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Book Review: ‘Memory Warp: How the Myth of Repressed Memory Arose and Refuses to Die’

Memory Warp: How the Myth of Repressed Memory Arose and Refuses to Die by Mark Pendergrast addresses the existing knowledge based on repressed-memory and how this theory produced false memories of abuse. Mark Pendergrast presents scientific writing that becomes a touchstone for many pertinent social issues that also serves as a follow-up to his 1995 book Victims of Memory.

This powerful continuation tackles repressed, dissociated or recovered memories of abuse from various techniques and psychotherapy. Is it real or imagined? What effects to the information gathering techniques have on the subjects? What scientific proof supported repressed memory? Is repressed memory credible or just a syndrome?

This helpful book becomes a conduit among people experiencing these questions among many dramatic, painful events. It’s a must-read for anyone in the field of mental health, neuroscience, psychology, criminal justice, and care providing. The subject could not be more serious. Illusion, false claims, mental illness, and credible accusations are all at society’s forefront, especially after the MeToo movement, fake news, tragic shootings, and hostile politics.

The actions of the presented accusers, victims, and innocents all culminate in a rocky climate where Pendergrast gives these subjects a voice while his respectful, objective perspectives retain his good credibility.

For example, Pendergrast compares reports where subjects did not report proven abuse and subjects who self-reported abuse that was not proven.

The answers had nothing to to with repressed memories. The commonest explanations were “a sense of embarrassment, a wish to protect parents, and a desire to forget.”

Manipulation into a “false memory syndrome” can claim friends, family, professions, social standing, and peace of mind. The additional use of hypnosis and sedative-hypnotic drugs supports Pendergrast’s main stance of the myth of repressed memory.

It’s a permeating subject that any reader can identify with. The harrowing examples are detailed, so a one-sit reading isn’t recommended. In addition, Pendergrast usually namedrops and mentions several sources, so readers can easily get caught up in the emotional aspects, but these sources provide Pendergrast’s support.

Though Pendergrast covers several areas in modern society, he never loses sight of the subject’s personal plight where a life’s reputation comes under scrutiny and the damage these claims produce when levied without proper evidence. His examples consistently show how serious and potentially hurtful slander and accusations must be given due process just as each abuse claim must be taken with respect and caring scrutiny.

Pendergrast simplifies the terms and techniques then boils down the issue with objective support, research and field experience/interviews. His index is especially helpful when comprehending the terms and complex neuroscience elements like PTSD, RMT, MPD, SRA, and DID.

The most important part of this emotional science book are the ending conclusions and recommendations, which is the largest section of the book at 93 pages. The content can get upsetting in the fourth and sixth chapters, but they are necessary to create this comprehensive end.

The ending “Note on Sources” section enhances the numerous books and studies already mentioned with sections of books on related subjects plus a documentary section at the very end. Here Pendergrast prompts readers to visit his website (www.markpendergrast.com) for the endnotes and full bibliography.

This book provides a vast array of detailed information for readers to make informed decisions as well as several avenues where they can learn and even take action. Pendergrast does not judge and presents readers with honest frames of the circumstances – best shown in the beginning of the last chapter where respectively and openly explains a list of emails (obtained with permission) from his time as a volunteer at the National Center of Reason and Justice (NCRJ) where desperate voices express their rage, bewilderment and hopelessness at the false accusations pointed at them by loved ones.

Upper Access Books’ Memory Warp (ISBN: 05461-802-482-2988; $19.95 SRP) comes highly recommended (***1/2 out of four stars) for the comprehensive and objective coverage on a tough, complication subject matter. I didn’t like the title and wanted more of Pendergrast’s personal insight into this tough subject. The poignant examples provided here are so memorable and comprehensive that readers will never be the same. The research provides impressive support to his points that are guaranteed to touch a reader’s personal experience in some way. These 444 pages likely won’t be the last of the repressed memory debate and touches on so many vital related subjects. Pendergrast also has a related video here.

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