Look At It This Way

Seeing old things in new ways.

Recovered Memory Syndrome

Is it possible that someone can have a really scary experience early in life and then forget all about it until it comes out during psychoanalysis years later? Read More

You're discounting a whole scientific theory based on

the findings of one study with a sample of three people--a mother and her two sons?


Attn: Pot/Kettle

Should you ever think in terms of additional schooling, keep in mind that there are few things more highly esteemed in academic circles than independent research. Had you a clue in this regard, you could have easily found a plethora of studies besides the single example that I used to make a point.

And if you want to practice looking things up on the Internet, you won't even have to figure out getting a library card.

Repressed Memory

I understand the concept of the witch hunt and suggestability. Valid point. However how do you account for dissociation? Are you saying that there is no such thing as dissociated memory?

My Dear Anonymous

As you probably know, Dissociated Memory is the standard "Yea But" to Recovered Memory. That's why I started with "I suppose it could happen" and unless someone has some special need for the concept, I should think my caveat would have been enough.


On that subject I highly recommend the book: The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers by Daniel Schacter.

What we are increasingly learning is what Madison Avenues knows best is that we are highly programmable creatures. For all this talk about being a country of free thinkers, I haven't met that person yet.

Once in college, I walked

Once in college, I walked past a Mickey Mouse shaped straw in a grocery store and had a wave of bad memories come back to me. I called my mom to talk about what I had remembered, which were several negative events which took place while visiting with my dad and his new wife for a summer when I was young. My mom, of course, remembered my stories from when I had returned way back then and talked to me about it at the time... but never really brought it up again, under the guise that why would she remind me if I had forgotten. I actually appreciated that mentality, it would have been more harmful to make a scene of it and define me as a victim. The events were probably easier to process at age 18 than when I was 6. I believe I repressed these memories until my mind was ready?

Perils of Obedience

Hello there Anonymous I'll one-up ya with "The Perils of Obedience" Milgram experiment. I would call the person that resists authority - a rebel and a free thinker. It isn't easy to stand up against the world but someone has to do it. I voted for Steve Mason.

Hey Kelly

Thank you so much for your vote. Obviously, I need all the help I can get.


Hey Steve

I think Chris gave you his vote too! That makes two. We are behind you all the way. I'm younger and can probably run the fastest. You are doing great! Really...as I tie on my running shoes.

Saving vicarious mimetic open minds one at a time! Cheers!

Are Flashbacks the same as Repressed?

Just wondering if my spontaneous recall of events should be termed "recovered memories". I definitely had flashbacks for decades, but these flashbacks were nothing compared when to what finally surfaced many years later.

Technically, I suppose, due to the flashbacks, an expert could claim I had not actually "forgotten" the event. But then how would you explain the flood of memories that came rushing back once I was able to "retain and process" one of these flashbacks?

The event was extremely traumatic. I figured my conscious mind could not accept what happened.

Would like your opinion!

Hello GG

You asked for my opinion but I'm afraid it wouldn't be worth much. We know so little about how humans store their memories and create their fantasies that even experts have difficulty separating the two. So I'd suggest being skeptical of all that you hear and much that you remember.

False Memory is Loftus Junk Science

I do believe that bad therapy can cause greater disruptions. In no way should any blanket statement be given as,” if you think you were abused, you likely were.”

However, repressed experiences that are recalled later and are true do exist. These memories are often true if brought out over time naturally through triggers, not therapy.

There is a clear distinction between a small child telling what happened with the aid of an adult and an adult remembering past traumatic experiences. A child can be easily misled; an adult acting on their own would likely offer greater truth. That is assuming the trauma experience was never processed. <--key.
Also, under hypnosis we cannot cause anyone to go out and do something they would not normally because it is wrong. Likewise, we cannot cause a false traumatic event to sustain under scrutiny. If there was no trauma, then processing will fail at some point. In other words you cannot brainwash someone through hypnosis.

We must first define what traumatic experience we are referring to, processed experiences or unprocessed ones. Unprocessed traumatic events are likely to be clear as if it were yesterday, once they begin appearing. Those already processed during childhood would likely fade and become tainted. An example would be a child during the Holocaust. That child had likely adults minimizing the experience. In other words, processing occurred. This is clearly not the same as those where no one was around to comfort or to protect us, those we escaped from without processing.

I can prove that most everyone had some sort of repressed event followed by a much later in life recovered memory that was not only true, but it is as clear as if it just happened. Recovered memory has always existed; we just never labeled it before. Remember, cancer didn’t exist in history before we named it.

When recovered memories seem confusing, fragmented or twisted, it is not because they are untrue. This happens due to other trauma events surrounding the same one that are not quite ready to conscious.
Most the problem as I see it, there are too many people fantasizing in their minds what they might do or remember if it happened to them. If it didn’t happen to you, you then have virtually nothing to work with and you are only dangerously guessing. How you think you would have reacted if someone pulled a gun on you is far different than if someone really did.

