Analysis of a Social Movement: Recovered Memory Therapy vs. the False Memory Syndrome

Tamatoa Bambridge* (translated by Faith Curtin)

ABSTRACT: The concepts of totalism and thought reform as developed by Robert Lifton and Margaret Singer are used to explore the indoctrination techniques of a United States-based association that actively promotes the assumptions and techniques of recovered memory therapy.  The group sponsors lectures and training seminars on the subject.  For the sake of confidentiality, the organization is referred to using the fictitious name Recovered Memory Therapy Association or RMTA.  RMTA and the beliefs it propounds are compared to the ideas advanced by the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF).  The FMSF was established by concerned parents and professionals in response to the spread of recovered memory therapy and its adverse effects on many patients and their families.  The goal of the FMSF is to arrest the dynamic set in motion by organizations like RMTA and therapists who subscribe to its position.  Whereas there appear to be a number of similarities between RMTA ideology and the totalist model, the FMSF does not advance a totalist ideology.  The two organizations, operating in opposition to one another, can be considered to form a social movement according to sociological theory.

US Air flight 1938 arrived in San Francisco at 11:15 on Monday, April 11, 1994.  I had flown in from France the night before, and stayed over in Los Angeles to rest up before arriving at my final destination.  A psychologist who practices in the San Francisco area was there to welcome me.

This was not my first trip to San Francisco.  While visiting there in 1990, I became so involved with a religious sect that I joined their group on a live-in basis for three weeks.  It was with the psychologist's help that I realized I had been brainwashed by the sect and was able to leave.

My experience gave me a great deal to think about.  What had pushed me to join the sect?  And what exactly is brainwashing?  In answer to the first question, a conjunction of factors explained why I had allowed myself to be manipulated and indoctrinated.  I was alone in California, 20 years old — an age at which we form ideals and plan our lives — when I met a group of friendly young students from countries around the world, including Japan, England, the United States, Russia, and Sweden.  Each night, when we were finished with our respective obligations, we got together and discussed the problems of the world.  Being young and naive, I accepted an invitation to spend a weekend on a lovely, vineyard-strewn farm operated by the sect.  By the end of the second trip, which lasted three weeks, I refused to leave the sect.  To an outside observer, this decision must have seemed utterly incomprehensible.  In reality, however, a whole series of psychological manipulations unconsciously generated by my companions, and later by myself, had combined to form a powerful influencing mechanism; each of us, and to varying degrees, was being brainwashed.

With the support of the psychologist, my family helped me to break free from this situation.  It was only after three full days away from the group and numerous sessions with the psychologist that I understood what had happened to me.

A business student at the time, I became interested in the psychology of totalism and began participating in programs designed to aid indoctrination victims.  While studying for my doctorate in Organizational Sociology in France, I was able to examine the mechanisms of indoctrination on a wider, societal scale.

Upon my arrival in San Francisco in 1994, the psychologist suggested that I consider studying the recovered memory controversy since it raised questions about the possibility that certain therapists and groups might be employing undue influence techniques similar to those which the religious sect had used on me.  In order to explore this idea, I decided to attend a seminar offered by the group that I have fictitiously named Recovered Memory Therapy Association (RMTA), believed by some members of the psychological community to be using indoctrination-like techniques.

RMTA is comprised of both practicing therapists, who offer seminars on their treatment methods, and volunteers.  According to the association's founding principle, a number of the psychological problems encountered by people today stem from (1) the fact that they were sexually abused as children and (2) the fact that they do not remember the abuse.  The role of the therapist, in this context, is to bring memory of the abuse into conscious awareness by means of seminars, psychotherapy, and hypnosis.  This is called recovered memory therapy.

In preparation for my study in San Francisco in 1994, I had read a number of books and papers which described the theories and practices of the two organizations, the RMTA and the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF).  These documents provided me with much food for thought.

My first week of study was very productive.  I resided at the University of San Francisco and thus had open access to its library, an invaluable source of scientific and sociological information.  On the Saturday after my arrival, the psychologist who helped me get out of the religious sect organized a meeting between myself and several experts on abuse and indoctrination issues, including a college professor, child abuse expert, attorney, and social worker.

Over the course of my four months of study, I had numerous meetings with these experts who provided me with additional research materials.  Through these interviews, I learned the professional opinions of different members of the American psychological and psychiatric community.  The support and guidance of these individuals provided some thought-provoking questions and helped crystallize my interest in a critical analysis of the social movement represented by the recovered memory controversy.

In addition, I attended an RMTA seminar in San Francisco led by a mental health professional whom I shall call Dr. J.  He assembled approximately 20 therapists and patients for a three-hour session.  I also analyzed the cassette recording of a lecture given to several hundred therapists by a well-known hypnosis specialist and proponent of RMTA's theories.  This tape has been widely circulated in the United States.  I also spent two hours sitting in on a therapy group for individuals who identified themselves as adult survivors of sex abuse.  The goal and basis of the session was for participants to share their traumatic experiences.


My research led me to conclude that the following sequence is typical.  A person between 30 and 40 years of age consults a recovered memory therapist from an organization such as RMTA for any one of a number of problems (bulimia, anxiety, anorexia, etc.).  From the outset, the therapist often uses direct suggestion, hypnotic and Freudian techniques.  After one or more sessions, the therapist concludes that the patient's problems stem from sexual abuse by parents or neighbors 10, 20 or even 30 years earlier.

The therapist first suspects that the patient harbors "repressed memories."  Though the patient initially recalls no experience of abuse, the therapist, through hypnosis, or one of several of its derivative techniques, concludes that the patient was sexually abused as a child.  The therapist then labels the patient a survivor.  Sometimes, several sessions later, feeling that a number of distinct personalities coexist within the patient (that the personality of a little girl, for example, coexists with that of an adult), the therapist diagnoses the patient as having multiple personality disorder, or MPD.  The therapist now says that the patient suffers from repressed, unresolved infantile problems.  To supplement the individual psychotherapy sessions, the patient is encouraged to join a sexual abuse survivor group.  Throughout individual and group therapy, which may include visits made by the patient and therapist to the scenes of the (supposed) crime(s), the memories become more detailed and elaborate.

Once the patient has accepted the abuse memories as historically valid, the therapist often encourages a meeting between himself, the patient, and the alleged perpetrators of the crime(s), usually the patient's parents.  During this meeting, the parents are confronted with the newly-gained information and accused of child abuse.  If the parents deny the accusations, they are said to be in denial.  The therapist then encourages the patient to discontinue all contact with the family.  The situation often ends with the patient taking the parents to court (with the active help and support of the therapist) or with family ties being permanently severed.

These events are occurring throughout the United States as well as in other Western countries, including Holland, England, New Zealand and France — societies which offer high-level medical services and whose social and democratic values are heavily laced with liberalism and individualism.  And so begins a social movement.  In the United States, the movement includes two opposing views: supporters of recovered memory, such as the RMTA, and skeptics of recovered memory, particularly the FMSF.  Each of these organizations is fighting to defend what they consider to be fundamental social issues.

The first issue, being brought to public attention by RMTA and similar recovered memory groups, involves the wide-spread incidence of sexual abuse.  Through a combination of Freudian theory, hypnosis, and hypnosis-derived techniques, these groups claim to have discovered that sexual abuse is infinitely more prevalent than previously imagined.  The second issue, defended by FMSF, concerns human freedom.  FMSF maintains that the theories and methods of treatment promoted by recovered memory groups (FMSF would call them "false memory groups"), are unscientific and potentially very dangerous.

Behind this social debate lies a scientific one linked to the controversy over clinical versus experimental methodology.  In effect, RMTA has adopted the clinical paradigm, whereas FMSF favors a more empiricist approach.

But it is in the American courts of law that the conflict reaches its fullest proportions with patients, supported by RMTA, suing allegedly abusive parents, themselves morally supported by FMSF.  The trials are often highly publicized by the media.

Questions Concerning the Phenomenon

What is the nature of the relationship between an RMTA therapist and his patient?  What sort of relationship does RMTA have with its members?  What is its relationship with the scientific, academic, and legal communities?  How does RMTA network?  How does it integrate new members?  What is its relationship with FMSF?  Are FMSF's accusations regarding RMTA's concepts justified?  Are they having any effect?

Is RMTA really trying to manipulate its members?  Are we witnessing the birth of a social movement?  If so, what are the characteristics of this movement?  Does the multiplication of isolated cases reflect the emergence of a non-institutionalized1 but nonetheless powerful organization, namely RMTA?  Except for a few minor details, virtually all treated cases follow the same therapeutic scenario.  How do RMTA therapists, who work individually but share a common paradigm (the clinical method), communicate with each other?

Mulling this over, I began to wonder if and to what extent RMTA has developed a distinctive ideology based on its own clinical experience.  RMTA therapists claim to observe facts and develop psychological methods with which to treat patients.  Patients, in turn, often corroborate therapists' observations in psychotherapy sessions, regardless if progress has been made in their particular case or not.  But don't these specific social relationships conceal an ideology?  Don't they obscure the fact that, with the help of therapists and training seminars, this rather informal organization is attracting increasing numbers of believers?  These questions will be addressed in this article.  Specifically, I will try (1) to understand how ideology affects therapeutically-oriented social interactions and (2) to determine the role RMTA's ideology has played in the formation of a social movement that consists of RMTA (and other recovered memory groups) and FMSE.2

This social movement is exceptional in that it is two-headed.  RMTA, the main organizational player, is attempting to popularize a non-empirical therapeutic approach in the empiricist-dominated United States.3  FMSF, a secondary but no less important player, is trying to arrest the dynamic set into motion by RMTA.  More conservative than RMTA, FMSF prefers for therapeutic protocol to remain under the control of academic and medical institutions.  Also, FMSF's strategies are by nature less offensive than defensive.

Every country or region produces an ideology in accordance with its social context.  The humanistically-oriented Enlightenment in 18th century France was a purely human construction, a response to the aristocratic system.  A more recent example is the "witch hunts" of the 1950s in the United States, an occurrence which can be understood in two ways — as a response to a political context (the Cold War), or as the desire on the part of some Americans to cleanse the country of communist spies.

The same phenomenon can be observed in organizations.  Alain Touraine, a contemporary French theoretician of social movements, observes that every organization produces an ideology which may envelop or even hide certain key issues.  Strategic plans imposed by management officials, for example, are sometimes perceived by the labor force as mere expressions of company ideology.  While some may consider a given argument ideological, others may consider the same argument representative of an essential issue.  Taking into account the fundamental social issues at stake, I will examine how the positive, helpful intentions of recovered memory proponents, whose goal it is to treat victims of sexual abuse, are transformed into actions that, in relying heavily upon brainwashing techniques, are ultimately detrimental to their clients' well-being.


First, I will explore how ideology is transmitted from the individual to the social level, and how psychological predispositions contribute to the formation of a social movement.  Using the theory and research on the psychology of totalism, I will look at the ideological variables which have enabled recovered memory therapy as practiced by RMTA to trigger a social movement.

The psychology of totalism allows us to see an ideology of which the participants are unaware.  Information reaches and is internalized by the individuals involved.  If we superimpose upon this information an interpretive framework from the psychology of totalism, the ideological and totalistic unity, or coherence, of the movement can be seen.  In a two-hour discussion with a therapist, for example, or during a three-hour lecture by an RMTA scientist, this unity would include all communicated information understood by the spectators as equal quality information.4  Reconstructing this ideological unity enables us to understand how it became an instrument of identity transformation and social change.

Paradigms related to the psychology of totalism, mass movements, and decision making, as well as those related to narrative psychology can be used to analyze the influencing mechanisms at work in this social movement.  Comparing the goals pursued by RMTA (empowering patients to take charge of their lives by undergoing treatment) with the means used (indoctrination techniques), without the participants' being conscious of the comparison, allows us to understand how and why this movement seems so powerful and unpredictable, indeed even messianic.

Three approaches enabled me to compare totalism theory with real-life situations: (1) I analyzed interviews with various members of RMTA and FMSF, thereby elaborating and reconstructing the theory; (2) I attended a training seminar hosted by the main organizational player, RMTA; (3) I reconstructed the totalistic mechanisms employed within RMTA by analyzing documents published by leading members of RMTA and FMSF.  My goal was not to affirm that the RMTA is, in fact, a totalist organization.  Rather, I focused on discovering whether the RMTA's organizational structure is likely to be totalist in nature.

Second, I looked at how the movement has developed, who its main players are (even if those players are unaware of each other's existence and of belonging to a social movement), the surrounding context, and the issues at stake.  People often use the term "social movement" to designate several distinct phenomena.  I compared the information I gathered with a sociological theory espoused by Alain Touraine, who has written a great deal on social movements.  Using Tourainian actionalism as a starting point, I determined in what ways the phenomenon studied resembles a social movement.

