The ORDINARY RESPONSE TO ATROCITIES is to banish them from consciousness. Certain violations of the social compact are too terrible to utter aloud: this is the meaning of the word unspeakable. Atrocities, however, refuse to be buried. Equally as powerful as the desire to deny atrocities is the conviction that denial does not work. Folk wisdom is filled with ghosts who refuse to rest in their graves until their stories are told. Murder will out. Remembering and telling the truth about terrible events are prerequisites both for the restoration of the social order and for the healing of individual victims. The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma. People who have survived atrocities often tell their stories in a highly emotional, contradictory, and fragmented manner that undermines their credibility and thereby serves the twin imperatives of truth-telling and secrecy. When the truth is finally recognized, survivors can begin their recovery. But far too often secrecy prevails, and the story of the traumatic event surfaces not as a verbal narrative but as a symptom. The psychological distress symptoms of traumatized people simultaneously call attention to the existence of an unspeakable secret and deflect attention from it. This is most apparent in the way traumatized people alternate between feeling numb and reliving the event. The dialectic of trauma gives rise to complicated, sometimes uncanny alterations of consciousness, which George Orwell, one of the committed truth-tellers of our century, called "doublethink," and which mental health professionals, searching for calm, precise language, call "dissociation." It results in protean, dramatic, and often bizarre symptoms of hysteria which Freud recognized a century ago as disguised communications about sexual abuse in childhood. . . .
That is the problem with repressed memory and dissociative identity disorder. Your mind represses certain traumas for reasons of pure survival. And then you learn that to survive as an adult, you must uncover the memories, find the parts, and relieve the traumas. The contradiction is almost too much for the mind to comprehend and for the heart and soul to endure.
But then, not long after, in another article, Loftus writes, "We live in a strange and precarious time that resembles at its heart the hysteria and superstitious fervor of the witch trials." She took rifle lessons and to this day keeps the firing instruction sheets and targets posted above her desk. In 1996, when Psychology Today interviewed her, she burst into tears twice within the first twenty minutes, labile, lubricated, theatrical, still whip smart, talking about the blurry boundaries between fact and fiction while she herself lived in another blurry boundary, between conviction and compulsion, passion and hyperbole. "The witch hunts," she said, but the analogy is wrong, and provides us with perhaps a more accurate window into Loftus's stretched psyche than into our own times, for the witch hunts were predicated on utter nonsense, and the abuse scandals were predicated on something all too real, which Loftus seemed to forget: Women are abused. Memories do matter. Talking to her, feeling her high-flying energy the zeal that burns up the center of her life, you have to wonder, why. You are forced to ask the very kind of question Loftus most abhors: did something bad happen to her? For she herself seems driven by dissociated demons, and so I ask. What happened to you? Turns out, a lot. (refers to Dr. Elizabeth F. Loftus)
I am truly crazy, I told myself. It's over. I am not fixable. I cannot tell Tom. I cannot even tell Francisco. So I won't tell anyone. My brain seemed out of control. Tom does not deserve a crazy wife and my children do not deserve a crazy mother. I finally get it. This is not just repressed memory. This is dissociative identity disorder.
Treating Abuse Today 3(4) pp. 26-33 TAT: No. I don't know anymore than you know they're not. But, I'm talking about boundaries and privacy here. As a therapist working with survivors, I have been harassed by people who claim to be affiliated with the false memory movement. Parents and other family members have called or written me insisting on talking with me about my patients' cases, despite my clearly indicating I can't because of professional confidentiality. I have had other parents and family members investigate me -- look into my professional background -- hoping to find something to discredit me to the patients I was seeing at the time because they disputed their memories. This isn't the kind of sober, scientific discourse you all claim you want.
Treating Abuse Today 3(4) pp. 26-33 The national discussion regarding the veridical truth of memories of childhood abuse will have a beneficial effect. Therapists will be reminded that dire consequences can ensue from poor practice, careless technique, and unchecked countertransference and parallel process. Hopefully, it will also stimulate legitimate research into the nature of traumatic memory. Unfortunately, the polemic often has been hysterical, scapegoating, accusatory, speculative, rumor driven, biased and antiempirical. Since many members of the FMSF, Inc. Scientific Advisory Board are frequent professional witnesses for the defense in cases of alleged sexual abuse, we questioned whether the organization was acting more as an advocate for a previously determined position or whether it was truly taking a scientific approach to determining the veridical truth of recollections of child abuse.
