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[This excerpt is from Second Thoughts: Understanding the False Memory Crisis and How It Could Affect You, pp. 221-230, by Paul Simpson. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Atlanta, GA. Copyright (c) 1996. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. Read our review or order it from Amazon.com.]


A Word to Regression Believers

Experience by itself proves nothing.  If a man doubts whether he is dreaming or waking, no experiment can solve his doubt, since every experiment may itself be part of the dream.  Experience proves this, or that, or nothing, according to the preconceptions we bring to it.
C. S. Lewis, GOD IN THE DOCK, 1942
Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.
EPHESIANS 5:14

If you've experienced recovered traumatic memories and have read this far in the book, I want to thank you for hearing me out.  I'm very aware things I've shared have angered and frustrated you.  It isnít my wish to hurt you.  But sometimes the most important gifts aren't the things we want to hear, the conclusions that agree with our own.  Sometimes we need to hear the things that turn on the light, point to the doubts we've secretly held.  I know that's the same thing your therapist told you when you began to recover memories.  But what I'm sharing with you is not based on far-flung theories that require you to enter a special state of consciousness to understand.  I'm talking common sense, reason, scriptural truths, science--things that can be openly verified by taking a trip to the library, talking with memory experts, becoming more informed, allowing yourself to ask forbidden questions.

By writing this book I am opening myself up to hostile examination and attack.  Some regression believers will find fault with most everything I've said and will choose to keep seeing the world through regression lenses.  This is a right they have, and they are responsible for the consequences of their choices.  But I also know there are some who are still able to hear another perspective.  There is a chance you are one of them.  That makes the risks I've taken worthwhile.  If youíve read this far in the book, maybe there's a part of you that is still skeptical about your recovered memories you're still searching for what is true.  I wish I could find the words that could somehow bridge the gap between you and me, a way to reach out my hand to yours and show you the way out.  The best that I know to do is to speak straight and from the heart, to somehow step back into the beliefs with you for a moment and point to the exits.  I was here, I stood right where you are standing, and I believed with passion and conviction.  Then I discovered there was life beyond this dark valley that we've walked into.  The way out doesn't lie further in, it lies behind you, back up the steep trail you've been descending.

You may feel that there's no way to turn back, you've gone too far into this, said and done too much.  How could you possibly throw away the years, the money, the tears, the rage that you've invested?  But stop for a moment.  Catch your breath.  Hear me out.  What if the descent into this valley isn't necessary?  What if the theories you and I were taught are wrong?  There's still time to ask some hard questions.  What's the rush?  If what we've been taught is real, it will stand up to closer examination.  If it can't, do you really want to give up your life for it?

What About the Cost?

Is this really what you had in mind when you began therapy?  If I had come to you a few months before you started your therapy and told you that you were about to embark on a venture that would consume your entire life, keep you in an endless repetition of therapy and group sessions, engage you in a never-ending search for memories, make you experience constant rage, fear, hate, and isolation from lifetime family and friends, plague you with suicidal thoughts, loneliness, and blinding fear. . . . If I told you that you would step into a therapy that would go on for decades and cost you thousands of dollars, your career, and your own children.... Tell me, would you have gone into all this as quickly and naively as you did?  Honestly, would you?  Shouldn't someone have told you of the horrors that lay ahead, before you were taken in step-by-step?

When Is Therapy Finished?

Have you noticed that no one ever graduates from therapy?  The further you get in, the more expansive it becomes.  The readings, sessions, seminars, and groups consume more and more of your life.  The old timers go on to lead groups, get degrees in counseling.  But no one ever is told "You're done.  You can get on with your life now." Regression therapy is like the old "No Roach Hotel" bug-catcher¾"They check in but they never check out." So I'm asking, when will you know that it's time to leave therapy?  Be honest now.  What final memory, what final goal will have been attained that lets you know it's okay to move on?  Are you really getting closer to this goal?

What Does This Feel Like from the Other Side?

