the truth cannot be harmed

If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.–J. Reuben Clark

Yesterday, I consulted with a forensic hypnotherapist.

“I want to remember my brothers,” I told him. I have so few memories of them, so few photographs. When I think of the one time I met Jimmy, I remember him wearing denim overalls, but that detail seems wrong.  Am I confusing him with my father? My father always wore overalls to work as an electrician. Jimmy worked at a Hy-Vee grocery store, a detail I only gleaned searching the city directories for my hometown. When I think of my oldest brother, Greg, I remember him smoking Marlboro reds and provoking me into wrestling matches. I remember his coarse, red hair, always so exotic to me because nobody else in our family shared that trait. My memories of him always play back as if I am watching them on a television with the volume muted.

“I want to remember my oldest brother’s voice,” I said when the hypnotist asked about goals. “Not necessarily all the bad stuff that happened.” (I already remember the bad stuff.)  “Just his voice.”

“I will teach your subconscious,” he said, “that your memories of your brothers are whole and complete as they are.”

For years, I have talked myself out of hypnotherapy. From a forensic perspective, hypnotherapy is risky. I could overwrite legitimate memories with false ones. I could integrate suggestions from the session and plug in gaps with phony images and voices. I could accuse someone of a false crime.

But what, exactly, does legitimate memory even mean? When I think about my creative nonfiction, how I weave together my story with the cultural and physical landscape, I recognize the creative process poses an equal if not graver risk to memory. I integrate “suggestions” from everything around me–the city grid, crimes in the news, the pollution in SLC’s air. I overwrite images with metaphors. I restructure narratives. And yet, I am still telling the truth. I am still dealing in legitimate memories. Or does writing transmute memories into elaborate forgeries?

What if, in this case, the truth can be harmed–even obliterated–by my investigation? What if a forgery becomes my truth? What if a forgery already is?

I will teach your subconscious that your memories of your brothers are whole and complete as they are. Isn’t that the ultimate forgery?

I am trying to get as honest as I can (from my brother's police report, translated into Deseret Alphabet
I am trying to get as honest as I can (from my brother’s police report, translated into Deseret Alphabet)