TAT: I find I'm still left wanting to know how to tell if my patient has false memory syndrome. What's the test? How do I determine if my patient is suffering from this syndrome? Freyd: What are the tests if some body is suffering from " repressed memory syndrome?" TAT: Well, I can give you several symptom clusters - dissociative, cognitive, affective, somatic effects they're well documented. But, I'm asking you the question. You're telling me, David, as a clinician: you must be aware of the possibility your patients may have false memory syndrome. Okay, how should I be aware of that? How am I going to know? How do I test for it? Freyd: David, I'm going to ask Dr. Paul McHugh to talk to you because he is a clinician and I have stated from the beginning that I am not. TAT: I appreciate that, Pamela. But here's my issue with you not knowing. If I was talking to the Executive Director of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, who presumably is also not a clinician, I'll bet he or she could give me the signs and symptoms of muscular dystrophy. But in the case of false memory syndrome, so far no one seems to be able to say. Treating Abuse Today, 3(4), pp. 26-33
Treating Abuse Today 3(4) pp. 26-33 TAT: I see the agenda. But let's go back: one of the contentions the therapeutic community has about the Foundation's professed scientific credibility is your use of the term "syndrome." It seems to us that what's happening here is that based solely on anecdotal, unverified reports, the Foundation has started a public relations campaign rather than a bonafide research effort and simply announced to the world that an epidemic of this syndrome exists. The established scientific and clinical organizations are taking you on about this and it's that kind of thing that makes us feel like this effort is not really based on science. Do you have a response to that? Freyd: The response I would make regarding the name of the Foundation is that it will certainly be one of the issues brought up during our scientific meeting this weekend. But let me add that the term, "syndrome," in terms of it being a psychological syndrome, parallels, say, the rape trauma syndrome. Given that and the fact that there are seldom complaints over the use of the term "syndrome" for that, I think that it isn't "syndrome" that's bothering people as much as the term "false." TAT: No. Frankly it's not. It is the term "syndrome." The term false memory is almost 100 years old. It's nothing new, but false memory syndrome is newly coined. Here's our issue with your use of the word "syndrome." The rape trauma syndrome is a good example because it has a very well defined list of signs and symptoms. Having read your literature, we are still at a loss to know what the signs and symptoms of "false memory syndrome" are. Can you tell us succinctly? Freyd: The person with whom I would like to have you discuss that to quote is Dr. Paul McHugh on our advisory board, because he is a clinician. TAT: I would be happy to do that. But if I may, let me take you on a little bit further about this. Freyd: Sure, sure that's fair. TAT: You're the Executive Director of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation - a foundation that says it wants to disseminate scientific information to the community regarding this syndrome but you can't, or won't, give me its signs and symptoms. That is confusing to me. I don't understand why there isn't a list.
Treating Abuse Today (Tat), 3(4), pp. 26-33 Freyd: You were also looking for some operational criteria for false memory syndrome: what a clinician could look for or test for, and so on. I spoke with several of our scientific advisory board members and I have some information for you that isn't really in writing at this point but I think it's a direction you want us to go in. So if I can read some of these notes . . . TAT: Please do. Freyd: One would look for false memory syndrome: 1. If a patient reports having been sexually abused by a parent, relative or someone in very early childhood, but then claims that she or he had complete amnesia about it for a decade or more; 2. If the patient attributes his or her current reason for being in therapy to delayed-memories. And this is where one would want to look for evidence suggesting that the abuse did not occur as demonstrated by a list of things, including firm, confident denials by the alleged perpetrators; 3. If there is denial by the entire family; 4. In the absence of evidence of familial disturbances or psychiatric illnesses. For example, if there's no evidence that the perpetrator had alcohol dependency or bipolar disorder or tendencies to pedophilia; 5. If some of the accusations are preposterous or impossible or they contain impossible or implausible elements such as a person being made pregnant prior to menarche, being forced to engage in sex with animals, or participating in the ritual killing of animals, and; 6. In the absence of evidence of distress surrounding the putative abuse. That is, despite alleged abuse going from age two to 27 or from three to 16, the child displayed normal social and academic functioning and that there was no evidence of any kind of psychopathology. Are these the kind of things you were asking for? TAT: Yeah, it's a little bit more specific. I take issue with several, but at least it gives us more of a sense of what you all mean when you say "false memory syndrome." Freyd: Right. Well, you know I think that things are moving in that direction since that seems to be what people are requesting. Nobody's denying that people are abused and there's no one denying that someone who was abused a decade ago or two decades ago probably would not have talked about it to anybody. I think I mentioned to you that somebody who works in this office had that very experience of having been abused when she was a young teenager-not extremely abused, but made very uncomfortable by an uncle who was older-and she dealt with it for about three days at the time and then it got pushed to the back of her mind and she completely forgot about it until she was in therapy. TAT: There you go. That's how dissociation works! Freyd: That's how it worked. And after this came up and she had discussed and dealt with it in therapy, she could again put it to one side and go on with her life. Certainly confronting her uncle and doing all these other things was not a part of what she had to do. Interestingly, though, at the same time, she has a daughter who went into therapy and came up with memories of having been abused by her parents. This daughter ran away and is cutoff from the family-hasn't spoken to anyone for three years. And there has never been any meeting between the therapist and the whole family to try to find out what was involved. TAT: If we take the first example -- that of her own abuse -- and follow the criteria you gave, we would have a very strong disbelief in the truth of what she told.
