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[This excerpt is from Suggestions of Abuse: True and False Memories of Childhood Sexual Trauma , p. 83, by Michael Yapko, Ph.D. Simon and Schuster, New York. Copyright (c) 1994. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. Read our review or order it from]

An excerpt: memory is a process of reconstruction:

Memory is a process of reconstruction, not simply of remembering. Missing details are slowly filled in with plausible guesses that often aren't even recognized by us as guesses. This is the process of "confabulation" I have referred to previously. It is most apparent in older people suffering senility, as when you ask your grandfather if he's had breakfast and he says, "Yes, they took us to Paris for crepes." He really can't remember otherwise, so he says it quite sincerely. If you want the truth, you'll need to ask someone else who was at breakfast who isn't as prone to confabulation.

I must make it clear that unconscious confabulation, though deceptive, is not the same as consciously lying. It is merely a way of filling in the gaps in your memory. The false memories that arise in response to suggestions of reliving past lives, a birth trauma, or a repressed memory of abuse are genuinely believed by the rememberer. That is what makes accusers so convincing. And just as they typically cannot prove the truth of their memories, typically no one else can disprove them, either. This is the basis of faith, not science. As soon as someone asks me, "Well, isn't reincarnation possible? Couldn't these memories be true?" I have to concede that, yes, it's theoretically possible. And it's theoretically possible that Martians are in the next room controlling my blood pressure. Theoretical possibilities are not evidence.

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