Common sense tells me that we remember visually. If someone asks us to think of a happy moment in childhood, we immediately see the image inside our mind, which helps make a connection with the story and then the feelings. I’m sure this is the same for everyone.
When I started therapy, I remember having a conversation with my sister about psychotherapy unlocking things in our unconscious and how, as far as I knew, I had no hidden memories, or false ones, for that matter. How very wrong I was.
I remember childhood with average consistency, but not so much on a daily basis, rather a collection of different images, with either traumatic or happy connotations, and these somehow make up the bigger picture. I am aware that the bad somehow overwhelms any good and I wonder if part of my therapy is also about remembering the good and trying to bring some things into balance.
I have a consistent recollection from around 3-4yrs old up until just before my 9th birthday. They were the worst years at home. Not only was I living within an abusive environment, I also endured years of sexual abuse by our neighbour. You might think this would be a good time to dissociate, but dissociation doesn’t appear to have happened until the abuse ended. That seems a little odd.
One day I found mum wrapping ornaments in newspaper. She said we were moving, “to have a fresh start in a new home.” I said, “Will you and dad stop smacking us now?” I can still see the look of shame on her face. Maybe the penny dropped, I don’t know, but that was the last time they ever used physical violence to any humiliating extreme.
The first weeks in our new home are quite clear, but in my mind, I never did get to my 9th birthday. The next time I am able to recall anything solid, is a few weeks before my 12th birthday, exactly two-years. When I try to think about this period, the visual in my mind is blackness.
What troubles me the most is, prior to this two-year black out, I remember something dreadful happening. You could say it is a ‘hidden memory’, but rather than it being a memory of one single experience, it is a collection of little events that I remember spanning the few weeks leading up to our move.
This “memory” is so bad that if it were true, it’s hardly surprising I blacked out for two years. If it’s a “false memory,” it’s been causing anxiety, unnecessarily.
I read a post today by our blogging-chum, Amber, who made me wonder if we can really trust some of our early memories. You can read about it here