Ever been skeptical of repressed memory? You weren’t wrong

It’s good to know people look into this stuff and want to challenge perceptions about how memory works and how memory can be manipulated.

In a briefing to the US Supreme Court, Professor Richard McNally from Harvard University described the theory of repressed memory as “the most pernicious bit of folklore ever to infect psychology and psychiatry”.

He maintains false memories can easily be created by inept therapists.

“The stress hormones that are released during a trauma tend to consolidate the memory, make it rather strong and sometimes even intrusive, as you see in post-traumatic stress disorder,” he said.

But Professor McNally says some abuse victims do suffer when they reassess childhood experiences much later.

“Seeing the event through the eyes of adult, they realise what has happened to them and now they experience the emotional turmoil of trauma,” he said.

The good news is that now, Professor McNally says most victims can be helped.

“Things have changed, happily. We now have treatments that work,” he said.

They’re trying cognitive behaviour therapy, apparently. Something I might benefit from, perhaps – something about learning how to break repetitive negative thoughts about ourselves or situations that may have nothing at all to do with us, yet wind up feeling like the opposite is happening.

Oh, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve assumed that…this week…

Ahaahahaa.. Yeah…

The first article mentions the need to help people develop resilience, something not everyone is good at doing. Some of the suggestions for just how to do this fall into sham guru woo territory (like affirmations, increasing spirituality), but other points are good ones, like understanding why we feel an emotion like sadness or stress, making sure we’re attributing it to the right cause as opposed to making up something else and thus making the feeling worse. Or the idea that we decide how we will react in situations. We control that, not some outside force. We can choose a better, (read: less psycho nut bitch from hell) reaction to life’s downs.

Exercise also gets a mention as a good way to make endorphins spin the mood wheel into the happy zone. I know I’ve been doing a lot of walking lately – 6 hours one day, an hour or more another day.. I thought I was doing that because I was frikkin bored, but maybe my need for getting active stems from a desire to not get caught in those stupid brain loops I often find myself in. If exercise keeps my brain from reverting back to Mope Mode, I’d best do more of it.

The brain is such a complex thing, isn’t it? And all we have are paltry words to describe it, and eyes to read the instruments that measure it, even though our eyes and vision are completely controlled by the very things we try to measure. How do we know we’re seeing what we’re “supposed” to be seeing…

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