Arrogant first years
Freud is definitely out of favour at the Vic Uni psychology department.
Freud's theories have been refuted a dozen times during the year, most recently in a presentation of repressed memory theory. The lecturer suggested that there is little scientific support for repressed memory, that traumatic memories behave in much the same way as other memory. The emotion works as a memory enhancer but accuracy of the memory is not improved by the confidence in which is it remembered.
The lecturer’s statement on the matter is that there is more evidence that traumatic memories are dealt with by our brains in much the same way as other memories are. My initial introduction to the domain of scientific and psychology research tells me that just because there is evidence of a tendency for behaviour in one regard – this does not illiminate legitimate alternative experiences. If most of us have IQs between 80 and 110 – that does not mean that some will not have IQs below or above these figures. If there is a human tendency to seek out human connection and relationship that does not mean that there are no individuals who are not interested in human connection. They may not be the norm – but they are still real.
Therefore it is logically possible that just because the majority of us process traumatic memories one way, it does not mean that there is not a portion of people who do process traumatic experiences an alternative way (particularly traumatic experiences occurring in the life of a developing child). Most don’t repress memory. Most have not been sexually abused.
Repressed memory may well be a type of abnormal psychological development. Testing for continuity of repression may be just as fruitless as testing for continuity of psychopathy or schizophrenia or amnesia for that matter. There are plenty of unexplained phenomena relagated to weird abnormal psych things that point to the depths of mental processes that we just don’t yet understand. Such as the dude whose arm was paralysed after witnessing a traumatic service station robbery. Although he could remember the event he (or some part of his cognitive capabilities) seemed to have transferred the trauma to a physical part of his body. He was not concerned about the paralysis, and it certainly was not a conscious thing. Then there is dissociative personality disorder where the person seems to have multiple persons in the one body, with apparent amnesia between different personality state. We don't completely understand those cognitive processes, it is definately subconscious, and works in a way that is completely different to the vast majority of human experience.
Closure is also controversial. It is suggested that although the person has repressed or hidden the memory they are still effected by it – generally engaging in self-sabotaging behaviour. A goal of recovering repressed memory is closure. The purpose of delving into the recovery of these repressed memories (if they exist) is an attempt to bring them out into the open, and deal with them, to be set free from their unconscious effect on our psyche and behaviour. With recovery comes closure. There is criticism then of all the therapy that is necessary after memories have been recovered. If closure was true then why all the therapy, once the memory is recovered closure should be imminent. The need for years of therapy then disproves that recovery is true or helpful. But is that really realistic. Clinical psych has many identifiable diseases and conditions where the longterm outlook is bleak. If repression of traumatic memory is true, then it is reasonable to assume that the orirginal experience was damaging and the longterm outlook is not going to be fixed by recovering the memory. Recovering the memory is the beginning of recovery for the person if at all possible.
Plenty of abnormal/clinical psychology deals with very damaged people. The possibility of repressed memory can not be ruled out just because we don’t yet know how to help these people. There is an argument that recovering the memory damages the person – this is true if repressed memory is a sham. Surely if repressed memory is true – they were damaged already. It’s a bit of a circular argument. It’s not an argument for or against.
I am no expert, and obviously what is presented in an introductory psychology course, is basic tip-of-the-iceberg stuff and very likely shows the lecturers own best guess of the day. I am not saying that Fruedian theory is not without flaws, but in my current enamoured state of depths of the human mind, I am not willing to throw repressed memories out with the penis envy just yet.