One major controversy regarding Abusive Parents
concerns people who grew up thinking they have a good family, and then 'recover' memories of childhood abuse. On one side, there is the belief that people (particularly children) can subsconsciously choose to forget something that is too painful to remember, and on the other side, there is the belief that therapists or others could potentially implant false memories of abuse into a person's psyche. (Evidence suggests that both theories are actually true, making it very tricky to determine the truth in any given case.)
Naturally, this controversy has shown up in fiction. And since not everyone does the research, there are some common mistakes made.
Assuming it's possible to repress memories, it is a skill that can be learnt in childhood if there is repeated trauma. The only known cases where adult or single-event trauma appears to have been repressed occurred in individuals who also recovered memories of repeated early childhood trauma. In addition, it seems to be that the child has to be attached to the abuser
and need to trust them, meaning the abuse must come from a parent or other beloved authority figure.
Fictional Repressed Memories
are nearly always played for drama, as some character has intentionally forgotten about some event which is in some way important to the plot. Their rediscovery of the truth brings back all the pain that forced them into denial to begin with, commonly resulting in a Heroic BSOD
Compare Remembered Too Late
are frequently used as a critical part of The Reveal
, so beware: unmarked spoilers are below.
Anime and Manga
- Macross Frontier: Ranka Lee has repressed memories due to the trauma of being the Sole Survivor (or so everyone thought) of a Vajra attack when she was five. Seeing the Vajra again begins bringing these memories to the surface.
- Macross Plus also has this with Guld Bowman. In a fit of rage (implied to be brought on by Zentraedi instincts he hadn't learned to control), he assaulted his Childhood Friend Myung, only to stop halfway through in horror of what he was doing. His mind partially blocked the memory of the incident: he remembers that Myung was assaulted and that he was there, but he doesn't remember that he was the one doing the assaulting, leading him to blame Isamu for it. Isamu and Myung both realize what's happened, but for unspecified reasons, do not tell Guld the truth.
- In Neon Genesis Evangelion, it's implied Shinji's memory of his mother's death was this as flashbacks show he was present when it happened. It's possible he simply forgot because he was very young at the time, but when brought to the place where it happened he knows he's been there before and Akagi mocks him for being unable to recall exactly what happened to her.
- It's shown in Gunslinger Girl that 'conditioning' does not erase your memories, it simply heavily represses them. Claes once beat up Petra when she touched her glasses, because the glasses were given to her by the handler, despite the fact she doesn't remember his existence. When Henrietta is on a mission against the Five Republics Factor she sees a man in a ski-mask which triggers the memories of her past. She flies into a fit of rage, accidentally shoots her handler, and this ultimately results in her death.
- Osamu from Bokura no Hentai think he has memories of a past life where he was a nymphomaniac woman. When he sees a tape of himself as a little kid interacting with an older neighborhood boy the real reason comes to light. The boy used to dress him up as a girl and sexually abuse him.
- A major plot point in each main entry of Silent Ponyville Chronicles.
- In Sonic the Hedgehog fanfic Project Mobitropolis Act One: Evil Rises, a major plot point is that Sonic doesn't remember anything of his past beyond a couple of years ago. Sonic eventually remembers that he was created by Robotnik as part of a project to create the ultimate robot, and spent years as Robotnik's terrified lab rat and being mentally conditioned to see himself as worthless before eventually making his escape. The memory sends Sonic into a Heroic BSOD for a while, and when he comes out of it he has to spend the rest of the story learning to conquer the fear that caused him to repress his memories in the first place so he can save the world.
- In Gensokyo 20XXV, chapter 46, it was noted Reimu actually did remember what had happened in Gensokyo 20XXIV with Ran and Chen's suicide attempts and it wasn't made all that clear up until then, then again, her age regression age was three, if not four, an age in which permanent memories can be formed.However, it is noted that her lack of comprehension and innocence at the time said memories were formed left her unable to cope with them in the future.
- Subverted in Star Trek: Voyager: Retrospect when Seven's supposed repressed memory of being violated turns out to have been reconstructed from having watched people being assimilated when she was a borg.
- In the Voyager novel Mosaic, it's revealed that Janeway has strongly suppressed the memory of the accident that killed both her father and her fiancée, because she feels guilty for hesitating when there was still a chance to save one of them.
- In Resonance, Anna has repressed the memory of Javi, her real father (previously believed to be an uncle) killing the man she believed was her father.
- Ashley Riot of Vagrant Story has repressed all his memories of his experience as a Riskbreaker. Sydney forces him to relive the experience that caused this, causing the memories to begin emerging again, and it's used to justify your gaining abilities automatically with each level - "Ashley has recovered this ability from repressed memory."
- In Umineko no Naku Koro ni, this apparently the case for Rosa, which is why we only learn in Episode 3 that she had found Beatrice II in Kuwadorian many years ago and helped her escape, only for Beatrice to fall off a cliff and die. It seems it takes a lengthy talk about an unknown woman secretly living on the island to make her exhume her memories of the event (as foreshadowed early in Episode 2).
- Shirou of Fate/stay night repressed the memories of his family during the fire ten years ago so that he would not be tempted to turn back and find them. During the Fate route Kotomine tries to make him remember, believing that remembering what he lost will make Shirou accept the Grail.
- In Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies, the black psyche-locks seen in the final case (as well as the last case of the game before it) are revealed to indicate these. In Dual Destinies, they're protecting Athena from remembering discovering her mother's dead body with her killer still standing over her, then stabbing the killer herself. No one's yet sure what they mean for Kristoph, the only other character seen to have them...or if we'll ever find out for certain.
- In Little Busters!, Komari regularly has dreams of an older brother she doesn't remember. These turn out to be memories she repressed because his death traumatised her so greatly, compounded by the fact that, just before he died, he tried to convince her that it was all just a dream. Whenever the memories are triggered, she undergoes a Heroic BSOD for which the only cure is to repress the memories once more. Until Riki comes along, anyway.
- In Sluggy Freelance Torg represses/alters his memories so he doesn't have to face the fact that Zoe and Riff most likely died in the Mark-19 explosion.