Third, I examined the specific form the ideology has taken.  Ideology is closely related to cultural context and to the social issues communicated to the general public.  An analysis of this cultural context enables us to account for the social changes witnessed to date, including the irrationality described by many observers.  An analysis of the social issues and the relations of power and meaning associated with them allows us to understand the orientations of the two players.  It indicates the controversies to be avoided and establishes the framework for possible cooperation between the two.

While I firmly oppose the position of RMTA and its totalistic views, I also believe the FMSF has made mistakes.  I have tried not to take sides and have attempted to avoid distorting each party's message.  As concerns RMTA, being fully familiar with the psychology of totalism and with influencing mechanisms, I could not have taken part in RMTA activities without defending myself psychologically, thereby falsifying the analysis.  As concerns FMSF, many of its theses have been disputed, including its conceptions of the nature of memory and its support of empiricist as against clinical methodology.5  My goal as an observer was to understand the significance each party attributes to its actions and to understand how each party intends to achieve its goals.

Definition of the Principal Notions Employed

The use of the words "conscious," "non-conscious" and "ideology" vary greatly from author to author.  I do not use "conscious" and "non-conscious" in the Freudian sense; instead they are synonyms for "perceive" and "not perceive."  To perceive does not only mean to receive.  Though we are not necessarily conscious of all environmental stimuli, those stimuli are nonetheless present, shaping the world and influencing us.  Perceiving implies understanding, grasping a meaning.  Clearly, however, perceived meaning varies according to the perceiver's viewpoint and expectations.

We are not always aware of the cultural determinants of our behavior.  "The idea that we are Man and that our world is The World comes from the fact that we don't leave its confines.  Consequently, if one day we should venture out, we would have to become aware of the differential cultural factors that influence the psychological behavior of man."6  It is within this same perspective that we shall consider the mechanisms of brainwashing, which) having been skillfully integrated into social discourse, may remain singularly unconscious (non-perceived) at the individual level.

Readers not specialized in the psychology of totalism should not give particular attention to the brainwashing mechanisms that are analyzed.  At first reading, these mechanisms may not seem convincing insofar as certain of the requisite conditions of brainwashing (of which, as we shall see, there are eight) can be found in all societies.  It is when all of the conditions are present simultaneously, and continually reinforced, that we can be said to be dealing with brainwashing.

Robert Jay Lifton, one of the first to have written about brainwashing in 1961, describes the spirit in which he carried out his study:

My political philosophical bias is toward a liberalism strongly critical of itself; and toward the kind of anti-totalitarian ... Historically-minded questioning of the order of things expressed by Albert Camus in his brilliant philosophical essay, The Rebel.  No one understood better than Camus the human issues involved in this book.7

In psychology, the concept of "ideology" is broadly defined.  Lifton defines "ideology" as "any set of emotionally-charged convictions about man and his relationship to the natural or supernatural world."8  Althusser provides a sociological definition of "ideology" that is similar to Lifton's.  He says that "ideology is a 'representation' of the imaginary relationship of individuals to the real conditions of their existence."9  This definition is lacking, however, inasmuch as Althusser, unlike Lifton, does not account for the emotional dimension of ideology.  But it is this aspect that lends ideology its particular strength and character.

The concept of ideology is difficult to define adequately.  It has been pejoratively described as "the other's thought" (Aron10), and as "the expression of a limited consciousness" (Marx11).  For the purposes of this work, I have chosen to use the word "ideology" in the neutral sense in which it is used by Lifton.


The Definition of Totalism

During a conference in Vienna in 1959 before the World Federation of Mental Health, Erik Erikson distinguished between two notions relative to identity — wholeness and totality.  According to Erikson, wholeness signifies an assemblage of diversified parts which are related and organized in a way that is enriching to the individual.  It is a form of Gestalt which implies a progressive, organic mutuality among the functions and diversified parts within an entirety whose boundaries remain open and fluid.  Totality, on the other hand, is a form of Gestalt involving absolute boundaries.  Based on an arbitrarily defined delineation, aspects of the inner self must never be outwardly expressed and conversely, aspects of the outer self must not penetrate the inner self.  Totality is as absolutely inclusive as it is exclusive.  Erikson notes:

When the human being, because of accidental or developmental shifts, loses an essential wholeness, he restructures himself and the world by taking recourse to what we may call 'totalism.'  It would be wise to abstain from considering this a merely regressive or infantile mechanism.  It is an alternate, if more primitive, way of dealing with experience and thus has, at least in transitory states, a certain adjustment and survival value.  It belongs to normal psychology.12

In his 1961 study of brainwashing in China, Robert Jay Lifton, a colleague of Erikson's, described for the first time the mechanisms underlying totalistic ideology.  The brainwashing process seeks to literally destroy the personality of an individual.  Manipulators wear down a person's critical faculties, thereby diminishing his ability to make clear and coherent judgments.  The socially-influenced psychological attacks focus initially on the subject's identity.  In Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism Lifton writes, "... thought reform consists of two basic elements: confession, the exposure and renunciation of past and present 'evil'; and re-education, the remaking of a man in the [organization's] image."13

While Lifton comes from the tradition of Freud and Erikson, he based his research on a methodology involving developmental observation.  Over the course of several years, he interviewed Western civilians having spent months or years in Chinese reform prisons.  These interviews are presented in Parts One and Two of his book, which cover Chapters 1-12.  Part Three (Chapters 13-21) attempts an anthropological, institutional, and cultural explanation of brainwashing.  The concept of "ideological totalism" does not appear until Chapter 22.  In Chapters 23 and 24, Lifton proposes alternative forms of re-education.  Today, specialists in totalist psychology recognize the validity of Lifton's analyses.  His concepts can be considered empirical; they constitute a conceptual theory that reflects observed reality.

In 1987, Margaret Singer, professor of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, uncovered a new generation of brainwashing.14  The conditions and themes she describes are strikingly close to those described by Lifton.  Brainwashing has, however, evolved on three points.  First, in the examples cited by Lifton, manipulators assailed the political identity of individuals, whereas today's assaults target the overall identity of individuals, focusing on such fundamental and central aspects as work relations and family situation.  Second, the attack on identity in Western countries occurs in an ideological context whose norms — liberty and democracy — solidly oppose those of totalism.  Third, Singer adds an additional element to Lifton's theory by analyzing the process of "deceptive recruiting."  Together, these three points make totalism a particularly powerful force in modern society.

The theoretical framework developed by Lifton and Singer show how brainwashing mechanisms function through both the formal and informal organizational structure of RMTA.  Demonstrating the existence of these mechanisms enables us to determine by "which rules of practical discursive argumentation"15 the players in this movement have let themselves be influenced, and how they have come to do an about face on issues that form the very bedrock of the social and medical systems in the most of the developed world.

Lifton observes, "Thought reform has a psychological momentum of its own, a self-perpetuating energy not always bound by the interests of the program's directors."16  Brainwashing mechanisms achieve neither the same effect nor the same hold on different individuals.  They can, however, produce unexpected effects and inspire those under their influence to courageous, even foolhardy, acts.  Brainwashing is not an end unto itself.  The brainwashing process aims at destroying an individual's identity, at disintegrating those elements by which he defines himself in order to build a new identity in the image of the organization.

The notion that these mechanisms are imposed from above upon a subject who internalizes them uncritically is false.  The imposition of "doctrine" is only one variable among eight that are characteristic of brainwashing.  Furthermore, individuals do not unthinkingly allow themselves to be manipulated, even in situations where they are not frilly conscious of (do not really perceive), the mechanisms.  It is rather through discussions and demanding social interactions that manipulators progressively diminish the critical faculties of the manipulated.  Once, however, the subject becomes convinced of the validity of his actions and tries to induce the same types of actions and judgments in others, we can conclude that he has internalized the process, that he has been brainwashed (and is trying in his turn to brainwash others).  It is perhaps in this sense that brainwashing possesses a self-perpetuating energy.

The Mechanisms at Work in RMTA

It is difficult to evaluate the patient/therapist relationship because RMTA therapists, including such recovered memory proponents as Dr. Corydon Hammond,17 do not ordinarily tape record sessions Involving cases of MPD or recovered abuse memories.  As a result, it is extremely difficult to evaluate the therapeutic techniques used to diagnose MPD, or when patients remember large scale criminal activities.18  For this reason, I attended an RMTA seminar on therapy with adult "survivors" of sexual abuse.  This session was the first in a series of five seminars held over a three-month period. Each seminar was approved for four hours of continuing education credit for mental health professionals.

The seminar leader, Dr. J, began by talking about the ''spiritual identity'' of therapists, which, he said, follows naturally from the spiritual dimension of therapy.  When a member of the audience asked him to define "spirituality," Dr. J responded, "It is the belief in the presence of a higher purpose that makes sense for us all."

According to Dr. J, when working with victims (he called them ''survivors''), therapists must take into account three factors inherent in both the therapeutic relationship and in the relationship between the therapist and his environment.  First, it is critical to develop the patient's "sense of power."  Second, the therapist must create "a hopeful, healing context."  And third, Dr. J warned the audience, "You can't only be on the cutting edge, you also have to know how to follow."

Dr. J explained that therapists generally encounter one of three types of patients in recovered memory therapy:

(1) Patients who remember and talk about it

(2) Patients who remember and don't talk about it

(3) Patients who don't remember and don't talk about it

He added that, "While the end treatment is the same, the opening steps can differ, even taking several years, depending upon the possibilities encountered."  Treatment is virtually the same for everyone but varies in length according to individual needs.

Dr. J continued, "We only know the tip of the iceberg.  We need to stay open, to find out if there are more of them.  In a way, it's hurtful not to be aware of it."  He illustrated his point by describing the cases of three of his patients, who went from "not being conscious" to "feeling humiliated" to finally feeling "unbelievably relieved."

Dr. J advised therapists to remain active in the therapeutic relationship and to have a confident, positive attitude; nothing revealed during the therapy session must appear to alter this attitude.  He counseled them to show curiosity about anything said or done during the interaction which could suggest the possibility of sexual abuse: "People are sometimes embarrassed by the flashes they get, flashes which continue on into their dreams and which are valid as regards the information they are carrying.  This can manifest as asthma, chills or panic attacks."  He also suggested that therapists be available, by telephone if necessary, in case patients experience a panic attack, since many patients choose to leave treatment at this stage.

The next step, Dr. J explained, is to elaborate the patient's memory using various techniques, because patients gradually sink into a "feeling of suffering, of hopelessness.  It is rare that a patient requires hospitalization, but sometimes we have no choice."  All the events discovered in the psychotherapy session affect the patient's daily life, and specifically her relationship with her family.  Dr. J commented, "There is so much shame that some people prefer to isolate themselves."

Guided by the therapist, the patient must begin the "restructuring" process, in which she rewrites her history and creates a differential perspective between her life and the present moment.  She must incorporate what she knows or has learned into her life in a coherent fashion: "It involves narrative work through which affects are placed where they belong."  "Think of it," said Dr. J, "as a ritual of rebirth, of innocence."  A traumatic part of their lives is brought out into the open, and patients "can take back their power."

Dr. J then spoke of another step, "the spiritual umbrella," upon which he did not elaborate further.  He called the last step of treatment, in which the patient works through her dependence upon the therapist to achieve a healthy separation, "winning."  He stressed that the principal obstacle to diagnosing "survivors" lies in the latter's desire to avoid the role of victim, which implies a state of "powerlessness."

Dr. J indicated that creating a safe environment for patients does not mean merely talking about it.  A feeling of safety "has everything to do with the therapist himself," who constitutes the "basic ingredient in the feeling of security and trust."  Therapists must clearly define spatial and temporal limits (they must not get too close or, conversely, stay too far away, they must be careful not to block the path to the door, etc.) and should ask patients where they want to sit.  Dr. J went on to say that survivors reveal memories in their own time.  Therapists must not push them to share anything prematurely, but should instead "feel" when the moment is right.  A female survivor in the audience who had completed several therapeutic sessions with Dr. J remarked, "I have worked with Dr. J.  Sometimes he made suggestions, which I continued to resist.  But I felt that his timing was magically perfect."

