Many practitioners know from their therapy work the importance of early memories to their client’s current sense of well-being and health. Yet the idea that we remember or are affected by events that happen in uterus or in the early months of our lives is viewed as unlikely by some in the medical profession.
Some research now suggests that the very earliest childhood memories might begin even earlier than anyone realised – including the rememberer, his or her parents and memory researchers. Four- to 13-year-olds in upstate New York and Newfoundland, Canada, were asked about their earliest memories by researchers. They were asked about their earliest memory and how old they were at the time. The researchers then returned a year or two later to ask again about earliest memories -- and at what age the children were when the events occurred.
Childhood amnesia refers to our inability to remember events from our first years of life. Until now, cognitive psychologists estimated the so-called childhood amnesia offset at 3.5 years -- the average age of our very earliest memory, the authors noted in their report, "Your Earliest Memory May Be Earlier Than You Think: Prospective Studies of Children's Dating of Earliest Childhood Memories."
But the children who originally answered, for example, "I think I was 3 years old when my dog fell through the ice," postdated that same earliest memory by as much as nine months when asked - in follow-up interviews a year or two years later - to recall again. In other words, as time went by, children thought the same memory event occurred at an older age than they had thought previously. And that finding prompts Wang and Peterson to question the 3.5-year offset for childhood amnesia.
"This can happen to adults' earliest childhood memories, too," says Wang, professor of human development and director of the Social Cognition Development Laboratory in Cornell's College of Human Ecology. "We all remember some events from our childhood. When we try to reconstruct the time of these events, we may postdate them to be more recent than they actually were, as if we are looking at the events through a telescope. Although none of us can recall events on the day of our birth -- childhood amnesia may end somewhat earlier than the generally accepted 3.5 years."
Of course, many of us would argue that it is even earlier than this. In Health Kinesiology there is a technique called Body Brain Energy Integration technique (BBEI). BBEI’s correct fears set up as a foetus or in the first few months of life. Sometimes the fears are as a direct result of something happening to the baby (e.g. accidently getting entangled in a blanket and not being able to breathe), but others seem to come from the mother, presumably with the fears being transferred while the baby is a foetus.
Health Kinesiology Practitioner Sandie Lovell told me about some fascinating early memory work she did with a client. Sandie tested that this client needed some BBEI work. One of the items was fear of water. As the client started to think the item, she started to see detailed images of three children in 1940’s style clothes, playing in a pond with a tractor tyre as a makeshift boat; the little girl fell into the pond and was very upset, as she could not swim. The client subsequently found out that her mother had had such an experience when she was six years old, but had never told anyone about it.
Practitioner John Payne saw a ten-year-old boy, who had difficulty going to bed and sleeping. Various corrections were done including a BBEI fear of being falsely blamed. At first his mother said: “Oh yes, that seems just like him; he’s always saying he gets blamed when it’s his brother’s fault.” After a few moments she said: “It could be more about me, because, when I was pregnant, my husband and his family blamed me for almost everything. I couldn’t do anything right almost from the time we met.” The child soon stopped being difficult about going to bed.
BBEI fears look very similar to psychological problems, but because they are set up very early on and affect the energy feedback from the body to the brain, they are tested for and corrected in a slightly different manner from psychological corrections. Yet they are not completely separate. In fact practitioners repeatedly see situations where a BBEI fear is set up early in life and subsequently reinforced at the psychological level. In order to help the client, the practitioner has to unravel this combination of BBEI and psychological effects. It may well be that because a fear already exists at a BBEI level, relatively minor emotional events carry more weight and then get set up at a psychological level. When the practitioner finds a BBEI item for a client, the client will often identify an event that they think triggered it. The event is often in childhood or early teens – much too late to be a BBEI – but the event may well be so memorable because of the pre-existing BBEI stress involved.
It’s good to see that researchers are beginning to catch up with us, but they still have a long way to go before the medical and scientific community generally recognize how early memories can be formed and retained.
Jane Thurnell-Read © 2014, author of "Health Kinesiology".