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Riggall, R.M. (1923). Clinical: William Brown, Charles S. Myers, W. McDougall. The Revival of Emotional Memories and its Therapeutic Value. British Journal of Psychology (Medical Section), 1920, Vol. I, p. 16.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 4:167-169.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Clinical: William Brown, Charles S. Myers, W. McDougall. The Revival of Emotional Memories and its Therapeutic Value. British Journal of Psychology (Medical Section), 1920, Vol. I, p. 16.

(1923). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 4:167-169

Clinical: William Brown, Charles S. Myers, W. McDougall. The Revival of Emotional Memories and its Therapeutic Value. British Journal of Psychology (Medical Section), 1920, Vol. I, p. 16.

Robert M. Riggall

The first number of the Medical Section opens with a symposium on the revival of emotional memories. William Brown believes that the important therapeutic factor is the revival, with emotional or hallucinatory vividness, of the forgotten painful memories. He considers the liberation of the pent-up emotion by abreaction to be the most important factor, but he also attaches some importance to the abolition of amnesia and the re-synthesis of the mind. In cases of hysterical shell-shock a two-fold dissociation occurs. First, certain psycho-physical functions, with their accompanying memories, become dissociated from personal consciousness and, secondly, there is a dissociation between the psycho-physical and physical counterparts of the emotional reaction of fear. The physical counterpart then persists instead of being evanescent. The former dissociation is concerned with the sensorimotor, and the latter with the sympathetic nervous system. These dissociations may be abolished by revival of the emotion with hallucinatory vividness. Emotional over-emphasis is considered

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responsible for the relative autonomy of these memories and the value of this method, which the author calls 'autognosis', consists in the withdrawal of the emotional over-emphasis. This abreaction is not merely mechanical but intellectually controlled at every stage.

C. S. Myers is unable to accept Brown's view that the revival of emotional expression is the most important factor, and considers that the return of the unpleasant memory of the scene is more important, i.e., the revival of the dissociated affective and cognitive experience. In treating these cases he discourages undue prominence of emotional response and suggests to the patient that he will be enabled to reexperience calmly the painful events. Myers believes that it is the recall of the repressed scene and not the 'working out' of the 'bottled up emotional energy' which is responsible for the cure. In support of this theory he cites Freud's remark that it is the unpleasant which is repressed and not primarily the emotional. Therefore the cause of functional amnesia is not the repression of the emotional, but repression of the affective component. The value of Brown's 'autognosis' lies in the relief of affective-cognitive repression and not so much in the securing of emotional revival as in the redintegration of the dissociated components of the mind.

W. McDougall thinks that the theory of abreaction is based on the Freudian conception of an emotion as a quantum of energy which may become attached to any idea. His criticism of this theory is that it savours too much of the old theory of ideas, according to which an idea is an entity which may remain in the mind. If this theory is not accepted, why should the revival of an emotional experience bring relief? It might, as is sometimes the case, accentuate the trouble. McDougall thinks that Brown recognises that the emotional excitement is not in itself the curative process, but that it is contributary only to the relief of the amnesia or dissociation, this being the essential step in the process of cure. Display of emotion in the process of abreaction is only of value in making the scene more complete. Emotional excitement only contributes to the relief of dissociation. Cognitive processes may become dissociated although they are still connected with their affective dispositions, which are in a condition of abnormal activity. McDougall considers that Brown's 'autognosis' works through the redintegration of dissociated cognitive processes rather than by the abreaction of pent up emotion.

In replying, William Brown explains that he uses the term 'autognosis' to emphasise a new factor of self-objectification and self-scrutiny. He considers Myers' distinction between affect and emotion to be artificial, but agrees with his statement that conflict and attempted repression do not necessarily precede dissociation. He suggests that

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the reinstatement of intense emotion may act physically in overcoming synaptic resistances. In elaborating his physiological theory of dissociation and re-association, he thinks that McDougall really accepts abreaction as an explanation of redintegration. He cannot, however, agree with McDougall's statement that the question of emotional memory is an unusual one, and mentions that Freud has difficulty in contrasting 'unconscious affects' with 'unconscious ideas', recognising that the problem of the former differs from that of the latter.

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Article Citation

Riggall, R.M. (1923). Clinical. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 4:167-169

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