BETRAYAL TRAUMA

THE LOGIC OF FORGETTING CHILDHOOD ABUSE

A cognitive psychologist heats up the debate about recovered memories of childhood abuse by presenting her theory of why and how such memories may be repressed. Freyd (Psychology/Univ. of Oregon) argues that the childhood traumas that are most likely to be forgotten are those in which betrayal is a central factor. According to her betrayal trauma theory, forgetting certain kinds of betrayal, such as sexual abuse by a parent or trusted caretaker, is an adaptive behavior, for by blocking out knowledge of the abuse the child aligns with the caregiver and thus ensures his or her own survival. Such information blockage is not unique to childhood sexual abuse, the author argues, but a common response to everyday betrayals by trusted individuals, be they spouses or bosses or other authority figures. Freyd cites numerous studies to back her assertion that the forgetting and later remembering of childhood sexual abuse is real and well documented, and she illustrates the phenomenon with extensive excerpts from the recollections of Ross Cheit, a college professor whose recovered memories of sexual abuse by an administrator at a summer camp were subsequently corroborated. To explain the underlying cognitive mechanisms, Freyd describes research that she is conducting with both college students and clinical populations. While not directly tackling the issue of whether memories of childhood abuse may be false, Freyd offers support to those who claim they are real by rejecting the view that memory repression is impossible or implausible. In an afterword, she acknowledges the role that her private life has played in her development of betrayal trauma theory and notes that her parents are founding members of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (which supports parents whose children have accused them of sexual abuse on the basis of recovered memories). Although Freyd argues persuasively, it seems unlikely that her theory will end the debate or that its critics will disregard her personal history in considering its validity. (20 line illustrations)

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 1997

ISBN: 0-674-06805-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1996

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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A vivid sequel that strains credulity.

THE ESCAPE ARTIST

Fremont (After Long Silence, 1999) continues—and alters—her story of how memories of the Holocaust affected her family.

At the age of 44, the author learned that her father had disowned her, declaring her “predeceased”—or dead in his eyes—in his will. It was his final insult: Her parents had stopped speaking to her after she’d published After Long Silence, which exposed them as Jewish Holocaust survivors who had posed as Catholics in Europe and America in order to hide multilayered secrets. Here, Fremont delves further into her tortured family dynamics and shows how the rift developed. One thread centers on her life after her harrowing childhood: her education at Wellesley and Boston University, the loss of her virginity to a college boyfriend before accepting her lesbianism, her stint with the Peace Corps in Lesotho, and her decades of work as a lawyer in Boston. Another strand involves her fraught relationship with her sister, Lara, and how their difficulties relate to their father, a doctor embittered after years in the Siberian gulag; and their mother, deeply enmeshed with her own sister, Zosia, who had married an Italian count and stayed in Rome to raise a child. Fremont tells these stories with novelistic flair, ending with a surprising theory about why her parents hid their Judaism. Yet she often appears insensitive to the serious problems she says Lara once faced, including suicidal depression. “The whole point of suicide, I thought, was to succeed at it,” she writes. “My sister’s completion rate was pathetic.” Key facts also differ from those in her earlier work. After Long Silence says, for example, that the author grew up “in a small city in the Midwest” while she writes here that she grew up in “upstate New York,” changes Fremont says she made for “consistency” in the new book but that muddy its narrative waters. The discrepancies may not bother readers seeking psychological insights rather than factual accuracy, but others will wonder if this book should have been labeled a fictionalized autobiography rather than a memoir.

A vivid sequel that strains credulity.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982113-60-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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