Imagine what it would be like to have your grown daughter accuse you two decades from now of sexual crimes against her, crimes that you never committed but that she adamantly believes you did.  The charges are never specific¾you're supposed to know.  Imagine how it feels to watch your child consumed in a therapeutic black hole.  Everything you've ever done with her is twisted into dark events.  A therapist who has never spoken with you interprets photographs as having obvious indicators that you sexually abused your daughter.  The endless hours of your own therapy, which you did when she was younger, are considered abandonment." How would you feel as you watch her repeatedly attempt suicide, move in and out of hospitals, isolate from lifelong friends and family members?  In all of this she cuts off any contact from you.  There is no avenue for you to defend yourself.  You can only speak with her if you first confess to these crimes.  But you didn't do these things!  The fact that you can't recall any sexual abuse is proof that you dissociated the events.  Remember, you have a dissociative disorder, which only proves that you did these crimes.

As hard as it may be for you to believe, these questions capture the reactions, the anger, horror, helplessness of your parents in the here and now.  I'm talking about your real parents, the ones with real faults, strengths, flesh and blood, not the stereotypes they've been transformed into during the course of your therapy.

What About the Christian Perspective?

If you're a Christian, let me ask: How would Christ expect you to act in this situation?  Not the Christ you learned in therapy--I'm talking about the Christ of the Bible.  Is this really the freedom He promised you?  Are the hate, rage, fear, loneliness, suicidal thoughts, and lack of functioning really fruits of the Holy Spirit?

Your therapist has told you that you have to "go through the wound in order to heal," that the devastation of your life is proof that the memories are real.  I'm asking you, what if the wound is from your therapy?  What if your mental breakdown isn't the product of some hidden trauma decades ago but is rather directly related to the therapy you did yesterday and the session you'll be doing tomorrow?
 

Are You Allowed to Think for Yourself?

What are three criticisms you have about the regression therapy you've been involved with?  Stop for a moment and really answer this question.  What are three things that are wrong with the regression movement?  Or how about three things that you don't like about your therapist?  Put the book down a second and think through your answers.

Did you have a hard time answering these questions?  Maybe you didn't even put the book down.  You see, you've been trained to always defend your therapist and the movement; you're not supposed to criticize the party or its doctrines.  Haven't you noticed that no one in your group is allowed to speak critically of the recovered memory movement?  The hypnotic images only are allowed to be real.  Anything or anyone that questions is seen as the product of evil forces.  The FMS Foundation is considered full of perpetrators.  The mountains of research findings that contradict regressionism are always explained away.  Those who doubt are part of the "old world," perpetrators, those in denial.  But those who refuse to question recovered memories are the bold survivors, the ones who dare to live with the truth.  Come on!  Let yourself think.  If no evidence is ever allowed in to challenge the things you've been taught, how will you know what parts are false teaching?  Wasn't getting into therapy about learning to become independent, to break free of control, and to be able to think for yourself?  What if all you've done is trade in your parents' control for control by your therapist and group members?  What if you're still dancing the same dance¾you've simply changed partners?

How About the Retractors?

Have you noticed that you're not allowed to have open discussions with retractors?  You've been told that they've slipped back into denial, that they simply weren't strong like you and have caved in to pressure from family members.  What if you told your group that you were having conversations with a retractor?  Would they approve?  Here's an idea¾dare to talk with one and hear why she or he got out.  Youíll find articulate women and men who have been through therapeutic hell and come out the other side.  With clarity, anger, and relief they'll share their experiences.  They're a far cry from the stereotypes you've been taught.  Remember, one of the things you object to is people who haven't taken the time to talk to you, to understand your situation before they've decided your memories are false.  Don't retractors deserve the same courtesy?
 

Can You Question Any of the Memories?

How can someone tell if her "memories" are actually fantasies?  If someone came to you with vivid, detailed memories of being tortured in former lives, what would you say to her?  Would you be allowed to question her reality?  She explains that she's felt much better since she found out she was murdered as a slave in Egypt.  What if it was about space aliens?  How would you respond?  If you had doubts about the truth of her memories and somehow found the freedom to speak freely, what would you say to help her?  What if you simply questioned the reality of some of your own memories?  Honestly now, do you really think your therapist and group members would allow you to do that?  Would they accept you if you decided that a portion of your memories was false?  You've spent so much time learning how to affirm abusive memories as true--how to define every symptom a person has, how to read every conceivable reaction of the accused.  Honestly, do you believe all the recovered memories are real?  Are your sexual abuse or other violent memories real, or are they just believable?  How would you know which is which?  If you're not allowed to question any of your memories, how will you ever know which is which?

