitions, symptoms and anxiety. Standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud (Volume 20, pp. 75-175) (Hardcover). London: Hogarth Press.

Green, A. (1986). The dead mother. In On Private Madness (Hardcover). London: Hogarth Press.

Greenacre, P. (1958). Towards the understanding of the physical nucleus of some defence reactions. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 39, 69-76

Greenacre, P. (1960). Further notes on fetishism. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 15, 191-207.

Hedges, L. E. (1983a, June 5). A listening perspective for the organizing personality. A cassette lecture distributed by The Newport Center for Psychoanalytic Studies, 1439 E. Chapman Ave., Orange, CA 92666.

Hedges, L. E. (1 983b). Listening Perspectives in Psychotherapy (Hardcover)(Paperback). New York: Jason Aronson.

Hedges, L. E. (1992). Interpreting the Countertransference (Hardcover). New York: Jason Aronson.

Hedges, L. E. (in press). Strategic Emotional Involvement (Paperback). New York: Jason Aronson.

Hedges, L. E., & Coverdale, C. (1985, October 27). Countertransference: The royal road to the merger experience. Videotape cassette lecture distributed by the Newport Center for Psychoanalytic Studies, 1439 E. Chapman Ave., Orange, CA 92666.

Hedges, L. E., & Hulgus, J. (1991, September 20). Working the organizing experience: A cutting edge approach to work with psychotic, schizoid, autistic, and organizing states. Presented at Charter Hospital of Mission Viejo, CA. A four-hour videocassette is available through Listening Perspectives Learning Center, 1439 E. Chapman Ave., Orange, CA 92666.

Hedges, L. E. (in press). Working the Organizing Experience (Hardcover). New York: Jason Aronson.

Hedges, L. E. (in press). Where Love Once Was. New York: Jason Aronson.

Hilton, R. (1993, August). Ending with an open heart. Paper given at the Pacific Northwest Bioenergetic Conference, Whistler, British Columbia.

Hilton, V. W. (1994). The Devil in America: The end of the millennium. The California Therapist, 6(1), 3741.

Kafka, F. (1926). The Castle (Paperback). New York: Schocken Books.

Kafka, F. (1937). The Trial (Hardcover)(Hardcover)(Paperback)(Library Binding)(Audio Cassette)(Audio Cassette (unabridged)). New York: Vintage Books.

Kafka, F. (1979). The Basic Kafka (Paperback Reissue edition)(Mass Market Paperback Reissue edition). New York: Pocket Books.

Kernberg, O. (1976). Object Relations Theory and Clinical Psychoanalysis (Hardcover Reprint edition)(Paperback). New York: Jason Aronson.

Khan, M. M. R. (1963). The concept of cumulative trauma. Reprinted in The Privacy of the Self (Hardcover) (1974) (pp. 42-58). New York: International Universities Press.

Kohut, H. (1971). The Analysis of the Self (Hardcover). New York: International Universities Press.

Kohut, H. (1977). The Restoration of the Self (Hardcover). New York: International Universities Press.

Kosinski, J. (1970). Being There (Unknown Binding)(Paperback). New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Kris, E. (1951). Some comments and observations on early autoerotic activities. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 6, 95-116.

Kris, E. (1956a). The personal myth. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 4, 653-681.

Kris, E. (1956b). The recovery of childhood memories in psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 11, 54-88.

Little, M. I. (1990). Psychotic Anxieties and Containment: A Personal Record of an Analysis With Winnicott (Hardcover). New York: Jason Aronson.

Loftus, E. F. (1993). The reality of repressed memories. American Psychologist, 48, 518-537.

Lowen, K. (1971). The Language of the Body (Paperback). New York: Collier Books.

Lowen, A. (1975). Bioenergetics (Paperback Reissue edition). London: Penguin Books.

Lowen, A. (1988). Love, Sex and Your Heart (Paperback). New York: Macmillan.

Mahler, M. (1968). On human Symbiosis and the Vicissitudes of Individuation, Vol. 1, Infantile Psychosis (Out of Print). New York: International Universities Press.

McDougall, J. (1989). Theatres of the Body (Hardcover). London: Free Association Press.

Milner, M. (1952). Aspects of symbolism in comprehension of the not-self. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 33.

Natterson, J. (1991). Beyond Countertransference: The Therapist's Subjectivity in the Therapeutic Process (Hardcover). New York: Jason Aronson.

Pressman, E. R. (Producer), & Papp J. (Director). (1985). Plenty [Film] (VHS Tape) (DVD Disk). Twentieth Century Fox.

