“ Be the Change that you want to see in the world. ” ...is by Mahatma Gandhi...

14 aprile 2012

Pain and Pleasure Paradigms

The Power of Pain and Pleasure Paradigms

Almost all of the choices we make in our daily life are motivated by one of two powerful forces. The most powerful of these forces is the desire to avoid pain and the second is the desire for pleasure.

Everything that we want to do is something we have emotionally linked to pleasure. Everything we try to avoid doing is something we have linked to pain. These are the two main paradigms in our life, and we have an emotional association for everything attached to one of these two categories.

In essence, life is about pleasure and pain.

It’s all a matter of perspective

Sometimes our willpower and logic try to do battle with these two powerful forces, but any victory is usually short-lived. Here’s an example. Almost every cigarette smoker I’ve ever met knows that smoking is bad for him. His logical mind knows that he would be better off if he stopped smoking. So why does he keep smoking? Because emotionally, smoking represents pleasure and quitting represents pain.

The only way for a smoker to stop smoking is to anchor pain to his habit and pleasure to quitting. This requires having a long-term point of view, rather than a short-term viewpoint. The ironic thing about smoking, or any other harmful habit, is that the very thing that brings pleasure in the short term will bring pain in the long term. That means we can change how we represent that activity by switching our emotional point of reference. In short, we can change our pleasure and pain paradigms.

Consciously or subconsciously, we make a choice

I only used smoking as an example because the harmful effects are universally recognized, but we could apply the same analogy to a wide variety of choices that we make every day. We can anchor pleasure to instant gratification without regard for long term consequences, or we can do the exact opposite.

Exercise could be considered painful in the short term but the long-term benefits are very desirable. If eating represents one of your greatest pleasures, then the very thought of dieting would represent pain. So, for some people, exercising and dieting is a double dose of pain, and yet logically they realize that this is the fastest path to physical fitness. In this ongoing tug-of-war between emotions and logic the mind is usually no match for the emotional need to avoid anything perceived as pain.

Using mental leverage to change our paradigms

Understanding how pain and pleasure exert their influence in our own lives is the first step toward taking control. We all have the ability to use our mental leverage to change our pleasure and pain paradigms and reset our emotional anchors. In other words, we can choose what is painful and what is pleasurable.

Many things in our lives influence what we view as painful and what we view as pleasurable, but paradigms are about association, they’re about internal interpretations. Learning how to use our minds to harness the power of our emotions is an extremely powerful tool for anyone who wants to make positive changes in their life.

More Pleasure – Less Pain

There are a couple of things that I’d like to clarify regarding our emotional desire to seek pleasure and avoid pain. It’s not the actual pain or pleasure that drives us, it is really something else. Any idea what that is?

Our desire to avoid pain is really based on fear. What fear? The fear of taking any action that feels like it might lead to pain.

Likewise, it’s not the actual pleasure that motivates us to take action, but our belief that a certain action will lead to a pleasurable experience. So, our movement in either direction is a response to our perception of where that action will lead.

The power of anticipation and anxiety

Have you ever noticed that the anticipation of the pain we think might result from a certain action is generally much worse than the actual experience? Here’s an example, if you’ve ever done any public speaking it’s usually the 10 or 15 minutes just before you get on stage that creates the greatest anxiety.

You may experience all kinds of symptoms like an increased heart rate, a rise in body temperature and a nauseous feeling in your stomach. At this point are any of these symptoms the result of actual public speaking? No, they are caused by your estimation of what the experience will be like, not by the actual activity.

Speaking from my own personal experiences and those of other public speakers that I know, everyone agrees that the anxiety that comes before hand generally vanishes as soon as they begin speaking. Anxiety of course, is a form of fear.

Where does the fear come from?

There are so many different kinds of fear that it is impossible to label them all, but it is possible to identify where they all come from. The reason we can do that is because fear is always related to one or more of these three primary human desires.
1) A desire for approval
2) A desire for control
3) A desire to feel secure
If you examine any fear, whether it’s the fear of rejection, fear of failure, or fear of loss, you will discover that, on an emotional level, it represents a perceived threat to our sense of approval, sense of control, or sense of security.

Fear grows or shrinks with focus

Take the example of our public speaker. Once he gets on stage and focuses on his topic, he can settle down and enjoy the experience. But during the 10 to 15 minutes before he gets on stage, he is not thinking about his topic, instead he is focused on himself. He is wondering if he’ll have the approval of his audience, if he’ll have control of his voice and body language, and the anxiety is making him feel insecure.

The solution is to focus on the outcome, the feeling of satisfaction and approval that will come from a job well done. By visualizing a pleasurable outcome there is a complete shift the focus. Excitement replaces anxiety and the expectation of pleasure replaces fear. Moving toward a pleasurable outcome is a pleasurable experience so it is one we can look forward to.

Choosing less pain and more pleasure

Now we can see that one way to avoid pain and move toward pleasure is simply to change our focus. In our example, a short-term focus created pain in the form of fear and anxiety, while a long-term focus turned the whole experience into a pleasurable one.

Once we understand the relationship between focus and pain or pleasure, we can easily change our perception of any experience. By controlling your focus you give yourself the ability to decide whether an experience will be painful or pleasurable. Then you can choose pleasure over pain.

Can you think of time when…
~ The anxiety was worse than the reality?
~ The anticipation was better than the reality?
~ The reality never happened and the fear was for nothing?
The lines are open!

Creating Your own Pain and Pleasure Paradigms

We would all like to think that we make up our own minds as to what is pleasurable and what is painful. In reality we are constantly being conditioned by our environment to link certain things with pain or pleasure.

Can you think of any environmental influences that are conditioning your feelings about what is pleasurable and what is painful? Learning to recognize these influences is an important step toward seizing control of your personal pleasure and pain paradigms.

Five sources of external pain and pleasure programming
1. Advertisers. The entire advertising industry is based on the idea that they can influence our internal references to pain and pleasure. As a whole this industry spends billions of dollars each year to study human behavior. They do this because their goal is to link their products to our emotions. Their advertising campaigns are specifically designed to create subconscious emotional associations (anchors) in us without our being aware of it. 
2. Friends and associates. The attitude of our close friends and associates also has a powerful influence on our personal pleasure and pain paradigms. Their opinions can actually precondition us to view things the way that they do. We may value someone else’s opinion so much that we subconsciously adopt their viewpoint without any personal experience. 
3. Experts. So called experts carry incredible weight when it comes to overriding our opinions about a wide variety of things. By positioning themselves as the voice of authority, it psychologically downgrades the validity of our own thoughts and feelings. This positioning is designed so that we will adopt the attitude of “they’re the expert, so who am I to question them.” Is it any wonder that advertisers like pharmaceutical companies love this approach? 
4. Groups. Trying to gain the approval of, or fit in with, a group can also shape and reshape our preferences. In such cases acceptance often hinges on our ability to conform to the group opinion. It’s the old majority rules mentality that has been ingrained in us since childhood. It is hard to avoid slipping into the thought pattern of “If all these people agree then they must be right, so I better get onboard or I’ll look like a fool.” Conformity can cause otherwise rational people to abandon their standards and go with the crowd. Pushed to the extreme it becomes mob mentality 
5. Stereotypes. Forming stereotypes is one of the tools our mind uses so we don’t need to continually reconsider the same thing over and over again. Our minds tend to group similar experiences into general categories. If we encounter a new experience that seems to fit into one of these categories it saves us the time and energy involved in evaluation. So, if something fits into a category that has always resulted in pain, we will naturally assume that this similar something will cause pain as well.
For example, if every time you try to go on vacation you wind up having car trouble, in the future you will probably expect more of the same. The very thought of vacation may conjure up an image of being stuck on the side of the road, waiting for a tow truck. As a result, an activity designed to bring you pleasure now represents pain.

Take control of this process

The important point to remember here is that we need to develop the ability to decide for ourselves what we will view as pleasurable and what we will view as painful. If we don’t take control of this process, then the world around us will take over our internal programming.

If we allow that to happen, then instead of controlling our environment, we will end up being controlled by it. Because the pain and pleasure dynamic has such a powerful influence on our lives, we owe it to ourselves to take personal responsibility for how we choose to view things.

Your answers create your paradigms

Whenever something happens in your life, your brain will ask two questions. First, “Is this going to bring me pain or pleasure?” Second, “What must I do now to avoid the pain and/or gain the pleasure?”

How you choose to interpret the situation will determine your answers. But more than that, it will also form the foundation for your future expectations. If you want less pain and more pleasure in your life, this is a good place to start.
How strong are these external influences in your life?
Can you see the value of choosing you own paradigms?
The lines are open!

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Raja Yoga - Ashtanga Yoga

For clarity of study and practice, the 196 sutras of the Yoga Sutras have been clustered into 39 sections below.

Each of the links below contains Sanskrit transliteration, word-for-word translations, and practical explanations.

Introduction to Yoga Sutras |
List of all 196 sutras |
Narrative of the Sutras |
PDF Downloads on Yoga Sutras
By Swami Jnaneshvara:

(roll over and click)

What is Yoga?
1: Now, after previous preparation, begins yoga
2: Yoga is the mastery and integration of the activities of mind
3: Then the seer, the Self rests in its true nature
4: At other times, it is identified with subtle thoughtsUn-coloring your thoughts
5-6: Witnessing 5 kinds of thoughts that are either colored or not-colored
7: Three ways to obtain correct knowledge
8-11: Incorrect knowledge, imagination, sleep, memory

Practice and non-attachment
12: How to master thoughts
13: Meaning of practice
14: How to make practice firm
15-16: Non-attachment and supreme non-attachment

Types of concentration
17: Four levels of concentration
18: Objectless concentration is next

Efforts and commitment
19-20: Five types of effort needed
21-22: Choosing one of nine levels of practice

Direct route through AUM
23-29: Contemplation on AUM

Obstacles and solutions
30-31: Obstacles on the journey
32: Use one-pointedness for the obstacles

Stabilizing and clearing the mind33: Four attitudes to cultivate towards other people
34-38: Five concentrations for stabilizing the mind
39: Or, concentration on whatever is pleasant and useful

After stabilizing the mind 
40: Ability to focus on infinitely small and large is sign of stability
41: Mind becomes clear, like a transparent crystal
42-46: Types of engrossment with concentration
47-49: Gaining knowledge filled with higher truth
50: Samadhi leaves latent impressions that oppose formation of others
51: Then comes objectless samadhi

Yoga Sutras Chapter 2

(roll over and click)

Minimizing gross coloring
1-2: Kriya yoga reduces colored thoughts by three methods
3: Five kinds of coloring
4: Four stages of coloring
5: Four types of ignorance
6-9: Colorings of I-ness, attraction, aversion, and fearDealing with subtle thoughts
10: Once thoughts are subtle, they are eliminated by dissolution of mind
11: When there remains slight coloring of thoughts, it is neutralized by meditation

