Your brain is home to all the memories you’ve made in your life. Some of them you may not remember because they are insignificant.
However, there are other memories that are repressed. You may have an idea of what this is. Usually, you imagine a hidden memory, usually traumatic, that explains why you behave the way you do. However, it’s a little more complex than that. Let’s discuss.
The idea of repressed memories comes from Freud. He was influential in the world of psychology, but most of us know that some of his beliefs are archaic in the field of mental health. His theory states that some of our odd behaviors may stem from memories that we have repressed.
How do repressed memories stack up in modern science? They’ve been a hot debate in recent years. After all, the brain is still not fully understood.
The public tends to believe in repressed memories. There may be a chance that you, the reader, do as well. There are mental health professional who believe in repressed memories as well.
However, there are many experts who have their doubts.
First, it’s difficult for scientists to do research on this. Memories are difficult to study, and trying to study this can involve unethical techniques such as traumatizing the patient.
Not to mention, memories are fickle. There are some who would argue that the repressed memories that are recovered are actually false memories.
If someone is told over and over that they are hiding trauma, they may start to “uncover” trauma that was not actually there. There have been cases where false memories have lead to a parent or other person related to the patient having their reputation destroyed, or sometimes facing legal trouble, for something they didn’t do.
What’s a bit scary that is there’s no way of telling what’s a fake memory and what’s true, unless you have evidence. For example, if you have video evidence that something happened, that’s one thing. However, if something happened to you all the way back in childhood, there may be little way to prove that this actually happened.
However, with amnesia and the brain working in mysterious ways, many have sworn they have recovered repressed memories. One way they do so is through repressed memory therapy.
What About Repressed Memory Therapy?
Repressed memory therapy involves a therapist trying to uncover memories that the patient may have repressed.
Different therapists use different techniques. Some may try to put the patient into a deep trance. Others may instead use age regression, where the patient acts like they are a child again.
With techniques such as hypnotism, where the patient is prone to suggestion, this makes repressed memory therapy even more controversial.
However, There’s Truth to Repression
People have forgotten memories that are traumatizing. There is no arguing this. However, recent science has offered other explanations for this phenomenon. These include:
If someone has trauma happen to them, their mind may deny it happened and it can be difficult to remember it. Denial can be strong, and it can be a good coping mechanism for trauma. In some cases, there are ways for you to accept the truth.
This is when someone copes by detaching from trauma. Detachment can make the memory fuzzy or difficult to access. This especially applies with children, who may not be able to access the memory until adulthood, when they can handle trauma better.
This is similar to what some people think of when they think of repressed memories, to be fair. However, it does differ from what Freud believed when it came to memories.
Learning New Information
This is when you have an event that appears not to be traumatic, but as you grow older, you may realize it is. For example, if someone touched you in an area that you didn’t realize wasn’t appropriate, but as you grew older, you realized it was traumatic.
So, What’s the Answer?
The answer may be that yes, we are able to hide or deny memories that are traumatic. However, the way we do so is probably not like how Freud described. With that said, our understanding of the brain and memories is ever-growing. Perhaps in the future, we can have a better grasp on what the answer is, and how it can benefit you.
If you feel like you have memories that you are repressed, what should you do? Here are some solutions.
You may want to talk to a licensed therapist about it. With that said, do be careful. Try to pick a therapist who is licensed and understands current psychology. Some therapists who aren’t licensed, or those who may have an old way of looking at psychology, may end up leading you to memories you don’t have.
What do we mean by this? Simply put, a therapist who knows what they are doing will not jump to the conclusion that you’re a victim of abuse and that you need your repressed memories unlocked. A therapist who does this should not be trusted. A good therapist helps you learn more about yourself, but not that way.
When you do find a therapist, bring up anything that’s wrong with you. There are some symptoms that may be a sign of trauma, but it may not be as cut and dry as you would think.
For example, if you have had low self-esteem or insomnia recently, this may be a sign of trauma. The same applies if you have trouble concentrating.
Online Therapy Can Help
Right now, we are all struggling, and not just with questionable memories. Many of us don’t know where to go with life, or what to do with ourselves.
That’s where online therapy comes in. BetterHelp can connect you to therapists who are licensed and who can help you cope with trauma, or any other parts of your life.
For more information on how BetterHelp can assist you, please click here.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com.
With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.