There is a common misconception that traumatic memories are repressed (unconsciously). Once suppressed, they lead a dormant life waiting to be rediscovered. The idea of repression is questionable. The reason is that traumatic memories are not suppressed, but, on the contrary, remain in a very good state. It is true that victims of trauma often do not want to talk about their trauma or do not want to think about it. But this is a different system from repression.
The belief of so few people in the existence of oppression is very dangerous. Especially when this belief appears in the psychotherapy room or in court. Time and time again, scientific research has shown that therapists convinced of the existence of oppression can suggestively induce their patients to believe they were sexually abused when the abuse never occurred.
More about the authors
Henry OtgarProfessor of Legal Psychology at Maastricht University and the University of Leuven. Peter Van Koppen Emeritus Professor of Legal Psychology at VU University Amsterdam and Maastricht University. Annelies Friedfeldt Associate Professor at VU University Amsterdam.
This is how things go. Patients with physical and psychological symptoms (such as panic attacks) enter a treatment room with a therapist convinced of the possibility of suppression. These doctors assume that these symptoms are the result of Latent unconscious memory of abuse. If patients claim they have no memory of any abuse in the past, this is important for clinicians. For them, this proves that the memory is repressed. Patients are then told that their symptoms appeared because they had been abused in the past, but that their memories had disappeared in their subconscious mind.
Such suggestive allusions often lead to false memories of abuse. The patient does not recover from her problem and instead talks about an artificially painful past. Several lawsuits have shown that such false memories can also lead to false accusations of abuse And it can even lead to false convictions.
The person who strongly believes in oppression and even makes a living by popularizing this idea is Bisel van der Kolk. Bisel van der Kolk is a psychiatrist and author of the book shock effects (2016). In this book he describes that traumatic memories are repressed and express themselves in all kinds of bodily reactions, also known asThe body keeps the score‘The name of the thing. With this in mind, Van der Kolk wants to convince readers that if the traumatic experience is too overwhelming for the victim and is pushed away as a result, the body will “remember” the trauma. This means, given what is known scientifically about memories and trauma, a dangerous idea. And then: Remarkably, van der Kolk falls into the trap of adding a scientific character to an unscientific idea.
She will be interviewing Van der Kolk next Sunday, August 28, at summer guests. We think his planned interview is a very bad move. Such an interview could give Van der Kolk space to spread his incorrect and dangerous ideas. In general, this spreads misinformation, something that the NPO has spoken negatively about regarding TV channels Unheard of in Holland.
At least, in the interview, Van der Kolk should be decisively challenged over the idea of a thin chip The body keeps the scoreOtherwise, there is a risk that the Van der Kolk interview will contribute to the discussion of trauma in the treatment room. This will have dire consequences for patients and their families.
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