On the last track, we discussed using dream interpretation
and sleep paralysis as a mode of recovering repressed trauma memories and the
ethical issues involved.
On this track... we will discuss the
issues of trauma flashbacks and bodily reactions that are from supposed repressed
#1 Invention of Trauma Memories
know, the most common type of candidate for so-called flash-backs are war veterans
that visualize situations from past battles. In fact, veterans whose vivid memories
are triggered by explosions or other war-related triggers actually visualize worse-case
scenarios that tormented them during the war they were involved in, not real events.
Psychiatrists after World War II found that having veterans dramatically relive
fictional events helped them in recovering from their trauma.
Inculcation of False Trauma Memories
An interesting case in the study of
flashbacks reveals the story of Samuel, a member of a Vietnam veteran's support
group. Samuel recounted how he had watched a companion's head explode during a
firefight. He had relived this and other harrowing memories in therapy. But when
one of his group members called Samuel's parents for help in staging a surprise
birthday party, his mother said, "What? He's in a veterans' recovery group?
But he was rated 4-F. He was never allowed to go to Vietnam!" Even when confronted
in the group, however, Samuel maintained that his story was true. He had fantasized
his "flashback traumas" so successfully that they had become real.
you can see, Samuel was effectively being treated for a trauma that never occurred, but in his mind, the incident of his friend's death became so real, he was convinced
of his need to be in the support group.
Boy this is an ethical
dilemma for the therapist isn't it? How would you feel if your PTSD vet ended
up never having served a day in the armed forces, and you discovered your treatment
was actually fostering his distorted false memories?
can also be applied to cases in which apparent sexual abuse survivors have inexplicably
absorbed fabricated memories into their conscious.
Have you ever heard of the statement, "the body remembers
what the mind forgets"? How true do you hold this statement? There have been
several instances where clients have experienced bodily ailments to a severe trauma
such as sexual abuse. For example, stomach cramps, chest pains, and headaches
have been reported by legitimate clients of trauma. However, can these reactions
be replicated by a person's vulnerability to be influenced by other methods?
way potential repressed memory clients "awaken" memories is through
massages by experienced "body workers." These workers trigger feelings
in potential abuse clients either by lights touch or deeper muscle manipulation.
Renee Fredrickson states in her book Repressed Memories about the massages that
"an area of your body may get hot or feel numb. Powerful emotions may sweep
over you, causing you to weep or even cry out." On the other hand, these
reactions might not be the result of past abuse, but perhaps a physical reaction
to intimate touch by a stranger.
When under the duress of depression, as most
potential clients are, letting down their guard and becoming relaxed can be an
extremely emotional experience, whether the case for sexual abuse exists or not.
The NBCC code of ethics states, "In selecting assessment instruments or techniques
for use in a given situation or with a particular client, certified counselors
must carefully evaluate the specific theoretical bases and characteristics, validity,
reliability and appropriateness of the instrument."
This type of recovery
is not supported by professionals in the fields of psychology. When using this
method, not only are the delicate boundaries of real potential sexual abuse clients
being violated, but false results might be produced. By interpreting these reactions
as repressed memories long forgotten, clients might misrepresent their memories
and declare an unwavering belief in their past abuse.
Bodily Memory a Result of Stress
Some cases of bodily memory report welts
and rashes that fit particular memory scenarios. However, this can also be created
by severe stress. Cases of stigmata, or replicating the wounds of Jesus, are examples
of how extreme mental concentration can cause spontaneous bleeding. Ian Wilson,
author of All in the Mind, states, "the nail-wounds in the hands have varied
from simple red spots in some to complete penetrations of the flesh in others,
again taking every conceivable shape-oval, round, square, oblong." These
shapes usually correspond to the wounds portrayed on the crucifix before which
the stigmatic worships.
One other way in which a bodily reaction
may be interpreted differently is as a symptom of anxiety. For example, Clarissa,
age 35, reported a choking sensation and immediately interpreted that as evidence
that her father had forced his penis into her mouth when she was a baby. Though,
as you know, choking is one symptom of anxiety and is one of the diagnostic symptoms
for panic disorders. Education of the client about these possibilities is essential
to prevent ethical dilemmas such as prevention of false allegations against innocent
On this track... we discussed the issues of trauma flashbacks
and trauma induced bodily reactions to supposed repressed memories.
the next track, we will examine the controversial subject of Multiple Personality
What is an opposing view to Renee Fredrickson's statement in her book
Repressed Memories about the massages that "an area of your body may get
hot or feel numb. Powerful emotions may sweep over you, causing you to weep or
even cry out?" To select and enter your answer go to .