Breaking the alliance of karma
12-14: Nature of latent impressions
15: A wise one sees even pleasure as painful
16: Pain yet to come is to be avoided
17: Uniting seer and seen is the cause of the pain to be avoided
18-22: Nature of those objects
23-24: Eliminating the alliance with avidya or ignorance, which is the underlying problem
25: By reducing this avidya, ignorance, freedom naturally ensues

The 8 rungs and discrimination
26-27: Discrimination is the central key to enlightenment
28: 8 rungs of Yoga are the tool for discrimination
29: 8 rungs of Yoga are listed

Yamas & Niyamas, #1-2
30-31: The 5 Yamas, rung #1
32: The 5 Niyamas, rung #2
33: When negative, remind yourself this brings misery and ignorance
34: Negativity is 27 types

Benefits from Yamas & Niyamas
35-39: Benefits from the 5 Yamas
40-45: Benefits from the 5 Niyamas

Asana, #3 of 8 rungs
46-48: Meditation posture, Asana, is attained by attention on the infinite

Pranayama, #4 of 8 rungs
49-50: Three aspects of breath
51: Fourth pranayama is beyond these
52-53: This thins the veil of karma over the light

Pratyahara, #5 of 8 rungs
54: The senses and actions return back into the mind
55: Then there is less tendency of the mind towards objects

Yoga Sutras Chapter 3
(roll over and click)

Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi, #6, #7, #8 of 8 rungs
1: Dharana or concentration is #6
2: Dhyana or meditation, #7, comes from repeated concentration
3: Samadhi, #8, comes from deep absorptionSamyama is the finer tool
4: Dharana, dhyana, and samadhi together are Samyama
5: Mastery of Samyama brings the light of knowledge
6: Apply Samyama to finer planes, states, or stages

Internal is seen to be external
7: These 3 rungs are more intimate and internal than the first 5
8: Even these 3 are external compared to seedless Samadhi

Witnessing subtle transitions
9-16: Samyama is done on 3 extremely subtle thought transitions

Experiences from Samyama
17: Three aspects of an object
18: Samyama on samskaras
19-20: On ideas from others
21-22: On physical form and senses
23: On karma foretells death
24-25: On attitudes and strength
26-35: On inner subtleties
36-37: On pure consciousness

What to do with experiences
38: They are both attainments and obstacles

More from Samyama
39: Passage to another body
40-41: Samyama on pranas
42-43: On space, hearing, and body
44: On thought projections
45-47: On the five elements
48-49: On senses and actions

Renunciation and liberation
50: Discernment of Buddhi and Purusha brings mastery over all
51: Non-attachment to forms and omniscience destroys seeds
52: Decline invitations of celestials

Higher discrimination
53: Moments and succession
54: Discriminating similar objects
55: Higher knowledge is intuitive and born from discrimination
56: Equality between Buddhi and Purusha brings liberation

(roll over and click)

Means of attaining experience
1: Five means of subtler attainment
2: Transitions involve filling in
3: Removal of obstacles brings resultsEmergence and mastery of mind
4-6: Construct and use of mind

Actions and karma
7: Kinds of actions
8: Subconscious manifests

Subconscious impressions
9: Memory and latent impressions
10: Desire for self preservation
11: Disappearance of cause, motive, and substratum
12: Past and future are present in fundamental form

Objects and the 3 gunas
13: Characteristics made of gunas
14: Objects appear as a unit

Mind perceiving objects
15: Separate minds and paths
16: Object is not dependent on one mind
17: Objects known by coloring

Illumination of the mind
18: Thoughts are known by purusha
19: Mind not self illuminating
20: Mind and objects cannot be cognized simultaneously
21: One mind does not illumine another

Buddhi and liberation
22: Consciousness and buddhi
23-24: Seer and mind
25: Inquiries about self cease
26: Discrimination and liberation

Breaches in enlightenment
27: Breaks in enlightenment allow colorings to arise
28: Colorings are dealt with as before

Perpetual enlightenment
29: Rain cloud of virtues comes
30: Actions and colorings are removed

Knowables become few
31: There is little to know

Gunas after liberation
32: Succession of change ends
33: Succession defined34: Gunas resolve into their caus


The Gunas, Attributes of Life

Written by Yogi Baba Prem - Universal Yoga   

The Gunas, Attributes of Life
By Yogi Baba Prem Tom Beal
Veda Visharada CYI, C.ay, C.va

The Sanskrit word "guna" means attribute.  These "attributes" serve as a powerful indicator and formulator of the physical principles of the earth.  The concept of guna, is one of the more important teachings from India.   These attributes provide powerful insight into our spiritual growth, worldly manifestations, and the formation of matter from the subatomic level into more dense levels of matters manifestation. But most importantly they provide a powerful tool to accelerate personal and planetary transformation.

Within the yoga tradition, the focus is on three primary gunas:

1) Sattva
2) Rajas
3) Tamas

Sattva is balance, harmony, peace and similar qualities.  Rajas is activity and movement.  It is dynamic.  

Tamas is inertia, non-moving, and sometimes lethargy.  Of these three gunas yoga embraces the cultivation of sattva.  Though it realizes that one may embrace other gunas at times.  As an example, if a person were stuck in a rut (tamas) they would need to embrace some form of activity (rajas) to move from their position of immobility. 

Our society is largely a tamasic-rajasic society.  We are "on the move", active, dynamic, and changing, but at the same time moving very slowly spirituality, and consumed by decay oriented activities.  While this is not initially a problem as life is a journey, it is leading to a variety of disorders due to over work, and various strains on our nervous system.  Even our yoga systems are often more Rajasic than Sattvic.  These are the more dynamic yogas common in western society.  These are systems such as the power yoga systems, some kundalini systems, and various aerobic type yogas.  Though they clearly serve their purpose.  They importantly and primarily serve two types of people:
1) Lethargic or tamsic people that require the intense activity to help them break free from their daily patterns. 
2) Rajasic people that are stimulated, active, and don't know how to slow down. This can eventually become unbalancing to this group of people unless it is tempered with relaxing meditation.
While this rajasic yoga is initially important for these two groups of people, it is often overlooked that they must eventually embrace a more sattvic approach to their yoga practice.

In the yoga and ayurvedic tradition, everything is made up of complex interaction between the three gunas. 

This leads to several basic guna types:
1. Sattvic 2. Rajasic 3. Tamasic 4. Sattva/Rajasic 5. Rajasic/Tamasic 6. Tamas/Rajasic 7. Rajasic/Sattvic
Numbers 4-7 indicates complex interactions between the gunas involved.   As an example, someone might be very active and dynamic, but they may begin to experience more balance within their life.  The ratios between rajas and sattva would change over time as they grew as a person.

These gunas and complex interactions between gunas would be applied to all manifestations in life.  In an over simplification, a whitewater river would be rajasic, but the erosion would be tamasic or decaying for the banks of the river.  In other parts of the river it would be balancing by building up sand bars.  The foods we eat are considered balancing (sattvic), stimulating (Rajasic), or decaying (tamasic) to the body and mind.  The entire science of Ayurveda is built around this basic concept.  To explore these concepts more, it is highly recommended to read "Ayurveda and the Mind" by Dr. David Frawley. 

Serious practitioners of spirituality should develop a solid and expansive understanding of the gunas and their application to all facets of life.  They should consciously apply this science to all actions and interactions in their daily life.  This will reinforce the appropriate gunas within one's spiritual life; and in reality this is what each of does through habit whether we are conscious of it or not. 

The root to Guna is "Grah" which means to 'seize", additionally it means a thread or strand.  It seems that on a more mystical level the Nirguna is the absence of this thread or impersonal deity and Saguna is the presence of the thread, which is the personal deity.  And of course the thread is the same material as the non-thread from a non-dualistic standpoint, as the material (thread) in a static state becomes dynamic and leads to the creation of the thread.  It seems that this thread concept permeates Hinduism from yoga through Nyaya philosophy and numerous other writings.   It is the thread that links the lower mind with the infinite essence. 

Other views toward Gunas.

Within the Nyaya system, a system of logic in India, they teach that all created things contain a property-called a guna.  Instead of just three they associate twenty-four attributes (gunas) with creation.  These twenty-four are in reality complex combinations of the three traditional gunas. 

These are:
  • 1) Shape or color (Rupa)
  • 2) Taste (Rasa)
  • 3) Odor (Gandha)
  • 4) Tangibility (Sparsha)
  • 5) Number (Samkhya)
  • 6) Dimension (Parimana)
  • 7) Severalty (Prithaktva)
  • 8) Conjunction (Samyoga)
  • 9) Disjunction (Vibhaga)
  • 10) Remoteness (Paratva)
  • 11) Proximity (Aparaiva)
  • 12) Weight (Gurutva)
  • 13) Fludity (Dravatva)
  • 14) Viscidity (Sneha)
  • 15) Sound (Shabda)
  • 16) Knowledge (Buddhi)
  • 17) Pleasure (Sukha)
  • 18) Pain (Dukha)
  • 19) Desire (Iccha)
  • 20) Aversion (Dvesha)
  • 21) Effort (Prayatna)
  • 22) Merit (Dharma)
  • 23) The self (Samskara)
While these can easily apply to all living beings, what is most interesting is that various combinations of these gunas appear in a variety of texts.  Pleasure and pain are an important theme in the "Yoga sutras of Patanjali".  

Iccha is an important teaching in Kashmire Shaivism, and is part of the 36 elements of Shaivism.  Iccha also appears frequently within the "Shiva Sutras".  Rasa makes up an important teaching in ayurveda, as taste can aid in increasing or decreasing a dosha.  Sound or Shabda makes up the field of mantric yoga.
Om being one of the ultimate sounds, the sound behind all sounds.  The remaining terms commonly appear within a variety of systems, and it is common for many of these about qualities to appear within the same system. 

Ayurveda and the gunas.

The writings on Ayurveda and the gunas are quite extensive and the gunas are a very important principle within Ayurveda.  While many Ayurvedic practitioners may be familiar with the basic concepts of the gunas, and many may even be aware of the gunas manifesting on a mental level as well.  Fewer will be aware of the expansive view of gunas within the mental field.  Within Ayurveda, guna is commonly used to identify different mental types.  These types are identified due to particular activities and mentalities that clearly identify the guna.  These are identified as 16 primary types, though again; there can be dual guna types. 




