Are memories true?

How do you know if your history is true?

Elizabeth Loftus says that there are studies that prove that between 30-90% of people can be hypnotised, primed, or coaxed into creating a false memory. She says that it’s possible to create false trauma memories, too. She says that those memories have the same emotional impact as real memories, only they never happened.

So, if 30-90% of people can create false memories, how can I know what’s real and what’s not? How can I know if the history I’m basing my life and my personality on actually occurred? What about things I’ve forgotten about for years and years that suddenly pop into my consciousness? What if there’s no corroborating evidence? What if no one else remembers what I do?

How do we interrogate or investigate our own minds, when our minds are naturally unreliable and mercurial?

My sister wet the bed until she was 10. Nobody else in my family remembers this except me. But I’m certain it happened. Every night at around the same time, she would wake up vomiting and peeing. Dad would come in, clean her up, take her to the toilet and put her back to bed. Quite often she would wake me up, too.

We had pink bunk beds and a bedroom that was absolutely full of crap (toys, books, paper-mess, junk we found on the side of the road, clothes, you name it). I slept on the top bunk, and when I learned to successfully climb up and down the ladder the family shared a Vienetto (Australian icecream shaped like a log) as a reward.

Dad built the bunk beds out of solid pine (from a kit). He installed a bed-side lamp for each of us so that we could read in bed. Mine was yellow, and my sister’s was red. We listened to classical music or audio-books or story tapes every night, and Mum would usually read to us before bed. They loved us so much. They took such good care of us.

My sister had a plastic sheet under her fitted sheet, and a green basin next to her bed. So all Dad had to do was change the fitted sheet and empty the basin, and she’d sleep the rest of the night. I heard Dad comforting her, telling her ‘It’s all right, It’s all right, there there, there there, you’ll be OK” etc. He called her a slut. There was also a rhythmic, wet sound. Slap, slap, slap. Skin on skin. And my sister whimpering ‘No’.

I’ve been firmly told this is imaginary. That it’s impossible for it to be true. There’s no corroborating evidence. But I remember it.

What freedoms would you be prepared to give up, to end that? Would you be prepared to let someone see out of your eyes? Would you be prepared to let someone track you wherever you went? What if they mis-used the information? John Dal-berg Acton said “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

What corruption am I prepared to put up with, to ensure that never happens to anyone else? Because if there were a third party record, it would make a difference to my family. A big difference.

Image of leaf in park in Autumn

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

My husband and I are visiting relatives.

When we arrive it seems to be the same as always.

They’re friendly.

I’m friendly.

We’re chatting and having a good time.

I’ve been having a hard time. I’ve been suicidal. I’m barely working.

Joab, my nephew speaks to his mother and sisters at the opposite end of the table to me.

It’s a long table, and I can’t hear them properly.

He starts talking about how I’m only being nice to them so I can take their money.

It hurts.

When I spend money on them, it makes a big impact on my finances.

It’s another betrayal trauma. I care about what they think of me. I want them to like me. I treat them with the courtesy that is due to them as human beings, and I wasn’t expecting them to attack like that this night.

Those accusations hurt.

I put my head down and say nothing. Inside I start to sing a counting song I learned as a child.

They start talking about how I want to eat my husband. What our sex life is like.

It’s humiliating to have a 19-year-old talk about it at the dinner table.

I involve myself in the conversation at my end of the table. They’re talking about trains.

My 24-year-old niece puts a plate of chocolate on the table and 19-year-old Joab says

‘She’s eating a chocolate nut. Cos you’re a nut that’s been covered in crap. She’s eating you’.

I’m angry this time. I put my head down and grit my teeth. Counting song’s still playing in my head.

They’re talking about trauma and self-harm, and being able to discuss problems. I don’t know if they’re gas-lighting me, but they say they’re trying to help. They do put a strong smell of Eucalyptus in the room which makes me feel better. At my end of the table, we’ve moved on to talking about TV.

They start talking about how their voices have told them I’ve got Dissociative Identity Disorder and I’ve got a sadistic-paedophile inside. They talk about how that’s not true too.

I don’t know how to handle the cruelty of that accusation. I behave in socially acceptable ways. I work on improving myself. I am kind to animals and children and everyone I can be kind to. That’s what it is to be human.

They start talking about how they’re ready for bed. It’s nearly 8.30pm– polite time to leave.

I ask my husband if we can go, and he says yes.

He’s delayed in the corridor and I burst out the door as tears start to fall.

I cut myself that night. It’s a deep one, and when my husband sees, his feelings are hurt.

That’s what it’s like living with voices.

Mine, our relatives, and my husband’s voices interacted in awful ways that night. There’s good things and bad things about hearing voices.

However luckily we live in Australia, and when our interactions create situations like that, we can go to the hospital and they’ll stitch our self-harm wounds up for free.

Hearing Voices

I remember hearing voices as a small child.

I both adored and feared my Mother. She could be impulsive and critical, but she was also kind and craving affection and attention and respect as a human being just as much as I was.

As a child, I rejected her and she rejected me.

Her rejection came in the form of criticism, disapproval, disrespect, and scapegoating. I was terrified.

As I got older my rejection came in the form of impudence, disobedience, disrespect and defiance. She gave up on approving of me and started blaming me for a lot of the bad things that happened in our house.

It was a difficult dynamic.

We have a good relationship now. My job is to cheer her up, get her to exercise, remind her to do life affirming things, remind her of how needed she is, make suggestions that might improve her life, and buy her the things she won’t buy herself (that expensive tooth paste Sensodyne, for example).

She’s mellowed a lot over the years. She doesn’t have the stress of a mortgage at 18% interest or two small children demanding attention and affection any more. My Dad’s mellowed too. Their dynamic has improved. My dynamic has definitely improved with my Mum.

The first time I remember hearing voices was when I was a small child. I had used my Mother’s fruit knife for some kind of craft, and it had been sitting under a pile of stuff. This had prompted an enormous search in our house because she loved that knife. Nothing in our house ever got really tidy, but the mess did get shifted into more orderly mounds now and again.

Anyway, I found the knife under a pile of stuff, didn’t want to get in Big Trouble for being the one who used it and lost it, so I put it on top of the compost heap. I think my Mum’s voices must have sent her out there, because she found it and (quite fairly) blamed me, and I remember hearing that little whisper in my ear ‘That was you, wasn’t it?’

It was me. That’s true.

My Mother’s Mother (my Granny) was very disapproving and critical of my Mother. And my Mother felt that keenly. I feel like my Mother planned to have a relationship with me that was very different from the relationship she had with my Granny.  Then I disapproved or rejected her, and she became just as critical (and even more disapproving) than her own Mother.

I don’t know how to categorise this. I can analyse it well enough in many situations to try to avoid repeating this. My voices have helped me with this a lot. Often they teach me how to critically analyse things and point out my blind spots. It’s horrible in so many ways, it’s so uncomfortable, my heart opens up and I just weep, but it’s also very helpful to hear where I’m going wrong. It’s helpful to hear about things I would never think about but other people do.

It builds empathy. I just have to stop myself from trying to kill myself every time it gets overwhelming.