There is not enough room to write all, but you have my email.

What I can state with absolute certainty is that this stuff is quite real. After all, I was sodomized from ages 8 to 10. As a single dad it took my son reaching the age I was when first abused to cause memory flooding. The sad part is that today I have severe PTSD and OCD as a result. Even more painful is the realization of a lost life.

Last point

If we could never rely on the unprocessed as accurate, we could never learn. In other words, we would all act out in society as confused rabid animals.

Trauma events sharpen all of our senses, survival. This alone cause the capturing of greater detials. We become auto-pilot until we resolve it through processing. Avoidance of thought is the protection from insanity.

Hello Pete

Severe PTSD and OCD and a lost life. So I guess you're saying you're pretty much doomed...a real mess...all washed up. That's unfortunate because where do you go from there? In effect, you just slammed the door on yourself.

But here's a thought:

If you're screwed up, it's your parent's fault.
If you stay screwed up, it's your fault.

This could be the start of a new you. Or you can continue turning your rage in on yourself.

I know what I'd do.

Sorry you need to deflect

No doubt, mental illness has its consequences hasn't it? Lost ability to concentrate is a mental disorder, not one we have by choice you know.

My interest is to ensure people get the right message. After all, considering most murders are from those sexually abused as children tells quite a truth. Not to forget that over 30% of males and 70% of females incarcerated where sexually abused (and that's the low figures, check out the Dept of Justice)

And what about those who are institutionalized? Maybe you should run into mental institutions and deliver your message. Everything is not black and white, in other words there are those who might belong there and others on the edge?

Maybe there are those as myself who work hard every day trying hard to improve? Maybe there are some of us who use our experience to inform others that there exist people who need to protect damage done from exposure, the real bad guys.

Just maybe there are physical changes in the brain, now that’s a tough one.

Well, what I do is inform those who get bad information from those with something to hide. Guess FMS is a perfect hiding place for pedophiles. And let's not forget the perfect crime, violent rape of children - they may never remember.

There is more than enough evidence that child abuse destroys families and victims, the primary cause to mental illness. Bet you're one of those who believes a victim of suicide did so due to lost loves or money. I like the truth better; it's more likely a baseline trauma from childhood.

If exposing the truth is what drives me to helping others, nothing wrong. After all, Loftus started the organization to do what? Oh, protect a family member accused of sexually abusing a child. Wasn't that family member an alcoholic with a tainted past? And who was her other buddy? The guy who said it was OK, in the media in Europe, for grown men to engage with small boys. Nice group there.

The solution is to accept the effects of child rape, to tell the truth that is it is near non-existent that a victim wrongly accused as a later adult. In fact maybe we shouldn't arrest anyone for crimes anymore, after all there is a higher percentage of false witnesses than with rape as a later adult. In fact those witnesses remember less detail than the vitim.

Are we supposed to ignore the lost lives, or show society we mean business when it comes to raping and sodomizing small children?

Next time a bank makes an error in their favor, tell them you'll just go without the money.

Facing and dealing with the past is the cure for a more peaceful society in the future.

Repression and Recovery

Stephen Mason said: "You asked for my opinion but I'm afraid it wouldn't be worth much. We know so little about how humans store their memories and create their fantasies that even experts have difficulty separating the two. So I'd suggest being skeptical of all that you hear and much that you remember."

But if "experts" haven't figured out how humans store memories or create fantasies, why are they labeled "experts"? On the other hand, I *am* an expert of my own repressed memories (now recovered) ... one of the best kept secret scandals in fraternity history, with plenty of witnesses.

In PETE's case, he was unable to recall childhood abuse for approx. 25 years. Easy to advise him to shake it off and get on with his life because you haven't walked in his shoes. So how do you "know what you would do" under the same circumstances?

Quoting Pete, "Avoidance of thought is the protection from insanity". I truly believe "avoidance" was how I kept my sanity. Also, I'm amazed at the details I recall, which indicates the degree of significance this event played in my life.

As one of your other readers suggested, repression is the mind's way of protecting the conscious until it is ready to remember the unthinkable. Do you see?

I should have been a shrink :)

Analyze Dis

So many people say they shoulda been shrinks that one fellow actually took the premise seriously and did a little experiment. He gathered a few subjects who said they had problems to discuss and paired them with either a professional therapist or a layperson who had experience being empathetic. This second group included bartenders, hairstylists and other one-on-one service people.

It was concluded that those without clinical training were:

A) Far to accepting and supportive - Oh you poor thing aint it awful and
B) Unable to provide any legitimate direction - they had no idea what to do next.

So you had a distasteful experience. That's too bad. Now what are you going to do about it?

Yes, Quite Distasteful

The word "distasteful" is too fluffy to describe a terrifying nightmare. Distasteful, to me, is forgetting to write a "thank you" note.

The question, "Now what are you going to do about it?", is best saved for another thread, because we are not discussing "remedies" -- we are discussing the legitimacy of recovered memories.