1. Brahma-(The traits of Brahmaa)
  • 1. Purity, Love for truth, self controlled
  • 2. Power of discrimination, spiritual and material knowledge
  • 3. Power of talk, answering and memory
  • 4. Freedom from passion, anger, greed, ego ignorance, jealousy, dejection and intolerance
  • 5. Favorable disposition equally
2. Aarsha-(The traits of Rshishi)
  • 1. Devotion to sacred rituals, study, vows, celibacy
  • 2. Hospitable disposition
  • 3. Freedom from pride, ego, attachment, hatred, ignorance, greed and anger
  • 4. Intellectual excellence and eloquence
  • 5. Power of understanding and retention
3. Yaamya-(The traits of Yama)
  • 1. Observance of actions (being here in the moment)
  • 2. Initiation of actions in time (ability to time actions for the proper moment)
  • 3. Non-violability
  • 4. Readiness for initiating action
  • 5. Memory
  • 6. Freedom from attachment, envy, hatred and ignorance
4. Aindra-(The traits of Indra)
  • 1. Authoritative speech
  • 2. Performance of sacred rituals
  • 3. Bravery, strength and splendor
  • 4. Freedom from mean acts
  • 5. Far sightedness
  • 6. Devotion to virtuous acts, earning of wealth and proper satisfaction of desires
5. Vaaruna-(The traits of Varuna)
  • 1. Bravery, patience, purity and dislike for impurity
  • 2. Observance of religious rites
  • 3. Fondness for aquatic sports
  • 4. Aversion for mean acts
  • 5. Exhibition of anger and pleasure in proper place
6. Kauvera-(The traits of Kauvera)
  • 1. Possession of station, honor, luxuries and attendants
  • 2. Constant liking for virtuous acts, wealth and satisfaction of desires
  • 3. Purity
  • 4. Liking for pleasures of recreation
7. Gandharva-(The traits of Gandharva)
  • 1. Fondness for dancing, singing, music and praise
  • 2. Expert in poetry and stories
  • 3. Constant fondness for scents, garlands, association of women and passion

1. Aasura-(Titan like)
  • 1. Bravery, cruelty, envy, movement in disguise, terrifying appearance, ruthlessness
  • 2. Indulgence in self-praise
2. Raakshasa-(The traits of Raakshsa-demon)
  • 1. Intolerance, constant anger, violence at weak points, cruelty, gluttonous habits and fondness for non-vegetarian food
  • 2. Excessive sleep and indolence
  • 3. Envious disposition
3. Paishaaca-(The traits of Paishaaca-demonical)
  • 1. Gluttonous habits
  • 2. Fondness for women
  • 3. Liking for staying with women
  • 4. Cowardice and terrifying disposition
  • 5. Abnormal diet
4. Saarpa-(The traits of Sarpa-Snake)
  • 1. Bravery when in wrathful disposition, cowardice when not in wrathful disposition
  • 2. Sharp reaction
  • 3. Excessive indolence
  • 4. Walking, taking food and resorting to other regiments with a fearful disposition
5. Praita-(The traits of Preta-to die)
  • 1. Excessive desire for food
  • 2. Excessively painful disposition
  • 3. Enviousness
  • 4. Actions without discrimination, excessive greediness and inaction
6. Shakuna-(The traits of Shakuna-Bird)
  • 1. Attachment with passion, excessive food and regiment, unsteadiness, ruthlessness and unacquisitiveness


1. Paashava-(The traits of an animal)
  • 1. Forbidding disposition
  • 2. Lack of intelligence (intelligence for right action)
  • 3. Hateful conduct
  • 4. Food habit
2. Maatsya-(The traits of fish)
  • 1. Cowardice, lack of intelligence, greediness for food, unsteadiness, constant passionate and wrathful disposition
  • 2. Fondness for constant movement, desire for water
3. Vaanaspatya-(The traits of vegetables)
  • 1. Indulgence in food, deficiency of all intellectual faculties
The dual types are most prevalent when a person is crossing from one guna group to another.  As an example, a Shakuna/Paashvaperson may be difficult to discern or they may cross back and forth between the Rajasic and tamasic quality, as they are transiting from one type to the other over time.  Likewise with a guna group you may find combinations such as a Rakshaa/Paishaaca person.  And of course in the multi-color tapestry of life, there can be individuals that are oriented toward combinations that appear more removed from one another.  As an example, one might encounter an aasura that is also prone to sarpa characteristic.   

Their dominant field is Rajas, but they are moving back and forth between individual gunas. 

The previous groupings (tri-dosha guna types) can allow one to "fine-tune" the guna or combinations of gunas that re most prominent within a person.  They should not be used in judgmental way, but as way to identify the forces currently at work or dominant within a person. This can allow for Ayurvedic or Astrological remedials to be tuneed specifically toward the individual.  Though in reality most people looking for help would be of a Rajasic, Rajas/Sattva, or Sattvic guna type.  Though again exceptions to the rule do exist. 


The word guna appears in numerous important texts such as the Bhagavad Gita.  The fourteenth chapter is almost completely dedicated to the gunas.  The term Guna is an important part of Ayurveda giving it a powerful link to the Vedas.  Though the Vedas themselves do mention the word Guna.  Guna also appears in the Vedanta system.  They also appear in the "Yoga sutras of Patanjali".  The gunas are also a part of Vedic astrology and other important spiritual systems and traditions.

Whether modern science recognizes it or not, our modern chemistry is largely based on the interactions between the gunas.  As often in chemistry one is looking to stabilize, make active, or inactivate some chemical or biological action. 

Gunas are an important and functioning part of every person's physical and spiritual life.  They are active and at work whether they are recognized or not.  By understanding this powerful force of creation, a student can greatly accelerate their spiritual growth.  In the final stages of spiritual realization some believe that you go beyond the gunas, though this happens only for a very few extremely advanced aspirants.  

For the majority of students, the right application and understanding of the gunas is a critical step toward self-realization and enlightenment.  For those few aspirants that have passed beyond the gunas, commonly called the spiritually realized or enlightened; the Bhagavad Gita provides insight by saying, "He does not avoid light, activity, or illusion...he remains disinterested or unmoved by the qualities of nature.  (14.22)

11 aprile 2012

Repressed memories

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Everything the human organism experiences is perceived and stored by the brain. The memories stay in the brain for life. Only a part of the overall human experience produces conscious awareness in real time and consciously retrievable memories of past events. Many aspects of personal experiences never reach consciousness, but they still affect the whole human organism. These memories reside in the unconscious mind. They are relatively difficult to retrieve, but are usually recognizable as something encountered before, even though they may contain major distortions of facts. The other problem with these memories is that they may not be recognizable as real life experiences. They are just in the mind, but their origin or reason for them is unknown. This kind of confusion is common in people who have lived through unbearable traumatic events.

Most traumatized individuals wish to block the reminders of their traumas at will, or to erase their past experiences, or to make all their memories of the traumas available to consciousness. Physiology of the brain may not support such wishes. Erasing memories is not possible. They are an integral part of the human brain and organism. Blocking memories at will is not possible either. If blocking or repression does occur, it is attributable to neural systems over which consciousness has limited or no control. And retrieval of traumatic memories is usually a difficult process with less-than-perfect retrieval outcome. In general, the more severe and more frequent traumas a person lived through, the more difficult it is to gain access to such memories.


There are two types of people in this world. Those who do remember their sexual abuse in childhood, and those who do not.

Being raped in childhood is an extremely traumatic experience. The victim usually dissociates, which means that her Self does not consciously experience the events. She selectively blocks her cognitive links with emotion, sensory experience, and consciousness. She usually enters a state of mind that is similar to trance or hypnosis, but other dissociative modes are also common, such as those found in multiple personality disorder or complex dissociation. The mode and degree of the victim's dissociation may cause that she never stores consciously accessible memories of her abuse. The memories are only stored in a dissociative mode of the mind and are often retrievable only by reentering the dissociative mode during recall. A fully conscious person is typically unable to retrieve the memories. Incidentally, to forget sexual traumas in childhood is not only possible, but is much more likely than to remember them.

It is now widely accepted that adults have no consciously retrievable memories from the time between birth and 3 years of age. Similar total amnesia can affect a traumatized victim even at an older age. Or, she recovers the memories of her abuse only after some repression period. But even if she does access the traumatic memories, she may not be able to recognize them as her personal history. The retrieved memories may be correct or distorted. No one can tell for sure.

Every sexually abused child dissociates, but it is almost impossible to tell what she dissociates from. The concept of the conscious mind and the Self is too complex and proprietary to reveal here. All that can be communicated is that the conscious mind distances itself from the offensive cognitive input, and the memories of the abusive events are not stored correctly. In addition, severe traumatic dissociation always results in permanent brain damage. The affected area is tiny at first, but the more often traumas occur, the larger segments of the brain are damaged. The damage causes malfunction of the brain, graded loss of reality checking, and graded loss of emotional intelligence. Not surprisingly, the victims have increased level of suggestibility and tend to produce many false positives on recognition tests. Because of the neuropsychological impact, the recalled memories, if any at all, are fragmented or distorted in time and context. The accessible but unreliable memories (images, fragments, hunches, phobias, flashbacks, and false associations) make the impact of sexual abuse on the victim's life unpredictable. The retrieved memories are considered false by some, and true but repressed by others.

As for the veracity of such memories, there is not a simple answer, because several mechanisms influence the memories of traumas. The mechanisms may produce dissociated, confabulated, false, and repressed memories. Telling which part of the recovered memories is false and which part is true is difficult. It is much easier to differentiate between the recall of a purely fictitious account of sexual abuse and one that is true but recalled with severe distortions. A true account usually has the following features:
  • In most cases, narration becomes available only after reexperiencing the trauma. This usually takes several months from the initial suspicion that something traumatic might have happened. 
  • Strong affective component is always present, even though it may arrive with a long delay after the first realization of one's traumatic past. 
  • Daytime flashbacks and nighttime terrors are frequent and last for many months. 
  • Both flashbacks and dreams can be factually distorted.
  • Nightmares tend to be exactly replayed several times or are about the same central topic. 
  • Physiological reactions to the recovered memories are plentiful: crawling skin, shivers, emotions, muscle spasms, sexual arousal, and fearful facial expression. 
  • Presence of many sensory memories: visual, auditory, propriosensory, etc. 
  • There is corroborating evidence: physical, psychological, forensic, etc. Incest is a "family matter," and other members also have the signs of abuse or psychopathology. 
An entirely made up (confabulated) story usually has these characteristics:
  • Narration always precedes reexperiencing of the trauma. 
  • Subject shows insignificant or no affective component. 
  • Strong affective reexperiencing never occurs. 
  • There are no daytime flashbacks. 
  • No more than 1 or 2 nightmares loosely related to sex or nudity may occur in sleep. 
  • No corroborating evidence exists; there are no signs of incest in the family. 
  • Subject has no sensory memories [1], but pictorial visualization of the imagined scene is possible. 
The topic of repressed memories of sexual abuse brings strong responses from both supporters and opponents, and finding a neutral ground is difficult. The reason is that the parties are not neutral observers but antagonistic relatives. One relative represents the alleged perpetrator of a sex crime, and the other is the complaining victim. The abuser is interested in not admitting to his crimes, while the victim wants his admission of gilt, his apology, or his punishment. But most of all, she wants to have her innocence returned. She wants to reexperience a childhood that is happy, and she wants to live a normal life. She will never be able to do that. Her childhood has been ruined, and she has been neuropsychologically damaged for life. Considering the seriousness of the charges and the serious impact on the victim's life, it is understandable that the perpetrator does his best not to admit to his acts. In addition, statistics show that the perpetrator was also abused as a child. By dealing with the sexual trauma of his victim, he is unconsciously reminded of his childhood violations. He dissociates and is often unable, despite his best effort, to recall that he abused his victim. Most child abusers do remember their abuse of others, however.

