JUDGE KASANAUGH VS. FALSE MEMORY SYNDROME VS. #MeToo

I myself actually was sexually abused when young, and, though I am a man, can feel for women who are swept up in the #MeToo movement. I understand a lot of the self-loathing and guilt, and also rage and hatred, involved, though I myself have largely “lived it down”, in terms of my own life.

Part of the process of leaving such trauma in the past involves confession. It is a very ancient process, described all the way back into Old Testament times.

The reason events are hidden is often due to an element of shame, for quite often, even when a person was taken advantage of in a most foul manner, the situation began with the person being tricked into trusting someone they should not have trusted, and they therefore feel ashamed for trusting. Because the person is so ashamed they never bring the crime out into the sunlight of Truth, and it lurks about in the shadows of their mind, influencing them in any number of ways. However as soon as they confess, the sunlight of Truth disinfects. Saint John described the process like this:  “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Of course, if the abuser is a priest, one wants nothing to do with the church. However the exact same process is enacted by secular psychologists, even if they happen to be atheists. They may not believe the Christ is the Truth and the Way, but they do notice the “Way” to “mental health” involves “Truth”.

People in the #MeToo movement tend to feel they are involved in something new, riding the breaking wave of social progress, but in fact we old-timers know we have “been there and done that”. Back in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s there was a great deal of excitement about new “psychologies”, and that in turn sprang out of a disillusionment with older Freudian psychiatry which people had been excited about in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Many of Freud’s own students stated his approach had flaws, and came up with “new and improved” approaches of their own. As a young hippy I tried out a number of the interesting new approaches, and I also worked for a psychologist and got to see the new approaches from a different and interesting angle. Lastly, I studied psychology further on my own, not as a client but because I was very curious.

I had and have no doubt it is good for the soul to confess. I witnessed some heartrending catharses that used up entire boxes of Kleenex, and could often see people felt much better afterwards, as if a huge burden had been lifted. I took part in pounding pillows for various reasons, “getting my feelings out” and expressing “repressed hostility” towards people I hardly remembered, (for example a football coach who benched me back in Junior High). To be honest, it got a bit silly at times, for I was “less repressed” than some, and recall I one time alarmed a psychologist because I got too enraged and beat the hell out of a pillow with too much ferocity. In the end there came a time when enough was enough, and it was time to stop dwelling in the past and to go get a Real Job.

In the process of digging up things one resented from their past one entered a interesting landscape where so-called “recovered” memories were encountered. These were not things that had troubled you for years and years, but things you had supposedly “completely forgotten”. Some psychologists made a good living by claiming they could help people “recover” things they had forgotten.

The problem was, the human mind is very creative. In exploring various psychologies I’d  investigated the interpretation of dreams, and also fantasies. Fantasies were very interesting, in that they were windows into your own subconscious or the subconscious of another, and it was fascinating what people could dream up when wide awake. In cases where powerful emotions were involved, the fantasies could be quite vivid, as real as an intense dream. The problem with “recovered memory” was that they might be the same thing.  I actually witnessed people “remember” things that hadn’t occurred.

The mind is constantly working on  ideas. An idea does not simply sit in the brain, but rather is revised and improved-upon.  These changes are actually a good and healthy thing.

There has been some research hinting that memory itself is initially stored in one part of the brain, and later filed in another, and then called forward and worked upon and then refiled, undergoing revisions in the process. Memory isn’t a photograph that stays the same, (or perhaps yellows with age, becoming “golden”.) For this reason witnesses have varying accounts of the same incident.

This is also a good reason to keep a diary. (I’ve kept a diary since I was nine years old. Now, as an old man, there are certain stories I’ve told [and perhaps bored people with] many, many times. It is a bit shocking to look back in my old diaries to when the event actually occurred, and see how I have changed the tale. I have made it “better” in some ways, altering the chronological order and even my own responses, but I have not made the story more accurate.) The mind’s ability to improve upon raw data means that it is important to verify what is remembered, to be sure it is true and not fictional. In some cases a memory may be false.

The creation of a false memory is called “memory consolidation” by some. Much like a dream, the mind creates an image that basically states how the person feels. Then the image is “recalled” and the person believes it is an actual memory.

It is unfortunate that some psychologists can, either inadvertently or intentionally, cause this process to occur, and confuse a false memory with a real one. There have been cases where lives have been ruined because parents were “turned in” by psychologists for sexually abusing their children, when no such abuse occurred. In some cases the “recovered ” memory was from when a child was supposedly only two.

My Dad befriended a woman who had suffered such an experience, and refused to accept the disgrace and suffering she and her husband were subjected to without cause. Her name was Pamala Freyd, and she and her husband Peter started the “False Memory Syndrome Foundation.” The response was immediate, because it turned out a lot of parents were falsely accused by their hippy children. (Having been a hippy, I used to visit some cult-like communes and met megalomaniac leaders and saw how susceptible young, innocent and suggestible minds could be to B.S.)

Here is the False Memory Syndrome Foundation website:

http://www.fmsfonline.org/

There are, of course, tremendous battles between accusers and the accused, with each insisting the other is false.

