I remember a story shared by a therapist working with children who stammer. She was shocked one day, when during a session, the child said: My father slaps me whenever I block! The therapist decided to confront the father. But the father refused to have ever done that. The family too confirmed that father had never done anything like that. Later, the therapist wondered if the child had felt father’s facial expression almost like a “slap” and imagined that he was actually slapped.
All this came to me, as I was studying “Memory and Law” as part of my psych course. Two things stand out about memory: It is not “singular noun”. It is not an object – but more like a bunch of processes: Semantic, episodic, procedural etc. etc. Second amazing thing, I learned was: memory is reconstructive. Recalling is not like replaying a video! It is more about reconstructing what happened, by using bits and bobs of what we can recall, what we guess and how we generally feel about ourselves and the world.
Meredith Maran, at the age of 30, accused her father of abuse- which she later discovered was NOT true. She wrote a book later (My Lie) – apologized to her father too, I guess. In America, a big trend started, where many adults were making similar claims (even claims like being abducted / raped by aliens). Child abuse unfortunately does happen sometime in every society – no one is contesting that. But there is another truth beyond this one: We implicitly believe our “thoughts” as facts. There are studies indicating that “repressed”/ recovered memories may not represent actual facts; that it is possible to introduce False Memories into people’s head (Ted talk).
Add this to another idea: we carry a concept / a story of ourselves: happy or unhappy, victim or a successful entrepreneur etc etc. This story is like a basket. We keep on putting things in to this basket. We interpret and recall events based on the color/ shape of the basket. If I think of myself as a “victim of circumstances”, I may selectively recall my childhood experiences and think of them with sadness and a feeling of helplessness. This is how the basket keeps on getting heavy- and predominantly “one colored”. In a sense, we are writing out our own destiny through this continuous but UNCONSCIOUS process. Self-fulfilling prophesy.
I wonder if we have done something similar with our stammering, whenever we recall our childhood and adolescence? Will we ever own our own role in all this? And come clean like Meredith Maran? What can we do to reverse this process? Your thoughts are welcome…