Assuming for a moment that the victims' memories are totally unfounded, one has to wonder why so many women and also men come up with frequent claims of alleged sexual abuse in childhood, but the complaining persons do not make similarly outlandish but different accusations. Why almost no one accuses her parent of kidnapping her from her biological parents, or eating her younger brother, or bringing her to earth from a distant planet. Yes, very weird reports do occur from time to time. Some people claim to have been abducted by aliens, some believe that they are the reincarnation of a Saudi princess, and some believe that they are God. But how frequent are these patently false beliefs? Are they commensurable with the frequency of reports about child sexual abuse? Certainly not! Confirmed reports of child rape in wars reveal the true nature of the human animal. Armed bands roam the African continent, destroying, killing, maiming, and raping thousands. In Sudan, slavery, rape, and murder are everyday reality. In Iraq, women are staying at home for fear of being raped in the streets of Baghdad. In the Boston area, 250 priests sexually abused over 1,000 children. These are no false allegations, but verified facts.

Unfortunately, the true facts are much more sinister. Professionals working with child rapists know that an average offender abuses dozens of children. In the church, where the priest has easy access to children, the incidence of abuse is probably even higher than the uncovered one is. Multiplying the number of the confirmed cases by 100 would produce a result that is much closer to reality than the number of the officially acknowledged cases is.


The human mind has the ability to choose information that reaches consciousness. This ability varies from focused attention to complex dissociation. Both senses and memory are processed this way. For example, during focused attention, we can make our senses only notice unique features when looking for something. If we look for Mr. Jones in the crowd and know that he wears a bright purple hat, we filter out all other hats. Mr. Jones could be standing twenty feet away, and we might not notice him if he wore something else. Similarly, when processing memories, we only pay attention to the topics that we are interested in and discard nonconforming information. For example, when we try to remember how many cakes we had during the last picnic, we may ignore the total number of soda cans. The information is not sought and is ignored; that is kept out of consciousness.

The selectivity of our senses and memories is enhanced when a topic is emotionally charged. Significant pleasing events and facts are reliably stored in memory and are easy to recall. Everyone remembers his high school graduation, first kiss, wedding, or birth of child. By contrast, unpleasant events and facts are undesirable, and the conscious mind takes deliberate steps to keep them from surfacing. Consciously rejected memories of this type are known as "suppressed memories." Some very traumatic memories are suppressed unconsciously and are known as "repressed memories."

Suppressed memories are part of conscious experience and current knowledge, but are intentionally kept out of consciousness because they are painful, disgusting, shameful, or stressful. The most common suppressed memories are those that diminish our personal value and make us feel bad about ourselves. Issues of sexuality or harm to others are often associated with suppressed memories. For example, you were masturbating as a child, and your parent saw you doing it. Or you were a young teenager, curious about sexuality, and so you intentionally undressed your younger sibling. Or you were in war, and you shot and killed a child for no reason. Or you had sex with a prostitute while your wife was in the hospital. Or you stole money from poor people so that you could ensure your careless future. Or you illegally disposed of toxic waste, and many people died as a result. Memories like these make us very uncomfortable. We do not want them to disturb our current life, and so we make a conscious decision not to think about them. If a person having such suppressed memories is asked about them, they are readily available to consciousness. In addition, they are recognized as personal history when they are reported or documented by others. But repressed memories are different.

The name "repressed memories" suggests the nature of repression, which is suppression of memories beyond the realm of conscious awareness. Repressed memories almost exclusively relate to traumas of unbearable pain, fear, or disgust, and areexperienced by the suffering person. The usual events that produce such repression of experienced traumas are torture, threat of severe personal harm, interference with the most fundamental biological needs, and sexual abuse.

Repressed memories are normally not accessible to consciousness even after long questioning and providing stimulation with pictures, sounds, or written documents of the repressed events. Unfortunately, this characterization obscures the nature of repressed memories. Repression is not caused by dissociation from the painful information during the attempted recall. The victim tries to recall her past, but she cannot do so, because "repression" is a consequence of dissociation during a traumatic event; the event is remembered incorrectly. Attempts to recover the information are unsuccessful until the "access code" is found. Victims often need to recall some characteristic sound, smell, image, taste, or somatic feeling before they gain access to the repressed memories. Once repressed memories are recalled, they are recognized by a reasonably healthy mind as genuine. But a mind that has been severely damaged through incest may fail to make a recognition of the recovered memories.

Some incest survivors and psychotherapists believe that memories of traumas are associated with delayed recall. This idea stems from the fact that the traumatic memories were inaccessible for many years and are retrievable at some point in the future. It is critical to recognize that delayed recall is not a physiological mechanism of the brain and cannot be counted on to occur. Some abuse victims can remember their traumas later in life, but many more cannot. If memories begin to emerge, this is usually a sign that the adult survivor has found a safe environment and has reduced the level and frequency of her daily dissociation. Now her repressed memories may be brought to her conscious mind.

In the legal and political sense, repressed memories are the formerly inaccessible and now known memories of childhood abuse. They are the memories that are attacked by individuals and national groups that either deliberately or unconsciously try to keep incest hidden. Although such memories are frequently labeled by incestuous offenders as "false," the perpetrators do not object to "false memories" in general. When a daughter says before her dad that 7 x 7 = 58, the dad may be surprised, but will not take the daughter's teacher to court. Memories become false only when incest or childhood rape is involved.

Many psychologists and psychiatrists, usually those who have inadequate clinical knowledge about the impact of child abuse, do not accept the idea that repressed memories of extreme traumatic experiences could exist. The skeptical opinion is belief-based and has no physiological merit. The fact is that repressed memories are common even in the general population. Almost every person can dream in sleep. Some dreams are repetitive and occur more than once over the period of years or decades. However, many such dreams are not accessible to consciousness at will, and the conscious mind often does not even know that such dreams were encountered in sleep. It usually takes repetition of the dream in sleep followed by conscious reprocessing to recall that the dream has been seen earlier. At times, the dream need not be repeated, but the mind relaxes and enters a free-thinking mode. During moments like these, it is also possible to retrieve memories of an earlier dream that has been forgotten. When such realization takes place, the mind needs to promptly enter consciousness and acknowledge the existence of the dream. Failure to do so within a few seconds or minutes may return the experience to oblivion.

The difference between repressed and suppressed memories is identifiable by contemporary lie detectors. Suppressed as well as readily accessible memories produce a prominent P300 response when the subject is knowingly lying when answering a direct question. This means that the subject has conscious awareness of such memories, but decides (usually for self-protective reasons) to deny the existence of the knowledge. Repressed memories, similarly as no memories, do not produce the P300 response when the subject denies knowledge of the information in question. In this case, the subject is not lying, because the suppressed memories cannot be accessed by his consciousness. The conscious mind believes that no such purported events ever took place. However, Dak's discoveries about the physiology of the memory system suggest that more advanced lie detectors should be able to determine the truth versus a lie even in the case of repressed memories. But the physiology and the associated event-related potentials are poorly understood by contemporary neuroscience at this time, and no device with the necessary decoding abilities has been implemented.


These memories pertain to events and facts that never happened or did not happen as recalled; the memories are made up. This outcome is often attributable to multiple personality disorder and to the consequent isolation of personalities. In the absence of a sudden traumatic brain injury, such confabulated memories become important hints at multiple personality disorder or other dissociative disorders. Also alleged UFO abductions are produced by dissociative disorders.

The production of untrue memories is only one component of confabulation. The other component is the failure to check reality by the rest of the mind. And a third component of confabulation is the inability of the mind to block the confabulated memories from reaching consciousness. Despite the involvement of three psychological components, damage to emotional intelligence is enough to allow the production of confabulated memories, their delivery to consciousness, and their potential acceptance.

Although confabulation may involve seemingly biographical events, such as repeated rape by a parent in childhood, many confabulated memories and stories have nothing to do with biographical experiences. Memories of this type tend to remain unchanged over many years. By contrast, true interpersonal traumas tend to produce a different kind of confabulation.

Memories that form during or shortly after a traumatic incident tend to be true, but may become altered beyond recognition over time. The outcome depends on the progression of memory consolidation and on the neuropsychological damage the victim suffers as a result of her abuse. Some victims of rape, brutal physical assaults, or helpless observers of murder of a loved one completely change their stories as time passes. These responses are indicative of dissociative disorders and disrupted memory consolidation. The dissociation is not just a matter of the latest trauma. Traumatic experiences in childhood have major influence on the remembering of current traumas. The childhood traumas predetermine how much the victim dissociates and how she reacts to future traumas.


"Implanted memories" is a political expression used by falsely accused incestuous rapists who aim to discredit the recovered memories of their victims. As for clinical psychology, some memories can be "implanted" in some people. For example, the entire United States government and 70% of all Americans have this implanted memory that Saddam Hussein poses immediate threat to the USA and the world. He has these long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles pointed at the heart of America, and within 45 minutes can launch tons of anthrax, bubonic plague, and smallpox, and thousands of nuclear warheads right into your backyard.

Although this example does not specifically relate to confabulation, it shows the capacity of the human mind for self-deception. A fabricated statement is enough for dissociated incest victims to believe lies. The loss of reality checking makes the incest victims unable to suppress false or irrelevant information, or to distinguish between semantic fiction and perceptual reality. Such individuals can and do fabricate accounts of being raped or attacked by someone famous or someone in a position of power, yet these victims are unable to remember their actual abuse at the hands of their close relatives. If these victims enter therapy, they may, under the influence of the topics they are exposed to, believe that the therapist implanted in their heads false memories. All the healer said was: "You have the same behavioral patterns as molested children have. Is there any possibility that you were abused as a child?" This suggestion may trigger an avalanche of false and also some correct associations, and the patient may later accuse the therapist not just of implanting in her mind false memories, but also of spreading evil spirits and collaborating with al Qaeda. What else can we expect in a country where over 40% of the population are functionally illiterate, 50% believe in angels, and over 90% believe in the existence of God? For them, belief is reality. Under the influence of such false beliefs, one woman killed her children when she heard on the radio that the Martians had attacked the earth. This historic case testifies to the seriousness of dissociation and to the lack of reality checking.

