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  • The Truth about False Memory


    As I said in a previous episode, regression therapy has been a cornerstone of healing from past trauma for thousands of years because it works.  I myself designed an entire process that is centered around regression. Regression therapy is essentially any healing process that involves revisiting the past memories of experiences that are the source of current issues.  The aim of doing so is to heal, transform and integrate their unconscious influence on the now. 
    However, regression healing inevitably caused the subject of suppressed memory to become a hot topic in the field of psychology and with it, the highly controversial idea of false memory.  If you haven’t done so already, I highly suggest that you watch my video on YouTube about suppressed otherwise known as repressed memory (titled: Repressed and Suppressed Memory) before continuing on with this topic because it is critical to understand suppressed memory as a foundation for delving into the topic of false memory.
    In short, false memory is the idea that memories or elements of memory can be false.  This is not really a topic that is up for debate because we know from previous court trials that memory can be false.  There have been people who remember a specific person as being the perpetrator in a crime, later to discover based on confessions and genetic evidence that the perpetrator was an entirely different person.  Memory can be extremely reliable, a veritable recording of the past.  Memory can also be distorted, contaminated, constructed and destructed.  But today, I’m going to address the argument that suppressed or repressed memories that are recovered from the subconscious mind with or without regression therapy can be false. 
    The first thing that must be said is that all people have experienced memories that they have completely forgotten about.  Perhaps you have forgotten the color of the carpet in your childhood bedroom.  Maybe you forgot some traumatic experience at a talent show because life simply moved on.  These details may come back in a regression therapy session.  When they do come back, we don’t question whether that memory is real because it doesn’t conflict with our current reality or the narrative of our life.  Other people don’t question whether it’s real because it doesn’t conflict with their current reality or the narrative of their lives either.  We only begin to question the suppressed aspects of our memories when the memories that surface or the elements of the memories that surface begin to negatively challenge our current reality and the accepted narrative of our life.  For example, if you have told yourself the story that your family is so close, recovered memories of feeling isolated and not belonging as a child will be met with doubt.  You will wonder if you are going crazy or if the memories are real because accepting them, means you have to change the story you are currently identified with.  
    On the one end of the spectrum you have memories that mildly challenge our narrative.  On the other end, you have memories that completely negate our narrative and that invalidate the narrative of the people around us.  It is these far spectrum memories that are the real subject up for debate when it comes to false memory.  Such as a woman who is 42 suddenly recovering memories of her father raping her and prostituting her out to other men when she was young.  Obviously, this is a memory that will be first doubted by the woman herself, and then directly opposed by her father and anyone who decides to side with him because these memories are accusatory.  The questions that are inevitably raised if the father vehemently denies the abuse are who is right and who is wrong? Is the adult child misremembering, or perhaps lying? Are the parents misremembering when they deny abuse, or are they deliberately lying?  What is true?  What is reality?  Who is right and who is wrong?
    In the past, some of these people who recovered suppressed memories went on to prosecute based on those memories and this was when suddenly lawyers drug the debate over the reliability of memory into the media and into the public eye.  
    The entire concept of false memory is a concept that is both complex and overwhelming.  We cannot deny that repressed and recovered memory is a reality.  We also cannot deny that recovered memory has the capacity to completely heal and completely destroy.  I have seen recovered memory save lives and end lives.  I have seen it heal families and also destroy families.  I have seen it destroy therapist’s careers.  If suppressed memory that is recovered conflicts with someone’s sense of identity, personal narrative or current reality, as a therapist you will find yourself fighting with their ego to the death.  It is common that they will turn against you, accusing you of leading or of implanting false memory instead of taking responsibility for the content of their mind and it is also common that their entire family and even friends will do so as well.  It will turn into a witch-hunt riding on the back of a conflict over a sense of reality.     
    Given my position in the world, I am going to use this episode to offer you my perspective on false memory.  My answer might just surprise you.   There are people on this planet who fall into two extreme categories.  1. People who deny the authenticity of all repressed memories.  2. People who accept them all as true.  In my opinion, both of these extreme positions in fact create problems and also blind us to the truth of memory.  We are fueling denial regardless of which position we take.  
    Reality is a debate in the field of philosophy for one main reason… no one can settle on it.  Even the best minds throughout history cannot honestly define what is real and what is not real.  Experience is largely the result of perception and perception is not necessarily an accurate reflection of what is objectively true.  This is why two people who experience the same event can have such different accounts of it.  On top of that, in a universe where we must account for dimensions that exist beyond timeline linearity as well as collective memory as opposed to singular memory, landing on a consensus of reality is not as simple as we would like to make it out to be.  This is one reason why as consciousness evolves; the justice system will eventually fall of its own weight.  If two people can experience two different realities at the same time, and if we can’t accurately say what is real, and if a judge’s perception is limited to his or her experience only, there is no way to accurately decide a case.  On top of this the human memory is both more capable and more incapable than we would like to make it out to be.  It is incredibly complex.      
    Before we go on, I must say that there is a difference between a potential genuine false memory and lying about a memory.  Some people lie (intentionally or compulsively) about things that happened.  It is not accurate to say that this person is suffering from false memory.  And the vast majority of people who are accused of false memory who actually did not live through the things they say they did are in fact simply lying about what they experienced.  Assuming that false memory is a reality, we are dealing with people who are not lying and whom honestly hold the intensity of terror, guilt, rage and behavioral dysfunction we would see in conjunction with genuine abuse. 