For Dr. J, the techniques used in therapy must not appear as such; they must be used in a way that appears "natural."  Each therapist must choose the techniques that suit him most.  One technique involves the process of normalization.  Many patients feel that they are going crazy, that they are being overwhelmed by unconscious urges.  The role of the therapist in this situation is to inform the patient of what constitutes normal behavior among survivors.  Therapists, said Dr. J, must "be very clear as to what is normal among people undergoing the survivor process."  They must respond normally to abnormal facts.  He added that the reflection process, which consists in interpreting fact significance, requires a high level of competence.  He prescribed the non-directive technique elaborated by Carl Rogers, according to which the therapist reflects the facts presented without suggesting or adding anything further.  The survivor does, however, have to know that the therapist understands her.  The therapist, said Dr. J, must always remember "that he is pursuing a clinical goal and that ethically, he is not allowed to touch or kiss the patient."  He informed the audience, however, that he has, on occasion, called patients between conferences or sent them postcards, having first, of course, obtained their permission to do so.

On the subject of multiple personalities (MPD), Dr. J recommended Frank Putnam's book Treating MPD for Dissociation.  He said that it is "good to create multiplicity because you settle what is already there."  It helps people to define who they are and encourages them to talk about their inner child.

Various techniques can set this process in motion.  Dr. J indicated that he relies less on hypnosis than on a derivative of hypnosis called "guided fantasy," in which therapists lead patients through a series of suggestions.  He illustrated his point with an example of a guided fantasy which the audience was asked to follow.  "Close your eyes ... You are two or three years old ... Where are you? ... Look at the people around you ... Who are they? ... Now you feel pain somewhere ... Concentrate on this pain ... Where does it hurt? ..."

Dr. J's approach is predicated upon a belief that if "repressed affects are present, there is no danger in focusing on their location."  He reminded the audience that the technique must only be used in the context created by the therapist, for certain reactions in daily life dating back to the abuse as a child have themselves been "suppressed" (he used the term "suppress" instead of "repress," but the meaning is the same).  Through this acting-out process, the therapist abreacts the suppressed emotions (Dr. J said "feelings"), allowing the patient to relive the event.  The patient may switch personalities (identities?) several times before achieving the definitive change.  Dr. J related that one of his patients needed five and one-half hours to complete the process.  In terms of expressive work, he insisted that "the timing is important." It must not be encouraged before the patient is ready.

Analysis of the Mechanisms at Work in RMTA

The thought reform or organized influence mechanisms observed within RMTA are on three levels: brainwashing among therapists, brainwashing between therapists and patients, and brainwashing among patients through therapy groups.  It is difficult to differentiate the three levels, as the interrelations are highly complex.

Through analyzing the RMTA therapist/patient discourse from the Liftonian view of totalism, behind the diverse concepts presented, behaviors analyzed, and hypotheses advanced, we can discern the makings of a totalist system.  In his Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism, Lifton distinguished eight psychological themes which arc characteristic of the thought reform or brainwashing techniques of totalism.  They are milieu control, mystical manipulation, the demand for purity, the cult of confession, "sacred science," loading the language, doctrine over person and the dispensing of existence.

Milieu Control

Lifton states:

The most basic feature of the thought reform milieu, the psychological current upon which all else depends, is the control of human communication.  Through this milieu control, the totalist environment seeks to establish domain over not only the individual's communication with the outside ... but also — in its penetration of his inner life — over what we may speak of as communication with himself ... At the center of this [process] is [the totalist administrators'] assumption of omniscience, their conviction that reality is their exclusive possession.  Having experienced the impact of what they consider to be an ultimate truth ... they consider it their duty to create an environment containing no more and no less than this "truth."19

Thus, in this context, the leaders do not act out of strategic design, but out of a necessary and sincere conviction that the pursuit of this "truth" justifies their behavior.  From such a standpoint, it becomes difficult to accuse RMTA leaders of manipulation; they are likely not aware of this manipulative dimension, as the mechanisms at work are highly complex.

For an example, we may turn to Richard P Kluft,20 an M.D. at the Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital and proponent of recovered memory therapy as upheld by RMTA21 and similar organizations.  In the treatment of patients deemed to be suffering from a multiple personality disorder, Kluft recommends long (sometimes two- to four-hour) therapy sessions.  Patients, he says, "must be prevented from pausing so they do not regain their composure."  The goal of these sessions is for the patient's alters to surface in the presence of the therapist.  Kluft states that on at least one occasion, it took eight hours for this personality switch to "spontaneously" occur.

We can see the two levels on which milieu control may be operating here.  By the very nature of the analytic situation, the therapist controls the patient, manipulating his modes of thought and analysis (brainwashing between therapist and patient).  Knowing that most of his colleagues work independently, the therapist imparts his discoveries to those who share the same therapeutic paradigm (brainwashing among therapists).

This is not to say that every doctor who offers patients long therapy sessions is necessarily a manipulator.  It all depends upon the nature of the therapeutic relationship.  Following the example of Dr. J, for instance, RMTA therapists introduce new historical facts into the therapeutic situation, a phenomenon which, by the ethical standards of the psychology profession, is completely unacceptable.  When, during the seminar I attended, a former patient of Dr. J's offered that "Dr. J sometimes made suggestions and I continued to resist," she was saying indirectly that Dr. J had not conformed to the Rogerian methodology he himself recommends.  On what grounds does he allow himself to introduce new historical facts into their relationship, facts which imply that the patient was sexually abused?  How does he justify planting doubt in the patient's mind when, in the guided fantasy, he says, "You are three years old ... Now you feel pain somewhere ... where does it hurt?"  For an answer, we must in fact return to Dr. J's earlier-outlined theoretical framework, according to which therapists typically encounter one of three types of patients in recovered memory therapy:

(1) Patients who remember and talk about it

(2) Patients who remember and don't talk about it

(3) Patients who don't remember and don't talk about it

In this last case scenario, the therapist risks believing a notion (that the patient was sexually abused) for which there is no supportive evidence whatsoever.  Dr. Singer, a member of the FMSF professional advisory board, observed that few of the articles that advance RMTA's theories concerning MPD have appeared in scientific journals, yet they arc being freely distributed in recovered memory therapist training seminars.22

Dr. J indicated another way of controlling patients' psychological environments when he admitted calling patients between seminars and sending them letters when on vacation.  Audience members rightly called to his attention that, ethically speaking, this behavior is not permitted.  Constant contact does not allow patients the distance they need to critically analyze the events of their lives.

In an 1898 essay entitled "Individuals and Intellectuals," Durkheim suggested that, on technical questions for which an expert's professional opinion is required, that opinion should be respected.23  When, however, our expert extends his domain to include people, becoming what we might call a "human-relations expert," numerous complications arise.  We therefore must distinguish between the expert as a person, on the one hand, and the knowledge and skill (or "expertise") which entitle him to the label "expert," on the other.  It is the latter that merits respect.

The modern notion of "expert system" reinforces this distinction — the idea of expertise as separable from the person of the expert is slowly gaining public acceptance.24  It has not, however, gained any ground in the realm of practical application.  Schon25 has shown that, too often, experts do not make use of a determined, systematic body of knowledge; on the contrary, they frequently improvise in new situations.  For "human-relations experts," the distinction between expert and expertise is clouded even further, for their expertise is more closely related to the qualities of their person than to a system of knowledge.

Merton describes "the sociological ambivalence" experienced by modern experts.26  The principal role of doctors, for example, is to be objective and scientifically neutral.  Yet today, they must be more than doctors; they must also be friends, requiring skills in human relations.  This notion is ambivalent, particularly if the expertise in question is intrinsically marked by inequality (between those who possess the expertise and those who do not), and if, as is the case today, human interaction is characterized by a demand for equality, a corollary of the demand for "friendliness."  The balance is delicate — if an expert is too "friendly," the quality of his expertise is called into question, but too much technical competence threatens friendship potential.  So the capable practitioner who is also friendly is seen as a better person, but more importantly, he is considered to be more efficient and rational, that is, more competent.

When experts extend their domain of expertise to include human relations, the threat to human freedom becomes quite real.  Indeed, what exactly is a human relations expert?  We must analyze the "friendliness" factor as it relates to this field.  We shall remove ourselves from the dialectic proposed by Merton ("too much friendliness kills technical expertise" and "too much technical expertise kills friendliness") and approach the problem on other terms.  What is the implication underlying this dialectic?  Merton implies (without actually saying it) that trust is a determining element of expertise (both technical and human).  If the Mertonian dialectic is valid, we shall have to analyze it in relation to our study — what kind of friendship kills expertise and what kind of friendship doesn't?

Trust is one of the main ingredients in non-manipulative friendship.  This kind of friendship can be "soothing" and/or "motivating," depending upon the needs the doctor perceives in his patient.  In manipulative friendship, on the other hand, (and it is possible for either or both of the parties to be unaware of the manipulative character), the "soothing" aspect is subtly replaced by "self-surrender."27  Rather than creating a sense of peace through trust, this type of friendship encourages the patient to symbolically "surrender," to accept as true the doctor's affirmations, without criticizing or filtering the information.  The "motivating" aspect in this type of friendship is replaced by an urge to "be on the cutting edge."  The "sense of power" cultivated in the patient will be conditioned by two things: (1) having symbolically surrendered in the move to abandon his former identity (in which he lived without remembering) and (2) "achieving a sense of power" by shaping his new identity in accordance with the doctrine extolled in the manipulative friendship (he now lives knowing he was sexually abused).  We see here another aspect of brainwashing between therapist and patient.

When, during his seminar, Dr. J said to the audience of therapists, "you must not only be on the cutting edge, you also have to know how to follow," he was beginning (unwittingly?) a subtle indoctrination process that involves "self-surrender."  He implies that by accepting RMTA theories, therapists will be introduced to new possibilities and therapeutic methods; they will be on the "cutting edge" of science.  But this is immediately followed by a paradoxical injunction: "You have to know how to follow."  Therapists will be on the cutting edge if they are able to follow the arguments and theory proposed by Dr. J.  Logically; one cannot be on the cutting edge and follow simultaneously without experiencing a conflict between the two propositions.  So in the discourse of totalist ideology, being on the cutting edge means knowing how to follow.  Therapists will feel they "have more power more social recognition, if they know how to follow.  Witness here the brainwashing among therapists.

During a March 2, 1991 seminar at Parkwood hospital in Atlanta on the use of hypnosis in the treatment of cases involving recovered memory, Dr. Corydon Hammond (a recovered memory proponent) was introduced as a doctor fully competent in his field.  Over the course of his talk, he informed the audience that he had treated several cases of ritually abused patients and that he has acted as an advisor in numerous similar cases in the United States and abroad.  Through this seemingly harmless presentation, we can discern the relationship between Dr. Hammond and his listeners.  Audience members accept Dr. Hammond as competent, first, because he was presented as such, and next, because he is an advisor in numerous states.  This is an example of a presentation which could diminish the audience's collective critical capacity and control the milieu.

Theodore R. Sarbin observes:

In a typical discourse, we have the story-teller and the listener.  Turning our attentions to the conditions that lead to the claim of repressed memory, we notice that the claim emerges out of the discourse between a clinical practitioner as listener, and a client as story-teller.  Among the more obvious conditions are the imaginative and rhetorical skills of the teller, skills that influence the form and content of the self-narrative.  Less obvious, but an essential condition is the story-teller's conferral of a special social role upon the partner in discourse (the therapist).28

Sarbin notes that, historically, we have had a tendency to perceive the authority of a doctor as Aesculapian in nature, from Aesculapius, the Greek god of medicine.29  The Aesculapian authority conferred by the client onto the therapist creates an asymmetrical power relationship combining three forms of authority: (1) expert authority, because the doctor is assumed to be more knowledgeable than the patient regarding the patient's problem; (2) moral authority, because the doctor will help the patient solve his problems, become a better person and avoid suffering; and, (3) charismatic or "priestly" authority, because of the mystery long associated with the practice of medicine.  The consequences are many.  "This authority privileges the communications of the therapist over communications generated by others external to the therapeutic context."30

In addition, an individual in this type of relationship tends to place frill confidence in his doctor, and so is less critical than usual of the doctor's views. The effects of this form of authority on clients are comparable to those described by Dr. Singer in her study of brainwashing.31  Singer describes the initial phase as the "seduction" of the individual, the purpose of which is to establish a feeling of friendship and trust between the individual and the organization.  This "seduction" forms part of the "deceptive recruiting" process by which the doctor structures the conditions of the therapeutic relationship by manipulating the patient's emotions.  The Aesculapian nature of the therapist's authority also engenders an undeniable sense of trust in the patient.

