Psychiatry & Psychology--General/Strange memory returned

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Question
I'm a female in my mid twenties. I've had something strange happen to me and would appreciate your thoughts on what is going on.

Somewhat recently  (year ago) my mother and grandma were talking to me about imaginary friends I had when I was little, about 3 years old. They said I would sit in my room and talk to them for hours. There was 2 imaginary friends, one male and one female. They had names, regular ones like John or Susan, but I don't remember their names. Now, as they spoke about this I had a memory come to me, one that I do not remember ever having thought about until this point...roughly 20 years later. I remembered being in my room with my imaginary friends and them having sex with me. I don't really think I knew what it was at the time, but I do now. And I remember it wasn't just normal sex- it was pretty rough. I vaguely remember imagining being tied up during this. Does this seem odd? It seems very odd to me, and is very disturbing actually. The whole memory itself is disturbing, and the fact it *just* came back to me I also find strange. I never told anyone I remembered this. Why do you think this "random" memory happened, what could it mean? Could it really mean anything? Is it possible this really isn't a memory? It really bothers me, but should I just let it go? I can't understand why a 3 year old would be imagining these things.  Any opinion you can give is greatly appreciated.

I've had something like this "flashback memory" happen before. I was older, about 7, and once it came back was unfortunately able to remember every detail, and why it happened. This one though is tougher for me. I really appreciate your response and thank you.

Answer
Jennifer

This is not really a memory because it is about something that you did not remember until someone else told you about it.

It "appeared" because someone told you about it, there is no mystery about that.  

So while it is upsetting to you it is not that unusual that when being induced to remember this period in your young life it got filtered" through your older grown up self, distorting memory, by adding some components to the "memory"  that probably does not belong with it.

I would caution you against over-interpreting this because there are a number of unscrupulous mental health practitioners who would make you worry by concluding that this experience you describe suggest that you were molested or something similarly horrible and proceed in therapy to induce you to "remember" even more horrible things.

The only reason to pursue with a trustworthy mental health practitioner would be if you felt that your present life was sexually or socially impaired by something that you heretofore could not guess at.  If everything is mostly fine in your life now, just let it be and understand that scholars are constantly proving that memory is way more flawed than it is accurate and that all kinds of factors from our present situation affect the way we "remember" the pass.

For instance, there is an ironic adage common to criminal defense attorneys which is:

        "The worst witness is an eye witness."


Best,

Dr. Elmore  

Psychiatry & Psychology--General

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Andrew M. Elmore, Ph.D.

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I can answer questions about: Stress. Headaches. Stress-related Disorders. Anxiety/Panic Disorder. Depression. Psychopathology. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Personal Problem Solving. Life in General. Relationships: Love, Friendship, Business Partner, Coworker, Family,Child/Parent. What makes us tick. The use of psycho-pharmacological agents in combination with psychological treatment. How to deal with evil people in your life. How to improve your outlook under duress. How to control stress. How to control mood. How to control headaches. I cannot answer: Questions about Eating Disorders. Questions about computers.

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30 years in private practice as a psychologist in Manhattan. Dealing with people from almost every conceivable ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, and as many character types as exist in this country. Dealing with patients from 8 years old to 90 years old. Pioneer in biofeedback and the treatment of stress-related disorders. Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine since 1982. Treatment of stress-related, anxiety and depressive disorders with biofeedback and cognitive behavioral therapy. Developed personal problem solving, an extremely precise form of psychotherapy. Relationship therapy for couples, families, parent/child issues, business partners, coworkers, employers, and dealing with psychopathic individuals in your life.

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American Psychological Association. Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback. Biofeedback Certification Institute of America. New York Academy of Sciences.

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The journal, Psychophysiology. The book, Expanding Dimensions of Consciousness. The journal, Headache. The journal, Biofeedback and Self-Regulation. The journal Psychiatry Digest. The book, The TMJ Book. The book, Dental Phobia. The network, CNN. Parade Magazine. The newspaper, Newsday. The Manhattan TV station, WCBS. The national news program, The CBS Evening News. The newspaper, The New York Post. The national TV program, The Phil Donohue Show. The magazine, The New Yorker. The magazine, Glamor. The magazine, Redbook. The magazine, Health. The magazine, Bottom Line Personal. Web MD. The website, Healthology. The magazine, Newsweek.

Education/Credentials
Ph.D. SUNY at Stony Brook, 1979. B.A., magna cum laude with Honors in Psychology, Illinois Wesleyan University, 1974.

Awards and Honors
Who’s Who in Medicine and Healthcare, First, Second and Third Editions, 1997-2000. Appointed to the Training Faculty of the Biofeedback Certification Institute of America (BCIA), 1993. Senior Fellow BCIA. New York Academy of Sciences, 1987. Who’s Who in the East, 1983-present. Who’s Who in Frontier Science and Technology, First Edition. Citation Paper Author. Eleventh Annual Meeting of the Biofeedback Society of America, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1980. Biofeedback Society of America Scholar, 1979. Co-author, USVA Grant, “Variables Affecting the Experience of Pain in Migraine,” USVA Medical Center, Northport, New York, 1977-1979. Biomedical Research Fellow, Department of Biomedical Engineering, SUNY at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, New York, 1978. NIMH Predoctoral Fellowship, 1976. BA, Magna cum laude, with Honors in Psychology, 1974. Danforth Fellowship Nominee, Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, Illinois, 1973.

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Most of my clients are my private patients. However I have provided many seminars, lectures and workshops for: Columbia University. The Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Museum of Natural History. The UJA Federation. The university, CW Post. The College of New Rochelle. Equinox Fitness. Travelers Insurance. AutoOne Insurance. Chubb Insurance. Metropolitan Life. Allstate Insurance. State Farm Insurance. Encompass Insurance. The public relations firm, Porter Novelli. The investment firm, Capital Re:. The Estee Lauder corporation. The law firm of Irwin Abrams. The National Insurance Crime Bureau. GEICO Insruance. Beth Israel Hospital.

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