By Richard J McNally.
Harvard University Press
ISBN 0 674 01082 5
As Harvard psychology professor Richard McNally observes in this
much-needed survey of current scientific evidence, “how victims
remember trauma is the most divisive issue facing psychology
today”. Although the “recovered memory” epidemic of the past decade
has mostly subsided, the belief system underlying it has not gone
away. Most people “know” that traumatic memories can be blocked
out, only to well up again later in life.
In 1998 clinical psychologist Daniel Brown published Memory,
Trauma Treatment and the Law, marshalling a seemingly
impressive array of scientific studies to “prove” the reality of
repression and dissociation. Now comes McNally with his
meticulously argued corrective, in which (among other things) he
dissects the Brown book and leaves its “evidence” in a little dust
McNally’s conclusion? “Events that trigger overwhelming
terror are memorable, unless they occur in the first year or two of
life or the victim suffers brain damage. The notion that the mind
protects itself by repressing or dissociating memories of trauma is
a piece of psychiatric folklore devoid of convincing empirical
Remembering Trauma is destined to become a classic in
Mark Pendergrast is the author of Victims of Memory:
Sex Abuse Accusations and Shattered Lives.