What is more difficult to grasp is the manner in which milieu control acts upon therapists themselves. Just as therapeutic treatment can last several months or even years, milieu control exerts its influence upon therapists slowly and progressively.  They are constantly invited to attend seminars.  Many of them, of course, turn down the invitation, but many others accept them.  Sherrill Mulhern observes, "Invariably, seminars training clinicians in the diagnosis and treatment of victims of SRA32 begin by creating an emotional and conceptual context for belief.  From the outset, listeners are admonished, threatened and exhorted to believe.  Belief is vital to the definition of SRA:

'The phenomena that is going around on the issue is not unlike the phenomena around the issue of child abuse that we saw in the last decade.  That somehow in the early 80s and late 70s no one believed that child sexual abuse was going on either.  It wasn't until a program like "Something about Amelia" was aired on TV that suddenly people started to reach out and say that "this happened to me also when I was a child."  No one believed those of us who are survivors in the audience and throughout the conference, who are not mental health professionals.  We are perpetuating the same process of not believing again because it is too impossible to believe, there is no evidence that tells me that this i physically in front of my face.' (Sexton, 1989)"33

"Believe" here does not mean "to consider a hypothesis."  It is used in its religious sense, meaning to "have faith" in what is said.

Another approach regularly used by these therapists is to ask patients (once it has "spontaneously" come to light that they were abused) to sever all contact, all communication with their families so as to facilitate healing.  Not only does this augment the therapist's power over the patient, it also deprives the patient "of the combination of external information and inner reflection which anyone requires to test the realities of his environment and to maintain a measure of identity separate from it."34

RMTA members and proponents tend to be practitioners first and scientists second.  Their primary mission is to help patients and perhaps to contribute to the existing body of knowledge.  But, as H. M. Ferry affirms, "the communicational value of the scientific system becomes ideological when its ontological foundation aspires to also serve a normative foundation in the lived world; in other words, this foundation acts as a discipline of truth."35  The concept of "forgotten memory" upheld by RMTA is based upon clinical studies that make no use of control criteria.

Those who attend the RMTA seminars and uphold its theses do not necessarily belong to the association.  Indeed, numerous doctors are invited to participate.  What is important is the structure of RMTA's domination as expressed through the reach and scope of its discourse.  The association attempts to convert as many people as possible to its views, revealing what we earlier termed the messianic dimension of RMTA.

Furthermore, today's medical-scientific community spans the entire world, and thanks to modern technology, borders have become superfluous.  Informal networks are created and broken down by field of study; information — both valid and invalid — travels at lightning speed.

Mystical Manipulation

Lifton describes mystical manipulation as follows:

Initiated from above, it seeks to provoke specific patterns of behavior and emotion in such a way that these will appear to have risen spontaneously from within the environment ... Ideological totalists do not pursue this approach solely for the purpose of maintaining a sense of power over others.  Rather they are impelled by a special kind of mystique which not only justifies such manipulations, but makes them mandatory.36

It is in this sense that we must understand Dr. J's exhortation never to rush the patient; a therapist must not express his perceptions before the patient has connected with a particular memory. This is what was meant by the patient at the seminar who said, "I felt that Dr. J's timing was magically perfect." What she experienced as a "magically-timed" process was, in fact, nothing of the kind; Dr. J had assembled all the ingredients necessary for her to perceive her behavior and emotions as spontaneous.

This mystique includes a notion of "higher purpose," of:

... having directly perceived some imminent law of social development ... By thus becoming the instruments of their own mystique, they create a mystical aura around the manipulating institutions ... Even those actions which seem cynical in the extreme can be seen as having ultimate relationship to the 'higher purpose.'37

Similarly, based on their theories and practical experience, caught up in the association's emotional logic, RMTA therapists encourage clients to confront family members in the court of law, ruining families and destroying relationships with neighbors, despite the absence of corroboration.

Lifton adds:

... psychological responses to this manipulative approach revolve around the basic polarity of trust and mistrust ... he who trusts ... can experience the manipulations within the idiom of the mystique behind them: that is, he may welcome their mysteriousness, find pleasure in their pain, and feel them to be necessary for the fulfillment of the 'higher purpose' which he endorses as his own.38

Dr. J perfectly describes this process as it is lived by each patient.  The patient passes from the "unawareness" phase to that of "feeling humiliated" to finally feeling "unbelievably relieved."  In the totalistic context, the feeling of humiliation is closely related to the fulfillment of "higher purpose" (in this case, healing), and the manipulations are justified in the pursuit of this goal.  The individual is called upon to "participate actively in the manipulation of others and in the endless round of betrayals and self-betrayals which are required."39

This process has three phases.  The individual engaged in manipulating himself and others begins to piece together an identity-under the manipulative influence of the others-according to what he imagines the "mystically-impelled" organization expects of him.  He becomes increasingly enmeshed emotionally, which prevents him from gaining critical distance and freedom from ideological pressure.  Finally, feeling overwhelmed by the manipulative powers, he develops what Lifton calls the "psychology of the pawn,"40 and applies his every effort to adapting himself to them.

Mystical manipulation consists of an intense personal manipulation which must be perceived by the individual as spontaneously-developed behavior and emotions. Dr. Renee Fredrickson, a proponent of recovered memory therapy, defines an "acting-out memory":

"Acting-out memory is a form of unconscious memory in which the forgotten incident is spontaneously acted out through some physical action ... Perhaps the most common kind of acting-out memory is when survivors suddenly say something about their abuse that they had no intention of saying.41

Dr. M. A. Persinger, analyzing the neuropsychological profiles of six adults claiming to have "suddenly remembered" being abused as children, notes that "Each subject suddenly recalled 'forgotten memories' when the group leader said either 'perhaps you were sexually abused' (in incest groups) or 'perhaps you were visited or abducted' (in religious groups)."  All subjects reported "that specific memories suddenly came to mind" and that "they knew what had happened to them."  The experience was accompanied by a reduction in anxiety and a commitment to pursue the phenomenon.42

Keeping in mind Lifton's formulations on trust and the psychology of the pawn, let us recall Kluft's words that it once took eight hours for a patient to undergo a complete personality change "spontaneously."  Under intense emotional pressure, even non-directive pressure, a patient will admit facts which have been elicited by the environment created by the therapist.  Let us also recall the context in which the therapeutic discourse takes place.  RMTA therapists believe that patients do not remember childhood abuse because they have repressed the memories of it.  Having decided to attend an RMTA seminar, the therapists have been presensitized to some degree.  The seminars then offer practical confirmation of the theoretical concepts in question, and particularly those involving the use of hypnosis and its derivative methodologies.

While also sustained by the interactions with patients, the mystical manipulation of therapists occurs differently.  Dr. Roland Summit, another proponent of recovered memory therapy, states:

... because we see it clinically, we see something we believe is real, clinically; and whether or not our colleagues ... agree that this is real, most of us have some son of personal sense that it is.43

The "personal sense" to which Summit is referring is synonymous with intuition.  Psychologists generally belong to that category of professionals employing a syncretistic approach to problems.  While superficially similar to intuition, syncretism involves more of a rational element.  The syncretist makes a mental scan of the theoretical corpus of methods he has previously internalized before diagnosing a situation.  So by the very nature of their profession, therapists are vulnerable to engaging in a type of mystical manipulation, the manipulation in this case revolving around theoretical concepts closely linked to "observed reality."

The Demand for Purity

According to Lifton, all totalistic environments strive to plunge the subject into a world in which the pure is sharply distinguished from the impure, the pure being:

... those ideas, feelings and actions which are consistent with the totalist ideology and policy; anything else is apt to be relegated to the impure ... The philosophical assumption underlying this demand is that absolute purity is attainable ... by defining and manipulating the criteria for purity, and then by conducting an all-out war upon impurity, the ideological totalists create a narrow world of guilt and shame ... Since each man's impurities are deemed sinful and potentially harmful to himself and to others, he is expected, so to speak, to expect punishment ...44

We heard from Dr. J that his patients pass from the "unawareness" phase to "feeling humiliated" to finally feeling "unbelievably relieved."  In suggesting over the course of therapy the horror and shame of having been abused, and by stating in seminars that, "In a way, it is hurtful not to be aware," he is creating a "shaming milieu."

Dr. Corydon Hammond, a seemingly fervent believer in the existence of a criminal Satanic conspiracy, maintains:

... people who say that it isn't [real) are either naive like people who didn't want to believe the holocaust, or they're dirty.45

The structure of Hammond's discourse is interesting from the standpoint of the "demand for purity." The world is arbitrarily divided in two — those who are naive (and must be convinced of the error of their ways) are identified with those who naively denied the cruel reality of the holocaust, and those who are "dirty" are participants in the Satanic conspiracy.  In a structure such as this one, the only choice allowed the listener, naive or dirty, is to believe that the conspiracy exists.  Note once again the use of the word "believe," which strikes a quasi-religious chord and awakens in the listeners a feeling of indignation at their own (previous) indifference to the problem.  This mechanism fosters an overriding sentiment of shame, particularly in a receptive audience.

Let us quote Sexton again:

If you do not believe that this could possibly happen, do not work with this issue, we don't want you a part of this because it is simply going to make the issue be more confounded and more difficult (spoken at a conference attended by therapists).46

This statement clearly illustrates that ambiguity is not tolerated.  The problem is that the myriad of nuances that form reality have been stripped away.  In practice, no one can attain absolute purity.  The tactic, once again, is intended to promote a feeling of shame.

The Cult of Confession

Lifton suggests that an obsession with personal confession is closely related to the demand for absolute purity. In such a context:

[C]onfession is carried beyond its ordinary religious, legal and therapeutic expressions to the point of becoming a cult in itself.  There is the demand that one confess to crimes one has not committed, to sinfulness that is artificially induced, in the name of a cure that is arbitrarily imposed.  Such demands are made possible not only by the ubiquitous human tendencies toward guilt and shame but also by the need to give expression to these tendencies.47

In treating cases of MPD in which patients were allegedly sexually abused as infants, Dr. Frank Putnam (a proponent of RMTA's methods and claims), encourages patients to keep a notebook called "the bulletin board," so that the various personalities can leave each other messages.48  He recommends that therapists interview each alter, identifying its name, age, sex, role and history.49  He also advises therapists to ask these alters to draw up a "map" of the system by which the different personalities integrate.  This map is continually updated as new information comes to light. Identical techniques were adopted by recovered memory proponents Fine (1992), Kluft (1987), and Ross and Graham (1988).50

According to Lifton, the mechanism behind the cult of confession accompanies the progressive rationalization of the totalistic ideology and serves three purposes:

It is first a vehicle for ... personal purification ..  a means of maintaining a perpetual inner emptying or psychological purge of impurity; this purging milieu enhances the totalist's hold upon existential guilt.  Second, it is an act of symbolic self-surrender, the expression of the merging of individual and environment.  Third, it is a means of maintaining an ethos of total exposure — a policy of making public ... everything possible about the life experiences, thoughts and passions of each individual, and especially those elements which might be regarded as derogatory.51

For an example of this process, we can go back to Sexton: "We are perpetuating the same process of not believing ..."  Sexton is referring to the individual who, confronted with a tragic situation, risks not solving his problem by denying that the problem exists.  We have here a genuine, personal, self-critical confession which is intended to encompass the entire audience, for the "we" includes himself (the therapist and "leader" who is stimulating the feelings of guilt and shame) as well as the listeners he is addressing.  Lifton writes that the philosophical assumption underlying this mechanism is that the individual belongs to, is "owned by" the environment.  Subjects do not have to be consciously aware of this assumption in order for it to be effective.

The "Sacred Science"

Lifton notes that, "The totalist milieu maintains an aura of sacredness around its basic dogma, holding it out as an ultimate moral vision for the ordering of human existence."52  The high regard with which RMTA therapists hold Dr. Roland Summit could be interpreted as a "sacred aura" surrounding him which is subtly expressed.  Dr. Summit has spoken at seminars accredited for continuing education by the Physician's Recognition Award of the American Medical Association, by the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis and the American Psychological Association.  One could say that his views have attained the stature of sacred dogma among the recovered memory therapists.  The same is true for Dr. Corydon Hammond, who is former president of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis.

Consider another example.  Although the diagnostic manual for psychiatrists and psychologists, the DSM-III-R, defines MPD (Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID, in the DSM-IV) in a manner so vague as to be virtually useless, RMTA therapists claim to treat numerous patients suffering from the disorder, designating a whole plethora of behaviors — observed in their own clinical experience — as symptomatic of MPD.  As we heard from Dr. J, all patients undergo the same therapeutic process, regardless of their personal situation.  Only the length of treatment varies among the different case types.

For Lifton, the concept of a "sacred science implicitly presupposes the notion that ideas can become divine, that the scientific and moral judgment of a particular group can become valid and true for all. This notion remains implicit in practice, particularly in our Western, democratic societies.  He notes that a basic dogma acquires the status of "sacred science in a three-step process: (1) group leaders claim to have achieved a level of absolute scientific precision, intertwining "ultimate moral vision" and "ultimate science;" (2) they invoke progressive syllogisms and sweeping, nonrational insights to create a feeling of truth; (3) all thoughts and actions are then subordinated to the pursuit of this "sacred goal."53

As Frankel observes, "Despite an absence of empirical evidence, the speculation that childhood abuse causes dissociation during which the personality fractures and forms alters to hold knowledge of the painful experiences is today the most frequently offered speculation about the etiology of MPD."54  The sacred science notion is also implicitly manifest in the frequent use of the word "belief," which simultaneously appeals to "sacred" emotions and encourages patients and therapists to adopt the viewpoint of RMTA leaders.