Steve, I didn't know my "shrink" comment would be taken seriously.

A New Thread

The notion of a recovered repressed memory is, in fact, implausible. But even if that were not so, at what point is it fair to assign some level of responsibility to the person making the claim? If they are truly incapable of recovery, what does that say about them?

Check. Your move.

"The notion of a recovered repressed memory is, in fact, implausible."

So if a case of recovered repressed memory was later confirmed by both outside witnesses (perhaps other children a pedophile had use of, who never forgot) and empirical evidence (say a uterus rendered a latice of scar tissue as an infant or small child, or brain damage consistant with repeated asphyxiation) then that would establish that Stephen Mason is a quack?

Would it not?

And several such cases would remove any doubt, right?

We are all clear on this.


I am one of the cases you spoke of. I have suffered from flashbacks and nightamares for most of my life since childhood. I have seen therapists yet they have all done nothing for the real issues only diagnosed me with PTSD from an event which happened as an adult. In the last two years I have on my own without any suggestion from outsiders (I can prove this since I had kept my flashbacks to myself until after the full "event" was mentally recalled two days ago. What I experienced after recalling the memories I chalked up to some sick fantasy my brain had created until I found out about three other girls who came forward recently with stories nearly identical to my own memories. The problem with Recalled Memories being false can be questioned when I have recalled memories that have been verified by girls who weren't even born when my abuse took place and were never even aware my abuse took place
How do you explain that one? Recalled Memories verified by 3 other victims nearly 2 decades apart and also later verified by adults who recently confessed to knowing about the abuse taking place 2 decades ago.

Thank you Dr. Mason

Now the rest of us know who NOT to go to for therapy, or trust for a professional opinion. You've discredited yourself not only through your blog by demonstrating that you are clearly ignorant in the field of trauma, but the arrogant way in which you're shredding anyone who either disagrees with you or provides evidence you might actually be wrong in the comments area.

Just as you consider "the notion of a recovered repressed memory" to be "implausible," I consider your ability to be a legitimately helpful psychologist to be the same. I just thank God I did find someone who gets how trauma does affect the brain and not only is helping me recover from PTSD, but has helped restore my faith that not all mental health experts think they have the right to play God with other people's brains like you apparently do.

Perhaps the statement "Physician, heal thyself" might apply here.

It's the brain's way of

It's the brain's way of dealing with a painful emotion. Like the ostrich who shoves his head into the sand to avoid seeing something frightening.

OK. Let's get to real issue

OK. Let's get to real issue here. Recovered memories are to use Dr. Mason's words "implausible" because I am guessing he operates out of a theoretical frame of reference that does allow for the existence of an unconscious. Without an unconscious there can be no repressed and certainly no recovered memories. This is no more than CYA from folks who (as is their right) do not accept the existence of an unconscious and therefore cannot allow for the possibility of anything that requires the existence of an unconscious.

I never ceased to be amazed at colleagues who insist that they know what anther person has experienced. While I assume Dr. Mason would not be classfied as a Freudian, he certainly fits nicely with Freud's therapist centered approach.

Let's all watch for the defense mechanism that now emerges!


After reading Dr. Mason's bio I realize he discredited himself long before his blog entry. He's still trying to ride on his fame from when Joan Rivers and Playgirl were still "cool."

Dude, that's like, so 1985 :-)

I know, I know, don't poke the bear... but only if you can't outrun him!

To PS & John

So let's see, now I've got a Geek playing computer in his parent's basement saying I'm not cool and a loser submitting a grade school essay calling me a "colleague." In your repressed memories maybe.

But now I must move on so let me leave you with this bit of advice: If you had any brains at all and you really wanted to annoy me...you'd ignore me.

Well now there's something on

Well now there's something on which we can agree - yes, I should ignore you. Wish granted from here on out...

Oh, by the way... even if I were some geek living in his parents' basement, I'd rather be me any day. At least I don't insult my own intelligence and credentials by acting like a 12 year old to fill some empty hole inside. I feel sorry for you.

Hello (Yet Again) PS

Ignoring someone means just that. You ignore them. You don't write to tell them you're going to ignore them; that you don't still live in your parent's basement; that they insult their intelligence; that they have a hole inside and that you feel sorry for them...it fact, you don't feel sorry at all. Given the opportunity you'd like nothing better than to accuse them of molesting you.

And just now you had to come back (yet again) to read this.

Oh no you didn't!

Now that's the funniest thing I've read all night - thinking I'd love nothing better than to accuse you of molesting me. Oh my goodness... or maybe I should say ewww!

Thanks for the laugh.

Oh no you didn't!

Now that's the funniest thing I've read all night - thinking I'd love nothing better than to accuse you of molesting me. Oh my goodness... or maybe I should say ewww!

Thanks for the laugh.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may quote other posts using [quote] tags.

More information about formatting options

Stephen Benedict-Mason is a psychologist, a former university professor, syndicated newspaper columnist and radio talk-show host.


Subscribe to Look At It This Way

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.