The bottom line is that many former clients are discovering they've been mind-raped by regression's teachings and practices.  They're not crazy, in denial, or running from the truth.  They've simply figured out that they were able to imagine things that were suggested or read to them.  Their problems began when authorities in their lives insisted that their fantasies could only be real.  Their escape finally came when they allowed themselves to question their indoctrination, to step back and see their fantasies from another perspective.  They dared to think for themselves, to ask the questions that had been denied them by therapists and group members.  Maybe, just maybe, this is your story as well.

The good news is that your recovered memories donít have to be real.  You can choose which way your life is headed.  But in choosing, take the time to verify that the events and teachings you are basing your decisions upon stand up to rigorous examination.

In the course of your treatment you've been told that you have a number of rights.  "You don't have to prove your memories to anyone but yourself." "Your emotional reality is all that counts." "You donít have to justify cutting people out of your life, you're an adult who can choose."  Let me share with you some additional rights, ones that you may not have been told about:

  1. You have a right to competent therapy that is based on science and reflects the state-of-the-art understanding about the human condition.  You have a right to be free of your therapist's hangups and agendas, false beliefs, and misinformation.
  2. You have the right to know that regression teachings, symptoms lists, and trauma models of memory are theories which haven't been scientifically validated.  You have the right to be fully informed (in writing) about the experimental nature of regression techniques, their scientifically demonstrated delusional affects, and the cautions that professional organizations have issued against recovered memory therapy.
  3. You also have the right to know that clients who are subjected to these teachings and techniques consistently experience severe psychological decompensation.  There are no scientific studies which demonstrate that clients are better once they've gone through regressionism.  In fact, the evidence shows that clients' lives are much worse.
  4. If you are working with a Christian therapist you have a right to a truthful presentation of Scripture.  It is not okay for your therapist to misrepresent or distort various Scriptures in an attempt to manipulate you or imply that repressionism is a biblical notion.  You have a right to know that "Holy Spirit techniques" for memory recovery are actually standard hypnotic inductions which have simply been renamed.
  5. You have the right to know that without solid, external evidence, there is no way for you or your therapist to determine whether your hypnotic images are historical, pure fantasy, or some combination of the two.  It is unprofessional and irresponsible for your therapist to assert that your recovered memories can only be real.
  6. You have the right to feel positive about your therapist and group members but determine that some portion of what you are being taught is false, misleading, or manipulative.  To do so does not mean you are rejecting them or blaspheming God.  It's okay to realize that they've been working under some common misconceptions in a sincere effort to help you.  It isn't okay for your therapist or group members to threaten you, shame you, tell you you're blaspheming against the Holy Spirit, say you're in denial, or insinuate that you're perpetrating against your own children or other group members.  You don't have to accept their all-or-nothing expectations.
  7. You have a right to read false memory research and books, and have open discussions with those who are addressing the False Memory Crisis.  You have a right to know that false memories are a proven, scientific fact that may have relevance to your situation.  You also have the right to talk with retractors and discover why they got out of regressionism.  They have their own stories, which warrant a fair hearing.  They deserve the same respect and opportunity that you expect for yourself and other regression believers.
  8. You have the right to take a vacation from therapy.  Remember, this was therapy that you initiated, and you are the consumer who is investing time, energy, and finances.  At any time you have the right to decide to take a break from your therapist and groups to simply be quiet, check out other perspectives, save your money, or redirect your energies.
  9. You have the right to open up lines of communication with family members who do not believe your memories.  It is okay to speak with the accused¾they do not have to confess before you are allowed to be in contact with them again.  You may think that your parents and siblings will have nothing to do with you after so much has transpired.  You might be right, but then again you might be wrong.  You won't know until you try opening the door.  It may be closed on the other side.  At least you'll know either way.
Plenty of families are imperfect.  Realizing that some of your recovered memories are false doesn't mean that you must deny the reality of everything that was hurtful.  There are lots of retractors who will tell you they grew up in harmful relationships, experiencing sexual abuse, controlling fathers, distant mothers, and so on. Retractors simply came back to the reality that they always knew--both the good and the bad¾and are working to heal from that point forward.