Loading the Language

Lifton tells us:

The language of the totalist environment is characterized by the thought-terminating cliché.  The most far-reaching and complex of human problems are compressed into brief, highly reductive, definitive-sounding phrases, easily memorized and easily expressed.  These become the start and finish of any ideological analysis.55

In the RMTA environment, MPD is assumed to encompass all problems encountered by patients during childhood.  The concept of repressed memories is used to explain the cause of all the symptoms.  Given the controversy over the nature of MPD and the absence of a precise definition of it, one can associate an almost infinite number of symptoms with MPD.

The use of the term MPD in a totalistic environment reflects more than simply loading the language.  Declaring that someone suffers from multiple personality disorder legitimizes a core feature of RMTA-inspired treatment of abuse patients.  This treatment generally involves a process in which (1) the patient acknowledges his former identity, defined as having repressed the memory of childhood sexual abuse; and (2) the patient achieves, with the therapist's help, a "normal" lifestyle while integrating the facts of her past into a new identity.  If, midstream in this identity switch, the patient is diagnosed as having MPD, and if she considers the diagnosis to be valid, she will be all the more likely to accept the truth of the former identity (of which she was unconscious before therapy), and to endorse the need to build a new one.  The diagnosis serves more to justify the changeover than to explain it.

As Dr. J indicated at the seminar I attended, a person consulting an RMTA therapist is to be called a "survivor," not a "victim' ("survivor" implies you went through hell and came out alive, while "victim" implies that you did not make it).  With one word, the therapist provokes feelings of shame and guilt in the patient, feelings which are useful, even necessary, in the totalistic environment and which favor the personality change extolled by RMTA.  It is hard to imagine why else one would employ the term "survivor" instead of "victim," the term more commonly used in this type of situation.

If parents, when confronted by the child and her therapist, reject the allegations, they are said to be in denial.  In fact, they are given only two possible responses from the outset — to accept the accusations or to be characterized as being in denial.  The therapist's diagnosis is at no time called into question.

Clichés such as MPD, survivor, and denial allow users to rapidly communicate concepts whose meanings have been fundamentally manipulated.  The term "repression," for example, has a long history, and since the concept was formulated by Freud, no one has thought to limit or alter its meaning.  Critics assert, however, that within the RMTA environment, repression is used in a sense that is far more restrictive than the traditional definition.  This restricted meaning serves further the totalistic doctrine — to the patient, who does not understand the psychological and academic issues surrounding the term, repression indeed appears to belong to a sacred science.

As Lifton observes, "in addition to their function as interpretive shortcuts, these clichés become what Richard Weaver has called 'ultimate terms': either 'god terms, representative of ultimate good; or 'devil terms, representative of ultimate evil ...  Totalist language then, is ... in Lionel Trilling's phrase, 'the language of nonthought'."  Loaded language exists to some extent within any organization as an expression of unity and exclusivity. In the words of Edward Sapir, "'He talks like us' is equivalent to saying 'He is one of us'."  As language is so central and important to all human experience, "(the individual's) capacities for thinking and feeling are immensely narrowed.56

Doctrine Over Person

We must distinguish between two meanings of doctrine: "living doctrine," which denotes a society's way of life, and "intellectual doctrine," which includes political, religious, and philosophical writings.  Karl Mannheim was the first, in his Ideology and Utopia, to explore the notion of ideology as a representation of social customs and values.  "Here, we refer to the ideology of an age or of a concrete, historico-social group, e.g. of a class, when we are concerned with the characteristics and composition of the total structure of the mind of this epoch or of this group."57  This view is close to Thomas' conception) in which ideology and culture merge together: "The broadest, most inclusive definition of ideology is the one which makes it coterminous with culture."58  Similarly, Camus writes, "The revolution of the twentieth century is first and foremost a policy and an ideology."59

An intellectual ideology, on the other hand, is a system of ideas which comes to resemble a formal philosophy.  Raymond Aron states that "an ideology presupposes a visible and systematic formalization of facts, interpretations, desires and predictions."60  In the logic of intellectual ideology, one impresses upon the person the hypothetical, internal consistency of the ideology, which presumably will determine the person's behavior.

The ideology bearer appears to have the answers to all questions.  Adherents of the sociopsychological theory of authoritarianism and dogma criticize this approach, portraying the ideology bearer as an unthinking puppet.61  In reality, intellectual ideology — doctrine — is a necessary but insufficient element of overall totalistic ideology, understood as a certain group's work habits and way of life.  Doctrine can be understood as the formalization of the corpus of texts which provides the directive framework for action.

According to Lifton:

[A]nother characteristic feature of ideological totalism [is] the subordination of human experience to the claims of doctrine.  This primacy of doctrine over person is evident in the continual shift between experience itself and the highly abstract interpretation of such experience — between genuine feelings and spurious cataloging of feelings.62

This can be observed in the pronouncement of Renee Fredrickson (a prominent proponent of recovered memory) when she maintains, "If you have repressed memories of childhood trauma, the memories are undoubtedly about abuse."63

The doctrine espoused by RMTA can be broken down into two parts.  The first is the reality with which psychotherapists claim to be faced: a transgenerational mega-sect involving the sexual abuse of children by family members who have connections in the CIA, the court system and the police force.  The second is the means the therapists use to deal with the problem: the concept of repressed memory, RMTA theory on MPD, hypnosis and its derivative techniques, all concepts which are sharply criticized by the scientific community.

We can clearly sense here the doctrinal superiority described by Lifton as typical of the totalistic environment:

[Its] demand that character and identity be reshaped, not in accordance with one's special nature or potentialities, but rather to fit the rigid contours of the doctrinal mold ...  Totalists, as Camus phrases it, "put an abstract idea above human life, even if they call it history, to which they themselves have submitted in advance and to which they will decide, quite arbitrarily, to submit everyone else as well ... The human is thus subjugated to the inhuman ... for when the myth becomes fused with the totalist sacred science, the resulting "logic" can be so compelling and coercive that it simply replaces the realities of individual experience.64

Within the context of the analytic relationship, RMTA patients are actively encouraged to remember certain events from their childhood, and to rewrite their histories in full.  They are rewarded for writing the new book of their lives (approval and acceptance, both emotionally and socially).

The Dispensing of Existence

For Lifton, the totalist environment is divided between two groups: those whose right to exist can be recognized, meaning those who belong to the movement, and those who do not have this right and who can only be saved by being converted.  This is illustrated in the assertion of Corydon Hammond (mentioned earlier) that those who do not believe are either naive or dirty.

In the totalist situation, an individual wavers in a conflict between being and nothingness.  Being means belonging to the group; nothingness means living excluded from the group.  Existence depends upon fusion with the movement.  As Lifton frequently remarks, however, the brainwashing process is never absolute.  At any time, an individual exposed to outside information can extract himself from the "milieu control" or the "sacred science." " No milieu ever achieves complete totalism."65  Brainwashing has the greatest chance of being effective and remaining unnoticed during moments of what might be called collective enthusiasm.

Kenneth Lanning, from the FBI's Behavior Science Unit in Virginia, has investigated hundreds of satanic ritual abuse allegations made by recovered memory patients and their therapists.  He has found no evidence that could substantiate the accusations.  Some believers in recovered memory have responded by accusing him of being a Satanist, claiming that Satanic sects are more widespread than the FBI itself.66

A therapist tells his patient that healing will only occur if she can recall and therefore free herself of sexual abuse and related repressed memories.  In other words, the patient will only heal if she submits to and accepts the RMTA doctrine (repressed memories, MPD), this doctrine being the only path to truth, in this case, healing.

These examples illustrate the dispensing of existence and demonstrate how doctrine over person merges with sacred science.  The presentation of new facts brings RMTA leaders to rework their doctrine, to rationalize reality in such a way as to make their theory seem all the more valid.  As Lifton indicates in his chapter on milieu control:

To totalist administrators ... all "discordant noises" are no more than evidence of "incorrect" use of the apparatus.  For they look upon milieu control as a just and necessary policy.67

A Charismatic Authority Structure

Not all mental health professionals belong to a formal organization such as a hospital, research center, or medical institution.  RMTA therapists work within a relatively informal organizational structure.  Most of them work alone (though other professionals occasionally sit in on therapy sessions to assist in the diagnostic process68), but regularly exchange information with colleagues.  Professional networks tend to be informal, including friends from college, neighbors, or others working in the same field; relations among colleagues are generally loose.  Being independent practitioners, the therapists receive patients in their private offices.  While many of the therapists are officially members of at least one professional organization, these organizations do not actually observe or police therapists' practices.

Behind this informality, however, lies a well-established educational order and system of authority.  Training seminars are held regularly, and serve as forums for the distribution of the reputedly scientific information promoted by RMTA.  These seminars are attended by therapists/specialists and lay persons alike, which is unusual since professional conferences ordinarily are attended only by professionals qualified to understand the subject matter.

When we speak of authority system, what exactly do we mean?  Let us break the expression down into its component terms, "authority" and "system."  Authority, as defined by Dahrendorf,69 is "the probability that an order with a certain, specific content will be obeyed by a given group of people."  What Dahrendorf calls "authority," Weber calls "domination," defined as "the probability, that certain specific commands (or all commands) will be obeyed by a given group of persons."70  A system is a group of parts integrated in such a way that a change in one of the parts leads to a change in the other parts.  It can also be defined as the probability that an order emanating from one of the parts will be obeyed by the other parts, occasioning an overall reintegration of the system.  In this case, we can say that an authority system is a probabilistic system of power distribution.

Does a system of authority have to be formal in order to exist officially and/or work effectively?  While it is true that the authority systems of most organizations require at least a minimum of formal structure, one type of authority system functions more effectively when structured informally.  It is the charismatic authority system.

Weber was among the first to have defined and described "charismatic domination."71  He did not, however, go so far as to describe a "charismatic authority system," probably because he was focusing on the macrosocial level and not on the organizational level. We shall try to combine the Weberian definition of charisma with facts observed in the field.

For Weber, "charismatic domination" is comprised of four features: recognition by followers of charismatic validity; the domination-oriented group as an emotional community; charisma versus economics; and charisma as the great revolutionary power of traditionalist periods.

Recognition by Followers of Charismatic Validity

Charisma is validated through recognition on the part of the followers, and is characterized by trust in and veneration of the "guide," in our case the doctor, and a relinquishment of one's former beliefs in favor of the "theories extolled."  As Weber indicates, "Psychologically, this recognition is a matter of complete personal devotion to the possessor of the quality, arising out of enthusiasm, or of despair and hope."72

During his three-hour training seminar, Dr. J assumed an attitude identical to the one he had said should exist between therapists and patients.  Poised, he spoke calmly, clearly, and precisely, neither gesturing abruptly nor raising his voice.  Remember that, historically, we have imbued doctors with an aura of magic and charismatic power.  This magical power has declined somewhat today due to increased public awareness of medical issues, but it has not disappeared entirely.  The presence or absence of charismatic power in a medical situation depends upon the doctor's behavior, the receptivity of his audience or patient, and the context in which his expertise is practiced.  The belief in the ability of the charismatic person to bring a fulfilling solution to the individual's problems and aspirations is of the utmost importance.  Dr. J's notion that patients must develop "a feeling of power," a linchpin of his "recovered memory" theory, echoes Weber's enthusiasm and Lifton's mystical manipulation.

According to Weber, charismatic validity is not predicated upon formal legitimacy.73  It is the duty of the subject to recognize the charisma as valid and genuine. Weber describes this notion of "duty":

No prophet has ever regarded his quality as dependent on the attitudes of the masses toward him. No elective king or military leader has ever treated those who have resisted him or tried to ignore him otherwise than as delinquent in duty. Failure to take part in a military expedition under such leader, even though the recruitment is formally voluntary, has universally met with disdain.74

We saw this principle in action in the case of FBI agent Kenneth Lanning.  When, having investigated the allegations of child abuse, Lanning rejected the facts supposedly observed by RMTA doctors, he was spurned as a ''traitor'' and/or as ''naive'' by the recovered memory community.75

The Domination-Oriented Group as an Emotional Community

Weber asserts that in a charismatic community, there is no "hierarchy, no appointment, dismissal, career or promotion," no "definite sphere of competence.

