From the very serious and plausible claims of childhood sexual abuse to the less credible ones of alien abductions, psychologists are at odds over the idea that people can forget traumatic events then “recover” intact memories of the trauma years later.
On the one side are clinicians, who observe that painful memories can be repressed, banished from a trauma survivor’s consciousness until they’re “recovered” with the help of certain psychotherapeutic techniques in adulthood.
Memory researchers, on the other hand, say that people don’t repress traumatic events; in fact they remember them all too clearly – sometimes they can’t stop thinking about the trauma. When people report recovered memories of traumatic events, assert these cognitive psychologists, they are most likely creating false memories.
Some will point out that the repetitive and similar structure of the abduction process is a proof of its existence but as a vast amount of information is available, those memories can be easily fabricated. Also, hypnosis is not a reliable memory enhancement. Instead, it increases the brains likeliness to produce false or inaccurate memories. Subjects under hypnosis can be very susceptible to the expectations of the hypnotist, possibly creating stories based not on experience but imagination
The skeptics believe that the media has been saturated so much with the abduction material that when people having nightmares or people who believe that they have experienced the “missing time” are put under hypnosis, they draw upon what they have seen in the media to fulfill the expectations of the hypnotist and causes themselves to be put trough the trauma for that reason.
Moreover, nightmares are often caused by the sleeping disorder narcolepsy, and the “missing time” is not an uncommon experience and is caused when the mind is preoccupied by other matters. John Myers, a professor at McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, who studies child abuse and related issues such as repressed memory in child abuse litigation, states that “the clear consensus of opinion is that repressed memory does exist, particularly for traumatic events.
How to differentiate the accurate from the inaccurate, that’s the problem.” (Przybys, 1995) Because so little is understood regarding the use of hypnosis as a methodological technique for manipulating cognitive and affective states, this theory could certainly benefit from additional research. This is the subject of an interesting but controversial movie: Mysterious Skin (2004) by Gregg Araki.