The idea is that when the memories come up, they’re coming up for a reason

Dr. Patrick Gannon

In this 4-minute video, ASCA co-founder and author of Soul Survivors answers a question about memories. Transcript included.


▶️ 00:00


▶️ 00:02


Our first question we’ve received [name removed] who asked, “Can a person successfully move through the steps without full recollection? I understand the importance of facing memories as they arise, but will the lack of memories hinder recovery?”

▶️ 00:18


Memories come up into consciousness are the ones that need to be attended to. It’s coming up for a reason because there’s strong feelings attached to it. There’s a reason why it’s coming up. It might’ve been triggered. But for many people, the abuse happened really, really, really early in life. And prior to the point in which most people have memory, you know. Most people have memories that they can recall around the age of three on up. But prior to that, not so much.

▶️ 00:52

Think of it this way. If the memory is not coming up, it may be less relevant to your life. It certainly does not mean that you should anguish over the fact that there’s some gaps in your memories. You shouldn’t feel you’re incomplete if you don’t have … I mean, the fact of the matter is that we know that memory is fairly malleable, right? And I have memories back to the age of three, but there’s a lot of other memories that I don’t have for one reason or another. So no, it doesn’t have to stop you at all.

▶️ 01:28

The idea is that when the memories come up, they’re coming up for a reason, and they have to be dealt with. If you deal with whatever memory that comes up, you’ll be fine. And the other memories that don’t come up, maybe they’re less relevant. And so, I wouldn’t see that as any kind of a barrier if you don’t have.

▶️ 01:46

Now, obviously, the more memory you can have, age three and on, the more clarity you have about what your experience as a child was, and that’s obviously going to be helpful. But we’re not perfect creatures. We’re not going to have 100% memory recall about everything that happened. So, don’t wrap yourself around the idea that you have incomplete memories.

▶️ 02:11

I’m working with someone right now and he says that he has no memories from birth to eight years old. Well, that tells me that probably something bad happened to have that level of psychological defense where he doesn’t remember things back at age six, seven, or eight. Most people do. Most people can remember their house that they lived in or their school or their teacher or whatever. So, in some cases, we do want to bring the memories up, but we want to respect that they’re going to come up in the way they come up.

▶️ 02:42

We have this whole issue about false memory which happened years and years ago, which was a real complicating factor for many survivors. And therapists need to be careful about not over-interpreting or getting ahead of the client’s surfacing of feelings. You’ve got to be very respectful that what comes up is their experience and you’re in the passenger seat driving with them down on the road toward reclaiming more and more memories.

▶️ 03:13

The answer is no, don’t worry about that. Just deal with whatever memories do come up.

▶️ 03:20


Thank you, Dr. Gannon, and I’ll lift up. We have a comment from [name removed] who it looks like is a survivor who’s been through the support group. And she shared it hasn’t hindered her recovery. “I only have a couple memories. And as I am fully aware of the repercussions as an adult, so I focus on working through those. Over time, additional memories will reveal itself to me as I’m living my life.”

▶️ 03:45


Dr. J. Patrick Gannon
DeJon Knapp, Haruv USA
April 2021

Video excerpt from The Morris Center for Healing from Child Abuse, 2024