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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.


Book 62/100: Second Thoughts - Understanding the False Memory Crisis and How It Could Affect You by Dr. Paul Simpson

— feeling doubt
Second Thoughts - Paul Simpson

I have been interested in the repressed v. false memory debate for about 7 years, but I gave up reading about it or researching it just as long ago because it was so hard to find any middle ground. Either those who claimed repressed memories were the victims of manipulative therapists, or they had most certainly experienced whatever "memories" came to light.

This book is no different. Although Dr. Paul Simpson claims to have "seen the light" after being "taken in" by repressed memory therapy, his agenda is to convince readers that all repressed/recovered memories are, in fact, false memories. To his credit, he cites a lot of research and this book would have been better if he had left the research to speak for itself. Instead, he is intent on bombarding the reader with the most extreme versions of repressed/false memories one could imagine, mostly involving families that were ripped apart because of an adult child's false accusation that her parents involved her in grotesque Satanic rituals throughout her childhood.

A lot of these "false memories" were the easiest kinds of memories to "disprove," as they often involved mass murders of children and large circles of implicated people, for which some sort of evidentiary trail should have been left behind and so it was very easy to claim the memories as false when there was not a shred of corroborative evidence. However, Dr. Simpson barely acknowledges more run-of-the mill recollections about abuse that may have happened as isolated incidents and for which corroborative evidence is pretty much impossible to find years after the fact absent a confession from the perpetrator. The fact that Dr. Simpson did not bother to address these "smaller" sorts of recollections is a major weakness in his work -- it's easy to write off Satanic cult behaviors and alien abductions as delusions, but less easy to address the smaller injustices that are committed every day.

I do think both therapists and patients need to be wary when they start to go down the "repressed memories" path, and that in some cases it may behoove a patient to seek a second opinion. However, I don't think a lot of the therapists who believe in repression are frauds who are trying to keep their clients in therapy forever and just keep milking their imagined traumas for cash.

In addition, I was never totally clear who the audience of this book was supposed to be. Who is the mysterious "you" in the subtitle? Is it other therapists? Is it the innocent parents who are the target of the "false memory crisis"? Is it patients of such therapy? You'd think after reading the whole book I'd have figured it out, and the fact that I didn't was just another of this book's many weaknesses.