Journal Of The American Academy Of Child and A adolescent Psychiatry

Too Scared To Cry is a book written by Lenore Terr and first published in 1990 by Harper & Row. However, the exact date of this publication is unknown. Later on June 24, 1992, Basic Books publishers in New York released the second edition.  Lenore Terr is a renowned writer and a psychiatrist and she has written many articles relating to her field of specialization. For instance, in 1979,she published The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, The Journal Of Pediatrics in 1981,The American Journal Of Psychiatry in 1981,The American Journal Of Orthopsychiatry in1983,Journal Of The American Academy Of Child and A adolescent Psychiatry in 1988,A Recount Of Traumatic Stress in 1989,and American Journal of Psychiatry in 1999.Apart from her scientific publications, she has also written many books alongside Too Scared To Cry(1992).In 1995,she wrote Unchained Memories: comprising true stories of Traumatic Memories Remembered and forgotten, Beyond Love and Work in 1999.Other works associated with her include Mapping Trauma and its Wake in 2006 and Magical Moments of Change of 2008.She is an MD graduate from the University of Michigan. Her probe into the post effects of the Chowchilla kidnapping of 1976 made her an outstanding psychoanalytic psychiatrist of all the time. She has been a staunch advocate of Repressed Memory, a theory which suggests that people are capable of recalling memories long repressed because of trauma. She has been able to apply this in the field of criminology consequently bringing into prosecution of some criminals notably People V. Frankline and George Thomas Frankline. Throughout her work, she has won several awards as a reputable psychiatrist. In 1967, she won a Career teacher award from the National Institute of Mental Health, Blancher F .Littleton Award from the America Psychiatry Association, and Agnes Purcell McGravin Award for a Distinguished Career in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry of the America Psychiatry Association, and in the year 2011, Agnes Purcell McGavin Award for distinguished career in child and Adolescence Psychiatry from the American Psychiatric association.


In 1976, for reasons not known, twenty six school children were kidnapped from their school van along the San Joaquin Valley found in the town of Chowchilla and buried alive for sixteen good hours. The children are saved but this ugly event left many people with a lot of disheartening memories. Ten years down the line some school kids from the New Hampshire school witnesses through the television the spaceship named challenger explode killing among others, their teacher. The two cases turned out to be a nightmare to many. However, to people interested in research such as Lenore Terr,it was a one time opportunity to really find out the connection between children past experiences in connection to their present behaviours.Terr therefore embarks on a journey to find the victims of the kidnapping and personally spent time with them, interviewing them and closely monitoring them. One particular child, 13 years of age, narrates to her how the experience was blood-chilling. The kid recalls how the ordeal was so terrifying that he could not cry. Hence the title of the book too scared To Cry.

Terri embarks on her task compiling her experiences with the survivors with what other researcher found out and with this, she comes up with the Repressed Memory theory in which she tries to show the connections between peoples past experiences with their later emotions. She finds out that children remember past experiences like abuse, accidents, rape, and disasters. These events are far beyond their powers and they are left defenseless. In her research, she has to crack a puzzle which clogged her theory. If really ones past experiences explain present actions, how was she to differentiate children who were actually telling the truth from those making up ordeals? Terr asserts that children cannot completely escape the results of their previous ordeals .In fact, such memories remain buried inside and no matter how normal they may behave or look, deep inside lies feelings of anger, hate violence and self pity. In an effort to explain this fact, she points out that such inert emotions manifest through experiences such as disturbing dreams, hallucinations and other mind torturing manifestations .She explains that those children who undergo a series of particular forms of abuse may come up with a psychological defense mechanism to in an attempt to escape the harsh realities. She cites two cases: One is that of a recovering amputation patient who has now accepted her artificial legs, she even persists on wearing specifically red shoes on them. This case she says is just attempt to bury memories which she finds haunting, but it does not mean she has completely forgotten the ordeal. The memories have been repressed and will surface should the victim be exposed to ordeals which will trigger a recall. Case two is about a woman still virgin at 53 years. She tries to understand the dreams about some form of molestation she had during her childhood, which she cannot recall despite her efforts in trying to figure out why. She concludes that denial and numbing are the common was of trying to escape the harsh realities. She manages to point out that post traumatic reenactment and contagion of childhood psychic trauma treatment are the best therapies for people trying to recover from their ugly past experiences. Time heals wounds but the scars may remain: the constant reminder of previous experiences, such was the case of the 53 years old virgin.

