ABC coverage


Author Dr. Cathy Kezelman

Date/Time posted  Four Corners guestbook 07/04  
Subject Four Corners program – “Over the edge”  


It is of serious concern that the ABC both in Catalyst and now Four Corners has over the last month presented a one-sided view regarding the issue of recovered memories/false memories.

There is evidence for both the existence of recovered memories and false memories. They are not mutually exclusive i.e. the existence of one does not negate the existence of the other.

The last 20 years has seen a lot of research in the area of trauma and the way in which traumatic memories and encoded and stored. And delayed recall of memory occurs across all sorts of trauma.

Studies have also shown that recovered memory for trauma has virtually exactly the same level of accuracy as continuous memory for trauma.

Studies also have shown that a substantial proportion of those who recover memories do so without being in therapy of any sort, and that when people recover memories when they are in therapy, most often the memories are recalled outside of the actual sessions, and without the use of specific memory techniques.

The practices exhibited by the charlatan highlighted in this Four Corners program were appalling and the results devastating. However the fact that the memories which resulted from these approaches were false does not mean that memories of trauma recovered elsewhere are not true.

Dissociation is a well-recognised psychological phenomenon in which there is a disconnection between a person’s thoughts, memories, feelings, actions, or sense of him/herself.

During a traumatic experience such as a natural disaster, accident or crime victimisation dissociation helps a person tolerate the intolerable and so continue to function. Dissociation effectively means that some or all of the memories of the trauma become unavailable to consious recall.

Dissociative (traumatic) amnesia causes gaps in a person’s recall which cannot be dismissed as normal forgetting and these gaps usually correlate with particularly stressful or traumatic periods in one’s life.

When traumatic memories return, usually as a result of a trigger, the sensations, movements and emotions return with a venegeance. Yet there is no narrative, context or time sequence, often leaving a person stuck in aspects of the trauma.

The story of recovered memories also needs to be told. Hopefully the ABC will ensure that it is so a balanced view is available to its viewers.