You don't have to recant; you don't have to make some kind of public confession.  Think of a way to open up some limited, safe contact.  Allow for an exchange of letters or limited phone calls; meet with them in a neutral place with a friend there to support you.  Agree to disagree--if they donít insist that you're wrong, then you can do the same for them.  Maybe you can't have 100 percent of a relationship, but how about 30 percent?  It's a start, and maybe that's far enough for a lifetime.  One step, one foot in front of the other.  The days are turning into weeks, into months, into years.  Holidays, family gatherings, weddings, funerals are coming and going.  The moments that make for a lifetime of relationships are falling away, one petal at a time, and they don't come back.  When your parents are dead, when nieces and nephews are graduated and married, when lives have moved on, only then will the fruit of what you've planted and nurtured day after day be fully realized.

Remember Mary's story, the one that started this book?  I asked her a simple question: What would you tell people who are still caught up in regression beliefs?  She shared with me the following:

Imagine going to the doctor's office with a broken arm.  You're in a great deal of pain, expecting to find relief and healing.  Your doctor asks you to fill out a medical history, and that's typical, so you agree.  He finally returns to your room with your medical history in hand, but instead of tending to your arm, he sits down and begins to expound on the fact that you had chicken pox at age seven and the flu several times when you were eleven.  Then he takes great interest in your dad's high blood pressure and the fact that your mom is overweight.  He shares with you that your past is crucial in understanding how you came to break your arm in the present and must be better understood before he can heal it.  He understands that your arm is hurting and tells you it'll get worse before it gets better, but this is the way to complete healing.  He rises, hands you several books to read, a stack of questionnaires, schedules appointments for the next several weeks, and before he leaves says, "'Be careful with that arm, it's very vulnerable."

Sound familiar?  Do you know what happens to broken arms if they are not set and allowed to heal properly?  And what about that "broken arm," the one you went to therapy for to begin with?  How is it?  Is it healed?  And if by chance it is, did you have to break something else to find that healing?  Do you have an infection?  Are you whole yet?  Honestly, are you really whole yet?  How much longer.?

The question to me doesn't have to do with "memories," "multiple personalities," a "controlling father," or a "manipulative mother." If you want to see the world through those glasses, that's your decision and your right.  My question is, "Are you better now than when you started therapy?"  Is that original problem that you had the insight, the courage, and the strength to seek help for better?

We know that when we go to the doctor there will be a price, but we go prepared to pay it.  For your therapy there was a cost.  Have you gotten what you paid for?  When you started, did you ever dream that it would cost you your family, your friends, your joy, your past?  Have you sacrificed your life at their altar in hopes they'd give you a new one?  Would they still accept you if you questioned their reality?  Honestly now, would they let you think differently from what they've taught you?

Wholeness.  Liberty.  New life.  Hope.  There are people who go through life never believing in any of those things, but not you.  The very fact that you sought help to begin with shows you're a believer in something bigger than yourself, you're teachable, you're strong, and you're a fighter.

The thing you seek can be found.  It's okay to look, and to keep looking, but there is a way to find what you're searching for without paying the price they've demanded of you.  There is a God in heaven who loves you and who sent you His Son to give you the life you seek.  He won't require you to hurt others to have it--only powerless people ask you to do that sort of thing.  No insurance forms, no co-payments, and you don't find it through the past.  If you follow His teaching, not the therapists', not the books, not the seminars or theories, but His teaching, then you will know the truth, and His truth will set you free!

Are you tired--or is weary a better word?  Well, imagine being in that same doctor's office with the door shut.  You feel trapped, you're banging on the walls, afraid you can't get out, and your arm really hurts.  Check the knob--it's not locked.  You can get out of there.  A second opinion won't hurt anything.  Remember, you were the one who had the strength, the courage, and the hope to open this door to begin with.  The Great Physician calls.  He's standing, knocking.

Turn the knob.

It's not locked.

At least get that arm looked at.

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