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Migone, P. (2000). Recovery of memories and therapeutic change. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 81(2):356-357.

(2000). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 81(2):356-357

Recovery of memories and therapeutic change

Paolo Migone

Dear Sir,

Peter Fonagy in his interesting Guest Editorial entitled ‘Memory and therapeutic action’ (Int. J. Psychoanal., 80:215-23) emphasised the important role of implicit or procedural memory for therapeutic change in psychoanalysis. In particular, he stated:

What about dramatic improvement associated with the ‘recovery’ of particular ideas? Here I would claim that recovery (in the sense of therapeutic change) has already taken place, for example, in the sense of being able to see the internal or external world in a somewhat different way and the recovery of a so far unremembered idea is a consequence rather than the cause of a more balanced world view (p. 219).

The fact that often insight is not the prerequisite of change, but rather the consequence of a positive experience in a significant relationship such as the therapeutic one, was observed by Franz Alexander seventy years ago, and was re-emphasised later by him, almost with the same words, when he proposed the concept of ‘corrective emotional experience’. Alexander wrote:

The belief that the recovery of memory is, in itself, one of the most important therapeutic factors, is still held by many psychoanalysts and in a sense can be considered to be a residue of the period of cathartic hypnosis. The persistent emphasis upon intellectual reconstructions of memory gaps can possibly be traced back to the relatively short period of waking suggestion; but it was the still greater emphasis during the free association phase on the intellectual understanding of the past that made psychoanalytic treatment almost synonymous with genetic research.

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