Recovery memories of childhood abuse

Marilyn of Art By Marilyn

At age 37, while working as an incest writer and researcher, Meredith Maran accused her father of molesting her. Based on a combination of “symptoms” like depression and guilt and disturbing incest dreams, the accusation would ignite an estrangement that kept her children from spending time with their grandfather for the next eight years.

Ten years later, she retracted those claims, confessing that she’d been caught up in the whirlwind of repressed memory fever that overtook the nation in the ’80s and ’90s. These experiences are outlined in her new memoir, My Lie: A True Story of False Memory, released this month. When I received a review copy of the book, which was being called “fearless” and “brave” in the back cover blurbs, I cracked its cover with some trepidation, because I had also recovered a memory of childhood abuse.

The difference is that my memory is true.

No matter how many psychiatrists told me that repression is a common response to experiences too traumatic to process, it was hard for me to understand how my brain could have tricked me so thoroughly.

In 1997, at age 14, I was the victim of an assault. The perpetrators were a group of older boys (ranging from 16 to 21) that I considered my friends. My equally precocious friend Courtney and I spent unsupervised time after school with the motley crew of oft-unemployed dropouts and losers, playing “Vampire: The Masquerade” and smoking weed. One day, we were messing around with a pair of handcuffs when the dynamic suddenly changed.

They locked my arms behind my back and stripped my clothes off, before forcing me to perform oral sex on a group member. The ringleader spoke to me in a sadistic manner, telling me I deserved what I got and threatening to burn me with cigarettes. I eventually managed to escape by begging and explaining that we’d all be in trouble if I wasn’t home when my parents got there. It was an experience that should have been horrifying, except that whole thing was immediately submerged somewhere in the recesses of my memory, where things too traumatic to be remembered are stored.

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Q&A

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What is the definition of memory in connection with psychology?

The definition of memory in connection with psychology is based upon recalling information. This is done when remembering things that are learned, information that was retained such as a phone number, recalling information, and also recognition (a song lyric for example).

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