Why Memory is a Red Herring in the Recovered (Traumatic) Memory Debate

  • Denis M. Donovan
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (NSSA, volume 291)


The “rediscovery of trauma” in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, especially the clinical finding of rates of child abuse histories as high as 70% among psychiatrically hospitalized females, presented psychiatry and the as-yet-unnamed field of traumatology with an epiphanous opportunity to spark a profound conceptual paradigm shift in the clinical biobehavioral sciences—and to do so at a time when “the search for traumatic memories” had not yet become a cultural vogue capable of eliciting an organized backlash. The opportunity to develop a revolutionary theory of experience-induced psychobiological change—both pathogenic and therapeutic— was lost as the field adopted the worst of traditional psychiatry’s pathocentric categoricism in striving to establish the DSM respectability of categorical trauma-disorders (like MPD) instead of cultivating the richness of the initial clinical observations. The ensuing battle between the diametrically opposed Traumatic Memories camp and the False Memory Syndrome camp has obscured the fact that the literal recovery of traumatic memories (“making the unconscious conscious”) was never a necessary feature of good clinical therapeutic problem-solving, while obscuring as well the fact that “Modern Biological Psychiatry” engages in its own version of equally bad thinking producing equally bad results. The actual treatment of trauma-related conditions has suffered greatly as a result.

Science is to see what everyone else has seen and to think what no one else has thought. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, 1937 Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology

Everything in scientific inquiry should be exposed to remorseless criticism. Gerald M. Edelman, Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology, 1972


Adolescent Psychiatry Child Psychiatry Behavioral State Trauma Victim Traumatic Memory 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Denis M. Donovan
    • 1
  1. 1.The Children’s Center for Developmental PsychiatrySt. PetersburgUSA

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