The Inaccuracy of Childhood Memories

The survivors of abuse and the False Memory Foundation has been waring for decades now about childhood memories of abuse- and I wanted to throw my two cents in about this controversy. It is well known that I have been an advocate for survivors of extreme abuse, and that ritual abuse- abuse that happens daily and on such a level that it is basically ritualistic, happens to more of us than is admitted- I have to say that neither side is gospel truth. Memories- esp. those of children, are inaccurate- and are subject to the interpretation of the person being abused, and therefore can be inaccurate.

One example of this is that I always remembered my father as being huge. Being awakened in the middle of the night, my father would beat me until he got himself in such a frenzy that he would rape me- and I spent much of my life seeing a man who was not all that big as something larger than life- and scarier than any boogeyman. When I reached adulthood- esp. after my father became sick- I realized that I was seeing him through the eyes of a child- as I was much larger and much more physically capable than my father. This doesn’t mean that my abuse didn’t happen- but rather that the details I remembered were inaccurate, and it was in the interpretation that I had as a child that skewed my thought processes. That compounded with the trauma that I experienced- made it very difficult to first accept and then remember accurately the specific details of my abuse.

Milton Erickson- the father of hypnotherapy- spoke about “autohypnotic states of being” which is what I experienced as a child. First being beaten- as a child I would “go someplace else in my mind”- often pretending that the humiliation and trauma that I was experiencing was happening to someone other than myself. Later, as an adult- I often used Socratic questioning to determine what happened to me- as I first had body memories- (memories stored in the body) that lead me to first question my abuse and finally to accept it. Accepting abuse is often the first thing a survivor must go through- as, when I was a child, I spent much of my time denying what was happening to me. Time heals all wounds as they say- but it also makes memories fallible- as we often soothe over and rewrite the abuse that we suffered. This doesn’t mean, again, that the abuse didn’t happen- but rather my memories, in the process of self preservation- rewrote these memories in order to help me deal with them on a day to day basis. And, as I said earlier, abuse memories are subject to interpretation, as are most memories- child and adult.

What is important to look at is the collateral damage of our lives- and this has NOTHING to do with memories of abuse. Having complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I have problems with severe anxiety, social awkwardness, and intense sleeping disorders- which dictate something major happened- and is beyond my memories of abuse. Due to the abuse I suffered- I often am a victim of self trauma- in that I have a tendency to re-victimize myself- putting myself in situations where I once again suffer trauma. It is this that assures me that, although I may not specifically remember my childhood traumas in detail- my belief that I went through ritual abuse is nonetheless correct. My life has been a testament to the abuse that I suffered.

I also had the benefit of having much older siblings than me- who all remembered the same things I did, and sometimes worse. The cult activities that my father and stepmother were involved with were often clarified by my older brother and sisters, and more so- they were presented in such a way that I could have no doubt in my mind that what happened to all of us was factual and real. More so- they remembered the abuse that I suffered in ways that I couldn’t- as they were all well over a decade older than myself- and their memories of my abuse were that of much older participants- and more so, they were not skewed by my personal trauma. No one convinced me that I was abused- nor was I manipulated to believe I went through what I did- but having the assurances that what I remembered was factual was incredibly beneficial to my psychological well being and personal healing as an adult.

People like Sheri Storm- who spouts convictions that she was manipulated to believe that she ate babies- infuriate me- as it muddies the waters of people who have actually gone through real abuse. In my past- I don’t recall eating any babies- and in fact those who were murdered were generally prepubescent white boys. I have been criticized repeatedly for detailing my memories of killing and cannibalizing the ritualistically murdered children- but these memories are something that I never forgot- although I spent much of my life telling myself that I was crazy for remembering what I did. Abuse survivors often go through this- as it is easier to tell ourselves that we are crazy than admit the horrific realities that we suffered as children. For the record- NONE OF MY MEMORIES ORIGINATED THROUGH MY THERAPY, and to be honest- I almost left my therapist more than once due to the fact that she would not agree nor disagree with what I remembered. Telling me that it was not her job to attest to the validity of my childhood experiences- she simply stated that it was her responsibility to help me deal with what I believed in hopes that I could achieve a better life and a more consistent day to day experience without constantly being daunted or controlled by my memories of trauma. People such as Sheri Storm will negate her responsibility she has to her own therapeutic process and blame others for her misconceived notions of her past- whereas I contend that much of the responsibility lies with her and her lack of discernment to determine the events of her life. Of course the False Memory people will jump on this and claim that she was just a victim- but who is the victim? Her- or the lives of the people she is claiming owe her a million dollar payout for her lying to herself? I think that the blame is two fold- and that the women who claim that their lives have been ruined by rogue therapists have to look in the mirror if they are to determine who convinced them of such balderdash.

Memories are fallible- esp. considering that in the cult- children were often manipulated to believe things that were not factual in order to hide the REAL events that were occurring. Predators often skew the truth with their victims so that they are not easily discovered- and children are the easiest to manipulate. Are all of my memories spot on? No, I don’t believe so- but I also contend that due to my history- and my life experiences- that there is more evidence that I went through what I remember than not. Despite what the False Memory Foundation will attest to. They weren’t in my life as a child- and they certainly are not in my life as an adult- and so their contention that I am mistaken- or worse, lying- is nothing more than an opinion- and uneducated at that.

To any survivor out there who has gone through intense abuse- don’t allow ANYONE to detail to you your experiences, and although I suggest you question your memories, I certainly would not deny them. For those of us who have gone through extreme ritual abuse- and, in my case, cult abuse- we have spent far too much time denying to ourselves what we experienced- and it is time that we allow ourselves to not only remember- but speak about the things that we suffered in order to prevent such atrocities from happening to other children in the future.

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