Repressed Memory

The memory process, though involving different capabilities, has three distinguished processes of encoding, storage and retrieval. The facet of memory known as episodic memory is particularly interesting as it involves the remembrance of episodes in one’s life. However, the three stages are prone to failure thus leading to the incidence of forgetting or false memory. The process is much more interesting when events occur in children as they are prone to forgetting events that occurred way back. Repressed memory is one phenomenon where a person undergoes a severe trauma that is too severe to be kept in conscious memory (Lego, 1996). Severe traumas may include sexual abuse or witnessing of murder, events which are removed through dissociation and repression but may be recalled later in life.

Sexual abuse is a very severe trauma and may present the chance of its memory being repressed in the host individuals. In fact, repressed memory is very much common in adult individuals that suffered traumas in their childhood. The magnitude of the sexual abuse may be too severe to be kept in the conscious memory as the child becomes overwhelmed by the nature of the abuse resulting in repression. However, the individual may then remember the instances by virtue of innocuous circumstances such as similar incidents on other individuals. However, not all victims of sexual abuse undergo repressive memory in part due to the severity of the trauma (McElrov & Keck, 1995). Some children are more stable to trauma and do not therefore experience lapses in their memory occasioned by either dissociation or repression. Even when the memory is dissociated, it reappears in segments that are inconsistent with the true accounts.



Lego, S. (1996). Repressed memory and false memory. Archives of psychiatric nursing, 10(2), 110-115.

McElroy, S. L., & Keck, P. E. (1995). Misattribution of eating and obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms to repressed memories of childhood sexual or physical abuse. Biological psychiatry, 37(1), 48-51.


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