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False Memories and Hypnosis

By on August 26, 2014

One issue that all practicing hypnotists should be very aware of, and wary of, are false memories.

As we say in NLP, memory is an active and synthetic process. What this means is that memory is not stored like pictures in a photo album, or a movie on a DVD. Instead a memory is formed and reformed every time we recall it. And then we restore the memory in the new form, over-writing the original version, a process called reconsolidation.

The research on this is overwhelming. It is a hot topic for research because of the implications for the legal system. If memories are so flexible, then what value should be placed on witness testimony, particularly under potentially leading questions from the adversarial attorneys.

The implications for practicing hypnotists are huge, especially those of us who practice finding lost memories, or even regression techniques under hypnosis. You should be aware that any technique that involves memory recall potentially changes the content of a memory in a  significant way. The client will actually recall the memory in the new way, creating what is essentially a brand new memory, and that new memory may totally change the meaning of the memory for the client.

So you, as the hypnotist, need to carefully consider the ecology of the techniques used with clients. After all installing false memories that the client believes to be true is a source of not infrequent law suits against therapists.

Here is an article that discusses this important area. In reviewing the various studies, the authors of the article conclude that hypnosis can increase recall of false memories. Should Hypnosis Be Used to Recover Memories in Psychotherapy?

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