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The dangers of memory: Jane's story

Jane, a 28-year-old personnel officer, says hypnotherapy helped her to remember sexual abuse by her uncle, which took place in her childhood. She had 12 sessions of hypnotherapy during the autumn of last year.

I went to see a hypnotherapist who'd been recommended by a friend. I'd been feeling stressed and wound up, and I wanted help to be relaxed and calmed down.

The actual experience of being hypnotised was very pleasant - very relaxing, like being half asleep. My hypnotherapist was a woman, as I felt I would find her easier to talk to and relate to.

I lay on the couch in her office, which was lovely, all full of plants and crystals, with very soft music playing in the background. She would tell me to relax completely, from head to toe, and then just gently ask me to tell her what I could remember.

She would help me go even further back by saying things like 'then what happened?' or 'where were you at the time', though mostly she would just listen. I was able to re-explore my childhood, go back and look at things again - I found several experiences that had had more of an effect on me than I realised at the time.

Some came up several times - I remembered them in more than one session. One was to do with one of my uncles.

I'd always had a slightly difficult relationship with him - felt he was a bit strange, that there was a tension between us that wasn't there with other members of the family. Then one day I had a vivid memory of sitting on his lap in the living- room in our old house - it was like a film, I could see the pattern on the carpet, the pictures, everything.

I was wriggling around, and he had his hand between my legs and was touching me sexually. I wasn't scared or upset - in fact, I was quite enjoying it, it was like being petted or caressed. When my therapist asked me how old I was, I knew that I was eight at the time.

Remembering it was quite shocking - I felt worse then, at the age of 27, than I had when it happened. But I had no idea at the time that this kind of thing was inappropriate, it wasn't rough or hurtful and although I felt a bit distressed and shamed at remembering it, I certainly didn't feel like I

wanted to go and shout and scream and confront him. I certainly wasn't about to go screaming the house down.

I'd say we get on almost better than before - I feel more relaxed round him now I know what was bothering me underneath. I don't believe he wanted to hurt or traumatise me - and I decided I wasn't going to be traumatised. I am a strong person, this happened nearly 20 years ago, and I have a loving relationship with all my family - including my uncle - that I don't intend to call into question.

I felt better for going to the therapist, though I wouldn't say that this particular memory was a key thing in that. It was just the general going over things and talking them out. I had 12 sessions at pounds 15 each and I think it was money well spent.