Part of therapy – surely every type of therapy – is recalling memories, often traumatic or sad. And we all know that individual memories are very often unreliable (the way we interpret things, what we forget, etc.) so when a therapist is making you probe around in the gloom at the back of your mind, how much of what you uncover there is real?
For example, in a past relationship I have various memories of my ex standing over me and shouting while I cringed, cried and quivered in a heap on the floor. What I don’t remember is how I ever ended up there. It seems baffling to the person I am now that I would put myself in that position. I’m not an overly dramatic person – I don’t fling myself about for attention. Was I trying to make myself seem vulnerable so he would stop? Was I so overwrought with sadness that I collapsed? Was I having a panic attack? Was I pushed? How and when did I get back up?
I have one memory of a more recent time when I was so upset I almost fainted but I can remember that so vividly, so it’s odd how murky these memories are when they seem so significant. But back to my point – what slant does therapy make me put on them? I’m told it was an abusive relationship so it’s easy to look at these images and see a victim, thrown to the ground. But I jut don’t believe that happened. Yet I could so easily paint this full story, with thicker and thicker layers until it becomes truth.
And that’s what worries me sometimes about therapy – how true are my memories? How much can therapy that looks back at your past ever be accurate and is it possible that it could do more damage than good?