Repressed Memories

What is your experience with a phenomenon referred to as “repressed memories” or “dissociative amnesia,”?

These are memories which are unconsciously blocked or repressed due to traumatic or distressing events, rendering them inaccessible to conscious awareness. 

Often these memories can be retrieved or “recovered” under certain conditions, such as during hypnotherapy.

The topic of repressed memories and their recovery is highly controversial within the field of psychology and neuroscience.  Some of the considerations and challenges associated with repressed memories are:

Memory Encoding and Retrieval:

Memory is a complex and dynamic process that involves encoding, consolidation, storage, and retrieval of information. Memory retrieval can be influenced by various factors, including attention, emotional state, and environmental cues. While some memories may not be readily accessible to conscious awareness, they may still exist in the brain and could potentially be retrieved under certain conditions.

Repressed Memories:

While some theorists and clinicians support the concept of repressed memories, others challenge its validity. Critics argue that there is a lack of empirical evidence for the repression mechanism and that memories of traumatic events are typically well-remembered rather than forgotten.

False Memories:
One major concern with recovered memories, especially those retrieved during hypnosis or suggestive therapy, is the risk of creating false memories. False memories are memories of events that never actually occurred but are believed to be true by the individual. Leading questions, suggestion, and the incorporation of external information can all contribute to the formation of false memories. It can be challenging to distinguish between accurate recovered memories and false memories.

Adaptive Mechanisms:
The idea of repressing traumatic memories is sometimes explained as an adaptive coping mechanism that allows individuals to protect themselves from overwhelming distress or psychological harm. However, this idea remains a matter of debate, and alternative explanations, such as normal forgetting or avoidance behaviors, are also considered.


Given the complexity and controversy surrounding repressed and recovered memories, it is essential to approach this topic with caution.


The brain’s ability to store and retrieve memories is well-established, however the concept of repressed memories and their recovery remains a contentious and unresolved issue in psychology and neuroscience. Further research is needed to better understand the mechanisms and validity of recovered memories, as well as their implications for clinical practice.