Treating Abuse Today (Tat), 3(4), pp. 26-33 Freyd: I see what you're saying but people in psychology don't have a uniform agreement on this issue of the depth of -- I guess the term that was used at the conference was -- "robust repression." TAT: Well, Pamela, there's a whole lot of evidence that people dissociate traumatic things. What's interesting to me is how the concept of "dissociation" is side-stepped in favor of "repression." I don't think it's as much about repression as it is about traumatic amnesia and dissociation. That has been documented in a variety of trauma survivors. Army psychiatrists in the Second World War, for instance, documented that following battles, many soldiers had amnesia for the battles. Often, the memories wouldn't break through until much later when they were in psychotherapy. Freyd: But I think I mentioned Dr. Loren Pankratz. He is a psychologist who was studying veterans for post-traumatic stress in a Veterans Administration Hospital in Portland. They found some people who were admitted to Veteran's hospitals for postrraumatic stress in Vietnam who didn't serve in Vietnam. They found at least one patient who was being treated who wasn't even a veteran. Without external validation, we just can't know -- TAT: -- Well, we have external validation in some of our cases. Freyd: In this field you're going to find people who have all levels of belief, understanding, experience with the area of repression. As I said before it's not an area in which there's any kind of uniform agreement in the field. The full notion of repression has a meaning within a psychoanalytic framework and it's got a meaning to people in everyday use and everyday language. What there is evidence for is that any kind of memory is reconstructed and reinterpreted. It has not been shown to be anything else. Memories are reconstructed and reinterpreted from fragments. Some memories are true and some memories are confabulated and some are downright false. TAT: It is certainly possible for in offender to dissociate a memory. It's possible that some of the people who call you could have done or witnessed some of the things they've been accused of -- maybe in an alcoholic black-out or in a dissociative state -- and truly not remember. I think that's very possible. Freyd: I would say that virtually anything is possible. But when the stories include murdering babies and breeding babies and some of the rather bizarre things that come up, it's mighty puzzling. TAT: I've treated adults with dissociative disorders who were both victimized and victimizers. I've seen previously repressed memories of my clients' earlier sexual offenses coming back to them in therapy. You guys seem to be saying, be skeptical if the person claims to have forgotten previously, especially if it is about something horrible. Should we be equally skeptical if someone says "I'm remembering that I perpetrated and I didn't remember before. It's been repressed for years and now it's surfacing because of therapy." I ask you, should we have the same degree of skepticism for this type of delayed-memory that you have for the other kind? Freyd: Does that happen? TAT: Oh, yes. A lot.
