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Personality Variables

Gudjonsson, and Lynn et al. mention many interesting personality variables: interrogative suggestibility, hypnotizability, fantasy proneness, sleep paralysis, depressive tendency, and so on. Some of these variables are clearly important in understanding individual cases of FMS. Ann, for example, was highly hypnotizable, and Lynn et al. point out that Beth appears to have suffered from sleep paralysis. Cath experienced depression, and Doris appears to have been fantasy-prone. However, none of the personality variables appears to account for much common variance. Rather, the retractors' personalities were clearly quite different. Both Ann and Cath were more practical and more organized than Beth and Doris, who had more "artistic" temperaments. Whereas Ann and Beth inclined toward anxiety, Cath and Doris leaned more toward depression. Whereas Ann and Cath both idealized their therapist, Ann was trapped in the relationship by her fear, and Cath by her need for the therapist's love. Neither Beth nor Doris liked their therapists. Cath and Doris were more extroverted, Ann and Beth more introverted. Most FMS victims appear to be quite intelligent and fairly conscientious. This was certainly true for both Ann and Cath. However, I did not attempt to measure any of these variables, and any objective data to verify such observations is sorely lacking. FMS cases generally have one somewhat puzzling fact: Most have siblings. At least in the initial data reported by the FMSF, very few are only children.

Because all the retractors, and others who have developed FMS, have incorporated suggestions of abuse, one might argue that they must be highly suggestible. In this regard, Gudjonsson makes a valuable distinction between hypnotic and interrogative types of suggestibility. However, I believe that the complex nature of suggestions in the therapeutic situation is better described by McDougall ( 1908 ) more general description: "A process of communication resulting in the acceptance with conviction of the communicated proposition in the absence of logically adequate grounds for its acceptance" (p. 100). I believe viewing suggestion as a process will be more applicable to FMS than defining suggestibility as a personality variable.

Of course knowing the retractor's scores on Gudjonsson's scales would be interesting, but I rather doubt that we would find them significantly different from a random sample. As he indicates, neither his investigations of women who "remembered" satanic abuse nor Haroldson's investigation of children who "remembered" past lives found differences on interrogative suggestibility. Although hypnosis is not necessarily involved in the production of FMS, it was certainly

involved in both Ann's and Cath's cases and, as Kassin points out, all four retractors reported trancelike states. Lief and Fetkewicz reported its involvement in 68% of the retractor's they surveyed, which may indicate that persons who maintain a lot of control and are difficult to hypnotize are much less apt to develop FMS. However, although some stability of hypnotic ability occurs over time, a good deal of variance clearly depends on a person's motivation and relationship with the authority figure offering suggestions. Thus, in the case of the retractors, we know that Cath could not be hypnotized before therapy (when she tried to stop smoking) but clearly was hypnotized by her therapist, and that Beth could be hypnotized before therapy (in high school) but was not hypnotized by a research psychiatrist after therapy.

In questioning whether therapists really have the power to suggest childhood abuse memories successfully, Reviere asks how we might explain clients who do not embrace suggestions. Variance in the different types of suggestibility may be part of the answer, but situational factors seem more important. Thus, persons may manage to resist suggestions when they are at a less vulnerable period in their lives, when they are less dependent on the therapist, when their relationship with the therapist does not depend on their accepting the therapist's suggestions, when there is an obvious alternative explanation for their problems, and so on.

As an example of a situational influence that may explain why a "pushy" therapist's suggestions may not be embraced consider some of the cases mentioned by Qin, Tyda, and Goodman. As they point out, some persons who have been diagnosed as suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and given techniques to assist them in recovering memories fail to develop FMS. For example, the cases reported by Lipinski and Pope ( 1994 ) had a history of intrusive mental images that were misdiagnosed as "flashbacks" of repressed childhood trauma without (apparently) developing into FMS. (Later, the clients responded to pharmacological treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder.) Note, however, that the images in these cases were severely intrusive and occurred before the suggestions of childhood trauma. One is reminded of the fact that rumors of coming disasters do not occur in towns where disasters have occurred but, rather, in neighboring towns ( Prasad, 1950). Aronson ( 1995 ) pointed out that fear that is justified by facts does not require further justification, whereas fear that is not sufficiently justified requires the creation of exaggerating cognitions. If Aronson's ideas about self-justification are applicable, we might expect to find more cases of FMS in persons who presented with less severe symptoms. (Note, however, this does not preclude the later development of severe symptoms.) This certainly seems true of the four cases presented in the target article.

As someone who studies patients with dissociative disorder, Coons is familiar with persons suffering from psychotic delusions or severe personality disorders, and has seen FMS cases who are severely disturbed. From his perspective he conjectures (and this is also suggested by Lynn et al.) that the retractors appear to have symptoms of borderline personality disorder. Both he and Reviere question whether the retractors are really as normal and from as relatively functional families as I report. My own conjecture is that retractors in particular and FMS victims in general do not differ significantly from the population of persons seeing psychotherapists. However, Coons points out that clinical evaluations were not performed, nor was extensive psychological testing conducted. Such a project would certainly be a worthwhile undertaking. Clearly, collaborative research is needed to evaluate our different positions. At this point in time I can only repeat my observation that three of the four retractors held responsible jobs prior to therapy and the two who were married had been successfully raising children who were doing well in school. Furthermore, their self-reports of dissociative experiences, as measured by the Dissociative Experiences Scale, were well within normal range save when they described their experiences during therapy. From the perspective of a social psychologist, their dissociative experiences seem to be a product of the sort of therapy they received.