    Therapists tend to swing to either extreme.  Either they decide it is their job to help their client get a ‘grip’ on reality and thus impose their idea of reality on their client.  This approach often leads them to invalidate the client who is coming to them with stories of abuse.  Or more commonly, they validate any memory that comes up in therapy as real.  This is the safer approach because the recovery and expression of abuse is such an extremely fragile and vulnerable thing and what victims need more than anything else is allies.  They need people to believe them.  Nothing does more damage to a victim than not being believed.  By not believing, you are siding with the perpetrator.  By not believing, you are also siding with unconscious repression and conscious suppression and could potentially prevent someone from being able to integrate and recover at all. 
    The reality is that memory is not contained inside the brain.  The brain merely processes and stores memory.  When it comes to memory, the mind is more complex than meets the eye.  For example, memory can represent actual experiences in extremely vivid detail.  It can also talk to us symbolically.  It can also be a reflection of collective human trauma.  This is why in my opinion, false memory cannot and should not be ruled out as a subject of study.  But it is a study that must be done and revealed delicately.  Potentially in the future, I or someone else will come up with a reliable and indistinguishable signal that will tell whether a memory is a false or a real reflection of something directly experienced by the individual in their singular past.  
    That being said, in all my years of regression work, I have never directly had an experience with someone having false memories that they, themselves were convinced were real.  I have only ever had the experience of people having real memories that they were afraid were false and people who through progressive integration work come to see the memories they retrieve as symbolic fragmentations pieced together in the form of a memory instead of literal memory of a linear experience.  In all cases, these people did not in fact accept the memories as true, but instead continued to doubt them until their own subjective truth about the realness of the memories developed.      
    And I have no patience whatsoever for people using the defense of false memory as a weapon against people who are claiming to have been abused.  This directly benefits perpetrators, who would love for you to side with them against the people they hurt.  False memory benefits abusers more than anyone else.  This also does irreparable damage to the person who is experiencing the memories.  Nothing could ever be more damaging than to meet someone’s memories from this angle.  Take my advice and do not go there with a ten-foot pole.  You need to have an open mind when it comes to any kind of memory work.  Additionally, every bit as great as the risk of accusing someone based on a genuine false memory, is the risk of the scapegoat of false memory becoming the very thing that serves as an excuse for the conscious mind to re-suppress actual abuse.  I have seen this occur multiple times over the course of my career in cases where the motivation is too big to maintain close connections to the perpetrators (usually family members).                   
    I am going to put forth the idea that when we are doing regression work, we need to stop thinking in terms of true of false all together and instead, think in terms of VALID.  We need to become less identified with memory itself.  Memory serves a very important function and it can be extremely reliable but it is also not the solid bedrock we like to make it out to be.  Regardless of whether or not a memory is true or false, it is valid.  The mind is trying to communicate to us through actual memory or through symbolic memory about what is unhealed within us.  It is not the role of the therapist to decide what is true and what is false.  That is for a person, themselves to come to terms with.  
    And as people, we need to take this responsibility and not leave it to someone else to decide for us or to tell us what memories are real and what memories are false.  On top of this, therapists in general need to really take care to make sure they are not leading their clients into false memory through the power of suggestion.  This is of course much easier said than done when you are doing regression work and are trying to help someone’s mind open to a repressed memory.  But my advice is to venture into the process with extreme caution, asking yourself if any questions you ask are potentially leading or suggestive in nature before you ask them.    
    So now, my suggestion is to seriously take any memory that surfaces as valid, because it is.  My suggestion is to encourage the person who is uncovering the memories to remain as open as possible to them, seeing them as valid and allowing the truth about them to be revealed over time.   Because you know what?  If you allow memory to re-surface, the truth about those memories is always revealed over time.  
    We know that suppressed memory is a reality because cult groups deliberately capitalize on this mechanism of the mind.  We also know that false memory is a reality because cult groups also capitalize on this mechanism of the mind.  But it is my experience that the truth about memory is revealed over time, this is why even implanted false memories that cult groups deliberately implant are eventually revealed as false if enough memory is retrieved.  It is the hardest thing in the world because when a memory challenges our sense of reality, we experience cognitive dissonance and thus immediately and desperately grasp for a solid sense of reality again.  We become desperate to figure out if the memory is real or not. But if we can encourage ourselves and our clients away from this grasping towards either extreme position of false or true and support them through uncertainty, they in fact have the greatest access to genuine healing.  
    I also suggest that you encourage people to be very careful who they involve in the process (especially people they are tempted to confront) until this self-surety that is less subject to external influence naturally evolves.  I also want you to get that memory of horrible events does not just come up for nothing.  It does not just come out of thin air.  You cannot have a wonderful childhood and suddenly start having memories of horrific events.  Strictly energetically speaking, this is not vibrationally possible.  So, whether a horrific memory is false or real, if it is coming up, it is indicative of something serious and very real going on within a person (usually emotionally).                
    I have said that our minds need to stay open to the idea of false memory.  But I’m going to end this episode by making you aware of just how seriously delicate the topic of false memory is.  Right now, I want you to close your eyes and I want you to think of the worst thing that ever happened to you.  Maybe it was when you were raped. Maybe it was when your dog died.  Maybe it was when your parents got a divorce.  Maybe it was an accident you got into.  I want you to relive it.  Remember every last thing you can possibly remember about it.  I want you to stop this video and remember it in as much detail as possible.  Do that now and start the video up again once you have done that.  
    Now, with that memory alive in your being, imagine that I told you it never happened.  I do not believe you that it happened because it conflicts with what I know to be true.  Imagine I told you that I was there with you that day and I know for a fact it didn’t happen.  In fact, I have an interesting article you should read about false memory.   First of all, did I convince you?  Second, imagine the absolute desperation of being unable to prove to me that it did in fact happen.  Imagine if everyone around you agreed with me?  Do you feel like you’re going crazy yet?  This is the life that so many victims of abuse are forced to live out as a result of the craze of the false memory defense.  My suggestion is to never do that to another human being.  And most especially, never do that to yourself.