However, it would be incorrect to claim that implanted memories do not exist. Hypnotists are able to implant into the minds of healthy hypnotized subjects ideas about events that never happened. Similarly, the mind may generate untrue (self-implanted) memories in dreams. Furthermore, the untrue memories can be confirmed by the mind in a future repeated dream as being factually correct. Only when the subject regains consciousness can the untrue memories be successfully compared with biographical memories and recognized as not being part of the subject's living experience. 

More about mind control and implantation of ideas is on the page Multiple Personality.

It can be said that every dream is a self-implanted memory. The plot of the dream is produced within the unconscious mind. The stimulus to generate such a dream can come from daytime events or can be conceived internally by the sleeping mind from the total available knowledge. Although some dreams factually and correctly depict what happened in real life, the events are largelynarrated stories, and not records of true events as experienced by the person. The unreliable nature of dreams makes it impossible to determine if the events of dreams are based on reality or are purely fictional. There is no way to tell whether being raped in a dream by a relative is indicative of past child sexual abuse. No good answer can be produced based on the dream alone. The person might have read in a book or seen in a movie that a child has been raped, and that stimulus alone might have produced the dream. Despite this uncertainty, frequent and repeated dreams about childhood sex are probably indicative of some sexual trauma. After waking up, the topics of dreams may serve as memory reminders and may allow access to true repressed memories.


"False memories" may be either true or false. The adjective false implies that they are perceived as false by the consciousness of the incest survivor or by others. When the victim is under hypnosis, she may recover memories of her abuse. The memories are partly repressed, partly confabulated, and partly "dissociated." The survivor may initially believe them. Months or years later, the survivor may repress her recovered memories anew and recant her testimony.

Clinical literature on both sides of this issue portrays very similar accounts of false memories. A middle-aged woman has countless problems in her life. She enters therapy with the goal of fixing her immediate difficulties. She is not interested in looking into the issues of her childhood for possible solutions to her current problems. She does not even suspect that there might be a connection. An expert therapist, who sees patients like her many times a week and is acutely familiar with the visible signs of sexual abuse, suggests the possibility of incest. The first reaction is often denial, but the victim's subconscious mind begins to produce flashbacks and dreams. The victim of "therapeutic malpractice" is overwhelmed. She cannot sleep, work, or socialize. She confronts her abuser and breaks up all contacts with other family members. She changes her therapist. The diagnosis is the same. She finds a new therapist, and a new one, and a new one, until she finds the right one who says, "It is terrible what your old doctors have done to you." At last, she deals with someone who talks sense. All those memories were obviously false. They were implanted by the unscrupulous therapists. She recants her testimony that she was raped by Dad and finally understands what happened to her; she was brainwashed. Now is the time to renew contacts with her incestuous family, apologize to her abuser, and sue her old therapists. "Normalcy" returns to her life.

The amazing aspect of such cases is that the victim, her abusive relatives, and nationally renowned memory experts believe the veracity of the victim's latest memories: That she was never abused by the falsely accused party. By contrast, one has to wonder why the memory experts, the victim, and the perpetrator do not believe her original charge that she was abused sexually. Why is it that one set of subjective personal memories is believed, and another set of equally subjective personal memories is not believed? Does the belief versus disbelief has anything to do with science? Or are the attitudes reflective of belief-based reasoning, which is the trademark of many incestuously raped children? Is the belief in no abuse embraced because it is not painful for the victim and her abusive relatives? Is the belief in the nonexistence of incest and child rape accepted simply because it is more convenient and not controversial? Only the victim and her abuser know the truth. If they can remember it.

Many incest victims confirm their abuse only to recant it at a later time. Recanting of previous admission of abuse can be done by both sexually abused children and current adults who were abused in childhood. The admission of abusive acts and their denial are not absolute, but vary over time and allow some space for doubt or uncertainty. One revealing indicator that abuse did occur is almost universal unwillingness of the victims to discuss the issue in depth. The unwillingness is not absolute, but frequent enough to thwart purposeful therapeutic or legal work. Another indicator is steering away from the main issue and focusing on inconsequential details. The core of the issue may be ignored, and the victim may only pay attention to some minor discrepancy in the question. For example, the question "Were you sexually abused by your father? may be replied to as, "He is not my father, only my stepfather." Or, the question "Were you raped by your father last August? can be answered as "Last August I was in a summer camp." Answers like these manifest a fragmented mind. Part of the mind hides from the painful aspect of the question, and another part of the mind answers the question with a slightly different slant that excludes the rape. If such victims are questioned repeatedly about the topic, it often becomes clear that they do not know they have been asked about being raped.

A nonabused person has nothing to fear when dealing with the theoretical idea of incest. But true victims always feel very uneasy about the stimuli. The victims may want to get away from the stimuli, may become impatient, fearful, angry, or totally detached, and may enter trance. A healthy, nonabused person NEVER exhibits such responses, even though she may become indignant because such crimes are committed against children. Also a true incest victim may become indignant, but her anger is very intense, more like rage that is unfocused or even misdirected. She may be shouting, cursing, banging on the table, or throwing things. Surprisingly, she may be more outraged by the explicit words (rape incest, penetration, hymenal tear, semen) describing such abusive acts, than by her actual emotional suffering or by her cognitive knowledge of her abuse. Of course, she has no conscious awareness of her actual abuse at this time. Her responses are only unconscious in this early stage.

A nonabused child who is asked whether or not she has been sexually abused by her dad may react with surprise, amused smile, or may ask the social worker what has led to the idea. The child is reasonable and is willing to cooperate with the investigator after the purpose of the interview is explained to her. She answers accurately, factually, and thoroughly any question without feeling guilt or fear, even though she may exhibit mild anxiety for having to be investigated for something that is perceived as wrong. The opposite is true about a real victim of incest. She always exhibits some body language that reveals her abuse. But it may take a thorough interview, and not just a 3-minute talk in the doorway. She often produces brief YES or NO answers, does not maintain eye contact, looks aside, and her eyes jump from place to place. She is giving the impression that she is sitting on a hot stove or a porcupine.

An incest victim who is asked about the possibility of her abuse may deny her violation at first, and confirm it seconds later. Or, she may consistently deny for days and only admit her abuse occasionally. Just as often, the victim gives hints that something did happen that one cannot talk about. These inconsistent responses are largely caused by multiple personalities. The interviewing doctors are dealing with different personalities without realizing it. The manifestations of the different personalities can be subtle and impossible to distinguish. Next to multiplicity, there is a similar dissociative phenomenon with frequent denial and admission of abuse, but is not produced by switching between personalities. This memory mode is known from patients with right-hemispheric brain lesions during vestibular caloric stimulation. The subjects' cognition is usually correct during vestibular irrigation, but changes to denial of illness or denial of abuse during normal consciousness. In addition to these two modes, a third mechanism affects the admission or denial of childhood abuse. This mechanism exhibits slower changes, which depend on the process of memory consolidation. The subject may produce cycles of contravening statements before the answer settles on a final statement that is believed to be true. A similar "recanting" mechanism that is affected by memory consolidation exists in patients with anosognosia. Anosognosia is usually a temporary condition lasting days or weeks. The initial responses are completely incorrect or distorted. After anosognosia clears, the memories become correct again. 

The physiology of these dissociative mechanisms is explained in the eBook SPELLBOUND.

Interestingly, an incest victim who denies her alleged abuse often cannot get rid of her thoughts about the topic. Months, years, and even decades later, when all the dust of the baseless accusation settles and no one thinks about it anymore, she may suddenly utter, totally out of context, that she was not abused.

The other amazing aspect of false memories is that people take sides. Many "memory experts," judges, juries, and amateur bystanders believe that the recovered memories of incest are false. Most of the believers have no personal knowledge of the alleged victim or her alleged abuser, but rush to defend the accused parent against such accusations. The third parties typically have no clinical experience with the treatment of incest victims nor do they understand how the human brain works, and yet they spread their unqualified opinions as reality. In Dak's experience, the defenders are usually child rapists or unaware incest victims who unconsciously defend their original abusers.

One of the most visible organizations promoting the philosophy that adult children who accuse their parents of incestuous rape must have false memories is the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. This remarkable collection of memory experts does not seem to have one board member who treats sexually abused children. Another prominent feature of the FMS Foundation is its attack against the symptoms of incest. If an illness or condition is found to be caused by incest, the FMS Foundation attacks the finding as false. For example, the FMS Foundation disputes the reported prevalence of multiple personality disorder and its direct association with incest [9]. The FMS Foundation also denies that bulimia and anorexia are caused by childhood sexual abuse [10]. It is one thing to seriously question the validity of repressed memories, but when you attack anything and everything that exposes incest, the effort manifests a different psychological dimension.

Another organization that is against the recovery of repressed memories of incest is the The Royal College of Psychiatrists in Britain. Actually, this organization also has members in Ireland. And how the Irish/British society deals with the accusations of incest is exquisitely documented in an internet article [11]. There is silence, passivity, and no protection of the victim. By dismissing the recovered memories of incest and by effectively banning the recovery of such memories in therapy [8], the Royal College of Psychiatrists prevents incest victims from healing. Is it malpractice or is the Royal College of Psychiatrists really able to tell what is true and what is sexed-up? The answer comes from the very Royal College of Psychiatrists in an article about the nonexistence of multiple personality disorder: "The diagnosis of MPD represents a misdirection of effort which hinders the resolution of serious psychological problems in the lives of patients" [12]. What can one say to that? Long live the Queen.

In addition to these two groups, many leading hypnotists do not believe that recovered memories of child sexual abuse are true. The belief is interesting because hypnotists work with the unconscious mind and know very well that events experienced during hypnosis can be recalled with significant distortions. One would hope that professionals who understand the propensity of memory to become distorted would be more likely to believe the distorted accounts of childhood sexual abuse. Hypnotists know that it is possible to instruct a hypnotized subject to forget all about the events in a hypnotic session. Some hypnotists have misused this property of hypnosis and raped their patients during hypnotic trance. The memories became repressed, and the raped patient had no idea what happened to her [14]. Hypnotists also know that a future hypnotic session can bring back such repressed memories at the command of the hypnotist. But when it comes to repressed memories of child sexual abuse, most hypnotists deny the existence of these memory mechanisms. The reason behind the denial is that hypnotists are predominantly incest victims or child abusers and have lost much of their emotional intelligence.


