IPT Book Reviews

Title: True Stories of False Memories  Positive Review Positive Review
Authors: Eleanor Goldstein and Kevin Farmer
Publisher: Social Issues Resources Series, Inc. (SIRS) 1993

Social Issues Resources Series, Inc. (SIRS)
1100 Holland Drive
Boca Raton, FL 33487
$16.95
 

Description:

True Stories is the sequel to Confabulations: Creating False Memories, Destroying Families (Paperback).  The first third of the book elaborates the experiences of brothers and sisters who have watched a sibling become caught up in "repressed" and false memories and proceeded to tear the family apart.  Brothers and sisters are caught in the middle, asked to support the charges of sexual abuse against parents who they know did not do the things of which their sibling accuses them.  In some instances, they struggle with the therapist who has taken possession of their sibling's heart and mind, but to no avail.  In the end, they are left with the hope that some day, somehow, their sibling will return and the family will be reconciled.

These personal tragedies, each with its own unique twist, are followed by a section which analyzes the origins of the incest survivor movement.  The ideas of some of the movement's major authorities are discussed.  The reader is then plunged back into the personal hell suffered by the movement's casualties.  These accounts offer some hope, however, because they are the stories of retractors women who finally came to their senses, struggled to put their lives back together, and, in one case, sued the therapist.  One of these women was converted by her therapist into an incest survivor with a diagnosis of MPD (Multiple Personality Disorder).  Her story of return is enriched by the perspectives of both her husband and her daughter.

The personal accounts conclude with a mother's story.  After her disbelief at the accusations, after her shock and hurt and anger, there remains her love for her daughter and the very real concern that if her daughter waits too long to come back, death will foreclose the option of reunification, not only with the mother but with her parents, who are old.  The book concludes with commentary by various professionals on such topics as legal issues, memory, and the National Organization for Women's "mobilization against patriarchy."
 

Discussion:

In some ways, this book can be compared to The Diary of Anne Frank [Books by this author].  The men and women whose stories appear in this book are among the first wave to bear witness to a devastating and expanding social upheaval.  Goldstein and Farmer identify the creation of false memories through the influence of mental health professionals and other would-be healers as one of the most important social issues of our time.  Powerful, publicly supported institutions such as legislative bodies and the legal system have come increasingly under the influence of this cult-like movement.  As these institutions lend the weight of their authority to the cause of adults who claim to have been molested as children, constitutional protections for the accused are increasingly suspended.  In many instances, terrified parents, school principals, and therapists settle lawsuits out of court rather than be exposed to the risks and public humiliation of a trial.

It seems to me from my perspective as a psychologist that the vast majority of mental health professionals are unaware of what is occurring and the danger it poses, not just to clients and the public but to themselves, their families and their careers.  Over the last 10 years, mental health practitioners have been deeply influenced by the information promulgated by the those who purport to be experts in adults molested as children.  Most mental health professionals accept the teachings of the repressed memory movement as true, or at least believable.  They tend to frame the problem as a simple debate, those who believe in repressed memory and ritualistic abuse and those who don't, as if all that were at stake was a difference of opinion.  True Stories of False Memories and its predecessor, Confabulations, should serve as a wake-up call to people in all segments of our society.

Reviewed by Deirdre Conway Rand, Mann Psychological Services, Mill Valley, California.

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