Unchained Memories: True Stories of Traumatic Memories, Lost and Found

Unchained Memories: True Stories of Traumatic Memories, Lost and Found

Unchained Memories: True Stories of Traumatic Memories, Lost and Found

Unchained Memories: True Stories of Traumatic Memories, Lost and Found

Synopsis

"Can a long-forgotten memory of a horrible event suddenly resurface years later? Proponents of so-called false memory syndrome say it's impossible. Child psychiatrist Lenore Terr now offers an important book on the cutting edge of this hotly debated issue. How can we know if a memory is true or false? Seven spellbinding cases, some taken from Terr's own experience as an expert witness, shed light on why it is rare for a reclaimed memory to be wholly false. Here are unforgettable true stories of what happens when people remember what they've tried to forget - plus one case of genuine false memory. In the best detective-story fashion, using her insights as a psychiatrist and the latest research on the mind and brain, Lenore Terr helps us separate truth from fiction. Eileen Franklin's testimony convicted her father of raping and murdering her best friend twenty years earlier. Was she right?" "Movies and books are full of amnesia victims. Was Patricia Bartlett one, as she claimed - or was she just a drunk driver trying to get off the hook?" "Miss America of 1958 came from the perfect family, or so everyone thought - until she remembered her father's sexual abuse. Gary Baker dreaded being underwater, yet his hobby was diving. Then an image popped into his head - of his mother trying to drown him. A ten-year-old child accused her psychotherapists of Satanic abuse. Were these memories deliberately planted in her mind?" "Mystery writer James Ellroy remembers all but one detail of his mother's grisly murder - but that detail shows up in every book he writes. Ross Harriman struggled to remember the brother who died when Ross was four years old. Why was there this hole in his memory?" "The stories can be read in any order; each is complete in itself. But taken together they offer a wealth of information on the nature of memory. Terr explains the difference between splitting and dissociating, denial and displacement, the meaning of repression and fugue states, how the brain encodes memories and under what circumstances they return, why we remember some details about traumatic events and forget others, the difference between short-term and long-term memory, and much more. This enthralling book informs and entertains - and invites us to explore the meaning of our own remembrances, true and false." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Sometimes patients lead their doctors to new interests. Two patients have led me that way, both of them women. Number one was the very first psychiatric patient I ever treated -- a young woman whose first words to me, following our exchange of names, were "If you don't stop me, I'm going to kill my child." She had been admitted to the inpatient psychiatric unit at the University of Michigan Medical Center. It was September 1962, and I had just begun my residency, having taken a two-month break to have a child of my own. To an inexperienced psychiatrist and a new mother, her words were especially threatening; this was a challenge that I might or might not be able to meet. It was clear to me that the woman meant what she said. But what jarred me almost as much as her words themselves was the fact that up until then nobody had taken her seriously. She had alerted a number of well-trained professionals. Once, she started to drown her little girl -- then a toddler -- in the bathtub. Thinking better of it, she brought the youngster, who was still coughing and choking, to the emergency room of a local hospital. "Oh, that's O.K.," the doctor told her, after she had tried to confess. "Kids fall all the time in tubs." A year later, she attacked her daughter with a hot teakettle. When she brought the child to the hospital -- a different one -- the emergency-room personnel had responded, "Accidents happen."

I asked my patient if I could meet her daughter, now three years old, and the mother agreed. As has turned out to be the case through-

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