Dr. Phil Exposes the Flaws & Fallacies of Repressed Memories

Thank you, Dr. Phil for your show:

Sex Abuse and Murder:

A Daughter’s Repressed Memories or Lies?

Air Date  February 17, 2014
Tracy says that about three years ago, disturbing memories from her childhood began to surface about sex abuse and murder — involving her mother, Donna, and now-deceased father, Alan. Tracy claims that she and her sister, Kelly, were molested by their father and grandfather, and alleges that Donna killed Kelly’s best friend and buried the girl in their backyard. Donna and Kelly vehemently deny the claims, calling Tracy “delusional.” Emotions run high when Tracy faces her family on Dr. Phil’s stage, including Donna, whom she hasn’t seen or spoken to in more than a year. Is Tracy remembering actual events, or are these fictionalized memories? Plus, don’t miss part two tomorrow, when Donna agrees to take a polygraph test to clear her name. Will Tracy get the answers she’s looking for? This program contains strong sexual content. Viewer discretion advised.
The argument regarding the truth of repressed memories boils down to one question:
Are decade old memories, newly discovered, accurate?

I do not think that repressed memories are lies because a lie is a deliberate attempt to deceive. Repressed memories that erupt decades after an event cannot be 100% accurate as the science of human memory repeatedly shows, and proves in a laboratory, that memories in general are a confabulated rendition of truth, falsehood, and fill-in-the blanks.

I was once caught in a web of repressed memories much like that displayed by the guest on the Dr. Phil show. And like her, my memories grew during therapy and were reinforced by those around me. My decade old memories morphed into a story that, when investigated, were found to be utter nonsense.

I am grateful that the Dr. Phil show educated the public about the controversy that continues to swirl around the veracity of repressed memories. When science and investigations are employed, we have a chance of getting to the truth of these memories. When people are being accused of heinous crimes that never occurred, we have a responsibility to seek the truth and scant memories of events that may or may not have occurred decades earlier are simply not reliable.

The family who told their horror story regarding accusations of murder and sexual assault based on the repressed memories of a family member now have a chance to recover and heal from the toxic psychotherapy that tore at their souls. Science prevails in this case and I wonder how many other families could benefit from evidence rather than dubious memories of wrong doing.

It’s time to pressure the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association, the two most influential organizations responsible for overseeing mental health care practitioners in the United States, to hold their members accountable for their actions.

When patient’s welfare is sacrificed for theories and beliefs held by the therapist – it’s simply a crime against humanity.


Creating False Memories: Not exclusive to Dissociative Identity Disorder

Creating false memories, believing an event occurred when it did not, is an everyday occurrence not a phenomenon strictly associated with the development of multiple personalities (usually diagnosed as Dissociative Identity Disorder) which is based on the theory that buried memories of childhood sexual abuse is behind the disorder.

False memories are not exclusive to psychotherapists who may unwittingly mold their patient’s memories to fit their own view of the world rather than sticking with facts of their patient’s lives. In this scenario, patients are encouraged to recall memories of childhood sexual abuse that may, or may not, be real. False recall of abuse has demonstrated it can cause the incarceration of individuals wrongly accused of events that did not occur. Eyewitness testimony in criminal cases are ripe with mis-identification of the perpetrator.

Science continues to demonstrate that human memory is fluid and changes with time unlike the long debunked theory that every event in our lives is recorded like a videotape that sits on a shelf deep in our mind ready to be replayed in its pristine form. Research shows that human memory simply doesn’t work that way.

False memories are not nefarious, or evil, or nonexistent. They are a reality of our lives and we unknowingly manipulate our memories to fit our view of ourselves and the world around us – often with no awareness that we are doing so.

Below are excerpts from the article offering insight into why we unknowingly manipulate our memories. Follow the link to this article if you are interested in reading comments. There are also resources if you want to read more about how false memories are formed.


Why does the human brain create false memories?

By Melissa Hogenboom Science reporter, BBC News

Human memory constantly adapts and moulds itself to fit the world. Now an art project hopes to highlight just how fallible our recollections are.

All of us generate false memories and artist AR Hopwood has been “collecting” them.

For the past year he has asked the public to submit anecdotes of fake recollections which he turns into artistic representations.

They have ranged from the belief of eating a live mouse to a memory of being able to fly as a child.

Kimberley Wade at the University of Warwick, UK says, “I’ve been studying memory for more than a decade, and I still find it incredible that our imagination can trick us into thinking we’ve done something we’ve never really done and lead us to create such compelling, illusory memories.The reason our memories are so malleable,” she  explains, “is because there is simply too much information to take in.”

Wade found that “when we remember an event, what our memory ultimately does is fills in those gaps by thinking about what we know about the world.”

BBC News Science & Environment

Related articles & books:

Scientific American: Scientists Plant False Memories in Mice

TED Talks (18 min video) Elizabeth Loftus: The fiction of memory

False Memory Syndrome Foundation

False Memory.net

Wired.com  Ads implant false memories

50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering widespread misconceptions about human behavior, by Scott O. Lilienfeld, Steven Jay Lynn, John Ruscio and Barry L. Beyerstein

Try to Remember: Psychiatry’s Clash over Meaning, memory, and mind by Paul McHugh

Eyewitness Testimony by Elizabeth Loftus

The Myth of Repressed Memory by Elizabeth Loftus

Victims of Memory by Mark Pendergrast

The Seven Sins of Memory: How the mind forgets and remembers, by Daniel L. Schacter

Research: Hypnosis and Memory: Two Hundred Years of Adventures and Still Going!


