To: MIT.EDU!witchhunt Date: Sat, 5 Nov 94 16:35 EST (c) Gannett Company, Inc., 10/31/94 +q

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From:!!aaron (Aaron Larson) To: MIT.EDU!witchhunt Date: Sat, 5 Nov 94 16:35 EST (c) Gannett Company, Inc., 10/31/94 "Making Monsters" From Recovered Memories By Scott Owens In 1990, a California man was convicted in a murder two decades old, based on his daughter's testimony that she abruptly recovered her memory of witnessing the murder. The entertainer Roseanne and a former Miss America say they now remember they were sexually abused as children, after forgetting it for years. Therapists say they are uncovering an epidemic of abuse. Families are torn apart, parents are jailed, and there has been at least one vigilante killing based on recovered memory. Welcome to the fascinating world of recovered memory therapy. And before you venture in too far, read "Making Monsters: False Memories, Psychotherapy, and Sexual Hysteria," by Richard Ofshe, a Berkeley, Calif., psychology professor, and Ethan Watters, a writer for Mother Jones magazine. "Making Monsters" explores the vague line between truth and belief, and presents a cautionary tale of New Age knights desperately seeking dragons to slay. In our enlightened age, we like to laugh at the follies and hysterias of the benighted past. This book reminds us that future generations will have plenty of reason to laugh at us. Slowly but convincingly, the authors build their case against RMT, discussing psychoanalytic theory in language accessible to the average reader. At the core of recovered memory therapy is a radical, unproven theory of memory repression. Adherents say abuse victims forget the abuse even as it is happening. Or they are aware of ongoing abuse for years, and then one day it is removed from their conscious minds. Memories are snipped out, like a film being edited, and clips are stored in a sort of mental vault, where they never fade or blur. They can be dug up decades later to give an entirely accurate, documentary-style replay. Thus adherents say that children forget being sodomized even while it happens, that women are raped from the cradle until they leave for college and have no recollection of it. A woman could have been raped last week and not know it. Hard to believe. But then, why would a trusted therapist implant false memories? What the authors show is that many recovered memory therapists have an agenda. Patients come in complaining of depression, anxiety, or other ailments, and are told they are abuse victims. To these therapists, virtually everything is a symptom of abuse, including arthritis, headaches, tension, or a feeling of being different. Based on one office visit, patients have been diagnosed as survivors of satanic cults. When patients insist they have no memories of abuse, they are told that lack of memory is one of the prime symptoms. But how could you make patients believe? One way is to order them to. Patients are told they must believe, must get over their "denial," or they will never get well. They are invited to "try on" the diagnosis for a year, telling themselves each day that they were abused and will recover memories of it. Patients are eager to get better, and the therapists seem educated, caring, confident. Meanwhile the patient is instructed to visualize being raped or otherwise abused. Leading questions are asked: "Who can you see doing this to you? Is your father there?" If the patient can picture the suggested scenarios, she is told that these are memories, and she must believe it happened. To get over denial, therapists use techniques known to distort and even create memories. Hypnotism is used freely, though clinical research shows that it increases the subject's vulnerability to outside suggestion. And it increases a subject's conviction that hypnotically enhanced memories are accurate, while doing nothing to improve their accuracy. The authors also note the prevalence of drug usage, ranging from "truth serums" to high dosages of tranquilizers. After years of drug therapy, hypnotism, dream interpretation and free imagination, some patients say they have trouble telling fantasy from reality. Little wonder. But one of the most revealing facts is that recovered memory therapy uses the same techniques gurus use to help people remember "past lives." In fact, Brian Weiss, a leader in past-life explorations, got his start as a recovered memory therapist. These techniques are also used to recover memories of being abducted by space aliens, or being tortured in satanic rituals. If these therapies led merely to your cousin recovering memories of being kidnapped by a UFO, they might be an amusing fad. But RMT is destroying families. There are other troubling aspects. Therapies that see evidence of mind control and cults all around them sometimes acquire cultish traits themselves. Patients are told to break off all contact with their supposed abusers, and also with any relative, friend or acquaintance who questions the accuracy of recovered memories. Once insulated from the world, patients are invited to join the therapist's new "family," where they will bask in unconditional love and acceptance. But no doubts, no questioning of recovered memories, are tolerated. How bizarre can it get? A leading expert on recovered memories of cults insists that Hallmark Cards and FTD florists are in on the satanic conspiracy. He reached these conclusions during therapy with a woman who has since stopped taking the massive doses of drugs prescribed to her and now says the memories were false. This therapist is not a palm-reader with a shingle in front of his house. He founded a multiple-personality ward at Chicago's prestigious Rush Presbyterian Hospital. And "The Courage to Heal," the bible of the recovered memory movement, promises that some patients even acquire psychic powers from therapy. "Making Monsters" is not about an isolated therapeutic trend. The recovered memory movement is gaining fanatical adherents at a time when many traditional institutions and means of support are breaking down. In such times, some people turn to old-time religion, some to new therapies. RMT is thriving in an era of "victim chic," when questioning accusations of abuse is frowned upon. Unfortunately, the news and entertainment media sometimes give RMT uncritical coverage. Journalists, judges and legal professionals who handle RMT cases would do well to read this book. At the very least, the media should cease the unqualified use of the term "recovered memory." It implies that what was recovered really was a memory, and that it was recovered, not distorted. Terms such as "self-professed recovered memory" would avoid the bias. The issues involved are complex, the potential for damage is great. A bit of responsibility is called for. Ofshe and Watters have written a fascinating, thought-provoking, and very responsible book.


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