Analysis of a Social Movement: Recovered Memory Therapy vs. the False
Tamatoa Bambridge* (translated by Faith Curtin)
ABSTRACT: The concepts of totalism and thought reform as developed by Robert
Margaret Singer are used to explore the indoctrination techniques of a United States-based
association that actively promotes the assumptions and techniques of recovered
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.).
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.
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.
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?
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?
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?
multiplication of isolated cases reflect the emergence of a
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
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
"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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
AN ANALYSIS OF IDEOLOGY FORMATION AND TRANSMISSION FROM THE INDIVIDUAL
TO THE SOCIAL
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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."
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
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
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.
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."
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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
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"
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
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.
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
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."
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.
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
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
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.
... 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.
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.
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.
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
"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
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
... 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."
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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."
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.
historically, we have imbued doctors with an aura of magic and charismatic power.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
isolated or determined groups which are sinking can also be a form of 'social
IDENTIFICATION OF A SOCIAL MOVEMENT
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
"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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
methodology) specifically aimed at invalidating their findings, though this fact is rarely
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.
psychology of jealousy, romantic love or the crime of passion stand to gain very little
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
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
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
The debate between experimental and clinical psychology should, in theory, lead to
harmony between the players, not to competition over which approach is best.
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.
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,
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
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.
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
New Error: Repressed Memory, Multiple Personality and Satanic Abuse,"112 Ofshe and Watters
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.
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.
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).
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
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.
earlier Merton's analysis of sociological ambivalence, in which a doctor's or therapist's
professional competence lies in balancing technical expertise and friendliness.
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
The therapist's second option is to deny the truth of the recovered memory.
risks causing the patient to lose confidence in his professional competence (in the
Mertonian sense) and, again, of upsetting the patient's therapeutic progress.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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."
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Germany, the rise of Hitler is tied to the country's historical psychology.
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 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.
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]