Here’s a theoretical idea I’ve been tinkering with in my head that seems oddly relevant as I sit here at the computer at 338am on a Thursday morning (note to self, caffiene + 10pm = BAD). This is something I’ve believed for a pretty long time but it seems to be coming up in therapy sessions quite often lately so it seems relevant to share. Consider it food for thought or at least consider it something to consider:
Thoughts and feelings can have an effect on us even if we’re not directly thinking about them and even if we’re not even remotely aware of them. Some of that stuff from childhood that “doesn’t bother me anymore”, that you’ve “forgotten” or “gotten used to” may still be there in the back of your heart and mind, directing your behavior without you even knowing it. Consider your heart. The actual one, not the metaphorical one. If you put your hand on your chest and concentrate, you can feel it beating. You know it’s there. There’s a good chance though that 20 minutes ago, before you read this, you weren’t thinking about your heart. Conciously, you didn’t know it was there. BUT it was still beating, it was still pumping blood, it was still having an effect on you. Ever been in a room where the air conditioning abruptly shut off and you were suddenly, acutely more aware of its prescence? Conciously, you weren’t “aware” that it was on. It was simply part of the unattended to background noise of your day. On a concious level, it didn’t exist. Depsite this, it continued to keep you cool. It affected you, even though you didn’t “know” it was there. One of the practical applications of this, parents, is in the area of abuse and trauma. I commonly hear from parents, that their child was “too young to remember” trauma A or trauma B. This, simply, is irrelevant. If nothing else, consider childhood as a time for template building. A time where, among other things, one forms the ideas of how woman relates to man, how man relates to woman, how subordinates relate to superiors and in the larger sense how one is to relate to the world around them. It doesn’t necessarily stop in childhood but this is where some of the bigger patterns are built and to a certain degree, solidified. If the process of template building is disrupted (and witnessing or being subjected to trauma or abuse will certainly disrupt it) then the patterns built from this template will also be affected whether it is “remembered” or not. It can still have an effect. Sadly, this also means that the stuff that happens to us as newborns also affects us. If we give the right kind of care and affection and closeness at birth, it helps create neural pathways that are emotionally beneficial. Mountains of research suggest that skin to skin contact just after birth plays a part in emotional and physical well being of a child. If that can be true, the opposite can be true. If a child isn’t given what he or she needs or is subjected to trauma the outcome can be severely negative, EVEN IF THEY DON’T REMEMBER IT. Just because you don’t think anymore about that embarrassing and crappy thing that happened to you back in high school doesn’t mean it doesn’t still have a hand in shaping your current behavior. Just because you don’t think about your dad’s death anymore doesn’t mean it dosen’t affect how you react sometimes. Even though you don’t always think about that near fatal car crash you were involved in when you were 22 doesn’t mean it doesn’t still cause you drive in a different manner without realizing it. Sometimes things stick with us without us even knowing it. Just because we don’t know it’s there doesn’t mean it doesnt affect us.
Unrelated song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksdwxxydHOc
Unrelated book: The Lord of The Rings (All three of them. And the Hobbit too. Not psychological in nature but they’re all great!)