Freud's Seduction Theory - Allen Esterson

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Thanks for spelling it out clearly. This needed to be done.

Judith Herman, Gloria Steinem, while genuinely concerned about real child abuse, after falling for Jeffrey Masson's distortions, provided the ideological basis for recovered memory therapies. Soon people such as Canada's Sylvia Fraser (My Father's House) became the first victims of the notion that hidden memories of abuse cause mid life problems. Their books and articles became recommended reading, so-called biblio-therapy, in "survivor" groups. Untested, new age therapeutic techniques were added to revive and enhance the emerging beliefs, dreams, or flashbacks supposedly indicating childhood trauma.

While the majority of therapists, many still engaged in recovering repressed memories, have not read Masson, let alone Freud, the writings of the leaders of the recovered memory movement have been very effective in spreading the myth that many sexually abused children are amnestic for the experience and that an assortment of quackeries will revive memories.

Lesser lights, such as self-styled therapists Ellen Bass and Laura Davis, soon greatly popularized the idea that mid life problems in the form of mental and physical illnesses emerge as a result of these hidden memories. They based their notions on Herman's writings and received the endorsement of Gloria Steinem, herself a client of Swiss psycho-analyst Alice Miler. The latter was also no mean contributor to the misconceptions that developed.

Soon, many in the professions also fell for the idea and many in law-enforcement and the government sprung into action. In the U.S, where the theories have done their greatest damage, laws were passed to allow for criminal prosecution or civil litigation on the basis of sexual abuse allegedly having occurred years ago, but only recently remembered.

The enormous damage all this has done became all too clear to me when I became active on behalf of families of the falsely accused in Canada. Some of the falsely accused are still in jail. Families have been torn apart as sons and daughters have adopted for ever the false belief that they were sexually abused. The worst aspect are the suicides of accusers and accused this therapy has caused. It has been a very long and hard road towards the recognition that a dragon of an idea, created one hundred years or so ago, which after lying asleep for nearly a century would come out of its lair, and mate with other monstrous theories. Inane therapies were born which fed on the child abuse hysteria the theories had created.

We are still a long way from convincing everybody that something, like an apocalyptic demon of destruction has been living among us and has ruined many lives for ever. Fortunately the end of one of the most stupid periods in psycho-therapy is in sight as the misguided proponents of recovered memory therapies shout their last and their followers gradually slink away as the unscientific theories and therapies meet their nemesis as a result of solid scientific research and in multi-million dollar settlements against the most deluded of its practitioners.

Adriaan J.W. Mak
1st March, 1998.
Contact person for people falsely accused
Editor Canadian False Memory Support Groups Newsletter
555 Kininvie Drive
London. ON. N6G 1P1
tel 519 471 6338
fax 519 471 0583

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If you wish to submit your contribution to this WWW site for the Seduction Theory Debate please write to Allen Esterson
Ian Pitchford and Robert M. Young - Last updated: 28 May, 2005 02:29 PM

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