'Is this a genuine memory and what should I do about it?'
Thank you for writing and providing so much well researched information and resources.
I certainly could have used this 3 years when, at my first psychedelic retreat experience, I experienced a memory of sexual abuse at a very young age that felt so real. I pretty quickly began questioning it before coming down that evening and was told by the (fairly untrained) facilitators “I’ve never seen something up be false”.
I’ve since worked through and integrated without a need to know if it’s real, if it’s mine, if it’s ancestral, etc. and i am grateful for the growth I experienced. However I experienced a good 6 months of darkness, de realization and deep confusion of what was true and real in life which I believe could have been mitigated with proper support and integration by people who knew what they were doing.
I did learn to be much more discerning on who I sit with and have since had truly beautiful experiences where I’ve felt safe, held and supported.
Another amazing article Jules! If you haven’t already checked out Jared Dobson’s account of New Age & a close relationship with Teal Swan, I’d highly recommend. It can be found in 3 parts on YouTube.
Very thought provoking and evocative article.
I suspect that Jim Hopper is not protecting therapists but rather, is expressing the genuine uncertainty we all live with as therapists and sometimes as patients. Kristen’s point about dissociation rings especially true to me. We in the trauma world do not pay enough attention to dissociation as a player in treatment and that the therapist has to be trained to see it. Finally I’d say that I would hate to be on a journey and have a memory “recovered” be called a vision or not know if it was “true”. Perhaps this is a “risk” should be part of informed consent in psychedelic assisted psychotherapy. Am at least going to add it as a potential event, neutral or not, to consider beforehand. Like we discuss touch.
Thanks for this clear, informative--and to some degree even-handed--account of repressed memories. I do think, however, that you don't realize what it's like to have dissociated (I prefer that to repressed) memories. You give a sense that they are not all that important and probably the best thing is to live with the uncertainty. I went to the Jim Hopper page and can see that you are getting much of this from him. But think about it: If you have been raped by members of your family, how can it be okay to not consciously know that?
I realized I had dissociated memories of childhood abuse only when I was 53 in spite of many years of therapy in my twenties and thirties. From my experience I can say that it is absolutely not okay to have gone through most of my life not knowing what happened. Every attempt I had made to understand myself and to heal was thwarted by my lack of knowledge. I was profoundly deluded in my understanding of myself and my family. Incest is not just sex. It causes intense, destructive dynamics within the family. And it caused intense, destructive dynamics in my unconscious mind. Knowing what happened was not a peripheral thing like Hopper suggests. It is foundational. Only then can one move forward.
I suspect that Hopper's view is an attempt to protect therapists. It's all a way to prevent realization of the truth because therapists have been attacked, mocked, and sued for attempting to reveal the truth. They've given up. It is, indeed, extraordinarily problematic to work with people who have dissociated past trauma. It takes great courage, skill, and wisdom.
People are naively going into the jungle to trip with tribes that have a radically different outlook. Who knows what they pick up subconsciously?
Would be interesting to hear your thoughts on this.
People also need to ask - if ayahuasca hasn't turned tribes that have used it for hundreds of years into perfectly healed - in modern western terms - people, then why do they think it's going to do it for them?
Thank you for the response. Maybe expanded and unbound instead of disturbed?
Which can sometimes be difficult and which therefore requires a shepherd? I’m not a lover of wanting something to be disturbed. Maybe “disturbed” is too close to “harmed” for my Hippocratean taste.🥰
Thank you for writing about this. I know many, including myself, who have had images and scenes emerge during psychedelic ceremonies and how confusing and shattering this can be to the sense of self. Some are left wondering, as you wrote, “did that actually happen?”, which can often lead to difficulty integrating the experience. I’m grateful you included the link to the Chacruna article by Dee Dee Goldspaugh, it is one I have passed along to friends & colleagues after an experience that raises questions. Integrating the emotions and sensations that come up while “living with uncertainty” can often be the work- integrating that something happened even though we may never fully know what or the actual details - such is the nature of the memory. I trust that the images and scenes are coming up for a good reason- showing something about the psyche. And I’m in agreement that digging for memory can be harmful and should not be the target/goal of the work; however, often fragments or pieces of memory can and do emerge and allowing a gentle exploration of those so the person can make their own meaning while holding it lightly can lead to healing.