REPRESSED MEMORIES? – Mental Health with Kati Morton | Kati Morton
Today, we’re talking about repressed memories, what are they, and are they even reliable. So repressed memories, as I’m sure you know, have a lot of legal and ethical debate around them because many people feel that they were led by their therapist to “remember” things that we don’t even know have happened. And so all of the reading and all of the research I did, I’ll talk about both sides of that, one being yes, they exist. This is correct. Those are true. But also two being you can be led to remember things that didn’t happen. So let’s start with talking about what repressed memories really are. And I have kind of like a rough definition based on a few articles that I read about what they constitute “a repressed memory.” Now, repressed memory is an event that occurred in the subject’s past, the memory of which was actively repressed due to the psychologically devastating impact of that memory. They believe that even if someone could not recall the memory, it may still be actively affecting them. So even if we don’t technically “remember” something that happened, they believe that it’s still affecting us in our daily life. And people are going to have a lot of different thoughts about it. I encourage you to talk about it in the comments because I personally have had many clients in therapy recall certain scenarios that they couldn’t remember before. I have many clients currently who are working in trauma work with me, and they will actually have no memories from certain chunks of their life, like maybe when the abuse was actively happening. Let’s say like from the age of 7 to 14, I don’t remember anything. All of those kinds of things, to me, are signs of repressed memories and trauma. With that being said, you can see why I, as a clinician, having clients who express those types of things to me, I believe that repressed memories are a real thing. However, I can see the other side, the other side being that clinicians can be bad, right? I talk about it all the time out there. Therapists can be bad at their job. That is a true thing that happens. People are bad at their jobs in general. Therefore, they can sometimes lead clients to “remember” things that maybe never actually happened to them. And so I am always checking myself, making sure that the questions I’m asking my clients are not leading in any way. It’s just guiding them to give me more information about what they can actually recall. If they can’t recall anything, I may refer them to EMDR therapy or maybe going into treatment to work on the trauma. Sometimes, we black out certain periods of our life because it was so psychologically devasting, it’s scary to even start talking about. And as clinicians, we just need to keep ourselves in check about how we’re asking our clients about the trauma, how we’re working to process through it, and I think that’s why training and specializing and all of that stuff is so very, very important. One of the ways that I keep myself in check when working with clients who have what I call blackout periods in their memory is working on corroborating evidence. That means that if they think they remembered something, I’ll encourage them to call a parent or a friend or a loved one, whoever might have been there to witness it, and often times, we get back that “yeah, that did happen. You don’t remember? Oh, my gosh. Yeah. And then your aunt came over, and this happened.” And my client can fill this whole chunk, and often, when we get that corroborating evidence, “yes, this did happen,” other things come up. There’s like a flood of information and memories that bubble up around this one conversation. And so, that’s one thing that I always encourage because that tells me that I’m not leading them, I’m not forcing memories into their brain. I’m just having them be a detective around that time in their life so they can slowly fill in the blanks. It’s normal to not remember everything about our childhood, but it’s also not normal to remember nothing. Another sign that these memories that are coming up are actually true and valid is when they’re triggered spontaneously. It’s very common for taste, smell. It could be a song. Thinking of your senses, right? Your five senses, often those are what trigger these memories bubbling back up. I’ve had many clients eat something that they used to not eat. Let’s say they’re from another country or their family cooks their own ethnic food. Having that type of food might trigger an old memory out of the blue that they didn’t even think happened. And those are all good signs that these are really repressed memories and they are coming out spontaneously. So in conclusion, repressed memories are a real thing. I believe in them wholeheartedly because I’ve seen them come about. I’ve seen clients remember things. I’ve seen clients have whole blackouts and slowly fill in the blanks. I think the important thing to remember is that it’s just not coerced. I’m never telling my clients what they remember. I’m never saying “do you think that was because you were abused?” That’s not how therapy should work. A therapist acts as a support of guide along, but the client is actually leading it. They’re actually the ones stating things, and based on what they’ve said, I’m following along, making sure that I’m digging into that deep enough for them to tell me what they really want to tell me. I’m not coercing them. And I know that sometimes can be a very gray line, but just think of this: Am I leading the discussion in therapy, or is my therapist forcing me a direction all the time to go down abuse-hole that I don’t think actually was there, that I didn’t think happened. Those are all red flags, but hopefully, you aren’t experiencing and this isn’t something that is going on in therapy. But that’s just something to keep in mind when we question whether a memory was true or not. Did it come out spontaneously? Did all of a sudden I think about it? Did I talk to my mom about it, and now, I remember all of this stuff? Those are all good signs of the memory that has bubbled up is true and did happen. We were just repressing to protect ourselves. I hope you found this video helpful. I know I received a lot of questions about repressed memories, and I hope that helps clear that up. And please, click the share button and share this. You never know who may also be wondering about this and who you may help. And if you’re new to my channel, click here to subscribe. And if you want to see what I’m up to in my daily life, doing my daily things, follow me on all these other social medias. And I will see you next time.