What are False Memories

Can we trust our memory? Not always! A false memory is a memory of something that didn’t actually happen. However, it seems as real as a factual memory making it difficult to differentiate the two.

Memories become clearer the more they are thought about because the individual uses their imagination and the power of suggestion (hypnosis), and accepts what comes to mind as a true memory, even if it didn’t actually happen. Recovering ‘repressed’ memories are not always accurate due to the high possibility of forming false memories.

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5:20 – How False Memories Form

Table of Contents

    Introduction

    Hi everyone! This video is going to be about false memories. Just what is a false memory? Essentially it is a memory you have that didn’t really happen. But, you do not know it is false since a false memory is exactly like any kind of other memory you have. The only difference is that it didn’t actually happen.

    Having any kind of memory, either pleasant or unpleasant, can be very vivid and detailed, you remember it so clearly. To something only vaguely remembered, bits and pieces here and there. When you are remembering something or ‘reliving’ a memory you are actually altering that memory. Perhaps remembering more or adding more detail to it that may or may not have actually happened. So, it could be a partial false memory. There are varying levels.

    As an example, let’s say when you were younger you remember very vividly when you and your family would go to the park every weekend. You remember exactly what you did and how much fun you had. The memory is very clear and vivid in your mind and you can describe every little detail. But, let’s say one time you were being pushed on the swing by your father and the next thing you remember is that you were badly injured. There is a bit of a gap there in your memory that you do not recall. When you are remembering the event you try to piece together and think maybe you jumped off deliberately, or perhaps your father pushed you off intentionally. That is what you decide to believe. That your father pushed you off deliberately.

    Then you begin to think about why he would do this. And, then it occurs to you that your father never really liked you. He teased you and made fun of you. You then being to recall abuse your father had done to you. You believe and remember it so vividly. And the more you think about it, the clearer the picture becomes. But, in actuality this is a false memory. It never happened. The abuse never happened, your father didn’t push you off the swing. In fact, it was your mother that was pushing you the day you fell off and it was not deliberate.

    It’s that easy to create a false memory. Because you believed and convinced yourself with your imagination, that these things happened. You were subconsciously giving yourself suggestions about what happened and it became part of the memory because you were associating these false ideas with your real memories and it becomes solid. The mind is very associative.

    Generally, the more suggestible and easily convinced you are, the easier it is for false memories to form, and believing your thoughts and imagination. For instance, people with PTSD and dissociative disorders tend to have the highest hypnotizability and suggestibility rates of most any other disorders. So, some people that may have never been abused may believe and convince themselves that they were in fact abused. Yet, technically it didn’t actually happen either at all or not to the severity they think it did. But in their mind, this false memory of abuse is very real and very vivid. Thoughts and memories are very powerful, even if they never happened because the individual knows, without a doubt, that it did happen. That’s the basic principal of a false memory.

    It is not a lie to the person that is discussing a false memory. If an individual is describing a memory they had but others know it isn’t true and the person recalling the memory is lying, technically it’s not. The person is not intentionally lying and do not know that what they are saying is untrue. In other words, they think they are telling the truth, but they may be describing something that didn’t happen at all. This is why memory is very complex and can be distorted.

    Which brings up the topic of manipulation and mind control. Tactics such as memory implantation are used to make the subject accept the memories and suggestions as true. To make them believe what they are being told, when they have no memory of it. It’s not by force since you cannot accept suggestions that you do not want, but rather to make the individual accept and believe the statements themselves by using easy, efficient hypnotic suggestions.

    Memory implantation can be used by psychologists to get the patient to believe something that is false and never happened, something to be worked on in therapy, or even believing they have a mental disorder that they do not have so they can take medication and it would cause more problems. I will discuss this and other ways false memories can form in the next section.


    How False Memories Form

    Now, let’s discuss some ways false memories can form. As I stated earlier, when we are thinking of a memory or ‘reliving’ it in a sense, we alter that memory. The severity of change is dependent upon how suggestible you are. Essentially it is hypnosis. You are accessing your subconscious mind where the information is stored and adding details to it and believing and convincing yourself it happened.

    You are using your imagination to add details to the memory, to fill in the missing pieces. But, one thing to note is that, you are not aware you are doing it because a memory is just that, something you remember. It is real to you and you believe it and accept it as fact because it’s something you recall. The more you do this and go back to the memory, the more vivid it becomes. It could be completely false.

    Which brings me to therapy. Yes, going to a therapist or just talking about trauma or hard to discuss memories can form false memories, especially in those with PTSD and/or dissociative disorders. Because, as I stated earlier, those with PTSD and dissociative disorders are much more hypnotizable and open to suggestion than the general population.