Giuliana Mazzoni1 Email for g.mazzoni@hull.ac.uk, Jean-Roch Laurence2, Michael Heap3

1Department of Psychology, University of Hull
2Department of Psychology, Concordia University
3Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield

Journal of Psychology of Consciousness: Theory , Research, and Practice

Volume 1, Number 2 / June 2014


One of the most persistent beliefs about hypnosis is its ability to transcend mnemonic abilities. This belief has paved the way to the use of hypnosis in the clinical and legal arenas. The authors review the phenomena of hypnotic hypermnesia, pseudo-memories, and amnesia in light of current knowledge of hypnosis and memory. The investigation of the relation between hypnosis and memory processes has played an important role in our understanding of memory in action. Hypnosis provides a fertile field to explore the social, neuropsychological, and cognitive variables at play when individuals are asked to remember or to forget their past. We suggest promising avenues of research that may further our knowledge of the building blocks of memories and the mechanisms that leads to forgetfulness.

First Page Preview

Mental Health Awareness Week: Are you buying treatment based on science?

The United Kingdom based Mental Health Foundation, according to their website, “is a service improvement charity finding new ways of looking at mental health and improving the lives of people experiencing mental illness for more than sixty years. The vision is to help us all live mentally healthier lives and our mission is to help people survive, recover from and prevent mental health problems.”

The scope of what constitutes mental illness is wide. For example, depression can be environmentally based, like when a loved one dies, or depression can be biologically based, both, or neither. How long is it OK to experience depression while mourning and when is depression considered chronic and debilitating and in need of medical attention?

This year I am adding to the educational component of Mental Health Awareness Week by challenging you to investigate what type of psychotherapy you are receiving (or searching for) to find out if what you purchase is based on science or only the “clinical observations” of psychotherapists. Are you buying mental health care that has proven effective, of short duration, at an affordable price? Or is it is long, arduous, expensive, and with scant results?

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), or multiple personalities, is a diagnosis and therapeutic intervention that has little, if any, scientific evidence proving its effectiveness. Unlike most psychiatric treatment, DID is steeped in controversy because many providers, researchers, as well as former patients and their families conclude that multiple personalities are no more than a product of the therapeutic relationship between client and therapist – or iatrogenically produced. An example of iatrogenic illness is like going to the hospital to have a broken leg fixed and leaving with a fixed leg + a chest cold. If not for the fact that you were in a hospital, you would not have developed a cold – this is an iatrogenic condition.

In my case, I had no evidence of other selves or personalities prior to treatment for depression. While in therapy, however, I developed symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder because my psychiatrist was considered an expert in this field, and unknowingly I embarked on lengthily and traumatic treatment that cost me and my insurance company over one million dollars, yes that’s $1,000,000 US dollars, or 726300.00 EUR, 591800.00 GBP, 1066400.00 AUD, or 1088500.00 CAD. If that doesn’t make you choke, maybe you need more information about treatment for Dissociative Identity Disorder and multiple personalities.

There is no consensus among therapists who treat multiple personalities, assumed to be based on childhood sexual abuse that is often blocked from the patient’s awareness. Treatment for Dissociative Identity Disorder is documented to be a lengthily process spanning years, decades, and often a lifetime. The expenditure of personal monies, insurance coverage, and public funds allocated for mental health treatment scantly based on science, with little or no evidence of its effectiveness, is profane and an obscene abuse of public trust.

Copyright Jeanette Bartha





Research on Dissociative Identity Disorder 2000-2010: Only 9 per year shows lack of evidence?

Purpose: to assess the scientific and etiological status of dissociative identity disorder (DID).

How: by examining cases published from 2000 to 2010.

Findings: The review yielded 21 case studies and 80 empirical studies, presenting data on 1171 new cases of DID.  A mean of 9 articles, each containing a mean of 17 new cases of DID, emerged each year.


  • Most cases of DID emerged from a small number of countries and clinicians.
  • people simulating DID in the laboratory were mostly indistinguishable from individuals with DID
  • the research lacks the productivity and focus needed to resolve ongoing controversies surrounding the disorder.


J Nerv Ment Dis. 2013 Jan;201(1):5-11. doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e31827aaf81.

A review of published research on adult dissociative identity disorder: 2000-2010.

Author Information: Department of Psychology, State University of New York at Fredonia, USA. gaboysen@mckendree.edu


The purpose of this study was to assess the scientific and etiological status of dissociative identity disorder (DID) by examining cases published from 2000 to 2010. In terms of scientific status, DID is a small but ongoing field of study. The review yielded 21 case studies and 80 empirical studies, presenting data on 1171 new cases of DID. A mean of 9 articles, each containing a mean of 17 new cases of DID, emerged each year. In terms of etiological status, many of the central criticisms of the disorder’s validity remain unaddressed. Most cases of DID emerged from a small number of countries and clinicians. In addition, documented cases occurring outside treatment were almost nonexistent. Finally, people simulating DID in the laboratory were mostly indistinguishable from individuals with DID. Overall, DID is still a topic of study, but the research lacks the productivity and focus needed to resolve ongoing controversies surrounding the disorder.

Comment in