Traumatic Memory Unlikely to Be Repressed, Review Suggests

Researcher argues that traumatic dissociative amnesia is a cultural construction

THURSDAY, Sept. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Repressed memory syndrome, which has been attributed to the concept of traumatic dissociative amnesia, may be attributable to other, more plausible explanations, according to a review in the September issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Richard J. McNally, Ph.D., of Harvard University in Boston, assessed the literature on repressed memory syndrome.

He expressed skepticism that long inaccessible memories can become conscious, and argues that traumatic dissociative amnesia is a cultural construction. He suggests that recovered memory can be better explained by ordinary forgetting, the act of putting events out of one's mind, or the simple passage of time that forces a person to concentrate on other events.

"We are not currently in a position to dispel all confusion about traumatic dissociative amnesia but instead should be willing to live with some confusion, acknowledge it, and devise collaborative ways to address it," states the author of an accompanying editorial. "To paraphrase Mephistopheles in Goethe's Faust, 'life is green and all our theories are gray,' a claim that will certainly resonate with clinicians and researchers alike."

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