“Enthusiasm for the phenomenon is a means of increasing it”

The Most Dangerous Idea in Mental Health – Pacific Standard: The Science of Society.

A disturbing and disheartening story.  I was raised in a fundamentalist environment which was all too credulous about these kinds of claims. Beliefs about a cult-infested world—and claims of recovered memories of abuse—were very much part of my childhood.

It’s disappointing to think that the world of therapy is still this immature. I remember a time when recovered memories were widely accepted. Now, just a few decades later, that field of therapy is considered to be discredited. The therapists have moved on to new fads, and never mind the millions of families that have been affected by “memories” which were most likely suggested rather than recovered.

It’s also a fresh reminder of just how malleable the human mind is. Suggest aliens, and it will manufacture an abduction. Suggest dancing and people will dance themselves to death. Suggest spiritual warfare, and it will manufacture demon possession—something I’ve witnessed firsthand, on more than one occasion. I’ve been to spiritual “therapy” retreats where the subtext was all too clear: if you really want focus, attention, sympathy, and, finally, catharsis, get a demon cast out of you. Bonus points for satanic cult memories.

Which is not to say I think anyone is faking it. That’s the thing about minds: they don’t work nearly as reliably as we like to think they do. You can get people to believe damn near anything under the right conditions.

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