Schafer, R (1976). A New Language for Psychoanalysis (Paperback). New Haven: Yale University Press.

Spence, D. (1982). Narrative Truth and Historical Truth (Paperback). New York: Norton.

Suskind, P. (1986). Perfume (Paperback)(Audio Cassette (abridged)). New York: Washington Square Press.

Thigpen, C. H., & Cleckley, H. A. (1957). Three faces of Eve (Hardcover)(Hardcover). New York: McGraw Hill.

Tronick, E., & Cohn, J. (1988). Infant-mother face-to-face communicative interaction: Age and gender differences in coordination and the occurrence of miscoordination. Child Development, 60, 85-92.

Tustin, F. (1986). Autistic Barriers in Neurotic Patients (Out of Print). New Haven: Yale University Press.

Van Sweden, R. (1993). Regression to Dependence: A Second Opportunity for Ego integration and Developmental Progression (Hardcover). New York: Jason Aronson.

Winnicott, D. W. (1949). Birth memories, birth trauma and anxiety. In D. W. Winnicott (1975), Through Paediatrics to Psycho-Analysis (Paperback) (pp. 174-193). New York: Basic Books.

Winnicott, D. W. (1952). Psychoses and child care. In D. W. Winnicott (1975), Through Paediatrics to Psycho-Analysis (Paperback) (pp. 219-228). New York: Basic Books.

Winnicott, D. W. (1954). Metapsychological and classical aspects of regression. In D. W. Winnicott (1975), Through Paediatrics to Psycho-Analysis (Paperback) (pp. 278-294). New York: Basic Books.

Winnicott, D. W. (1965). The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment (Hardcover). New York: International Universities Press.

Winnicott, D. W. (1974). Fear of breakdown. International Review of Psycho-Analysis. Volume 1, p. 103.

Winnicott, D. W. (1975). Reparation in respect of mother's organized defence against depression. In D. W. Winnicott (1975), Through Paediatrics to Psycho-Analysis (Paperback) (pp. 91-96). New York: Basic Books.

Winnicott, D. W. (1986). The British School of Psychoanalysis. New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 173-182.

Endnotes

1 Kohut's term is "selfobject" — as in a "love object" who is experienced as an extension of the self.  [Back]

2 It is not possible here to discuss at length the nature of borderline or character issues and their treatment.  I have written extensively on the subject in Listening Perspectives in Psychotherapy (Hardcover)(Paperback) (Aronson, 1983) and especially in Interpreting the Countertransference (Hardcover) (Aronson, 1992).  Also, a two-hour videocassette on "Interpreting the Countertransference" I delivered at the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists on May 5, 1990 is available through my office or through Aronson).  [Back]

3 I have two books in press which detail the problems with these kinds of transference and resistance memories and how to treat organizing psychotic issues whether they are pervasive in the whole personality or whether they form only pockets in the personality (as with most people).  The books are Working the Organizing Experience (Hardcover) and Where Love Once Was: In Search of the Lost Mother of Infancy (Hardcover), both scheduled to be published by Jason Aronson in 1994.  A four-hour videocassette presentation by Dr. Hulgus and myself, also titled "Working the Organizing Experience" is available now through my office and due to be distributed by Jason Aronson prior to release of the books.  [Back]

4 Dr. Robert Hilton is Senior Trainer in the Southern California Institute for Bioenergetic Analysis where Dr. Virginia Wink Hilton is Director of Training.  [Back]

5 A full review of the psychoanalytic dialogue over the last century on the nature of therapeutic "regressions to dependence" has recently been undertaken by Robert Van Sweden (1993).  [Back]

* Lawrence E. Hedges is a psychologist and psychoanalyst at 1439 East Chapman Avenue, Orange, CA 92666.  He is the founding director of the Newport Psychoanalytic Institute, the director of the Listening Perspectives Study Center, holds a faculty appointment at the University of California at Irvine, and is an instructor in psychology and psychoanalysis at the California Graduate Institute.  This paper is taken from Lawrence E. Hedges (in press), Remembering, Repeating, and Working Through Childhood Trauma (Hardcover). New York: Jason Aronson. Due for release in May, 1994.  [Back]

 

[Back to Volume 6, Number 1]  [Other Articles by this Author]

 
Copyright 1989-2014 by the Institute for Psychological Therapies.
This website last revised on April 15, 2014.
Found a non-working link?  Please notify the Webmaster.