Prince of Tides: A Summary on Repressed and Recovered Memories Essay

Prince of Tides: A Summary on Repressed and Recovered Memories


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Prince of Tides is a movie in which a family experiences a very traumatic event in their childhood. The movies focus is the effects of the event and shows the results of psychological trauma. It shows an example of repressed and recovered memories. This paper also shows how some researchers oppose that theory.

Prince of Tides: A Summary on Repressed and Recovered Memories

This movie begins with brief background in Tom Wingo’s early childhood. Tom has two siblings, an older brother Luke, and a twin sister Suzanne. The movie depicts the three children as very bonded due to an unstable home life. Their father, Henry, was a very abusive man. Their mother, Lila, on the other hand was very mentally abusive. One particular example of this is the scene in which Lila pulls Tom into her bedroom and tells him that she loves him more than the other two children and that he is her favorite. Later it is revealed to the other two children what she has told Tom. The children are all very upset because she had the same conversation with each of them privately. From this point in the movie we flash forward to Tom’s adulthood. Tom is married with three children. Right away it is very evident that Tom’s relationship with his wife Sally is struggling. Tom seems very detached from Sally and tries to alleviate this through his odd sense of humor. Tom has a very difficult time having a serious conversation with his wife or children. One scene is particular shows the couple arguing and Tom putting his arm around Sally. Then Sally tells Tom “that was the first time you touched me in months.”

As can be assumed their intimate relationship is merely nonexistent. Another important point in the opening of the movie is Tom’s deep hatred for his mother, which is evident when she comes to visit and deliver the bad news. The news it that Tom’s twin Suzanne has once again tried to commit suicide and her psychologist is requesting a family member come to New York to help unlock the secret behind her mental condition. Lila tells Tom he has to go because she is unable due to it being her new husband’s birthday. This is another instance in which we see Lila regard herself above her children. Throughout the movie she makes comments that she is going to be somebody important someday. We also learn during this scene in the movie that Tom’s older brother Luke has died two years earlier. Tom decides to leave for New York to help his sister. While in New York, Tom begins to meet with Dr. Lowenstein. Tom begins to develop a trusting relationship with Dr. Lowenstein and little by little, the secret of their family past is revealed during these meeting. Their family secret is that of a very traumatic event in which three prison inmates escape prison and enter the Wingo home and rape Lila, Savannah, and Tom.

The oldest sibling Luke was not home when the invasion began, but returned in the midst. He shot and killed two of the intruders, while Lila stabbed and killed the third. The terrible situation goes from bad to worse when their mother demands the children to bury the bodies, clean up the bloody house, and pretend as though it never happened. This traumatic situation and the children’s subsequent observable behavior will be the center of the great debate on repressed and recovered memories mentioned in this paper and in our textbook. With the insight of the family secret one can easily understand certain personality characteristics of both children. It also further sheds light on Tom’s personality as was mentioned before. Tom tends to use humor as a means of not having to experience any feelings. One might argue that Suzanne has unconsciously repressed those traumatic memories from the night of the intruders, which is why her mental health doesn’t improve until those memories are recovered with the help from Tom. Sigmund Freud proposed we repress painful memories to protect our self-concept and to minimize anxiety. But the submerged memory will linger, he believed, to be returned by some later cue during therapy. Yet increasing numbers of memory researcher think regression rarely, if ever, occurs. (Myers, 2011) People’s efforts to intentionally forget neutral material often succeed, but not when the to-be-forgotten material is emotional (Payne ; Corrigan, 2007).

As noted in our textbook when we become stressed or excited, stress hormones make more glucose energy available to fuel the brain activity signaling the brain that something important has happened (Myers, 2011). Rather than suppressing these unpleasant memories they become more vivid and persistent. In the movie Suzanne dealt with the childhood trauma in a different way than Tom. She attempted to be a different person. We see this in the movie when she authored a book under a different name, Renata Halpern. She also suffered from mental illness and attempted suicide more than once. Of the two Suzanne seemed to have repressed her painful memories from the night, while Tom often had vivid flashbacks throughout his life. Overall, their lives were very messed up as a result of that. awful night of the intruders, but more so in the silence they were to demanded to live in afterward.


Myers, David G. (2011) Exploring Psychology. New York, NY: Worth Publishers

Payne, B.K., ; Corrigan, E. (2007) Emotional constraints on intentional forgetting. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 43, 780-786.