These memories exist in isolated packets of information. They are the forbidden memories of the suffered abuse. They may become recovered, which changes their status to repressed memories. Majority of the dissociated memories are located in young abused personalities. Healthy personalities guard the memories from being disclosed. The reason behind it is to keep the memories hidden from the world and to protect oneself against the traumas. By contrast, the traumatized personalities constantly attempt to spread their knowledge to get help and to tell the world. The ongoing fight changes the landscape of the brain. Personalities break up internally, regroup, and form alliances. These dynamic relationships give rise to confabulated memories that are partly true and partly fabricated. No one can tell the difference between fact and fiction now, and the survivor is not believed by other people. Even worse, she does not believe herself and can be easily manipulated. If many people around her claim one thing, she is prone to accept the claim. The reason behind her gullibility is loss of emotional intelligence and reality checking functions.


Most recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse consist of all the discussed components and could be labeled as "distorted memories." There is some truth to such memories, meaning that some kind of very traumatic abuse took place, but some of the factual claims may be distorted so much that the story, as a whole, appears unbelievable. The distortion pertains to time, space, sequences of events, ways of abuse, the identity of the abuser, and the number of abusers. The child often claims to have been raped by a stranger, neighbor, family friend, or distant relative when the rapist is her father. In most cases, she is unable to remember her abuse at all. These consequences indicate that sexual abuse damages the brain and mind, and anything that is recalled later can be factually distorted. The distortions are used by skeptics, abusers, or other incest victims who still cannot remember their pasts to discredit the person's claims about abuse. The alleged incest victim is believed to have developed brain damage for an unknown reason, and that is why she makes such outrageous, untrue, and inconsistent claims. In reality, her brain has been damaged by the traumatic experiences of her repeated rape and is recalling the true events in a distorted way.

If memories of traumas reach the victim's consciousness, the true and the fabricated memories have a slim chance of being correctly distinguished by her dissociated mind. The mind is divided into personalities; the interhemispheric channels are limited; the prefrontal cortex is hypoactive; the top-down communication is erratic; the episodic and semantic memories do not mutually map into each other, and many neurons and their information have already been destroyed. So even if it were possible to heal the patient and eliminate dissociation altogether, many elements of the victim's personal history would remain unrecoverable or factually distorted.


The theoretical veracity of repressed memories seems important in the court of law. If the jurors believe the plaintiff, the defendant may spend some time in prison for child rape. No rapist likes that. He employs lawyers and memory experts to persuade the court about his innocence. The jurors are to believe his version over that of the alleged victim. What can the court possibly decide? Such trials often have no tangible evidence and come down to: He said - she said. The same kind of case can come up even without repressed memories. A woman and a man are in an elevator. He grabs her genitals and forcefully kisses her. They walk outside on the ground floor, and she accuses him of sexual assault. What can a jury possibly do in such a case? There were no witnesses; there is no video tape; there is nothing to show that any such event ever took place. And if the memories of such an alleged assault are repressed and are reported decades later, who could possibly show that the events did happen as reported? This is where the government and the constitution come in.

The male-dominated American society decided that no alleged criminal can be forced to testify against himself. By turning this concept into a constitutional law, criminals have created a serious obstacle to their convictions. Technology is so advanced nowadays that lie detectors can indicate who is telling the truth and who is not. The accuser and the defendant could be subjected to mandatory lie detector tests, and the truth could be found that way. By banning science, technology, and the search for truth, the U.S. Government and the People are defending crime. Not any crime, but child rape. Because of this fact, the issue whether repressed memories are true or false is totally irrelevant. The alleged abuser's memories cannot be used to convict him, and the claims made by the alleged victim do not rise to the level of evidence. But lawyers, judges, and lawmakers make money anyway.


How much a traumatized person represses varies profoundly. The inability to remember depends on the severity of the trauma, relationship with the abuser, and the dissociative modes during and after the abuse. The repression can be simple, and the repressed topic can become available to the consciousness as soon as an access code to the information is found. In other cases, the events are retrieved gradually over the course of weeks and months, and even years. However, some victims never remember their traumas, not even when the events are confirmed by other family members. A person with multiple personality disorder, bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder may have an especially hard time remembering the past. Such a person not only has difficulty with remembering, but also struggles with recognition of the recall as her personal history.

Clinical work with severely dissociated subjects indicates that anything and everything can be blocked from consciousness. A grossly dissociated incest victim may repress, be unable to recognize after reminders, and be unable to confirm after seeing a videotape the following:
  • almost daily incestuous rape until adolescence 
  • pregnancy and abortion 
  • pregnancy, child delivery, and putting up a child for adoption 
  • sexually transmitted disease in childhood 
  • and many other aspects of life as described on the page "Multiple personality" 
Just as frequently, incest victims tend to distort their accessible memories. A girl who is impregnated by her father and delivers his child may later believe that she had the child with her boyfriend when she was too young to marry. On top of that, she may say that her father has died although he is in prison or left the family shortly after her pregnancy became known. She is not lying. She truly believes her distorted memories. If her mother tries to explain to her what truly happened, the incest victim may not believe it. These dissociative mechanisms have allowed incest to thrive throughout human history.


People often wonder if there are any signs indicating that a person has repressed memories. In general, it is not possible to find the answer just by looking at a person. Repressed memories are special instances of memories and need not exist in every traumatized person. Formation of repressed memories requires at least momentary consciousness during a trauma, followed by suppression of the experience by the unconscious mind, and no higher degree of dissociation may occur. These conditions need not be satisfied in all traumas. Instead, the traumatized person may suffer from multiple personality disorder or from complex dissociative disorders. Both conditions keep memories away from the currently activated conscious segment of the mind. The memories are not simply repressed; they are neurobiologically isolated from consciousness. The body language arising from the trauma may be apparent to a doctor, but he may have a hard time bringing the isolated memories to the current consciousness of the subject and making her accept such memories as part of her personal history. In the case of multiple personality, merging of personalities into one mind may lead to a successful retrieval of the inaccessible information. But if the brain has been affected by complex dissociation, no amount of clinical work may achieve the desired goal. However, most unbearable traumas do produce repressed memories, and these can be retrieved by the subject's mind.


You should ask yourself whether you really want to remember the past. You may recover more material than you know today, but even this information may be incomplete and may not lead to the resolution you are hoping for. The new memories may stir up even bigger chaos inside your mind. Have realistic expectations. Some memories are not recoverable. Not all psychotherapists will agree with this conclusion. They rely too much on clinical observations, which are only subjective and often imperfect. To come to the correct conclusion, the therapists would have to understand the function, organization, and physiology of the human brain. The brain functions in such a way that all memories are remembered forever and are accessible throughout lifetime in a normally functioning brain. This does not mean that a person can remember such memories at will on a moment's notice. As memories age, they become more difficult to retrieve. But once recalled, even the old memories are recognized by a healthy brain as being factually correct. But if memories are recoverable, why do not traumatized people remember their experiences?

One of the factors interfering with recall of childhood traumas is biological immaturity of the brain at a young age, which affects the process of memory consolidation. Memory needs to pass through several stages before it becomes part of the long-term narrative memory. This process is invisible, and most memories of the distant past are available to the conscious mind with ease. During severe traumas, however, the consolidation process becomes disrupted and does not follow the usual path. Some parts of the memory system become "locked in time" and cannot age. This happens to young personalities in multiple personality disorder. All other memory fragments and consciously unresolved (unattended) knowledge meet the same fate. Bridging the dissociative barriers and finding the missing information is a difficult process with only partial successes.

The most popular and effective techniques used in memory recovery are: hypnosis, dream interpretation, automatic writing, somatic stimulation known as body work, and EMDR. All these methods, with the exception of EMDR, attempt to access traumas via the unconscious mind. Interestingly, even body work addresses memories stored in the brain. They do not reside in the body. Body work just activates memory pointers that access the traumatic memories. The methods involving the unconscious mind are useful when direct reasoning leads to nowhere. If you stay fully alert and try to remember traumatic memories, you are fighting the physiology of the brain. Naturally, you are not successful.

Below are several methods that can assist you in remembering the past. The first method relies on the fact that the brain cannot receive a demanding memory task and immediately produce the correct answer. The brain needs time to process the request, and time to find the information. You should allow at least 2 hours of relaxation for 1 hour of work on the past. This cycle of demand and relaxation can be used in all the other methods described below.

Mental Demand and Relaxation

Spend at least 2 hours trying to remember the missing parts of your childhood. Write down the questions you have about the unknown material. Think about each question for several minutes and make a silent wish to remember the information. You must pay full attention. By the end of the session, silently restate the most important things you wish to remember. Now is the time to have some fun. Do your favorite activity for several hours. The activity must be slow, relaxing, and not dangerous. Avoid activity that requires concentration, such as playing a new piece of music, precision work, or counting. Do not drive a vehicle in this state! Do activities, such as painting, walking, gardening, sunbathing, watching the ocean waves, etc. During this time, your subconscious mind will be working with the issues you addressed hours earlier. Do not stop relaxing when you get an idea. Let the subconscious thoughts flow at their own pace. If you try to assist your memory by paying attention, you will be impeding your progress. Relax. This is why you are doing it. Enjoy your time and do not expect immediate results. The answers to your questions may arrive during the night, or early in the morning, or only the following day. Take it easy. The memories will come gradually and only when the subconscious mind is ready. Expect at least 3 months, but more likely 6 months, before you remember very painful memories. The most dangerous memories may resist remembering for up to 12 months, and in some cases even longer. All these estimates are based on daily work on the past. If you only see your therapist once a week and do no other therapeutic work at home, then you may need 10 or 20 years to remember. You have to do the work! No therapist can do it for you.

Sleep Disruption

The method of mental demand and relaxation can be used in combination with sleep. Experience suggests that disruption of the regular sleep pattern is useful in remembering of very traumatic experiences, particularly in people with multiple personality disorder. The disruption of regular sleep confuses the most powerful personalities. They become tired and fall asleep. At this moment, the abused personalities enter your mind and disclose their secrets. To achieve this state of mind, start your work on memory recovery shortly before you normally go to bed. Think about your childhood, write down what you wish to remember, and draw simple diagrams to identify the missing parts of your life. Continue working for 3 hours past your normal sleep time. If you stay up for only 2 hours past your regular sleep time, the method may fail. Also, staying awake, but doing an unrelated activity will not help you. Before you finish your work, silently restate the topics you would like to know about. Now go to bed. The subconscious mind will do the rest. Write down your memories immediately when you wake up. Include every detail.

