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Welcome to a practical pastoral counseling site of Dr. Harold L. White

 Every pastor can be a valued and competent counselor.

Childhood Memories

Your earliest childhood memories are extremely important.

Who you are today -- your basic personality --your personal life philosophy -- the secret to your entire
outlook on life -- is hidden within your earliest childhood memories.
We will spend much of our early existence trying to understand what makes us act as we do and think as we do.

A basic principle of personality theory is that your childhood memories -- the words you use to describe them
and the feelings you attach to them -- say volumes about who you are and how you live today.
You can grow and learn.

You can undergo a life-changing conversion, you can adapt and change your behavior in various ways,
but your old human nature does not change.
You must struggle with it, confront it, and be patient with it all your life.
That identity starts in the cradle.
The little boy or little girl you once were, you still are!

The truth about memory exploration is that we all decided at a subconscious level what we will remember
and what we choose to block out.
Every experience we've had since birth has been recorded and saved safely in our brains.
The brain retrieves the memories we need when we need them.

People remember only those events from early childhood that are consistent with their present view
of themselves and the world around them.
It is your God-given ability to keep the present and past in balance so that you don't fall
over the edge into frustration, depression, or insanity.
The creative part of it is the way you manage to make sense of all your memory data.

In the book, Unlocking The Secrets Of Your Childhood Memories, we become acquainted with two words:
Creative Consistency which can reveal if you are a person who habitually gives or takes.
In their book, The Givers and the Takers, Chris Evatt and Bruce Feld says that ever person is a giver or taker.

For example, takers are more assertive while givers are less assertive.
Takers tend to be more attractive while givers are less attractive.
Takers break away while givers hang on.
Givers seldom break off a relationship, but takers often do.
Takers are less service oriented while givers are more service oriented.
Takers are in control while givers have less control.

The Law of Creative Consistency never depends on single coincidence.
And it has nothing to do with conscious choice on your part.
You don't consciously choose to remember one thing and forget many others.
There are very good reasons that you remember certain experiences or events.

If we have said all these things about early memories, and you can't remember anything
before the age of eight or ten, maybe even twelve for older.
We will give six simple rules of memory expiration and some techniques that you can use
to open the windows to the past.

Whether or not you remember anything at the moment, don't worry.
It's all there.
Everything you have ever done or scene is stored on a video memory tape somewhere in your mind.
For most people it's only a matter of remembering one or two memories, and then others come.
There are a few exceptions which are extreme cases in which there is a deep psychological reason
for the lack of memories.

People who suffer traumatic experiences often protect themselves from painful memories by blocking them out.
Sexual abuse, parental neglect, acts of violence, serious automobile accidents,
another shocking experiences may calls a person to block out a painful memories.
If that is true, then you need a trained therapists to help you through that experience.

Serious memory block is rare, however, and chances are that all you need is a little prodding
and practice to get your memories going.
So Dr. Leman and Dr. Carlson give some questions in their book that should get the memories flowing:

Can you remember an early birthday party?

Can you recall in any of your teachers when you were young, especially in kindergarten
or first or second grade? 

Did you get along with them? 

Did you ever have problems?

What were your teachers like? 

Do one or two standout? Why?

What kind of vacations did your family take? 
Can you think of a special one? 
Where did you go?

Can you remember the day you learned to ride a bike? What happened?

What about Christmas times? 
Can you remember a special Christmas or a special present you received?

What did your family do for fun? 
Can you remember in a special picnics or other kinds of outings?

What did you do at bedtime when you were little? 
Can you think of any special incidents?
As you begin to remember some of those memories, you need to decide which ones deserve
more thorough exploration.

That's where the six rules of memory exploration come in.
Now let us look at those six principles about memory.

The first rule is that earlier the memory, the better.
There are at least two good reasons why early memories are more valuable.

First, children make many important decisions in their first five or six years.
Researchers have said that within those first few years, children will have created
their own idiosyncratic answers to:

Who am I?

What is life?

What must I do?

What is good?

What is bad?

Children create their own unique private logic which makes each of them different from any other human being.
We begin working out this thing called your private logic from the moment we are born.
Through trial and error we test everything to see if it fits our emotional need to belong in life.
If it does, we make a mental note and keep that behavior and those feelings for later use.
If what we do or feel doesn't fit our need to belong, we throw it out.

In the process of all this picking and choosing, small pieces of our childlike personality fall into place.
The small pieces are most clearly visible in the earliest of childhood memories because they are
far less cluttered with all those defense mechanisms and rationalizations
that we have learned to use as an adult.

Think about this: as an adult, when we remember something from last week or even last year,
we filter that memory through all of our powers of adult logic and reasoning.

Recent memories are more likely to reflect what we would like to be or the person we think we are,
rather than the real person who was molded so long ago in our childhood.

We remember only those events from early childhood that are consistent with our present view
of ourself in the world around us.

In other words, our early memories can't be fooled.
They don't picture who you think you are or who you'd like to be.
They picture the real you, how you actually perceive life and live it, whether you realize it or not. 
Memories should be as early as possible, and it would help to have more than one of them.

The second rule is that the more early memories, the better.
You can learn a lot from a single memory, but in most cases you can learn even more from several.
Early childhood memories are like threads woven together to form the fabric of self-understanding.