Charismatic qualifications are the primary requisites.  There may, however, be "territorial or functional limits to charismatic powers and to the individual's mission."76  There is no notion of salary.  The followers live with the leader in a community of love and camaraderie supported by voluntary donations.

We can see the former dynamic at work in RMTA.  One of the primary leaders has no professional training whatsoever.  This individual's role is to contact new doctors and participants and to organize the training seminars.  No authority structure is formally defined within RMTA, though all the members do have a common goal: to share their discoveries in such a way as to vigorously condemn sexual abuse and society's supposed indifference to the problem.  The latter dynamic, the "community of love," is equally evident in RMTA.  Dr. J, who leads many the RMTA training seminars, often calls patients between sessions, breaching the limits set by the analytic profession.  A sense of solidarity is also maintained by regularly organized group sessions.  We know, however, that a community of love" mentality poses a serious risk to the central goals of psychotherapeutic science.  If problems of transference, countertransference and ambivalence are not sufficiently well handled, therapists can make mistakes.  RMTA is furthermore financially supported through gifts or different forms of patronage, including financial contributions by participants,77 and research conducted free of charge by various university laboratories working in behavioral psychology.

Weber states that charismatic domination is free of rules, irrational and legitimized only "by personal charisma so long as it is proved; that is, as long as it receives recognition "78  The books that are published, the new cases presented by RMTA members, and the rejection of the FBI investigations all perpetuate the self-reinforcing process of charismatic.

Charisma vs Economics

Weber indicates that "Pure charisma is specifically foreign to economic considerations."  It appears as a calling, a mission, a ''spiritual duty,'' though he adds that this is often more "an ideal than a fact."79

RMTA doctors state openly that their goal, or ideal, is to heal and to soothe, and they reject the notion of regular income.  But their ideal is more than that — the doctors and patients want to bring to public awareness the underground horror they claim to have discovered.  They are moved by this "mission" and "repudiate any sort of involvement in the everyday, routine world."80  Indeed, when RMTA doctors feel a patient is cured, the patient is free to return to normal life, for he is deemed to have been successfully "converted," and he accepts as true the facts brought out during psychotherapy.  Decidedly non-economic in nature, charisma is supported by donations of various kinds.

Charisma as the Great Revolutionary Power of Traditionalist Periods

In the RMTA environment, charisma translates into a drive to inform the population at large of the newly discovered prevalence of sexual abuse (which presumably affects millions of Americans), and a desire to change both fact and public opinion and to foster a new orientation toward life and the "world."

But, even if millions of dollars and unlimited goodwill were available, we are a long way off from achieving RMTA's stated goal — the total eradication of what is in reality a highly complex phenomenon.  According to C. L. Strauss,81 the primary goal of the "family system is to prohibit the occurrence of sexual abuse, a fact which is universally true across the spectrum of cultures.  From the most primitive to the most advanced societies, family systems and social organizations define the interdictions in their particular culture.

In the mid 1960s, the family underwent several fundamental changes as society witnessed a shift in fertility and marriage rates, an increased number of divorces, and the coming of age of the baby boom generation.  Family codes had to be redefined.  Families no longer consisted simply of mother, father, son and daughter, but now included stepmother, stepfather, stepdaughter and so on.  Individuals not only belonged to a family system on the traditional basis of shared blood but also, suddenly, on the basis of ephemeral emotional ties.  In a context such as this one, what is the relationship between stepfather and stepdaughter, between stepdaughter and stepson?  What indeed is the authority structure of the modern family?  It is quite unclear.  And from here, it is just one small step over the edge to claim that all psychological problems are rooted in sexual abuse.82  In Weber's words:

The likewise revolutionary force of "reason" works from without by altering the situations of life and hence its problems, finally in this way changing men's attitudes toward them; or it intellectualizes the individual.  Charisma, on the other hand, may effect a subjective or internal reorientation born out of suffering, conflicts or enthusiasm.  It may then result in a radical alteration of the central attitudes and directions of action with a completely new orientation of all attitudes toward the different problems of the "world."83

In his socio-historic work on court society,84 Norbert Elias shows clearly that charismatic power constitutes what may be termed a crisis regime.  Based on an informal structure, the charismatic leader, during his period of ascension, must repress the jealousy and tensions within a group by directing them onto an external object (in our case, FMSF).  This leader often, though not always, presents himself as a newcomer in the social, medical, and academic fields.  He offers the possibility of overthrowing the dominant and "predictable" behavioral tendencies, theories and methodologies.  "In this way, their finality often takes the form of a 'faith'."85

Furthermore, belonging to a charismatic group often signifies a definite move up the social ladder.  For a mental health professional who has yet to be recognized by the academic and medical community, this can mean belonging to a professional elite, discovering the "truth" about a patient beset with problems.  Thus, "saving isolated or determined groups which are sinking can also be a form of 'social ascension'."86


Touraine defines a social movement as the collective, organized behavior of an agent who is fighting an adversary for the social stewardship of historicity in a concrete collectivity.87   "An agent fighting an adversary" can mean several things. In India, for example, the nonviolence movement was personified by the charismatic leader, Gandhi.  The organization behind Gandhi was virtually absent from public awareness, eclipsed by Gandhi's charismatic personality.  In this case, the adversary was symbolized by colonialist England, and was perceived as such by the entire country, swept up as it was in its quest for decolonization.

There are cases in which the agent in question is an organization.  The environmental movement has long been supported by a network of associations without the benefit of a charismatic leader.  The issue is sufficiently worthy in and of itself to muster public support.  Here, the adversary is represented by corporations who do not respect the fragile balance of nature.

The social movement that concerns us involves two agents: RMTA (as representative of recovered memory therapy) and FMSF.  Each is the adversary of the other, and each holds a different view of the social issues at stake.  Indeed, there would be no FMSF if the recovered memory therapy supported by RMTA did not exist.  Social movements, then, can be said to defend a given cultural and historical alternative, a different way of seeing society, a certain conception of society which members of the movement seek to communicate to the population.

Included in Touraine's definition of historicity is, "the capacity to produce functional models and social relations through which [certain] orientations become social practices which are themselves marked by domination.88  This definition requires explanation, for it is grounded in a complex construction.  Touraine is saying that social movements fight not only for issues, but through issues.  As an agent tries to construct his own functional model, a power relation (as regards the social issues) is set in motion in an attempt to promulgate a vision of social organization.  In our movement, the two agents (RMTA and FMSF) are trying to impose their respective views of the issues at stake by engaging in a power struggle first, with each other, and second, with society.

Also, "social movements involve socially-conflictual, culturally-oriented behavior and are not a manifestation of the objective contradictions of a system of domination."89  They "try constantly to transform the relations and issues into a social order defined by their organization and its norms and values."90

The social movement we are studying has developed in a social context that involves the RMTA/FMSF, academic and medical institutions, the legal system, and the media.  The dynamic associated with the agents' actions involves fundamental social issues; from these issues springs a power struggle between recovered memory groups (represented for our purposes by RMTA) and FMSF on the one hand, and society, on the other.

What are the Issues at Stake?

The first issue addressed by the social movement is sexual abuse.  This issue has received great attention from the public, academic, medical, and legal institutions and the media.  The true scope of the problem is unknown.  No accurate national or world statistics exist, and it is impossible to determine with certainty the prevalence of sexual abuse.  RMTA, however, has come up with the shocking claim that millions of Americans have been victims of sexual abuse but may not remember it.

An issue that is more closely linked to the academic and medical institutions involves the diagnosis of Multiple Personality Disorder, or MPD.  The standard diagnostic manual for mental disorders, the DSM-III-R, defines MPD as "the existence within the person of two or more distinct personalities or personality states."  There are repeated shifts in identity and MPD is contrasted to psychogenic fugue and psychogenic amnesia which are usually limited to a single, brief episode.91  The DSM-W now calls MPD "Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID, and defines it as "the presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states that recurrently take control of behavior. "92

Apart from these very general definitions, no methodology has been officially recognized and none of the terms employed has been precisely defined, which leaves a wide margin of freedom in the diagnosis of the disorder.  The definition of MPD has been disputed in scientific circles; indeed, there is little persuasive evidence that it even exists as an independent disorder.  Furthermore, those therapists most convinced of the reality of MPD (RMTA and other recovered memory therapists) belong to a professional sub-culture that uses hypnotherapeutic techniques, is of an analytic orientation, and is accustomed to treating patients over very long periods of time.93

Another issue, relating to the empiricist and clinical methodological approaches, regards memory function.  The clinical, Freudian approach postulates that memory is stored in several layers.  In order to reach the lower layers, you must progressively remove the upper layers.  Over the course of time, this hypothesis has acquired the status of a paradigm.  The empiricist approach asserts that memory is a physiological and social reconstruction, first because we activate all of our senses in retrieving a specific memory, and second, because culture so strongly influences the form as well as the content of this reconstruction.94

The conflict arises when FMSF uses its reconstructive theory of memory to invalidate other theories (those espoused by RMTA, in particular) that embrace the "superimposed" conception of memory.  Memory function remains a controversial subject and practitioners often choose their position according to the views of the therapeutic school to which they belong.  Each conception, however, can be useful in certain types of situations.95

The last basic issue concerns the problem of human freedom.  Do we have the right to want to cure a patient against the patient's wishes?  Are RMTA's relational and organizational mechanisms grounded in indoctrinational technique?  This subject is hotly debated, and proponents of RMTA formally reject what they consider to be allegations made by FMSF.

All the issues we have just described can be qualified as primary issues, for they lie at the very heart of the conflict; they stand in relation to the unfolding of history in a medicocultural field.  A set of secondary institutional issues flows from the primary ones, and involve other types of agents.  For example, therapists who uphold the recovered memory theory of repression are diagnosing cases of MPD at a faster rate than ever before in the history of the disease.  These patients must necessarily be hospitalized. Those who are insured must be reimbursed by insurance companies.  A number of specialized services have had to be created in the last ten years to handle the situation, and many institutions that were completely indifferent to the problem have become forcibly involved because of the sheer proportions attained by the social movement.

The conflict between recovered memory groups and FMSF corresponds, in terms of historicity, to what Touraine calls an affirmative struggle.  "Each agent is the other's adversary with no overlap between each agent's self-definition and the definition attributed to him by his adversary.  The agents share the issue of their conflict."96

The Main Players in the Social Movement

RMTA-type Groups

Therapists who share the same methodological and scientific paradigms often organize into groups, creating appropriate organizational structures.  The United States-based RMTA is one such group.  Members actively focus on distributing documents and training both laymen and therapists who wish to learn about the approach espoused by the association.  Practitioners of the RMTA-inspired form of therapy share a certain number of theoretical assumptions:

· The existence of a mental mechanism (repression) that prevents patients from remembering traumatic childhood events;

· That these traumas are the source of the patient's current problems;

· That remembering the trauma will cure the psychological disorders.97

Dr. Roland Summit could be considered a charismatic influence on RMTA-type groups.  He has been recognized by the recovered memory community for having described what he termed the "Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome."98  But RMTA goes further today, using the dysfunctionality of adults in their daily lives to justify its practices.  RMTA's basic tenet can be summarized as follows: infantile memory having been repressed, adults suffer from structural dissociation (MPD); hypnotic techniques can help them to recover their memories and return to a normal life.

In trying to institutionalize its scientific paradigm, RMTA has called for urgent measures to deal with the tragic reality of sexual abuse (some members claim that millions of people have been sexually abused but have no memory of it).  One major American university, for example, supports research aimed at validating RMTA's theses.  The association is demanding institutional measures that would legitimize its clinical practices and provide for the creation of an organization specialized in the prevention, treatment and follow-up treatment of cases of sexual violence such as those uncovered by the movement.99  Some patients who retrieve memories of sexual abuse in the course of therapy sue their parents, the alleged perpetrators of the crimes.  The trials are the object of extensive media coverage — press, radio and television — which draws the general public into the debate.  Horrified by the facts and cases presented, many spectators are beginning to believe that the children of many American families have been sexually abused for years and years.

RMTA's Perception of the Issues

Within this framework, we can see that the explicit conflict, aimed at validating the theories upheld by RMTA, is accompanied by an implicit conflict over the methods employed as validation criteria.  RMTA wants the scientific community to validate its concepts of recovered memory and MPD.  Such an event would have far-reaching consequences.  On a scientific level, validation would legitimize the clinical methodology used, lead to increased research and deepening knowledge of the subject, and justify their clinical approach, which is based upon the Freudian-derived principle of repression.

Unlike RMTA, the proponents of FMSF rely on a more empiricist approach.  This clinical versus empiricist issue is in a way more important than the actual theories themselves, because it calls into question the very process by which psychologists and psychiatrists are trained.  A veritable race is under way in which both RMTA and FMSF are seeking to influence the social policies of the American administration and to obtain legal recognition of their views in the courts.  The two are also vying for public attention.

