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Cordess, C. (1998). Recovered Memories of Trauma: Transferring the Present to the Past. By C Brooks Brenneis. Madison, Connecticut: Int. Univ. Press. Pp. 204.. Psychoanal. Psychother., 12(2):172-177.

(1998). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 12(2):172-177

Recovered Memories of Trauma: Transferring the Present to the Past. By C Brooks Brenneis. Madison, Connecticut: Int. Univ. Press. Pp. 204.

Review by:
Christopher Cordess

This book, by a psychoanalyst well known for previous work on trauma and dreams, provides an excellent and balanced overview of the contentious debate concerning the validity—or otherwise—of memories recovered in adulthood of childhood trauma and sexual abuse. It is also a challenge to psychoanalysts, psychotherapists and related professions to look long and hard at certain time-honoured dogmas which urgently need revision. The issues are highly complex in conceptual and clinical terms. In addition, they demand a wider knowledge of current cognitive psychology, and specifically of memory research, than psychotherapists have traditionally received in their training. As Brenneis says in his Preface,

Very often the dispute about recovered memories is framed as occurring between clinically naive researchers and research naive clinicians

and he sets himself the task of reviewing and integrating the best of both research and clinical knowledge into a considered judgment of the current state of the art.

Psychoanalysts, as well as other therapists basing their work upon psychoanalytic principles, until recent times, had used outdated models of memory, based largely on assumptions of underlying veridical and permanent records of the past—palimpsests of actuality, as it were—which led some to dangerous credulity in matters of ‘recovered memories’. In present times, by contrast, the practice of most psychoanalysts is one of scepticism in regard to the psychic products of the interweaving of unconscious phantasy and historical ‘fact’ as represented, for example, in the greater emphasis on narrative as opposed to historical truth.

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