Treating Abuse Today 3(4) pp. 26-33 TAT: I want to move back to an area that I'm not real comfortable asking you about, but I'm going to, because I think it's germane to this discussion. When we began our discussion [see "A Conversation with Pamela Freyd, Ph.D., Part 1", Treating Abuse Today, 3(3), P. 25-39] we spoke a bit about how your interest in this issue intersected your own family situation. You have admitted writing about it in your widely disseminated "Jane Doe" article. I think wave been able to cover legitimate ground in our discussion without talking about that, but I am going to return to it briefly because there lingers an important issue there. I want to know how you react to people who say that the Foundation is basically an outgrowth of an unresolved family matter in your own family and that some of the initial members of your Scientific Advisory Board have had dual professional relationships with you and your family, and are not simply scientifically attached to the Foundation and its founders. Freyd: People can say whatever they want to say. The fact of the matter is, day after day, people are calling to say that something very wrong has taken place. They're telling us that somebody they know and love very much, has acquired memories in some kind of situation, that they're sure are false, but that there has been no way to even try to resolve the issues -- now, it's 3,600 families. TAT: That's kind of side-stepping the question. My question -- Freyd: -- People can say whatever they want. But you know -- TAT: -- But, isn't it true that some of the people on your scientific advisory have a professional reputation that is to some extent now dependent upon some findings in your own family? Freyd: Oh, I don't think so. A professional reputation dependent upon findings in my family? TAT: In the sense that they may have been consulted professionally first about a matter in your own family. Is that not true? Freyd: What difference does that make? TAT: It would bring into question their objectivity. It would also bring into question the possibility of this being a folie à deux --
Treating Abuse Today 3(4) pp. 26-33 While Pamela Freyd was speaking to us on the record about her organization, another development was in the making in the Freyd family. Since Pamela and her husband, Peter Freyd, started the Foundation and its massive public relations effort in which they present as a "falsely accused" couple, their daughter, Jennifer Freyd, Ph.D., remained publicly silent regarding her parents' claims and the activities of the FMS Foundation. She only wished to preserve her privacy. But, as the Foundation's publicity efforts gained a national foothold, Dr. Jennifer Freyd decided that her continued anonymity amounted to complicity. She began to feel that her silence was beginning to have unwitting effects. She saw that she was giving the appearance of agreeing with her parents' public claims and decided she had to speak out. Jennifer Freyd, Ph.D., is a tenured Professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon. Along with George K. Ganaway, M.D. (a member of the FMS Foundation Scientific Advisory Board), Lawrence R. Klein, Ph.D., and Stephen H. Landman, Ph.D., she was an invited presenter for The Center for Mental Health at Foote Hospital's Continuing Education Conference: Controversies Around Recovered Memories of Incest and Ritualistic Abuse, held on August 7, 1993 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Dr. Jennifer Freyd's presentation, "Theoretical and Personal Perspectives on the Delayed Memory Debate," included professional remarks on the conference topic, along with a personal section in which she, for the first time, publicly gave her side of the Freyd family story. In her statement, she alleges a pattern of boundary and privacy violations by her parents, some of which have occurred under the auspices of the Foundation; a pattern of inappropriate and unwanted sexualization by her father and denial by her mother, and a pattern of intimidation and manipulation by her parents since the inception of the Foundation. She also recounts that several members of the original FMS Foundation Scientific Advisory Board had dual professional relationships with the Freyd family.
Treating Abuse Today 3(4) pp. 26-33 Freyd: The term "multiple personality" itself assumes that there is "single personality" and there is evidence that no one ever displays a single personality. TAT: The issue here is the extent of dissociation and amnesia and the extent to which these fragmentary aspects of personality can take executive control and control function. Sure, you and I have different parts to our mind, there's no doubt about that, but I don't lose time to mine they can't come out in the middle of a lecture and start acting 7 years old. I'm very much in the camp that says that we all are multi-minds, but the difference between you and me and a multiple is pretty tangible. Freyd: Those are clearly interesting questions, but that area and the clinical aspects of dissociation and multiple personalities is beyond anything the Foundation is actively... TAT: That's a real problem. Let me tell you why that's a problem. Many of the people that have been alleged to have "false memory syndrome" have diagnosed dissociative disorders. It seems to me the fact that you don't talk about dissociative disorders is a little dishonest, since many people whose lives have been impacted by this movement are MPD or have a dissociative disorder. To say, "Well, we ONLY know about repression but not about dissociation or multiple personalities" seems irresponsible. Freyd: Be that as it may, some of the scientific issues with memory are clear. So if we can just stick with some things for a moment; one is that memories are reconstructed and reinterpreted no matter how long ago or recent. TAT: You weigh the recollected testimony of an alleged perpetrator more than the alleged victim's. You're saying, basically, if the parents deny it, that's another notch for disbelief. Freyd: If it's denied, certainly one would want to check things. It would have to be one of many factors that are weighed -- and that's the problem with these issues -- they are not black and white, they're very complicated issues.