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Some of you will be familiar with Lleweton’s Blog (see my blogroll), a superb collection of reminiscences about England written in Llew’s inimitable style.  His gentle, dreamlike prose makes it one of my regular online destinations.

I have invited Llew to write a guest post on a subject important to him, the relatively recently diagnosed syndrome called False Memory, and am most grateful for his contribution.

If you have questions or comments about False Memory, please leave them on this post.  Llew will be reading them and responding to you here.

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False Memory — Devilish Therapy

by Lleweton

With the support of my wife I have discovered and, I suppose, developed a vocation over the past 11 years. It has been to try to support parents of adult children of various Christian denominations who have been shocked by an unforeseen tragedy.

I’ll take a quotation relating to my own family’s circumstances, written by my younger daughter, a graduate in Theology.

After several years of puzzling estrangement and distancing she wrote to us to cut off all contact: ‘I have been sustained by a sense of a “noble cause”,’ she said. ‘Daddy told me that if he and I had our “special” friendship then mummy would be safe.’ She did not say from what. I took to her to be implying that I had told her I would hurt her mother if she told anyone about this ‘special’ relationship.

I should say straight away that I totally deny anything abnormal or improper about my relationship with my daughter. And I would add that the whole letter had a voice which I did not recognise as that of my daughter.  It was as if someone else or something else had got into her mind. I don’t think I was far wrong in that impression.

She said elsewhere in her letter that a ‘professional psychotherapist’ had held her hand over a period of four years ‘as I began to cope with my reality’. She gave no details.

The ‘reality’, I declare, had no connection with the FACTS which were, that, apart from the normal ups and downs, she had a normal, even comfortable and happy childhood.

She had not told us that in her 20s she had been seeing a therapist. We had indeed picked up that she was having emotional difficulties and did not want to talk about them. As loving parents we felt we should give her space, not bully her into talking to us. Meanwhile, she also cut herself off from her elder sister, much to her puzzlement and disgust. Our older daughter remains close to us.

Thus I discovered false recovered ‘memory’ of sexual abuse in childhood. To my knowledge at least 2,500 families in Britain have been hit by this phenomenon since it emerged around 1990 as a result of the publication of a book by two Americans, The Courage to Heal. The authors, Ellen Davis and Laura Bass, were reported to be Lesbians. I think, dare I say, that this fact is relevant because they were part of a culture which was changing from the feminist demand for fair play and equality to an aggression against men and the role in life of fathers.

Back in the year 2000 I went to my local library and found a copy of The Courage to Heal. It was tattered and falling apart with use. May God help the families of the readers of that book. I’ll quote here only two pieces from the copy which I reluctantly bought, this issue published in 1997 by Vermilion:

*          ‘If you think you were abused and your life shows the symptoms, then you were.’ Page 22. ( As study of the text shows, virtually anything can be a ‘symptom’.)

*           ‘Many survivors have strong feelings of wanting to get back at the people who hurt them so terribly. You may dream of murder or castration. It can be pleasurable to fantasize such scenes in detail. Wanting revenge is a natural impulse, a sane response. Let yourself imagine it to your heart’s content.’ (page 128)

I wondered whether The Courage to Heal  had been an influence which played on my daughter.

Having joined the British False Memory Society (see http://www.bfms.org.uk/site_pages/frameset.htm), my wife and I soon, because of our church connections – and the issue is certainly not confined to church people –  found ourselves put in contact with Christian families who had been hit by the following sequence:

*          Probably a graduate-level daughter in late 20s or early 30s becomes increasingly distant and evasive.

*          Parents are patient, they try to make the best of it and think, ‘Well she’s very busy’.

*          Distancing continues.

*          Letter of confrontation or face to face meeting (always with daughter supported by ‘friend’ or ‘adviser’) accusing the father of historic recently-remembered ‘sexual abuse’ almost always after ‘therapy’ or reading of books like The Courage to Heal.

*          No further discussion allowed. All contact cut off. Our daughter was married without our being there and has a seven-year-old daughter whom we have never met.

Our daughter is devoutly Church of England and has a huge circle of Church of England friends. When we tried to contact her through them we were threatened with legal action for harassment.

I think of two families I know, hit by carbon copy situations at this very moment. In each case the mother has developed cancer. One wrote to me recently that news of her illness had been conveyed to her daughter, with the result that there has been a small degree of resumed contact by e-mail. Any closer contact must depend, it seems, on the parents’ admission of a guilt they utterly deny.

The writer adds: ‘To be honest it’s added to my stress, but I will not give up hope and feel that God is working in all this. It’s certainly driven me to trust and pray more positively, using the Word of God in the battle.  If you could pray for me to make right decisions  … and that I would have peace that God is working in both camps in all this, I would be very grateful.’

I added in a letter I wrote about this to members of the interdenominational prayer group which my wife and I co-ordinate:

‘I won’t go into the detail here about the daughter’s circumstances except to say that readers would recognise a textbook Courage to Heal narrative.’

I believe that the destruction of families and the unfounded suspicion caused of innocent relationships between adults and their children are devilish.

I could give many, many more examples.

Again for the record, I should say that I totally deny any improper relationship with my daughter.

(For information and for details of the British False Memory Society and its Scientific and Advisory Board, please see the BFMS website: http://www.bfms.org.uk/site_pages/frameset.htm. If you live in the United States, please visit the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF) site: http://www.fmsfonline.org/. If you live in Australia, please visit the Australian False Memory Association (AFMA) site: http://www.afma.asn.au/index.html.) 

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