Feb 1, 2009

Repressed Memories

Repressed memory is a theoretical concept used to describe a significant memory, usually of a traumatic nature, that has become unavailable for recall; also called motivated forgetting in which a subject blocks out painful or traumatic times in one's life. This is not the same as amnesia, which is a term for any instance in which memories are either not stored in the first place (such as with traumatic head injuries when short term memory does not transfer to long term memory) or forgotten.[1]
The term is used to describe memories that have been dissociated from awareness as well as those that have been repressed without dissociation. Repressed memory syndrome, the clinical term used to describe repressed memories, is often compared to psychogenic amnesia, and some sources compare the two as equivalent.[2][3]
According to the theory's proponents, repressed memories may sometimes be recovered years or decades after the event, most often spontaneously, triggered by a particular smell, taste, or other identifier related to the lost memory, or via suggestion during psychotherapy.[4]
The existence of repressed memories is a controversial topic in psychology; some studies have concluded that it can occur in victims of trauma[5][6][7][8][9], while others dispute it.
It has been speculated that repression may be one method used by individuals to cope with traumatic memories, by pushing them out of awareness[13] (perhaps as an adaptation via psychogenic amnesia) to allow a child to maintain attachment to a person on whom they are dependent for survival.[23] Researchers have proposed that repression can operate on a social level as well.[24]

According to the theory, something happens that is so shocking that the mind grabs hold of the memory and pushes it underground, into some inaccessible corner of the unconscious. There it sleeps for years, or even decades, or even forever–isolated from the rest of mental life. Then, one day, it may rise up and emerge into consciousness. Numerous clinical examples fitting this model can be readily found. Many of these examples involve not memory of murder but rather memory of other sorts of childhood trauma, such as sexual abuse, that allegedly has been repressed for decades until recovered in therapy. http://faculty.washington.edu/eloftus/Articles/lof93.htm

While only some of this is true, let me put this in more detail. Repressed memories are not ones pushed into inaccessability, and they are not forgotten at all. Repressed memories are ones that seem forgotten, but with the mind there is only so much room for them. These memories are layered like one sticker over another, as they deal with surface memories, ones that bothered them and cycled on the surface. When those memories, and flashbacks are dealt with and exposed, they fall away to the long term memory exposing further memories underneath, ones people thought they had forgotten. As the patient keeps exposing them, at night when they sleep other ones are exposed. I remember from my dreams about how this worked, and seen it. We do not simply lose those memories they get compressed, and other instances that are traumatic in a persons life that continue to happen, further compress them down. A person can hold many thousands of images. As the mind eases from memories returning to the long term spectrum of thought, the others come out and are again exposed. People will be able to recall vivid childhood instances, that they assumed they forgot. The short term memory becomes clogged, and learning anything at all becomes very difficult. One thing that I have noticed is as you keep peeling away at memories, the mind speeds up, speech becomes more of an issue, because you learned to speak at the speed of your slow thoughts. As your thoughts become faster, the mind takes some time to adjust to it, and speach to cognition becomes delayed. I would describe it much like that of a person clearing a cached memory from an explorer on a computer, the explorer runs much faster, but the pages load slower due to the lost cookies of information. A person finds that they have to stop rethink, and speak again. Over time they get better as sequencing their thoughts to their speech, and evens the cognitive process.