Revising psychoanalytic interpretations of the past

International Journal of Psychoanalysis 82:449-462 (2001)
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The author reviews a contemporary cognitive psychology perspective on memory that views memory as being composed of multiple separate systems. Most researchers draw a fundamental distinction between declarative/explicit and non-declarative/implicit forms of memory. Declarative memory is responsible for the conscious recollection of facts and events - what is typically meant by the everyday and the common psychoanalytic use of the word ‘memory’. Non-declarative forms of memory, in contrast, are specialised processes that influence experience and behaviour without representing the past in terms of any consciously accessible content. They operate outside of an individual's awareness, but are not repressed or otherwise dynamically unconscious. Using this theoretical framework, the question of how childhood relationship experiences are carried forward from the past to influence the present is examined. It is argued that incorporating a conceptualisation of non-declarative memory processing into psychoanalytic theory is essential. Non-declarative memory processes are capable of forming complex and sophisticated representations of the interpersonal world. These non-declarative memory processes exert a major impact on interpersonal experience and behaviour that needs to be analysed on its own terms and not mistakenly viewed as a form of resistance



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