“No patient is eager to discover that she [or he] was violated by people she loved and trusted. In fact, patients tend to cling to their doubts long past the point where most impartial observers would be convinced.” ~~Harvard Mental Health Newsletter
The term “hysteria” is derived from the Greek word for the uterus. “Hysteria” was used for hundreds of years as a term for a mental disorder in women. In the late 19th Century, French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot began the first systematic research into this disorder.
Charcot’s work inspired Sigmund Freud of Vienna and Pierre Janet of France. Janet and Freud discovered through their research that “hysteria was the result of unbearable emotional reactions to traumatic events, most often from incest or other sexual trauma.”
Janet proposed that people with hysteria were unable to integrate their traumatic memories, and those memories were set apart from normal memory processes. Through the years, mental health practitioners found that the only way to relieve the patient from their suffering, was to help them integrate the memories and the emotions into consciousness.
Dr. Jennifer Freud’s “betrayal trauma theory” is that the victim’s amnesia for childhood abuse happens for survival, in the face of terrible suffering –and not because of the suffering itself.
In a number of ways, recovered memories are not like continuous memories. Most first appear in the form of a flashback, a bodily sensation, a sensory impression or memory, an intense effective response -such as a panic attack- or even a dream. These sorts of memories can be “remembered” in the body and senses. They might be described as snapshots, often without context or sequential ordering, but are vivid in some details and laden with intense emotion. Memories often come up while hearing something on television, or watching a television show or film. Something might “click” in the mind, accompanying a terrible feeling of panic or extreme emotion. The person may not even know why they are reacting to the image or dialogue.
In many cases, memories are often originally triggered by some external event in the environment, a personal experience, or an event.
Linda Stoler found forgetting more likely in women whose abuse was a family secret, likely happening to other related children, but who could not get any adult to believe them or to intervene.
Repression is also more likely found in victims whose abuser/s developed and displayed a public persona as an exceptionally “good” person, and in victims who were told, or otherwise made to believe that the sexual abuse was their fault, their idea, and were groomed for self-blame.