Start Here True Stories Test Your Therapy Newsgroup
What's New Myths False Memory Syndrome "Experts" Debunked
Info for You Essays Reform Legislation The Courage to Heal
Site Map Audio How You Can Help Articles, Links & Resources
The Candy Cane and the Bear, Copyright 1995-98 Deborah David
Permission has been granted to copy this essay.
It must be copied in full including this copyright.

Are you a retractor or affected family member? Would you like to share your story for online publication?  Click here.

The Candy Cane and the Bear
by Deborah David, Retractor

How is it that one can believe that something is happening, or happened that never even took place in reality? I have been asked that question many times. People want to know why it is I could believe something that had no basis in reality. Let me try to explain as best as I can from my point of view as having lived through this. I do not consider those things I saw in my mind's eye as memories, they never were memories, they were not a reality of my experience. They could be called "fantasies" if you wish, for lack of a better word, or "visualizations" whatever they can be called, they were not memory.

I recall reading somewhere, something about us being very visual beings. We see things in pictures. We can form a picture from the words we read. When someone tells us a story, we also form a picture to go with the words. If I tell you there is a bear climbing a candy cane. You can form the picture. Later when you are told you saw a bear on a candy cane you will recall the same picture as you had previously formed. At this point you are probably not making any interpretation to the picture. I mean you are probably not thinking of it in terms of a memory of experience.

Now a person asks you if you have seen a bear on a candy cane and you will probably say no, because you know you haven't seen such a thing in reality. But suppose this person insists you saw a bear on a candy cane. Suppose you are vulnerable at the time. Suppose the person insists this took place though you are questioning the reality of seeing a real bear on a candy cane. Suppose you are given an explanation (repression/dissociation/splitting etc.) as to why you do not remember seeing a bear on a candy cane. Suppose this is being told to you over and over again by someone you have put your trust in. Suppose you are thinking about it so much, constantly being told it did happen that you start to see bears and candy canes in your dreams, which become more and more strange and involved. Suppose along with a person telling you that indeed you did experience seeing a bear on a candy cane you are given material to read that tells you other people have also seen a bear on a candy cane and not remembered it. Suppose too, that you soon are meeting people who tell you of the bears they have seen on candy canes which they also did not know about until recently. Suppose you are told you have to recover seeing even more bears on candy canes so you will be well.

And through it all you are told you have to believe it took place. That indeed you saw, touched and physically experienced seeing a bear on a candy cane. You are told to feel what it was like to see a bear on a candy cane. "I bet you were afraid, angry and frustrated?" "Did you want to cry?" "You couldn't do anything, could you, you were so small and little, and helpless." You are told to pay attention to what your body is telling you about seeing this bear on a candy cane. "Did your legs feel like they needed to run?" "Did you have trouble catching your breath?" "I bet you were so terrified you just froze still." You are asked what the bear looks like, what color, how long is the fur, how big is the bear? "How many bears were there?" "How many candy canes?" "Is the candy cane red and white or a shade of pink?" "Are the stripes wide or narrow?" "Did the bear touch you, look at you, watch you?" "What did the bear do?" "How does that make you feel when you remember that?" "How big are you?" "How old are you?" "Where did you see the bear on a candy cane, the city, the country, in a car, your bedroom, your home?"

Well, you did experience seeing a bear on a candy cane in your minds eye of pictures, you have visualized it, it is there and now you believe it is memory, indeed it really took place. What is happening to your reality? Could you continue to distinguish reality from dreams, from visualizations, from fantasies, from what you were being told? In fact, what becomes of your reality, do you still have one?

And to further keep you confused from what is real and what is not, every time you might question the reality of actually seeing a bear on a candy cane you are told you are being resistant, in denial again, being dissociative and/or wanting to repress the truth of what happened to you because seeing a bear on a candy cane was a horrible experience and something that you don't want to remember.

You soon ask if you are crazy, could you be making it up, are you lying? And you are told, "you are not crazy" "you are not lying" they believe you and know you are not lying, they even tell you they know it happened and it is real. You are told, "you're not making it up, someone would not make up something like that" "your body feels the fear doesn't it, you can't make that up."

It would not be long before you could believe something that is not a memory in the sense of what memory is. Something that is a "false memory" yet not, because it never was from memory but from mind pictures caused through suggestion, dreams, visualizations and such. Once a persons reality is taken from them, how can the person find an anchor to hold onto. How can someone then distinguish what their reality actually is? They are then left to be filled with the reality of another person, to whatever that other person wants to instill into them as reality.


Further comment

Does it take only a creative person to form a picture of a bear on a candy cane? Probably not. Does it take someone who is just suggestible, probably not. At the first instance the person probably does not believe or take the suggestion as truth, reality. They may be quite skeptical but given time, given the pounding away at the persons reality at a vulnerable time and most likely it is going to happen, "recovered memories" of what ever is being asked of the person, will emerge. Thus suggestion if part of the whole process but not necessary is it happening only to a person who could be considered suggestible. In order for suggestion to take place the person has given, by way of complete trust, their own rational thought processes and given control over to another person. A person who holds himself out as someone who has more knowledge of you then you yourself do. A person who is in a position of authority, and who is offering to help you if you follow his steps to get there. There are also many other factors that come into play on this outside mere suggestion. For all people are suggestible to a certain degree, it is when the other factors come into play that one can become more suggestible.


top of page