On a social level, RMTA therapists have concluded that a massive, transgenerational, Satanic cult exists, and that this cult is responsible for the sexual abuse and murder of huge numbers of people.  So another goal for RMTA therapists is to increase both the stature and size of the movement so as to ensure the thorough analysis of the facts they claim to have uncovered, and to awaken the scientific community, institutions, and the general public to the truth of their discoveries.

The False Memory Syndrome Foundation

In response to the powerful social dynamic set into motion by recovered memory proponents such as RMTA and other recovered memory therapists, a second organization, the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF) was founded in 1992.  Members of the foundation include parents whose grown children have accused them of sexual abuse based on recovered memories.  Many have been threatened with lawsuits.  The FMSF has a professional advisory board made up of prominent researchers and clinicians.  FMSF proponents claim that recovered memory therapists are implanting false memories in the heads of their patients and then treating the recovered memories as memories of actual events.  Supporters of the FMSF include mental health professionals, scientists, accused parents, and retractors (former recovered memory patients who have withdrawn their claims).  FMSF promotes all information and research which may help to clarify the questions surrounding the false memory syndrome (FMS).  The false memory syndrome describes the process by which recovered memory therapy influences its patients, planting false ideas about past sexual abuse. It also describes the consequences of these actions.

It is difficult to define an organizational group involved in a social movement, for any definition will necessarily be abstracted from ideological connotations.  As regards FMSF, either the definition given by the observer will not satisfy FMSF, or the definition given by FMSF will be disputed by the RMTA.  According to Dr. John E Kihlstrom, a member of the FMSF professional advisory board, FMS is:

... a condition in which a person's identity and interpersonal relations are centered around a memory of traumatic experience which is objectively false but in which the person strongly believes ... the syndrome may be diagnosed when the memory is so deeply ingrained that it orients the individual's entire personality and lifestyle, in turn disrupting all sorts of other adaptive behavior.100

This definition would never be accepted by RMTA, but it guides the activities of the members of FMSF.

In contrast, Dr. Charles Whitfield, a proponent of the thesis upheld by RMTA, writes:

The 'false memory syndrome' is a term coined by a group of adults who have been accused of having sexually abused their children.  This term may help them deny the possibility or the reality of the abuse, and it attempts to remove their responsibility for having abused their child and tries to invalidate the child's experience of having been abused.101

Therapists supportive of FMSF do not seem to have the missionary zeal of their RMTA counterparts.  They are more concerned with defending their profession and interests, and frustrated by their inability to arrest a movement which seems to be spiraling out of control, posing a serious risk to the entire scientific community.

According to Touraine, a player in a social movement exists in relation to an adversary and in relation to an issue.  "The relation of the adversary to the issue is external to the agent ... there is no social movement that does not have this negative dimension. "102  For recovered memory groups, the adversary is represented by FMSF.  The adversary (FMSF) fights less to preserve a conservative historical orientation than to destroy the social movement itself.

FMSF's Perception of the Issues

If we analyze FMSF's criticism of the theories upheld by RMTA, we will more clearly distinguish its perception of the issues at stake.  One of its goals, mutually exclusive with the goals of RMTA, is to examine the concept of FMS and to question the validity of recovered memory therapy.  The FMSF is committed to promoting the highest level of scientific standards of care in working with memories.  In the words of Martin Gardner:

[The FMSF intends] to combat a fast-growing epidemic of dubious therapy that is ripping thousands of families apart, scarring patients for life, and breaking the hearts of innocent parents and other relatives.  It is, in fact, the mental health crisis of the 1990s.103 ...  The FMS Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to seek reasons for the FMS epidemic, to work for the prevention of new cases and to aid vicflms.104

FMSF wants to diminish in both importance and scope the dynamic triggered by RMTA and others; indeed, this was the reason for its creation.

Another aspect of this issue focuses on the clinical approach itself, or more precisely, the controversy over etiologic and rehabilitative theories.  Gruze105 observes that, in their work, therapists adopt either the etiologic paradigm or the rehabilitative paradigm.  Within FMSF, the harshest critics of the theses advanced by RMTA espouse an empiricist paradigm.  FMSF criticizes the clinical approach used by recovered memory proponents such as RMTA and publishes papers (based on empiricist/experimental methodology) specifically aimed at invalidating their findings, though this fact is rarely stated openly.

Writing about recovered memory research and discoveries, Dr. Richard Ofshe, professor of sociology at the University of California at Berkeley and FMSF advisory board member states, "All the papers are methodologically incompetent."106  This attack encompasses two notions: first, that the papers are fundamentally incompetent because they do not respect certain protocols demanded of all research activities, and second, that they are fundamentally incompetent because they are not founded upon the empiricist methodology implicitly upheld by Ofshe.

I believe, however, it is a mistake to conclude that clinical methodology is inherently unreliable and to refuse to embrace a multiplicity of approaches.  The naturalist approach eliminates consciousness and treats psychological facts as things, falling within the realm of behaviorism.  Daniel Lagache observes that humanism allows that psychological facts are "consciousnesses" (Sartre) of "lived experiences" or expressions."  He states:

If we compare the different aspects of the many ways in which psychologists work, experimental, comparative psychology is in an incontrovertibly better position to ensure the unity of psychology and its integration into other sciences ... but the experimental study is far more laborious, for it involves situations which, for either moral or technical reasons, are difficult, even impossible, to artificially create and control.  The psychology of jealousy, romantic love or the crime of passion stand to gain very little from experimentation.107

Singer makes the same distinction between clinical, rehabilitative psychology and clinical, etiological psychology.108  Because of its contributions to the notions of transference, resistance, and abreaction, clinical etiological psychology has had an enormous influence on the development of theories of behavior.  In clinical psychology, "the clinical observation of patient behavior suggests the hypothesis and allows for its verification."109

Lagache also states that the opposition between clinical and experimental methods has become so pronounced that the psychological milieu is plagued with "an atmosphere of rivalry and distrust, with one party accusing the other of scientific inaccuracy; and that party accusing the first of rigidity."110  This controversy is expressed in the following insert, taken from FMSF's newsletter:111

FMS controversy

in brief:

I'll believe it when I see it


I'll see it when I believe it

This proposition is the crux of FMSF's argument against the beliefs of RMTA and similar groups.

The debate between experimental and clinical psychology should, in theory, lead to harmony between the players, not to competition over which approach is best.  Indeed, attacking the problem from this angle only carries the debate into the ideological sphere and delays the possibility of resolution.  No doubt Ofshe is right in claiming that the clinical approach is more susceptible to error than other approaches, but the counter-criticism must also come from experts from the same methodological background.  It is wrong to place the debate on the level of methodology — methodologies will be disputed forever — when what truly merits criticism is the phenomenon observed within the movement, namely brainwashing.

The structure of this movement is very precise.  FMSF is a non-totalistic organization; it is not seeking to influence society via doctrine or manipulation.  FMSF criticizes recovered memory therapy and not the organizations associated with it and was not even aware of RMTA's existence before reading this manuscript.  On the other hand, RMTA's structure can be characterized as totalistic.  It spreads a doctrine counter to empiricism.  The organizational player which, for RMTA, represents "social domination" is FMSF.  Thus, RMTA's goals are twofold — to spread its doctrine and to fight FMSF.

RMTA and FMSF are two parts of a whole, a social movement within the American medical community.  The two associations have never met.

The Peripheral Players in the Social Movement

The Scientific Community

The scientific community is involved in this movement on more than one level.  On the individual level, every therapist, scientist, university scholar and hospital director must eventually and inevitably choose between the claims of recovered memory groups and the ideas propounded by the FMSF.

Writing about repression in an article entitled "Making Monsters — Psychotherapy's New Error: Repressed Memory, Multiple Personality and Satanic Abuse,"112 Ofshe and Watters state:

Freud employed the term to describe the mind's conscious and unconscious avoidance of unpleasant wishes, thoughts or memories ...  Sixty years of attempts to experimentally demonstrate the phenomenon have failed.  Repression has never been more than an unsubstantiated speculation tied to Freud's other concepts and speculative mechanisms.

In January of 1994, Ofshe and Singer113 published a paper in which they discussed repression in less extreme terms.  They differentiated the concept of repression as defined by the DSM-III-R114 diagnostic manual and as employed in the analytic tradition and the field of psychogenic amnesia from the phenomenon described by RMTA proponents, which Singer and Ofshe felt could more appropriately be called "robust repression."

Ofshe's initial, strong criticism of "repression," a term which is considered legitimate (at least partially) by analytically-oriented psychiatrists and psychologists discredited FMSF in the eyes of some people in the scientific community.  Because he described the repression mechanism in ideological terms (implicitly embracing what he felt to be the superior — that is, empiricist — approach), analytically-trained practitioners recoiled from his criticisms.  Ofshe unwittingly, and no doubt unwillingly, gave a boost to the recovered memory cause in the eyes of professionals who believe that repression is legitimate.  His criticism helped convince RMTA members of the rightness of their actions.

RMTA combats FMSF indirectly by competitively promoting its theses within the medical field.  FMSF is thus drawn into similarly competitive actions since not to respond competitively would enable RMTA to gradually win over the medical community.  But responding allows FMSF to counter RMTA only partially (its actions are limited because of its diametrically opposed structure and its conservative position relative to RMTA).  FMSF does not indicate what should be done, only what should not be done.  RMTA, on the other hand, says both what should and should not be done.

Law Enforcement and The Courts

The social movement has had a major impact upon American law enforcement and legal agencies.  At a time when therapists are increasingly solicited in the legal arena, they are faced with a new dilemma.  In their treatment of patients, therapists are routinely called upon to accept as true — for therapeutic purposes — memories which surface during therapy, memories which may be emotionally valid, though not necessarily based in historical fact.  The problem arises when therapists are asked to testify before a court of law as to the truth (or untruth) of these same memories.

In this situation, a therapist has two options.  The first is to confirm the truth of the memories.  The disadvantage of this is that the therapist, like his patient, risks being wrong, which may have destructive consequences for both the patient and his family.  The advantage is that the patient can continue to trust the therapist.  We discussed earlier Merton's analysis of sociological ambivalence, in which a doctor's or therapist's professional competence lies in balancing technical expertise and friendliness.  This ambivalence is illustrated here with the danger of the therapist's friendliness substituting in part for competence.  When this happens, the therapist is endangering the patient's. treatment.

The therapist's second option is to deny the truth of the recovered memory.  Here, he risks causing the patient to lose confidence in his professional competence (in the Mertonian sense) and, again, of upsetting the patient's therapeutic progress.  Both scenarios ultimately place the patient's progress at risk.  In a context such as this one, and lacking an effective strategy for dealing with these issues, the therapist must somehow disengage himself from these overlapping dilemmas.

Hypnosis is widely used among RMTA psychotherapists as a tool for reconstructing memory, although it is generally accepted that memories retrieved under hypnosis are not reliable.  Nevertheless, memories retrieved through hypnosis are being presented to the courts as memories of actual events.  After conducting a study on interviews of subjects under the influence of Amytal, the so-called truth serum, Dr. August Piper Jr. concludes that "the procedure includes (several) deficiencies that destroy its ability to assess the truth or falsity of allegations of past events."115  Orne, Whitehouse, Dinges and Orne observe that no study of hypnosis to date indicates that hypnosis is in any way superior to Amytal as a truth-eliciting technique.  On the contrary, the authors write that "just as the use of Amytal Sodium or Pentathol as a 'truth serum' was once favored in law enforcement, so there is a tendency to accept a new investigative tool, such as hypnosis, without adequate scientific data."116

Law enforcement agencies are involved in this social movement on several levels.  Daly and Pacifico117 note that the substantiation of allegations of sexual abuse said to have occurred many years earlier requires a whole new set of investigative techniques.  Court cases have been won by proponents of both RMTA and FMSF.  If it is true that juries tend to believe the testimonies that are most convincing, then RMTA may have an advantage.  Between the mechanisms of mystical manipulation they employ and the therapy-generated emotional conviction with which patients tell their stories, RMTA proponents probably seem highly convincing.  It would be interesting and no doubt fruitful for the courts to incorporate the psychology of totalism. in their evaluations of sexual abuse allegations.

The Role of the Media

Although there has been no reliable research into the effect of the media on individual behavior, I am convinced that the media play a role in ideology formation and transmission, but the modalities of this role remain to be determined.  The resolution of the conflict between the FMSF and the RMTA — an evolution in the nature of the social movement — would require mutual recognition of the legitimacy of each one's approach.  The theories upheld by RMTA must be evaluated empirically, not in the context of a laboratory but in a clinical context offering the possibility of assessing the validity of the so-called discoveries.  But the assumptions and hypotheses of the two associations are in fundamental opposition, which makes it extremely difficult for the two to get along.