I can certainly sympathize with Singer's desire to have richer narrative accounts that encompass a broader sweep of the retractor's identity. In part, the brevity of the accounts is due to space limitations, which forced me to focus on the process of therapy and to omit much of the background data the retractors furnished. In Ann's case, for example, I had to omit how she told me that as a child she walked 5 miles to the library where the kind librarian let her check out 14 books a week, how she met. her husband at age 13, was struck by a drunk driver when she was 15 and hospitalized for a year yet managed to graduate at the head of her class, how she married at 18, and discovered she was pregnant and delivered a son who lived only 4 hours. I had to omit important background details such as the fact that the family still visits the son's grave, that she and her husband worked overtime to pay in excess of $8,000 in hospital bills, and that they wanted more children but were unable to have them because of the problems caused by the early car accident. Such details might have helped convey an Ann who did not "jettison the bad therapist" but, rather, strived to do what was right and was afraid that she would not be loved if she were not perfect, an Ann with a deep ambivalence toward her

family of origin, and an Ann who deeply loved a devoted husband.

In part, however, I believe Singer is advocating a different project, for novels rather than short stories, for how the terrible bout with FMS fits into the much larger life of the retractors. I do not believe that such a project would shed much more light on how FMS develops. From what I have seen many, many different stories could develop into the false identity provided by FMS (or various cults). From my perspective, the situation, rather than the personal identity, leads to FMS. However, I believe that Singer's project is crucial if we are to understand how identity is to develop after FMS. Once persons begin to question their "memories," how are they to reconstruct their identity? If she or he is not referred to as "crazy" or "psychopathic" or as having "multiple personalities," how can what happened be honestly explained? How can the 5 years of false identity be incorporated in one's life story so that a person's identity is enriched rather than impoverished by the experience? I suspect that this is where Singer and other good therapists could be extremely useful. Unfortunately, as Lief and Fetkewicz observe, this need occurs at a time when most retractors must have lost all trust in therapists.

Adequacy of the Models

The two conceptualizations presented in the target article may be challenged from widely different perspectives. At one extreme, Singer objects to the narratives as overly simplified cartoons. He seems to prefer multiple narratives that would capture different identities and embed an instance of FMS in the life histories of individual retractors. The advantage of such an approach is that it maintains the rich complexity of human life. The disadvantage is that it fails to offer a starting point for persons to begin their search for understanding an instance of FMS. At the other extreme, Lynn et al. essentially suggest a single-process model that could account for FMS. Their very interesting studies, and those reported by Kassin, show how suggestive procedures can be used to create implausible memories in a majority of persons, and suggest that it is possible to understand the creation of FMS by considering the interaction of situational pressures with the individual's degree of self-malleability. The advantage of the general explanatory framework offered by Lynn et al. is that it allows an outside observer to grasp the commonalities between all cases and to isolate individual variables for empirical research. For example, all four retractors appear to have had puzzling experiences that were interpreted as signs of abuse. Yet, interestingly, whether a reduction of anxiety occurs as the therapist's suggestions are accepted is not clear. Although a single-process model may appear overly simplified, it actually gives us a way to contrast and compare individual cases. Thus, these cases suggest that the degree of dependence on the therapist may vary to a considerable extent as well as the degree to which the person becomes committed to the role of victim.

However, these advantages are secured at a cost. First, from the standpoint of a person who has suffered FMS, or a person who is trying to step into his or her shoes in order to grasp the experience, the general framework does not provide a coherent narrative that explains what happened from a first-person point of view. Furthermore, the narrative experience that is required seems different for different persons. Thus, the experience of dependence is quite different from the feeling that one has control (even if one's control is largely illusory). Undoubtedly, Ann and Cath experienced a loss in confidence in their decision-making capacity, an increased dependence on their therapist, and a loss of authorship over the narrative they were living. On the other hand, Beth and Doris had less confidence in their therapists, felt less dependent on their therapists, and made much more use of their own imagination to emplot the abuse narrative. These are not simply differences in feelings or stories. The feelings and stories reflect different psychological realities for the persons involved.

Second, even from an objective standpoint, the general framework may be too general, grouping together different phenomena, simply because they both lead to FMS. Lynn et al. object that the distinction between the mind-control and narrative models disappears unless an empirical basis for involuntariness (contrasted with the feeling that something is involuntary) exists. They suggest that the different models simply reflect different feelings about what happened rather than a description of different processes. Of course, in the research reported here we lack objective confirmation of phenomena such as assertion of will, loss of confidence, and self-deception. However, these phenomena seem to have an empirical reality that may or may not be referenced in any given narrative. The difference between the mind-control and narrative models is not a difference in whether trance states are present. Mind control is primarily characterized by the undermining of a person's ability to make his or her own decisions. And, although it may involve trance states, the control of decision making is achieved by the control of information, behavior, thoughts, and emotions. The retractors endorsing the mind-control model are telling us that they lost control over their decision-making capability. Furthermore, both Ann and Cath appear to have devel oped abuse narratives only in response to direct suggestions, whereas Beth and Doris developed their own narrative.

 
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