    Now, I’m not saying stop seeing your therapist but be careful of what I am about to say because not all therapist have good intentions. And, even the ones that do may not be aware of their involvement in the formation of certain false memories. Anyway, a therapist may use suggestions and your imagination to implant false ideas and you may not even be aware of it. This is something to be very careful of since this is essentially hypnosis and things are being told to you and you are accepting them and believing them.

    Let’s look at an example, you are discussing an event that you really don’t remember much of. Your memory is vague but you know something is not right about it. The event is that you recall being intentionally physically hurt by an adult figure when you were a child and were told not to tell anyone. You discuss this with your therapist and they ask if this person did anything else. You think about this and it starts to come to you over some time. The therapist also asks if the person abused you in different ways, encouraging you to discuss it further. These are suggestions by the way. You being very sensitive and vulnerable at this stage start to recall a lot of repressed memories related to not only physical abuse, but also sexual abuse. You didn’t have any memory prior to therapy, but now you do.

    But, is this a real or false memory? That is something you may not know because it is so clear to you it happened because you have memory of it happening. This is just one example, and there are many, varying degrees of how these false memories can be implanted. It’s not difficult, especially with very sensitive and traumatic experiences, which is why therapy can be dangerous and cause more problems than help. Recovering repressed traumatic memories, real or false, can wreak havoc on a person’s life.

    Next, delusions. If you suffer from a disorder that causes you to be delusional, this can really contribute to false memories. Especially if those delusions directly affect your memory and alter it. Having a delusion that you thought something traumatic happened to you when you were younger can make you convince yourself and believe this false idea that can establish this false memory. Regardless of it being a false memory or delusion, it makes it no less real to the sufferer. So, while it may seem like the individual with the false idea is lying, it’s not since they truly believe this false memory or delusion.

    Lastly, dreams can cause a sense of memory distortion as well. When we sleep at night and are having a dream our mind can distort things. We can have a memory of doing something or something happening to us, and when we wake up, we believe what happened but don’t consciously think of it. It’s only until maybe later that we find out that it was a dream. This is why it is very important to keep track of your dreams and write them down. This can help in a variety of ways.

    Anyway, this has happened to me before when I am dreaming. I would have a dream that I would tell someone something and later in the day after I wake up, I am talking with this person, and it clicks in my mind, “Oh, I told this person this already. Why are they asking again or why are they not talking about it?” So, I bring it up to them saying that I already told them this and they say, “No, you never told me.” And, I am a certain, 100% that I told them. I know I did, I know. Yet, they don’t have a clue about it.

    Then in my mind it clicks again. I start to think about it and realize it was a dream because I start to remember other bits and pieces of the event I dreamt and it became clear that what I told them was in fact in my dream and not real. It was a false idea that I discovered was actually a dream. Or perhaps, the thought of it being a dream is false. Think about that.

    Relatedly, I think dreams could be the source of some déjà vu moments. We’ve all experienced these. The moment when we feel like we are experiencing something exactly as it happened before, and everything feels a bit dreamy. It may not last very long, but it certainly is an interesting phenomenon. There are many ways we can have moments like this, and it isn’t necessarily directly related to false memories.

    From personal experience, I’ve gone somewhere, have done something, and I enter into a state where I am like, “I’ve done this same exact thing before in this same exact way in this exact place.” And, a possibility I’ve seen, for me at least since I have experienced this many times, but it could be that these are dream I’ve had days, weeks, months, maybe even years, before the actual event occurred. Precognition. Honestly, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is, and I think it changes depending on the circumstance. But, it is still very very fascinating to say the least.


    Conclusion

    So, in the end a false memory is no different than a true memory since we have convinced ourselves that it is true, that it really happened, even if it didn’t, and we are not aware of it. This really makes us question the accurately of our own memory. “Did it really happen or is it all made up in my mind?” You may be asking this question right now.

    But, regardless of our memory being true or false, it makes it no less real. Our memory and past experiences, real or false, do serve a purpose in creating our reality in the present. So, the good news then is that if we can create negative false memories, we can also create positive false memories that can help us and get rid off those negative ones by re-creating a positive outcome for it.

    So, I hope this video was informative. Thanks for watching!

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    Notes

    Ever since learning about false memories and how the memory we have of past events can be altered by just thinking about it, my views on life changed considerably. There were so many things that started to make sense, not only in my life, but also the world around me. It’s fascinating, but also quite scary to know that thoughts we think are real may not have actually ever happened. Yet, they seem real to us.