The equation is simple.
The more early childhood memories, the more threads; the more threads, the stronger the fabric;
the stronger the fabric, the more personal insight.

The third rule is that the memories must be yours alone.

In other words, traditions or family stories that have been repeated so many times they become
like memories are not usable.
A parent, grandparent, or even older sibling may have told you, " I'll never for get the time when you ..."
so many times that you are no longer certain whether you remember the incident yourself
or just remember having it told to you.

The fourth rule is that the memories must involve specific events.

When digging for memories, is often easier to remember generalities rather than specifics.
The memory must pass the simple "I remember the time when ..." test.

We should be able to locate a legitimate childhood memory as a certain time or a certain day
or a certain occasion when something happened.
Dr. Leman and Dr. Carlson in their book, Unlocking The Secrets Of Your Childhood Memories,
have presented four rules of memory exploration.

1. The earlier the memories, the better.

2. The more early memories, the better.

3. The memories must be yours alone.

4. The memories must involve specific events.

Do you have a memory that fits those for requirements?

On page 42 of their book, they give some additional memory joggers:

What was your usual mood as a young child? Happy? Sad? Why?

Did you ever feel sorry for yourself? Why?

What were your brothers and sisters like? Did you get along with them? Why or why not?

Did your parents have much time to spend with you?

Do you always believed your parents?

Can you think of the time when you argued with either of them?

Or a time when you realized that they weren't perfect or invincible?

Did you get spanked much as a child? Why?

Could you manipulate or " bluff" your parents? How?

What frightened you as a child?
Can you remember some of your most scary experiences?

What were some " most embarrassing" experiences?
Who and what were involved?

Did you ever feel lonely or rejected? Why?

Now with those rules of memory expirations and mine, let us look two of memory exploration
that are the most important of all.

The first one is: focus on the clearest part of the memory.

Many memories are stories that have several parts, but what you must do is zero in on the clearest part.
How do you do that, you might ask?

If this memory were a movie, which movement of of action or frame of the film is
the most vivid or memorable?

Establishing the clearest part of a memory is extremely important because it sets you up
for the most significant part of this six-step sequence.

What do you remember feeling when this event happened.

The sixth rule is to attach a feeling to the clearest part of the memory.

In the book, Unlocking The Secrets Of Your Childhood Memories, is given an illustration
of a hypothetical bike wreck, if the clearest part of the memory for you is falling down,
you might attach a feeling of fear, hurt, anger, or embarrassment.

If the clearest part of that memory is your mom giving you comfort,
you could attach the primary feeling of security.

If the clearest part is the encouragement she gave you, the primary feeling
might be determination -- "I'll never quit."

Not only will people focus on different parts of a similar memory, but they can t have entirely
different feelings about remembering a similar experience.
Remember, the Law of Creative Consistency is always at work.

The memories that come into your mind are the ones that reflect your view of yourself
and your world around you today.
The feelings you associate with those memories are proof of that.
That's why two people can remember a similar incident, but have totally different feelings about it.

Attaching a feeling to the memory is the last crucial step in your own exploration process.
Take a closer look at that feeling.
Does it recur with any kind of consistent pattern today?

Under what circumstances?

Does that feeling have any effect on the person you are today?

You must identify the clearest part of a memory and how you remember feeling what it happened.
That alone gives you the insight to make some needed changes.

You might ask if there is a recurring location where the memories take place -- school, the home,
or maybe a special hiding place may say something about your interest or personality.

It also helps to ask if the memories are full of people or things.
Recurring people are quite common.

It might also help to note if the memories reveal the client as an observer or a participator.
Observers look in from the outside while participators are in the middle of the action.

Another revealing question is whether or not you see yourself as the one in control of the situation
or as the one who's being controlled by others.

Other questions you might ask about a memory are: "Did you feel secure or fearful?"

"Were you alone or with others?" "Were you a giver or a taker?"

Not all of these questions apply to every situation, but any one of them can reveal telltale patterns or habits.

Attitudes Are Also Important.

While there are many ways to look at memories, we always come back to their effect
on the client's feelings and emotions.
Look back over your memories for recurring emotions, such as anger, fear, confidence, or successfulness.

If you have trouble assigning an emotion to your memories, it could mean that you have difficulty
getting in touch with your emotions as an adult.
A lack of emotion can mean you are a rationalizer, the type of person who intellectualizes
everything and seldom wants to confront or share feelings.

Attitudes are crucial.

Look for a a recurring physical posture in your memories.

Were you always standing, sitting, running?

What was your attitude toward authority?

You could get some clues about your attitude toward authority has an adult.

Attitude has to do with more than reaction to authority.

What about recurring pain or heard in your memories?

Maybe you have developed an attitude of self-pity or martyrdom because you've been hurt
or think you've been hurt.

The Best Clue Is The Simplest.

You don't need dozens of clues to find the one that describes you best.
The clue you need is usually right there in plain sight.
One of the most significant clues to look for is a key word or phrase used in the memory.

Draw together what you learn from your memories in this chapter.
Identify the key threads that same to pull your memories together.

List any new insights you may have gotten about yourself.

Try nailing down the main truth in your memories with a key word or phrase that seems to stand out.

Don't be too concerned if you don't come up with a neat, tidy package that answers
every question or problem.
No system can do that because human beings are just not that simple.

As we read in the Old Testament you are " fearfully and wonderfully made."

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