The cases pointed out by Terr in a way influences her suggested remedies in helping victims of unpleasant past experiences. She tends to suggest possible ways for instance, for children who have went through sexual exploitation ordeals from their parents should still, however upnormal it may seem, should still maintain close contacts with the parents! Looking into Stephen king’s experience and traumatizing past, Terr suggest that childhood traumas never really stop regardless of their age and gender. Her citations about satanic rituals in day care centers are not merely a tool to induce horrific emotions, rather an attempt to show the relevance of her study: what really happens when children are exposed to witness tormenting ordeals? the answer she says is repression of such feelings and they will remain as such until they are looked onto, discovered, and treated.

Psychological Analysis

The book not only touches  psychological approaches in dealing with repressed memories but also goes an extra mile giving possible solutions from a devoted researcher who is keen in determining the connections between behaviors and their possible reasons, which she stresses is due to unresolved childhood experiences. It is a comprehensive cover of not just child psychology but all people of different ages. There is a close study and understanding of human actions and their motives which actually is the primary aim of psychology. Once the motives have been identified, appropriate approaches can be applied in solving the root cause of the problems springing from unattended childhood traumas.

In her encounter with the woman with amputated limb, who displayed both signs of denial and repression, Terr learns that actually it is not only children have buried emotions. The 53-year-old virgin, viewed from a psychological point of view, might be suffering from childhood abuse trauma. Though she cannot fully paint the clear picture of what might have happened, it might just be the case. Perhaps, that is why she is not interest in matters pertaining sex, maybe she just resents men. What other explanation can be thought of. Terr gives a psychological insight into human experiences right from childhood; the whole process of studying patterns in people’s lives in relation to the way they behave or feel is basically psychology. Only through intensive study of motives behind human actions we can find answer why people incessantly depict the potential to harm others and even themselves? As much as this can be easily be concluded as the outcomes of life’s hardships, there is more to that. For instance, why can a small child play carelessly knowing very well of the underlying dangers that comes together with that? let us try to imagine what would have become of the victims of the  kidnapping, the children would probably grow up fearing travelling though valley, hate to see graves and be paranoid of seeing their children travel in their school buses. The story tends to borrow directly the psychological phenomenon of the causes and effects in determining human actions, that there is always an underlying factor which make people to act in a certain way. Though this may not be the excuse for Terr and others in the related fields to try justifying inappropriate human actions. The author distances herself from being labeled as such when she applies the same principle to see prosecution of individual involved in unacceptable behaviors in the past. Though this may be as well Terr’s defense for her theory of repressed emotions. To try to explain our denial, we can apply her theory: that when we are having a feeling that we don’t actually want to feel and we want to avoid it, we are actually suppressing it. Psychologists say that when we repress our emotions, we don’t actually kill them but hid them in our unconsciousness that helps us to be oblivious of them for a while.


In general the author is concerned about hidden memories and how they come to haunt one in the future life. These repressed memories can cause stress, anxiety, undesirable experiences like night mares, amnesia, short temperness, and desire to hurt one or others. She suggests that individuals may find it hard to deal with such and advocates for a counselor or psychotherapist. Terr tries to justify her claims by conducting a research on a group of children who survived a tormenting ordeal. As much as this may not have been the best opportunity for her to grab because most of the experiences underwent by her subjects is horrific, this could be the demerit of her book. In her explanation about repressed memories, she nearly contradicts herself when she actually poses a question for herself: what if people lie about their ordeals? Is there a way to determine the difference between those telling the truth from those faking to escape punishment or criticism? Almost all children undergo the post traumatic experiences even if they tend to look normal, repressed emotions are buried deep in the unconscious mind; almost unnoticed.

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