Repressed memories can be defined as unpleasant memories that are tucked deep down in the corners of the unconscious mind. They are memories of which we have little or no proof of existence. It is often associated with childhood trauma, abuse or any other unpleasant incident. Over the years the concept of repressed memories has undergone a lot of debate and controversies. Psychiatrist and Clinical Psychologists believe the memories to be real whereas Scientific Researchers do not believe in them as there is no proof of their existence.
There are incidents in life that are so shocking or traumatic that the mind choses to bury them deep down somewhere in an inaccessible corner where it is isolated from the rest of the mind. Sexual abuse in women and children are one of the most predominant reasons for repressed memories. Such traumatic memories can be retrieved by way of psychiatric therapy.
Psychiatrists have seen their patients remember their repressed memories and have found them to be real and reliable. Many therapists use hypnosis and guided imagery to retrieve repressed memories in patients. However researchers are hesitant to accept repressed memories as fact due to lack of scientific evidence.
Repressed memories can surface many years after their actual occurrence and can affect the normal health of the patients in many ways. They can affect in the form of panic attacks, nightmares, lack of self-esteem, depression and anxiety.
Dr Manish Bajpyee, a renowned psychiatrist in Pune believes that the controversy of whether repressed memories are fact or fiction is prevalent even today. With growing research, the scepticism around repressed memories has increased. Testimonies based on repressed memories can be used to impeach someone. There has been disturbing number of cases where priests or other private group leaders have sexually abused children and women.In such cases, can a repressed memory, that surfaces years after the incident be considered as a legal proof to take the accused to court?It is particularly difficult when the accused and the victim both belong to the same family. It puts the familial relationship in jeopardy.
For the victims of abuse, it is the need to punish the real perpetrators and thus seek justice that is important. After years of normal existence, when such traumatic memories resurface, they feel intimidated and seek justice and help from their therapists.
The fact is that it is almost impossible to scientifically prove repressed memories. There is no way to peek into the minds of the claimants and validate the repressed memories. In such cases, we can leave the better judgement to the psychologists and therapists who encounter many such cases of repressed memory recall.
Repressed memories may seem genuine to the people experiencing them but when it comes to be produced before the Court of Law, detailed evidence is what matters.Scientific judgement is necessary to differentiate between someone who is faking in the name of repressed memory and someone who is genuinely recalling a repressed memory.