My initial impression is that Judge Kavanaugh is a victim of False Memory Syndrome. My reasoning is that:

1.) It took so long for the memory to be “recovered”. That in and of itself is not a good sign that the memory is genuine. In cases where actual abuse has occurred the memory is not forgotten, but rather tends to plague the person year after year. They attempt to forget, but are haunted.

2.) There is a huge lack of corroborating evidence. In the example I gave from my own life, I can go look back in the yellowing pages of my own diary to check up on the details of my recollections. I also have old friends and family I can talk with, to see what they remember. Christine Ford has failed (as of this time) to offer more than a “memory” that came back to her thirty years later, in a psychologist’s office.

I only throw my idea out to be considered, for I haven’t heard False Memory discussed at all.  Like everyone else, I wait to see if any corroborating evidence is forthcoming.

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11 thoughts on “JUDGE KASANAUGH VS. FALSE MEMORY SYNDROME VS. #MeToo

  1. I’m fortunate Iin that I haven’t suffered abuse, a bit of bullying and some dirty tricks at school and work. I have some very clear childhood memories of events and I often wo der if these are false or enhanced as a result of family history being recounted, I’ve no way of telling for sure. I have others which I’m sure are real but who knows.

    Like you I was incredibly shy with girls, but managed to move on from batchelerhood whilst (just) in my twenties. Shyness is a big disadvantage in many ways.

    • The ignorance of youth is a disadvantage, as is ignorance in old age.

      In some ways my mother was very distant and idealistic, like a saint in an ivory tower in my eyes, (though after she died I found letters and papers that revealed another side,) and she seemed so untouchable that I developed an amazingly naive concept of what women might be displeased by, and almost no tools in terms of simply chatting and finding out what an individual female might like or dislike. (For example, I was astonished to discover women enjoyed sex at all, under any circumstances.)

      While being so naive was painful at times, getting to know women better, and ending my ignorance, has been well worth it and involved great joy (along with the embarrassments.)

  2. I say this frankly and honestly because I like your storm and ice commentary and such, but even as someone who could get away with checking the white box instead of the native american box, I’d rather not as I’m terribly biased against old white men, and refuse to become one. I’d sit around and bullshit with you while pulling a carb off a tractor or whatnot, but I’d never trust you, though you’ve given me no reason not to, it just never seems like a good idea to do so with people who look like you.

    You are spot on about memories being less like digging through a filing cabinet and more like re-making a well-worn quilt, it’s why I built a mental filing cabinet model something like 30 years ago and make a point to keep things sorted out by their positions in space and time as accurately as I can.

    What you miss regarding the situation with Ford and indeed the difference between new age parenting vs MeToo is that this sort of thing, had it been reported the same evening to the cops, well, nobody really cared in the first place… or more accurately nobody with power to do anything about it did, and a young woman with no real sense of security or power dealing with that sort of event by trying to pretend it didn’t happen until later feeling secure enough to do so isn’t the same as opening a prep school yearbook and picking someone to accuse.

    Though, Ed Whelan literally doing that and picking one of the guys who signed the letter supporting Kavanaugh was kinda amazing, and I thank him for every feverishly stupid hour he spent compiling his Sherlock Dumb theory.

    I myself was never abused, but I grew up watching the psychopath she married do so to my mom, and dedicated my life to getting strong enough to protect her and beat him to death (thankfully he bitched out on life and killed himself, while I know how to dispose of a body it’s easier to not have to deal with it at all) from the earliest ages I can remember. I also remember trying several times to get help by asking neighbors and extended family to do something, got the police called over a couple times (we had no phone) and got to watch firsthand as they hauled him off and wake up to him being back the next morning usually, thoroughly disabusing me of the notion that the police were ever going to be something I could rely on before I was even 6 years old. Ever seen your mom’s scalp torn open as she pleads for help in your front yard? Sometimes dedicating effort to maintaining accurate memory isn’t pleasant, but everything in there can’t be pointless trivia or funny stories.

    I know all about the ways victims get dismissed, shamed, ignored, attacked, and am naturally unsurprised to see it happen time and time again, especially when an older white guy with an established power base is involved, doubly so when we’re discussing the sort of douchebag you find crowing about being a prep school kid.

    Her bringing shit up to a therapist a few years ago and it only going public because it was leaked after she tried to quietly update some of the relevant senators to see what should be done and that people should know about stuff like the “high school romps” of a potential future deciding vote on things like overturning Roe v Wade and going back to women being walking baby factories or the fun of back alley abortions.

    It just doesn’t seem like enough of a lurid and unseemly account to be guaranteed to torpedo the guy, so why wouldn’t you go far enough to do that if you were making shit up anyways?

    • Thanks for sharing so much, Max.

      I’d say you actually were abused, simply through having to watch your father be so brutal towards your mother.

      We all tend to see things through the filter of our own experience. That is actually what memory is for: To teach us not to touch a burning log a second time. Your experience is especially nightmarish because you couldn’t escape, and avoid what you already knew was awful.

