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False Memory Debate: Introduction

The Letter, Issue 15, Spring 1999, Pages 97 - 99

'False' Memory Syndrome and

'Recovered Memory' Therapies


Anthony McCarthy

At a conference entitled The Logic of Phantasy it is timely that some space be given over to a discussion of the issues raised by the phenomenon known as False Memory Syndrome. The three papers presented here on the subject all approach the problem from different angles but come to similar conclusions. The False Memory Syndrome debate has arisen almost a hundred years after Freud's first psychoanalytic writings. The central issue has been highly publicised in the media. It has been alleged that patients in therapy have developed memories of having been sexually abused in childhood which are false, that is, the abuse did not occur. The result has been an attack on all forms of psychotherapy including psychoanalysis and a questioning of fundamental psycho­ analytic concepts such as repression. All three papers here suggest a return to Freud and in particular to his writings about the relationship between memory and phantasy.

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