Work with Details

Recovery of traumatic memories does not use the normal mechanism of remembering. Normal events are recovered directly. You can ask yourself a question or have a thought, and the information is recovered. Traumatic memories need to use an indirect address. For example, the victim cannot recall that she was raped by her father, but she may recover some innocent detail that leads to the critical information. The detail is the access code. Find it, and you gain access to the whole traumatic episode. An event that can be recalled quickly is usually unimportant, but a traumatic scene is originally inaccessible in its full scope. The victim may remember only one detail, and everything else is missing. If you find an isolated detail that is for some reason on your mind (you recall it three times), start working with the detail and find a related detail. Continue the search for details until you reconstruct the whole scene. For example, you have had three visions of a towel lying on the floor. The image makes you feel bad, you are afraid, and have difficulty breathing. Listen to your body. The subconscious mind is reacting to the trauma. Such a physical reaction is a signal that you have uncovered something important. Write down every detail you can identify in the image of the towel: Color? Position? Shape? Wet? Blood? Floor pattern? What room? Your feelings? Are you physically present? Increase your scope. What happened before? What happened after? What is the object next to the towel? What is the second next object? Where is the scene located? When?

You may only see the towel and nothing else. Other senses can be affected in a similar way. Most of the whole scene is missing, and the visible part is often still. This is known as "tunnel vision" and is well documented in victims of traumatic experiences. The focus on only one object occurred during the original trauma, and memory recall cannot produce the missing information. You will have to work with what you have available.

Work with the Unknown

If you discover that you cannot remember some significant event or fact from your childhood, focus on it. For example, if you remember waking up on the sofa in the living room, but have no idea why you slept there, then you have a "prime suspect" to work with. If you associate some place with fear, but do not know why, again, you need to explore this issue. If you recognize that you do not know anything about your fifth grade, this is an indicator of severe repression of the past. If you remember that your sibling was not at home for a longer period of time, but you cannot recall why, you have something to work with.

Biography Writing

Write the story of your childhood. Begin with the most pleasing moments. Explore your wishes and goals. Become a child once again. Reexperience the moments. Become lost in your indulgence. This will trigger a broad range of your childhood issues. The most traumatic ones will come at the very end. Do not worry about them now. They need to ripen, and you need to be ready to acknowledge them. If you come across details that you cannot explain, focus on them and try to recall the circumstantial information. For example, "What happened to my doll?" "What was behind our house?" "Where did I write my homework?" "Where was my bed?" "Where did we keep shoes?" "Did we have any large mirrors?" "What did the ceiling look like?" "Did we have a pet?" etc. A successful memory search depends on your curiosity and your ability to ask questions.

Sometimes you may remember the critical details correctly, but you associate them with false interpretations and beliefs. For example, you may remember that you used to lock the door to your room during childhood. You may firmly believe that it was because there were burglars in the area. You may even correctly remember that you believed the justification at a specific time in your childhood. But your belief then and your belief now do not make the beliefs a reality. Analyze the explanation. Does it make sense? People usually lock the house door to protect themselves against burglars, and they lock the door to a specific room when they want to protect themselves against other occupants of the house.
But there were burglaries in our neighborhood. When I was fifteen, there was a series of them. And when did you start locking your door?At eleven. Why?Oh, just asking.
The above example exposes the classical neuropsychological damage resulting from child sexual abuse. The victim is often incapable of making the correct association between cause and effect and is also unable to understand the thought processes of others.

Family Profile

Write a profile of your family. Do not take a direct approach with the intent to uncover a trauma. Make it an enjoyable experience. Express the wishes, hopes, and dynamics of your family in a playful way. Write whatever and whenever you please. Focus on the following issues.

  • The funniest moments in the life of your family. 
  • The most embarrassing moments. 
  • How your schoolmates and friends viewed you and your family. 
  • Your most pleasurable family times. 
  • Your five worst and best interactions with each family member. 
  • How did your family feel about you? Who was the worst and best child? Why? 
  • What were the best jokes you heard at home? Who said them? Describe the circumstances. 
  • What were the five saddest or most tragic events in your childhood? 
Coming Home

Imagine that you return to the house of your childhood. Go from room to room in your mind and write down the feelings you have. Draw the exact layout of your house. Pay special attention to the bathroom and bedrooms. Draw or document every piece of furniture and decoration, especially around your bed. Identify who slept where. Describe five bad experiences you had in the bedroom and five bad experiences in the bathroom. Remember ten moments of desperation, anger, or worthlessness you felt anywhere in the house. Which part of the house were you in? What did you do there? Where exactly and in what position were you? How did you feel? Who else was there with you? Who else was in the house? Who else knew about you at that moment? What was the reason behind your feelings and your being there? Did you have a hiding place? Locate it in the house. Recall at least five instances of hiding. What were the specific reasons for your hiding? Did other siblings hide as well? Why and where? Write down the details.

Parental Habits and Values

How did your parents approach sex? Were they faithful or promiscuous? Were they your biological parents? Did they hide sexual accessories: condoms, contraceptive pills, pregnancy test kit, underwear, dildoes, adult magazines? Did they talk about sex in front of children? Did parents rate each other's sexual performance? Did they do any sex education with you or other siblings? Did they explain the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases? Did they joke about sex? Were they inappropriately sexual in public (kissing, sexual touching, constant physical contact)? How did they express affection? Through physical contact or by paying attention to each other? Was there any sexual touching of the children? Did your father grab your body in public? Did he excessively hold you for his physical pleasure or to assert his control over you? Did your parents strictly guard your sexuality or social life? All these details should agree with the character of your family. If there is a disagreement, then something is not right.
Find out why.

Inventory of your Sex Life

Write down every detail of your first three sexual experiences (or additional memorable sexual experiences) with every partner you had. Pay special attention to these issues:

  • For what reason should young people have sex the first time? Write it down now. 
  • Why did you have sex the first time? Does your reason agree with the ideal case? Why not? 
  • How much did you learn about sex at home? Write it down. 
  • How did you know how to have sex the first time? 
  • Did something surprise you before, during, or after having the first intercourse? Why? 
  • Was it a big thing to have your first intercourse or did it happen naturally? Why? 
  • How did you feel after your first time? Were you embarrassed or did you look forward to more? 
  • Did you feel uneasy before having the first sexual intercourse? Why? 
  • Was your first sexual experience about what you expected, or was it better or worse? Why? 
  • Did you know what sexual organs look, feel, smell, or taste like? How? Write down the details. 
  • Did your partner rate your first sexual encounter? Could he/she tell it was your first time? 
  • How did your partner treat you after the intercourse? Does it remind you of something? 
  • Relive your three earliest sexual experiences. Write down what you felt and thought. Why? 
  • Do you often associate an image or feeling with your sexual encounters? Why? 
  • What are your favorite sex acts? Why? Since when? Who introduced you to them? 

Up till now, the assumption has been that your abuser was a member of your family, presumably your parent. If you have done all the above exercises and found no connection with the past, try to extend your search to the following persons:
  • Other relatives (siblings, uncles, aunts, grandparents) 
  • Close family friends 
  • Teachers, coaches, instructors 
  • Neighbors 
  • Doctors 
Be careful before jumping to the conclusion that you were not abused. If you have panic attacks, repetitive nightmares, or unrelenting addictions, then it is for a reason. You may currently be unable to remember the past because: 
  • You are processing all information in a predetermined way; this is how you look at the world. You may need to take all the information you have gathered and show it to a trusted therapist. She may recognize an issue right away. As of now, you filter out the dangerous information or do not make associations between the recovered facts and your abuse. 
  • Your abuse has caused you severe neuropsychological damage, and your brain is unable to work as it should. This state may be treatable or it may be irreversible. 
  • You still live in a dangerous social environment. Recovery of childhood traumas can only begin when you feel safe. Your conscious desire to heal has little effect on your subconscious remembering. An analogy is a fat adult who is committed to losing weight, but his subconscious mind does not stop craving food. 

The above mentioned methods help you retrieve completely forgotten traumas. The EMDR method is best used for the retrieval of memories that are only partly repressed, but cause undue distress in daily life. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. This therapeutic method was developed in 1995 by Francine Shapiro [2]. The core of the method is guided eye movement from side to side while the subject thinks about a specific traumatic experience [3]. EMDR brings the inaccessible details of the experience to your consciousness. In addition, the operating mode allows the subject to resolve the old experience and cancel its traumatic nature. The expression desensitization is unfortunate, however.

To resolve any severe trauma that was repressed, the subject has to process the information in full consciousness and reexperience the trauma. The mental pain and reaction are as strong or even stronger than they were during the original experience. EMDR does not reduce the degree of the affective experience. The word "desensitization" was probably chosen based on the incorrect assumption that the EMDR technique somehow reduces the painful effects of the memories and thus makes them retrievable. But this is not what is happening; this is not how the human brain functions. Anyhow, once the memories are resolved, they no longer bother the affected subject with spontaneous and undesirable flashbacks or instinctive responses. But the affective power of the memories is still preserved. Even years later, the subject is able to voluntarily recall the events and feel the pain of the old experience. Also external triggers can bring back the old memories after a successful resolution. The resolved experience stays with the subject for life, but can be controlled at will. The subject can now determine whether or not to reexperience the event and to what degree.

EMDR is typically done with the assistance of a therapist, but you can do it yourself. To get the maximum benefit of the technique, you need to create the right environment. Close the blinds and create semidarkness. Twilight is good, but semidarkness (less light) is much better. You should be able to see well, but concurrently perceive the relative darkness of the room. Such a condition occurs naturally about half an hour after sunset. You can wait longer until it is totally dark outside, and then turn on a small light in an adjacent room. The light should not be visible from the door of your room. Place the light behind furniture if needed. Only the reflected and diffused shine should enter through your door. Set the door ajar to obtain the appropriate level of illumination.

Next, sit down with your back to the center of the longest wall in the room. Ideally, the ajar door should be in the same wall. You may feel exposed, but you get a clear view of the left and right corners at the opposite wall. You can now think about a partly repressed event and move your eyes from corner to corner. Do this back and forth about two or three times in quick succession. Each peek should be attentive (look and focus) and should take about 2 seconds. You should repeat the series of peeks every 30 to 50 seconds. When moving your eyes, you can move your head a little, but try to move mainly your eyes. Do this naturally and do not pay too much attention to the precision of the execution. Your attention should focus on the trauma, not on the eye movement, even though you need to visually perceive during each peek. After a little practice, you will be able to move your eyes easily.

You can enhance the eye movement technique by talking to yourself. Incest victims are great actresses and excel in pretending and playing games. You should have no problem pretending that someone, either your dog, or your abuser, or a family member is in each corner. You can talk to them about the traumatic experience. This will allow you to move your eyes from corner to corner naturally, and also use your hands as you casually point to the subjects. Hand movement from side to side achieves the same effect as eye movement does and ensures that your mind stays in the desirable operating mode. The partly repressed memories will come back spontaneously. It may not happen instantly, but you should see the results within two or three sessions. You can make the sessions as long as you like. Half an hour or two hours, whatever amount of stress you can handle.

