Hypnotherapy, Repressed Memories, and False Memories
October 1, 2022
What is repressed memory?
A repressed memory is a memory that you unconsciously avoid thinking about and unconsciously block.
What is false memory?
A false memory is a memory that is partially or entirely incorrect though the person who holds the memory believes that it truly happened. The false memory in which the entire memory is false is possible but rare. The false memory in which the partial details are not objectively true is quite common.
Why do false memories occur?
The subconscious mind records information 24/7. However, it is not like we have a video recorder in the brain. The information we gather comes through our perception, which is influenced by our past experiences, our beliefs and/or emotions, and other things. The information that comes through is generally bent, distorted, deleted, and generalized to fit our understanding. We rarely, if not never, know the entire story about what we experienced. We are constantly connecting the dots to make a story by filling the gap with our perceptions and assumptions because we can’t hold too many dots (random information) without making a story out of them.
Memory is part truth, part perception, part fabrication, part fantasy, and part confabulation.
Memory is flexible and adaptable. Every time you recall a past event, you add or subtract some elements/aspects to and from memory. The flexible and adaptable nature of our memories is the reason why we can heal from past challenging or traumatic experiences. And for the most part, the false memories have no significant consequences. At the same time, most false accusations come from false memories.
One clinical case drew attention to the consequences of false memories in the field of psychotherapy/ hypnotherapy, and this rare but possible phenomenon is called false memory syndrome. “False Memory Syndrome (FMS) is caused by memories of a traumatic episode, most commonly childhood sexual abuse, which are objectively false, but in which the person strongly believes.”
Because of the flexible and adaptable nature of the memories, as you recall and process past memories as a part of treatment, at no fault of either party (client or therapist), false memories can be unintentionally created.
In hypnotherapy, your hypnotherapist may suggest an age regression (childhood, prenatal, and/or past life) to help you move away from the problem state and towards the solution state. In a childhood regression, you may go back to one of your childhood memories to explore the memory, release authentic emotions, work through the issues from memory, and reframe your beliefs and clear your memory.
Why do we use age regression?
The subconscious mind needs a framework to process content. Because almost all of the content is generated in childhood, we use childhood memories to process the content. The memory you land in the regression may be mostly objectively true, your perception, confabulation, collective experiences/ representative memory, or metaphor. In this context, the purpose of hypnosis is not to recover your repressed memories, but it is to use the memory as a framework to heal from past events.
To avoid the consequences of creating false memories, there are a few Important things to remember:
1. memory is, in general, part truth, part perception, part fabrication, part fantasy, and part
confabulation, and it is subjective truth.
2. false memories are common, and they are not always bad or consequential.
3. The memories that come up during age regressions are your subjective memories which
give you a framework to process your subconscious content, and it may not be
4. Even when the memory is objectively true, the purpose of the session isn’t to recover
repressed memories but to heal from past events/ memories.
5. Your hypnotherapist will not interject any opinions or offer any analysis/ validations while
you explore your memories. And they will not ask any specific questions
other than to help you move along by saying, “what happens next?”
6. Your hypnotherapist helps you to move through the memory that is causing the present-day
issues and clear the memory and move toward more love and more peace each session.