Ferry notes that "the idea of full communicational competence implies that the pragmatic differentiations reflected in the claims to truth pronounced in the discourse are virtually accessible to all who possess this competence."118  Communicational competence is no longer limited by national barriers; it extends to those developed countries that share common cultural, ideological and scientific paradigms, as well as similar levels of social and medical structure and protection.  As the influence of the media spreads from one country to the next, the meaning of history will be reworked and a new collective identity will emerge.

The Struggle

According to Touraine's formulations on social struggle, the present movement involves various issues which in turn generate multiple levels of struggle.  At one level, the agents endeavor to orient historicity.  At an institutional level, "the agents seek to increase their influence on decision making within institutions and on procedures considered legitimate."  By developing scientific research at different universities, each agent (FMSF and RMTA) is119 attempting to influence the course and content of medical training, as well as the viewpoints of the institutions involved.

Touraine defines social struggle as, "all forms of organized, conflictual action led by a collective agent against an adversary for control of a social sphere."  For a movement to qualify as a struggle (as is the case with RMTA/FMSF) four conditions must be fulfilled.  First, the struggle must occur in the name of a certain population (RMTA struggles in the name of those who suffered childhood sexual abuse, FMSF, in the name of those who might fall, or have fallen, into the hands of a recovered memory therapist).  Second, the struggle must be organized.  It does not occur solely on the level of opinion; each party's actions must be structured by a genuine organization (RMTA and FMSF each offer a whole series of seminars intended to bring their discoveries to the attention of colleagues).  Third, the agents combat a larger adversary that is not always represented by a social group but that can be defined in more abstract terms (RMTA's actions target those who are unaware of the phenomenon).  And last, "the conflict with the adversary must be a social problem which concerns all society. "120  Our movement concerns a medical problem which affects all developed countries; the movement is quite international in scope.121

Normative Review

Whenever two or more players compete for control of the truth, each presenting his understanding of the world and chosen methodologies as necessarily normative, it becomes very easy for errors to occur.  Each player defends its vision with arguments which, with their formal, abstract images and symbols, are sometimes difficult to relate to reality.  The FMSF uses the model of descriptive exactitude, RMTA the model of expressive authenticity.  Each claims to be normative.  But, in the words of H. M. Ferry, "Today, we can call ideology the proclivity to absolutize one area of meaning at the expense of the others."122

Although both the clinical and empiricist approaches base their scientific development on experimentation, both approaches have inherent scientific limits.  In the empiricist approach, where scientific hypotheses are tested empirically against an abstract, artificially-created background, the primary difficulty lies in reproducing an environment which reflects the natural conditions of the situation under study.  In the clinical approach, scientists attempt to objectively measure and qualify the subjective contingency of feelings, affects and drives, but experimental control is difficult to achieve.

Validation of Alain Touraine's Three Principles of "Social Movements"

According to Touraine's interpretive framework for determining the existence of a social movement, a framework that analyzes both structure and action, social movements revolve around three main principles: the identity principle, the principle of opposition, and the principle of totality.123

The Identity Principle

Each organization (RMTA and FMSF) acquires an identity by declaring who it represents.  Note that both associations identify themselves with the same general group, albeit independently.  Each association defends its theses in the medical, social, and political realms, and identifies with the cultural orientations just described.  Each constitutes a problem for the other, their conflict taking the form of argument and persuasion.  But defining their respective identities is somewhat complicated.

RMTA's self-defined identity is social in nature; it seeks to encompass all of society.  The reasons for the association's existence are complex and revolve around three principal elements: (1) The desire to eliminate a purportedly hideous phenomenon (adults today do not remember having been sexually abused as children, and it is RMTA's duty, in the name of human freedom, to give patients the means to take charge of their destinies by eradicating latent problems); (2) A chosen medical approach (clinical), and, (3) The use of new therapeutic concepts (repressed memory) together with methods favored by the group (hypnosis and its derivative methods).

This definition of RMTA's identity is important for both sociologists and society, for it enables us to discern the meaning the association assigns its actions.  While this meaning can be seen as the practical basis for RMTA's actions, it does not presume the validity of such an approach.  Indeed, whether consciously or unconsciously, RMTA employs a complex array of influencing mechanisms, which fly in the face of both the proclaimed values of the organization and the predominant values of the developed world.  Humanism and liberalism always and unilaterally reject totalism.  We must therefore conclude that RMTA's social identity is unacceptable to society.

FMSF's self-defined identity is likewise social in nature, and revolves around three main elements: (1) The desire to help victims of the false memory syndrome; (2) A scientific aim (to promote research on FMS) encompassed within its chosen medical approach (empiricism), and, (3) The use of experimental methods favored by the group.  The meaning FMSF assigns its identity is important in helping to understand the orientation of its criticism and the kind of arguments it can bring to the debate.  Regarding its acceptability, we must look at two things — FMSF criticizes the totalistic nature of the RMTA movement and seeks to invalidate RMTA's theory of repression, but at the same time, its actions against totalism are limited, for the conflict is thus far confined to a debate over methodology (empiricist vs clinical).

Through the complexity of these relationships, we can see the obstacles each association faces in the struggle to promote its ideas.

The Principle of Opposition

The principle of opposition is fundamental in identifying a social movement.  Without opposition, a social movement stops being a movement as such and evolves into an established institution.  Thus, in one sense a social movement is a transitional process.

RMTA and FMSF do not confront each other directly; they compete, rather, for control of the "truth."  They are adversaries.  The concept that best characterizes the situation is Kurt Lewin's "dynamic equilibrium."  Every action by one or the other of the opposing parties causes the balance reached in their relationship to fluctuate; now one party has the upper hand, now the other.  As the goal of each is to maximize its position, the two associations are fighting both an indirect battle (each one addressing more or less the same public, arguing its case during seminars and conferences) and a direct battle (the confrontation of the two schools of thought in the courts).

RMTA is waging a general war, endeavoring to reach the widest possible audience (vertically, this includes the professional sector, and horizontally, public opinion).  The association's goal is in line with the totalist identity it has assumed and explains the messianic enthusiasm with which proponents parade their theories before the public.  FMSF is fighting a specific war against recovered memory therapy, with the particular handicap of being unaware of RMTA.  The issues involved here concern all of society, and FMSF is alone in trying to put a stop to what is a potentially dangerous movement.

The Principle of Totality

The various organizations involved in this social movement, especially the FMSF and organizations like RMTA, invoke similar basic values such as freedom, humanism, individualism and community although they assume different basic facts.  However, though acting in the name of the similar values, each employs different means to achieve its ends.  Criticism of recovered memory theory is expressed in terms of value-rationality, to borrow Weber's terminology: the RMTA appears to practice a totalist policy whose violence is primarily psychological in nature.  It is difficult a priori to distinguish the truth of such an assertion, for the indoctrination mechanisms are skillfully (though not necessarily consciously) integrated into the therapists' policies.124  Judgment of FMSF is expressed more in terms of means-rationality, which leads me to wonder if it is worthwhile to use the experimental approach to invalidate a theory essentially born of the clinical approach.

The totality principle is closely linked with the principles of opposition and identity.  First, logically, there can be no totality without opposition.  As soon as ones draws a line claiming to define totality, opposition emerges, as critics attempt to reconfigure its limits.  The principle of totality not only expresses societal values and high ideals; it is also expressed in terms of methods.  Because the values extolled are equally shared by one or the other of the parties, the conflict focuses instead on the means of promoting them.  One party cannot in good conscience challenge the values of the other without also calling into question its own; the principle of opposition also serves, therefore, to criticize (or legitimize) the methods employed.

It is schematically possible to distinguish two levels of the totality principle here.  On a global level, both parties are motivated by the same set of values.  Taken individually, however, each of the parties seems locked into its own totality principle as regards methodology.  Neither party shows signs, as yet, of internal conflict on this issue; association members are united for the cause.  The conflict is carried on outside the confines of each party's organization.  As there are fundamental and far-reaching differences between the two parties' hypotheses and approaches, the conflict has an almost infinite number of possible variations.

In reality, in order for the movement to move out of this oppositional phase, one party would have to demonstrate the invalidity (or the validity) of the other party's theses using the other party's methods.  Only then could the social movement evolve to encompass less passionate and destructive behavior.  Lifton's formulations regarding the psychology of totalism are validated by both the experimental and the clinical approaches, though uncovering these mechanisms becomes easier when we remove ourselves from the organizational structures.  I do not, however, presume that it would be simple for the RMTA members themselves to recognize this fact, enmeshed, as they are, in the totalistic dynamic.

Is this social movement surprising in an essentially American context?  How can we explain, for example, that in France, where psychoanalysis predominates much more than in the US, we do not see a similar movement developing?125  To set out the social context, I would like to share with you one of my personal experiences at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, which I attended for six months.  In truth, as a non-American observer, it does not surprise me that this sort of movement should take root.

What impressed me upon my arrival at BGSU was the number of information sessions revolving around rape and its prevention.  On this fairly peaceful (and conservative) college campus, it was possible, if one wished, to attend at least two rape information sessions per day.  These sessions were organized by the Latino-American Society, Black American groups, the Association Against Rape, the Soccer Association, the Association for Women's Liberation, the Association for Justice and Liberty, by police associations, and so on. On this campus, and in the United States in general, there appears to be an unusually strong focus on the threat of rape.  Thus, individuals on a college campus are reacting in an exaggerated manner to an essentially peaceful situation, which in itself does not warrant excessive tension, anxiety or agitation.  There are those who say that American society is, in effect, in the grips of a collective hysteria.

I remember one day, some young fellow (probably tipsy) climbed in a young lady's window.  He climbed right back out again as soon as she caught sight of him.  The next day, a "wanted" sign was placed on virtually every wall on campus.  The picture relating to the young lady's description was unrecognizable, and the description was correspondingly vague: "Wanted: young man, medium height, wearing blue jeans, white tee shirt and blue sneakers."  The headlines of the Bowling Green Periodical screamed "Attempted Rape at Bowling Green," with a photo and a call for information.  Needless to say, everyone was buzzing about the episode.  Each began spying on all males of "medium height with blue jeans and a white tee shirt," meaning half the population, basically.  In short, it was an hysterical search for a theoretical rapist.  Realistically speaking, no one knew what the young man's intentions were.  But judgment had been passed, and the underlying message was, "We are all surrounded by rapists.  We must protect ourselves, at whatever cost."  And the response was to establish an infinite number of information campaigns, each one more alarmist than the last.

A social movement of this size and scope can only develop within a society whose social structures and individual modes of thinking predispose it to this type of development.  Specifically, the theoretical and practical differences which place in opposition the medical field, the social function of the judiciary system, the influence of the media and the political constraints proper to American culture, as well as the numerous debates on sexuality in general and rape in particular, explain the current configuration of this social movement.  Similarly, political totalism was spawned in China where people grow and develop surrounded by Confucian culture and spirituality.  In Germany, the rise of Hitler is tied to the country's historical psychology.  A social movement, in the form that we know it, cannot be explained without taking into account the framework and constraints in which it developed.


For RMTA, being outside its own organizational framework amounts to "belonging to FMSF," and the latter's criticism of RMTA is not recognized by them as valid.  As long as this dilemma remains unresolved, there will be bitter conflict.  Difficult though it may be, if the conflict is ever to be resolved through negotiation, and the movement ever to evolve, each party will eventually have to acknowledge both the legitimacy of the methods and the inherent limits of the other party; a precondition of any negotiation.  And negotiation is needed now more than ever, first, to close the ever-widening gulf between the two groups, for this gulf makes it difficult for these groups to accept or rationally understand each other's claims, and second, to shift the movement out of its present high pitch of emotional conflict into a more carefully reasoned agreement about the issues.

This could be most effectively accomplished by integrating the two groups into a single movement capable of employing appropriate methods and scientifically reliable procedures to evaluate the phenomenon purportedly eating away at society and to determine the extent of the problem, the rights of sexually abused children, and the best means of combating child abuse.  If the two groups were ever to reach such a compromise, the social movement would, in effect, cease being a social movement and would become instead an established organizational player, an interlocutor of the medical and social institutions, and an organization that is genuinely competent to handle the issues at hand.  As it stands today, however, mutual recognition is a long way off.  The members of each party feel they are acting within their rights and show no inclination to concede the legitimacy of the other's approach or declarations.



Tamatoa Bambridge is a Sociologist. Correspondence may be addressed to him at 22 rue Le Sueur 75116, Paris, France.  [Back]

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