What’s the Deal with Repressed Memories?
Repressed memories are memories that were once considered to be true but later turned out not to be true. They may come from any number of sources: traumatic events, childhood traumas, or even just bad experiences in general. Many times these memories can resurface years after they happened without anyone being aware of it.
The problem with these memories is that most people don’t want to believe them.
Even if they did happen, why would someone ever want to remember something like that?
For some reason, many people choose not to believe such things even when presented with evidence.
But what if there was no proof at all? What if the person never experienced those horrible events in the first place? Wouldn’t it then make sense for him/her to forget them completely and stop worrying about them altogether?
Many people who experience these kinds of memories claim that they feel as though their lives have been permanently altered. Some say that they have lost friends, jobs, relationships, and even loved ones because of them. Others report having a better quality of life than before. These claims are usually dismissed by skeptics who point out that the person experiencing these memories must be suffering from some sort of mental illness or psychological trauma. This is a very serious accusation that has lead many people down a dark path to self destruction.
Of course not all of these claims are true, but how are we supposed to know which ones aren’t?
What Are Repressed Memories?
It is important to understand what repressed memories really are before jumping to conclusions. These memories are not a figment of the imagination. They can be just as real and traumatizing as any other haunting memory. But the difference is that they can’t be corroborated by anything else. There is no evidence to back them up, if any exists at all.
Sometimes these repressed memories are created out of pure delusion. This can be for a number of reasons such as an overactive imagination, a mental illness, or even psychosis. In these cases you may have memories about things that will never realistically happen to you in real life.
Some memories can be realistic, but you might not actually have experienced them in real life. You may have seen them on TV or in a movie. They can also be realistic and you may have experienced them before, but they have been altered somehow to the point where you can no longer distinguish fact from fiction. For example, you may have a memory about falling off of a bike when you were little.
What if something like this really happened to you, but it wasn’t a bike? What if you changed the memory in your mind to make it a bike for some strange reason?
From that point on, every time you remember the event, you’re remembering the altered version instead of what really happened. The same thing can be said about memories of events that you think have happened to you before in real life. The problem with repressed memories is that we can never truly know the difference between fact and fiction.
The Memories Themselves
“What a beautiful day,” Jane says, as she smiles at you from across the table. The sun is shining brightly outside, and a cool breeze blows the napkins on the table. You smile back at her, completely taken by how gorgeous she looks. You’ve been dating for around a year now, and every day with her just gets better and better. You lean over the table to kiss her cheek.
“I’m so glad I met you,” you say, smiling from ear to ear.
“Me too,” she says, smiling back at you. After a moment you both stop smiling and gaze into each other’s eyes for a few moments. You go to kiss her, when she suddenly looks away. “I have to show you something,” she says, abruptly getting up from the table.
“It can wait, Jane. Come back and sit with me,” you say, reaching out to touch her hand but missing by a few inches. She ignores you and walks into the kitchen. You sigh and get up from the table to follow her.
The kitchen is small and dark, but at least it is sunny. You can’t see most of it from where you’re standing, but you know it’s cluttered with dirty dishes and trash. Jane stands against the far wall, looking down at her feet. She doesn’t turn to look at you as you come in.
“I have to show you something,” she says again. Her voice sounds strange, almost pained. You walk up close behind her and put your hands on her shoulders, but she just shakes her head and steps away.
“No, you have to see this,” she says. She reaches out and grabs the bottom of her t-shirt, turning it inside out as she pulls it off. You just stare at her in confusion for a moment, but as you look at her skin, you see several long white scars running across her abdomen. They are scars from a deep cut, nearly going through to the other side in some places. It looks like she had close to ten stitches in some areas.
“Jane…” you start, not knowing what to say. She doesn’t seem to hear you as she reaches out and pulls her pants inside out as well, revealing a long, thin, jagged scar that runs up the front of her leg.
How could you?”
she says, tears suddenly flowing from her eyes. “
How could you do this to me?”
You just continue to stare at her in confusion. You don’t have an answer for her. She turns away from you and quickly pulls her clothes back to the right side out.
“I have to go,” she says, walking quickly past you. You try to reach for her, but she shrugs you off and heads out the front door. You stand there in silence as you hear her car start up and drive away.
You spend the rest of the day worrying about what happened.
You didn’t do anything wrong, did you? Was it something you said or did?
Maybe you should have paid more attention. By the time night falls, you’re a bundle of nerves and can’t think straight. Your head pounds as you try to remember what exactly happened that afternoon.
You try to go to bed, but you can’t sleep a wink. At around 3am, you give up and get out of bed. You find yourself wandering into the kitchen. As you pass the fridge, you see that it is completely empty. No leftovers, no nothing.
You frown as you open the door to look inside. It’s completely barren, not even any magnets lining the interior.
Confused, you stand in the dark kitchen for a few minutes when you hear a strange noise coming from the living room. It sounds like someone is whispering. You walk slowly towards the doorway. The noise stops as you step into the room. You squint into the darkness and can just barely make out the faded outlines of the furniture.
The whispering starts up again, but you still can’t make out the words.
You hold your breath and try to listen for where the voice is coming from, but it sounds like it’s coming from everywhere. You start to panic and have a strong feeling that you’re not alone in the house.
Is someone there?”
you ask, trying to keep your voice from trembling.
“She’s gone,” the voice says, this time from behind you. You whirl around but see nothing but darkness.
Who’s gone? What do you mean?”
you ask. “
Where is Jane?”
“She left you,” the voice says, its harsh tone piercing your ears. “She’ll never come back. She couldn’t stand to be with you any longer. One of the perks of being a ghost, I can see and hear everything. She couldn’t even stand to be in the same room as you.”
You don’t know what’s real and what’s not.
Is Jane really gone? Did she really leave you? And who is this person tormenting you?
You feel a pain in your chest as your heart beats faster. The voice keeps on going, relentless, driving you insane.
How could you not know? Didn’t you see the signs?
She hated your guts. And now, she’s free of you.”
You can’t take it anymore. The walls start to close in and the furniture to deform. You try to focus on something, anything to get yourself out of this nightmare. Your eyes fall upon the door. You could run.
You’d rather die than stay here another second. Without thinking, you turn and run straight for the door.
“NO! Get back here! She needs you!”
You wrench the door open and freeze in the doorway. You’re not in your house anymore. Instead, you’re in a hospital room. Your eyes dart to the bed, where Jane lies, looking as still and pale as a statue.
“She need you! She can’t be free until you release her! Do it for her! Do it for you! Hurry!
She’s dying! She needs your help! Do it now!”
You’re torn. Your head tells you that she’s dead, she’s gone, there’s no way to save her. But your heart begs to differ. It tells you that she’s still there, trapped inside her ruined body. She needs your help to get free, to move on to wherever it is that souls go.
You can still see her smiling that sweet smile of hers.
What do I do?”
The voice laughs.
“You know what to do.”
You slowly walk over to her. Her chest slowly goes in and out as she breathes. You take her hand in his, giving it a gentle squeeze. Tears stream down your face as you lean down and place your lips against hers for a moment. Then, you press down on her chest with two fingers.
You feel her heart beat against your fingers for one moment… then there is silence.
Sources & references used in this article:
Repressed memories: A journey to recovery from sexual abuse by R Fredrickson – 1992 – books.google.com
Constructions in analysis by U Neisser – Memory observed: Remembering in natural contexts, 1982
Screen memories by E Jelin – 2003 – U of Minnesota Press
Suggestions of abuse: True and false memories of childhood sexual trauma by S Freud – The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological …, 1964 – pep-web.org