      I experienced the same deafness you object to when I reported abuse. I initially didn’t report the abuse of me by a “family friend”, because I figured I should just handle it myself and avoid the abuser like the plague. However at a later date I returned home after a long trip and went flying upstairs to see my 12-year-old younger brother, and as I burst into his room he was pulling an enormous bayonet from under his pillow and swinging towards me with a savage look on his face, which turned to a look of surprise when he saw it was me. I immediately knew he was being abused by the same “family friend”, and bluntly inquired if my hunch was true, and when he nodded I stated I’d take care of it. That was when I found out what it was like to be disbelieved by friends and family. I did threaten to a degree where my younger brother was not bothered any more, but one important person said I had imagined the whole thing because I was a “druggie,” even though I had quit drugs by that time. They ruined my local reputation and changed the course of my life, as I wound up leaving. (The person who accused me apologized to me a quarter century later when the abusive “family friend” faced charges as a long-term, chronic pedophile).

      However, on the other hand, there is always the other hand. That is why I brought up Pamela and Peter Freyd and the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. They have many examples of people who were falsely accused, involving, in some cases, the worst sort of psychologists.

      Your father obviously had serious problems, which he couldn’t solve, as the final solution he came up with was to kill himself. He did not give you anything remotely like the “fathering” a good father should give a son. Considering you were given brutal problems rather than beautiful answers, you are an example of the amazing resiliency of the human spirit, and the ability we all have to heal.

      Some psychologists do not hasten the process of healing, but prolong the process. Forgive me for being cynical, but I think it can be “bad for business” if a psychologist heals a person in a single session when they could take a hundred sessions.

      In his old age the psychiatrist Fritz Perls (Gestalt Therapy) became very scornful of Sigmund Freud’s claim that it took eight years of psychoanalysis to achieve a certain depth of self awareness. I think it was in 1969 that Fritz made a movie of a single session he had with a bunch of volunteer college students who had little in the way of psychological awareness, just to show it didn’t take eight years to uncover painful issues. In the movie a young man bursts into tears, and Fritz looks toward the camera and makes a certain gesture, “You see?”

      There are times to dig into the cesspool of our past, and times to leave it alone. Once in a while it pays to look back and perhaps have a good cry, (or in my case, write a good story), but once that is done we need to get on with life. If we weep and wail on and on people get fed up with our pity-party, and crossly tell us, “Will you just get over it?”

      You could probably write a good book about how you got over the awful brutality you were exposed to as a boy due to your troubled and unfortunate father. Christine Ford would write a very boring book about how she never got over a bad date with clumsy boys over 35 years ago. The level of brutality you experienced is several orders of magnitude greater, yet you seem to have done a better job coping.

      And that does not even touch the possibility Judge Cavanaugh might be innocent, and she might be “mis-remembering”.

  3. There are a couple of patterns to Dr. Ford’s story that set off my bullshit alarm.

    It does not bother me that she went years without reporting this alleged incident. Children don’t report things like this for many reasons, and it doesn’t bother me that it only came up in a couples therapy session decades later. That is entirely credible.

    What raises questions is:

    – None of his friends or hers corroborate the incident or even the behavior.

    – None of her friends knew him.

    – She cannot identify the place or time – even the year.

    – She is able identify Kavanaugh’s friend who broke up the attack but cannot say whose party or whose house the affair happened at.

    All of these point raise questions but more troubling are the pop-psychology trappings that Dr. Ford buys into.

    – The incident traumatized her so much that she can’t be confined in the closed space of an airplane. (Seriously?)

    – The buying into a political stunt to take down Kavanaugh rather than just trying to get her story out.

    – The Jackie like passive-aggressive tactics of controlling the facts, circumstances and questioning.

    Then there is always the Anita Hill million dollar book deals and career bump to look forward to.

  4. Thank you for this. I am now able to defend a statement I made 27 years ago. O knew the statement to be true – but I had no defense other than “just knowing” it. Once made, the statement was ridiculed to the point that I never allowed myself to say utter it again, but I never stopped believing it.
    The statement was that, “Neither Clarence Thomas or Anita Hill was lying. They were both stating what they fully believed to be the truth.” No one could accept that two contradictory statements could both be “true”.

    • I have (or had) an extremely good memory, and when young astounded older people with what I could accurately recall. But even in my case I had reason to be of two minds about my recall. I could see contradictions in my own memory’

      I think this might be because my parents divorced, and had two views of the failed marriage. I tended to look at things from my father’s perspective, and then from my mother’s. On some level I was attempting to “solve” a schism they failed to bridge.

      There was much they did not want to talk about. Ironically they used the exact same expression, “Oh, that is all water under the bridge”. Because they did not want to talk about the past, I did a lot of straining to remember as far back as I could. Some I was able to verify as being valid, but some was very dream-like and I simply don’t know.

      I felt bad about my uncertainty until I read that someone once asked Mark Twain if what he had written about his past was all true, and he replied, “At this point I honestly don’t know.”

      All in all, a thirty-five-year-old memory is a precarious thing to call “evidence”.

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