The Myth of Repressed Memory

Myth of Repressed Memory Book Cover

The Myth of Repressed Memory by Elizabeth Loftus and Katherine Ketcham

While acknowledging the reality of childhood sexual abuse, Loftus, a research psychologist specializing in memory, believes that in many cases, people create false memories of nonexistent abuse, prompted to do so by their psychotherapists.

By Elizabeth Loftus and Katherine Ketcham. Publisher: St Martin’s Press. Date: 1994.

Writing in the first person with coauthor Ketcham (with whom she wrote Witness for the Defense), Loftus critiques the tools used by some therapists (“trance work,” hypnosis, dream analysis, journal writing, etc.) to “recover” patients’ buried memories. She presents numerous case histories involving presumed memories that turned out to be fabrications and reports on a study in which false memories of childhood events were created in men and women volunteers. She also discusses her involvement in the case of Paul Ingram, a Washington deputy sheriff who confessed that he was a priest in a satanic cult and sodomizer of children after his two daughters accused him of sexual abuse; he later retracted his confession but was imprisoned anyway. This eye-opening book makes a compelling argument for caution.


“Astute, scientifically informed, and compassionate towards the movement’s casualties.” – The New York Review of Books

“The descriptions [of] the ‘therapeutic’ practices by which memories are recovered are a frightening indictment of at least some members of the burgeoning industry.” – The New York Times Book Review

“[A] thoughtful, scholarly book . . . concerned with exposing the damage caused by, and the falsity of, the practice of recovered-memory therapy.” –  The Washington Post Book World


When I read this book, the chapter about Lynn, I began to shake and then to cry. The author described my experience with a therapist from 1994 to 1999. For the past couple of years, I have been trying to put my life together and explain to myself what happened so I could try to explain it to my family. These kind and brave women gave me the words. These ladies are not shaming or cruel to sexual abuse victims at all. I thought they might be at first by reading the book jacket. They also helped me to understand why 5 years of my life went by in a fog where somehow I went from a fairly normal woman to a paranoid woman on 7 psycho-active drugs who couldn’t function. I thought that “remembering” my memories would make me feel better. What I have learned since the hellish time is that what we focus on is what grows in our lives. Focusing on every detail of your trauma over and over again every single day will make that trauma the part of your life that grows so that you can’t see much beyond it. I wish I could give this book to anyone who is even contemplating seeing a therapist or buying the book Courage To Heal. There are good therapists out there. I had one to help me climb out of my nightmare. If your therapist suggests that you try to remember things that you don’t even know happened, please! please read this book first. If you were abused as a child, grieve it for a time. If you keep on going over and over it each day though, your abuser has not only hurt you as a child, but he is hurting you as an adult. After you feel sad for awhile, you have to pick yourself up and move on to create a happy life for yourself. You cannot change your past, and dwelling on it can only bring pain and shame. All I can say is that this book, not the Courage To Heal, has helped me to heal and to get my family back. May God bless the authors and the publishers for making their work available to me and others like me.

Monica Willyard, Amazon Reviewer


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