A man develops amnesia after he is accused of a crime. He forgets the last several years of his life once he is accused of the crime. Dr. Mayer analyzes the patient to decide if his amnesia is a conscious choice or an unconscious one. No definitive conclusion is reached.
The author defines repression as an active process of making some part of the mental content inaccessible to memory. He believes it to be harmful when it has negative effects on one's adaptation to his environment. He states that although it is a common practice to tell patients to not think of unpleasant memories it is rarely beneficial to voluntarily banish these thoughts. He discusses cases of war neurosis, and the part taken by repression in each of them. He concludes that facing painful memories and thoughts should be encouraged and patients should be helped after "cessation of repression" for improvement in treatment.
The authors first define dissociation, describe it as a functionally adaptive process, and suggest that it may be an instinctive defense. The authors suggest that the absence of appropriate dissociation in the face of emotionally overwhelming events may lead to psychosis or other serious mental disturbances. The authors then describe three cases of psychogenic amnesia in previously healthy soldiers with no family or personal history of dysfunction. The first case of amnesia was observed in a soldier who witnessed a member of his company decapitated by a shell, the second in a soldier who saw his fiancee mortally wounded by a bomb, and the third in a sergeant who gave an order that led to the deaths of 122 men.
This case report concerns a 31 year old man who suffered from a fear of enclosed places. During treatment for this claustrophobia the man recovered a memory from age 4 involving being trapped in a dark enclosed space. Subsequent information provided by the man's parents provided some degree of confirmation of his recovered memory. The man's claustrophobia subsided after recovering the childhood memory. An interesting aspect of the case is that prior attempts to recover a memory of a sexual nature (due to therapist suggestion) were not successful, suggesting the man was not unduly suggestible.