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Schacter _1996_ Chap 9 - N INE ever certi of a f irm a rrrv...

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NINE THE MEMORY WARS Seeking Truth in the Line of Fire LATE ONE SUNDAY night, I was sifting through the electronic mail messages that had accumulated on my computer. I subscribe to an Internet discussion group on memory and psychotherapy, and there was a large backlog of messages to check. I dwelled over several posts from an unfamiliar sender named Diana Halbrooks who described how, during psychotherapy that had begun ten years earlier, she came to believe that her mother had tried to kill her. Then she remembered that her father had sexually abused her as a child. As she delved deeper into her past, listening to the "little girl" inside, as her therapist advised, Diana grew to believe that she had been raised in, and ritu- ally abused by, a satanic cult that included some of her family. She recalled horrendous acts of torture and child sacrifice and concluded that a baby sister who had lived only one day-supposedly because of a rare and untreatable respiratory disorder-had been sacrificed by the cult. Diana believed that she, too, had participated in the ritual sacri- fice of a baby. I had heard and read about similar stories, but I was particularly intrigued by Diana's story because she no longer believed that any of these memories were true. She spoke eloquently about how she had reunited with her family and turned her life around. What, I won- dered, could lead someone to abandon such vivid and strange mem- ories? When I answered Diana on the Internet, she told me that, try as she might, she could find no evidence that anyone in her family had ever certi of a firm arrrv then phoi of tl neve r:; ofb sude aCCl apy adri had latel selo 196 Fan tive, aye tele satir had not bee thir nev his 1 epi. 19S dur ual aut: the the mst doi rna 248
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The Memory Wars 249 ever taken part in any satanic rituals. She obtained a hospital death certificate, signed by a physician, stating that her infant sister had died of a respiratory disorder. Yet her therapist said that this merely con- firmed that the doctor was part of the cult. 1 One day, when Diana arrived fifteen minutes late for a therapy appointment to discover her therapist had not waited for her-and would not return her repeated phone calls-she had a sudden crisis of confidence about her six years of therapy. She decided to give her family the benefit of the doubt and never went back to the therapist. Diana Halbrooks's memories of sexual and ritual abuse at the hands of her parents were illusory, but there are stories about people who suddenly recover memories of long-past abuse that turn out to be accurate. Ross Cheit, a college professor of public policy, entered ther- apy because of a general uneasiness about his life. "I felt somehow adrift, as if some anchor in my life had been raised," he reflected. "I had doubts about my marriage, my job, everything,"? Several months later he awoke from a dream with a strong feeling about a camp coun- selor named Bill Farmer whom Cheit had known as a youth in the 1960s. Within a few hours, that feeling turned into a recollection that
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