After about three sessions, you may want to dedicate one session to memory reprocessing. Retrieval and reprocessing happen concurrently, but your environment can enhance one mode over the other. The semidarkness is great for memory retrieval, and broad daylight is particularly suitable for memory reprocessing. You move your eyes in both types of sessions, but the intensity of illumination favors one memory-processing mode over the other.

EMDR can also be used for other purposes than just simple retrieval of repressed traumas of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse. Even the retrieval of everyday memories can be helped by employing EMDR. This method can also facilitate merging of personalities in a person with multiple personality. The technique is applied to every personality individually, and this approach weakens the dissociative barriers.

Both lay people and professionals have been wondering whether EMDR can produce distorted or false memories as it often happens in hypnosis. Physiology of the brain indicates that the EMDR technique does not do anything extraordinary to the mind. We enter this operating mode spontaneously during many everyday tasks. The mode is not the prevalent operating mode of the brain, but is absolutely normal. Most importantly, this mode exists in full consciousness. When in this mode, the brain retrieves the memories as they are and without additional distortion. The mode only facilitates memory recovery and does not affect the original information. Unfortunately, sexual abuse damages the mind in many ways and affects most aspects of brain physiology. The mind can become permanently damaged, and information can become distorted within the neural substrates of memory. When retrieval is attempted by means of EMDR, the already distorted memory reaches consciousness without additional distortion. The preexisting distortion is inherent and independent of the retrieval mode.

The effects of preexisting memory distortion should not be underestimated. Even highly qualified experts working with EMDR may not always be able to tell the difference between reality and distorted memories. An example is offered by psychotherapist Dr. Randi Fredricks, Ph.D. in her internet article "Retrieving Repressed Memories with EMDR." Dr. Fredricks seems to genuinely believe that she authored the article. In reality, the entire article (as of October 19, 2011) is an excerpt from this copyright registered webpage. Neither the bogus references listed below the article nor Dr. Fredricks' inability to justify her claims about the physiology of EMDR seem to bother her distorted reality.

By contrast to memory recall in full consciousness, operating modes such as hypnosis, dreams, and automatic writing rely on the unconscious mind. In addition, there is a hybrid mode of memory recall. A mind damaged by incest often operates in a quasi-hypnotic mode, when the brain employs some of the same neural substrates that cause memory distortion in hypnosis. The subject appears normal, conscious, and shows no obvious signs of pathology despite variable degree of mental deterioration. The neuropsychological damage leads to distortion during recall of traumas even when done in "full consciousness" and without the use of EMDR. Obviously, it is not full consciousness, but very close to it. The conscious mind of an incest victim is active most of the time, say 99%, and the unconscious mind occasionally modulates the subject's awareness. The unconsciously retrieved 1% of all memories contains some information that may be distorted. Healthy substrates of the conscious mind can weed out the distortions before they reach the subject's awareness. But an incestuously damaged mind often fails to identify the infrequent distortions. They are accepted as true memories. The strange thing is that the affected subject has no idea that his or her memory is not functioning perfectly. Moreover, the subject may positively recognize the distorted memories as real-life experiences. The physiology of these deceptions and distortions is explained in Dak's work.

Although EMDR is a powerful technique, it may not work well in a person with multiple personality disorder. EMDR predominantly affects only the currently activated personality. Personalities that remain dormant and do not actively engage in consciousness often cannot be recruited to help with the recovery of their memories. And even if the other personalities became engaged, the predominantly conscious personalities (the ones that control the organism most of the time) could probably not confirm the retrieved memories as something that was experienced by the person. They did not have such experiences during their control of the human organism.


Repressed memories are just that. They are memories that can be true or false. By contrast, physical evidence in cases of childhood rape is seen as the golden standard of reality checking. But the golden standard is only as good as the messenger and his interpretation of the evidence are. One particular issue emerges when a young woman claims that she was raped by her biological father throughout childhood, became pregnant, and was forced to have an abortion. After a long court battle and testimonies by memory experts, the case is undecided. At that point, the defendant's layer may request that the victim is examined by a gynecologist. And the gynecologist finds, to the surprise of everyone, that there is absolutely no chance for the alleged victim to have been raped because she is still a virgin! Case closed. You cannot get better evidence than that.

Unfortunately, the given example is not such a clear cut. Female gynecologists are often incest victims and dissociate on their jobs. Many male gynecologist are often rapists, dissociate, and their children frequently have visible evidence of incestuous abuse. Gynecologists like these commonly perform illegal abortions and falsify medical records. For example, the Attorney General in Kansas recently (2008) discovered dozens of concealed cases of child rape, incest, and late-term abortions [13]. Doctors perform such abortions for their friends whose daughters become pregnant, and also for the friends of friends, and for others who are referred to the doctors. The monetary rewards are enormous.

History shows that illegal abortions by doctors were common throughout Europe before World War II, and repair of torn hymens used to be common practice in the Soviet Union. This medical service may exist in other countries to this day. But even without any medical intervention, a torn hymen can heal in 9 days [4]. Telling whether a "virgin" who is now in her twenties was raped as a child is not that easy without special examination. Despite the best doctor's effort, the results of physical examination are within normal limits in 80 percent of cases of child sexual abuse [5]. Even examinations of females between ages of 14 and 19 years following rape found no injury in 36% of the subjects [6]. In another study, only 32% of virgins between 12 and 17 years who were raped sustained genital injuries that would be indicative of penetration if examined several weeks later [7]. (See the page Incest and CSA for additional statistics.) The numbers mean that negative findings during a physical examination of an alleged incest victim are not indicative of no rape. The numbers also mean that it is time for the medical community to redefine normal anogenital anatomy.

All healthy humans without exception are sexual creatures. They develop sex drive during their preteen and teen years, and engage in sexual intercourse with their peers. If in rare cases a woman in her twenties appears to be a virgin, one has to seriously question why. Many incest victims refrain from sexual intercourse for a number of years after the last abusive episode. The subjects may be in their twenties, but that does not mean that these women never ever had sex, never ever were raped, and never ever became pregnant. So, if a woman suddenly remembers that she was raped as a child, or if she believes that she was abducted by aliens, or if she believes in angels, she is facing only one possibility: her brain has suffered serious neuropsychological damage. Clinical work suggests that childhood sexual abuse is virtually always behind such mental problems. Finally, during the coronation of Emperor Napoleon, four 18-year-old virgins were supposed to assist him in the ceremony. Napoleon sent out experts to find the virgins. In the entire country of France, they were unable to find four 18-year-old virgins. Now, what are the chances that a woman in her twenties who claims to have been raped by her father throughout childhood is a virgin? It seems that we should start playing the lottery. The odds are better.

When it comes to recognizing incest in psychotherapy, the current school of thought stresses the importance of memories of sexual abuse. Corroborating evidence is only used later to support the memories. Dak's discoveries in the field of symptomatology and memory reverse this approach. Memories can certainly be instrumental in getting corroborating evidence, but memories alone rarely provide an accurate picture of the victim's abuse. A set of objective qualifiers is a better indicator of child abuse than memories are. The qualifiers have to be sought in the whole family of the victim.
  • history of the victim's extended family 
  • occupations of family members 
  • illnesses among family members 
  • suicide, addictions, and criminal behaviors 
  • psychological symptoms of incest 
  • behavioral symptoms of incest 
  • physical symptoms of incest 
  • special symptoms of incest 
  • general attitude toward sex and dominance 
  • openness, communication, and family roles 
  • religiosity as a measure of dissociation 
  • political orientation and social interactions 
  • overall concept of the world 
These qualifiers are more important than memories are. The symptoms exist independently of the victim's ability to recall the past. An incest survivor who is able to assess these qualifiers may discover a family she has been unable to see until now. After this realization, memories of abuse have a good chance of coming to the surface. It will hurt.

Regardless of the memory retrieval technique used, there is no guarantee that an incest victim will ever remember her traumatic experiences. The main reason for the failure is usually dissociation. The person is unable to overcome the mental pain of her memories and acknowledge them consciously.


[1] Stadler, M., Fabiani, M. & Wessels, P. (2001). University of Missouri, Columbia. Discovering the truth about false memory. http://www.newswise.com/articles/2001/1/FALSEMEM.UMC.html

[2] Francine Shapiro, Ph. D. - EMDR Institute, Inc. Retrieved December 29, 2005 from http://www.emdr.com/shapiro.htm

[3] Frequently Asked Questions - EMDR Institute, Inc. Retrieved December 29, 2005 from http://www.emdr.com/q&a.htm

[4] Child Sexual Abuse by Kathleen Coulborn Faller, page 259
1988 Columbia University Press, Printing No. 4, ISBN 0-231-06471-3

[5] Evaluating the Child for Sexual Abuse. Sheela L. Lahoti, M.D., Natalie McClain, R.N., M.S.N., C.P.N.P., Rebecca Girardet, M.D., Margaret McNeese, M.D., and Kim Cheung, M.D.
American Family Physician, Published by the American Academy of Family physicians. March 1, 2001
Retrieved April 9, 2008 from http://www.aafp.org/afp/20010301/883.html

[6] Marilyn Sawyer Sommers, Bonnie S. Fisher, Heather M. Karjane. Using colposcopy in the rape exam: health care, forensic, and criminal justice issues. Journal of Forensic Nursing, Spring, 2005.

[7] Catherine White & Iain McLean. Adolescent complainants of sexual assault; injury patterns in virgin and non-virgin groups [Electronic version]. Journal of Clinical Forensic Medicine 13 (2006) 172–180.

[8] Repressed memory therapy (trauma-search therapy). http://skepdic.com/repress.html

[9] FMS Foundation Newsletter, Vol 3 No. 2, February 8, 1994

[10] The FMSF Scientific and Professional Advisory Board - Profiles. The FMSF Scientific and Professional Advisory Board http://www.fmsfonline.org/advboard.html#Rosalind%20Cartwright

[11] Collette Keane (February 16, 2004). Diary of abuse: How a father beat and raped his children daily for almost 20 years. Archives Irish Examiner. http://archives.tcm.ie/irishexaminer/2004/02/16/story914295578.asp.

[12] The manufacture of personalities. The production of multiple personality disorder. The British Journal of Psychiatry 160: 327-340 (1992).

[13] Bob Unruh (2008). Matters of Life and Death. Posted: November 02, 2006.

[14] Nigel Bunyan. October 3, 2001. Gynaecologist 'raped me in hypnosis and fathered my child' http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1358421/