Lost and Found Memories of Trauma

How, why, and where we store memories are complex processes only partially understood. We briefly discussed the types and stages of memory, what normal forgetting is, the types of amnesias and how tv and books get it wrong , and the most feared type of forgetting—dementias . But there’s another type of forgetting we have not yet discussed. The complex issue of lost and found memories of trauma, better known as repressed memories or recovered memories, has been fraught with bitter controversy. Relatively recent research and discoveries shed some light on what happens. Trigger Warning: This article does not go into descriptions, but topics discussed include abuse, sexual abuse, childhood traumas and childhood sexual abuse. If those are trigger issues for you, give this article a pass. The Definition Although courts and legislatures use the term repressed memory, the proper term is dissociative amnesia. This is the definition that appears in the DSM-IV, section 300.12: “Dissociative amnesia is characterized by an inability to recall important personal information, usually of a traumatic or stressful nature, that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness.” Alan W. Scheflin Psychiatric Times Repressed Memory vs False Memory Since the late 1980s there have been huge questions and bitter debate […]

What Do You Remember and How?

What do you remember and how do you remember one thing and your sibling remembers something else? Human memory is complex. We try to replicate it with computers and A.I. Technology. But we barely understand how human memory works. Or where we store our memories. Or how and what corrupts our memory. Scientific examination and study of memory only began in recent history.  The Study of Memory The scientific study of memory didn’t begin until fairly late in human history. Hermann Ebbinghaus (1850–1909), a German psychologist, pioneered the study of memory. The “father of experimental psychology of memory” began his first experiment in late 1878. He published his study, Memory: A Contribution to Experimental Psychology (Über das Gedächtnis in the original German), in 1885. They published the English version in 1913. His study had many limitations. The major one being that his only subject was himself. But he made many discoveries: the forgetting curve, spacing effect, and the learning curve. You can read more about his discoveries on Wikipedia or on Flash Card Learner. What is Memory? Even our everyday definition of memory is complex. Memory is— According to Boundless Psychology there is a simpler definition. Memory is “the ability of an organism to record […]

More than a Game

When I was a child, about eight- or nine-years-old, my mother went to the hospital to have her third child. My brother and I were packed off to an aunt and uncle’s house. There we got involved in a game that was more than a game. Now, this aunt and uncle had five children. The two oldest were off to college. The two youngest were about the same age as my brother and I. The middle child was a teenager, uninterested and uninvolved in the lives of children. My aunt and uncle’s old farmhouse held an attic with two bedroom spaces, each holding a pair of bunk beds. The second-floor held four more bedrooms. A living room, kitchen, dining room, and den made up the first floor. And there was a basement, the realm of the children. The basement had several rooms of bookcases and cabinets and a door to the outside. Outside was a wonder. A  grape arbor and an orchard gave us plenty of room to be rowdy kids running around. The three boys and I invented an adventure game. Being the only girl, I was the heroine or the damsel in distress, depending on the turn of the […]