false memories

False Memories Sexual abuse

False memories 

 You can go through your whole life blaming your own behavior on something that is not true. But if you act on false memories, they might as well be true.

I had a client today who reminded me of how pernicious and dangerous false memories are. This client was grossly obese. She told me that she used to be an alcoholic, she had eating problems all her life, she was unhappy and didn't know why.

When I asked her what she thought the reason was, she told me that she supposed it was all because she had been sexually abused. I asked when this had happened and she told me it happened at age two. I asked her how she knew that, since no one has any memory of being age two.

She said 'Well my mother told me'. I asked her what memories she had of the incident, and she said she didn't have any. I asked her 'So how do you know you were abused?' and she thought for a minute and then said 'Well, I suppose that I don't know'.

This woman has gone through her whole life being told that she had been sexually abused. It has affected everything she has done, every thought, every action. Now, I don't know if she really was abused or not, but it doesn't matter. If you don't remember being abused then effectively you weren't abused.

False memories are just as bad as real abuse

But what has happened is that every time she felt bad, every time she felt unable to cope with something, the same old reason was trotted out - 'Oh, it's because you were abused'. This belief, put there by other people, has prevented her from ever examining her own life objectively, from seeing things as they really are. The result is that she has had a belief that her life was ruined from the beginning, that there is no point in trying to improve. She blames the 'abuse' for whatever she feels, for every reaction. That has prevented her from ever getting to grips with the real source of her unhappiness.

I personally believe that child abusers should be strangled in the town square because of the damage they cause.  But the well meaning people who convince women that they were abused when they were not, are equally guilty. They  ruin just as many lives.

David Mason

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