Picture self as child

5 Oct ’14 ~Question of the Day~ You As Child

Can you picture the child you once were?

Like OM – I have pictures, and the stories that go with them.

I don’t have many memories prior to 5 years old.

I can picture what I was as a child in a sense, and in another sense, the thing that I am now is so different than what it was then, that there is only the sequence of instants connecting us.

I can picture a series of snapshots, but I cannot reconstruct anything remotely like the experience of being those snapshots, until about age 9.

[followed by]

Hi Bhatta et al

I haven’t got easy access to memories of my birth, or earlier, and I strongly suspect that they are there, but I am not using the appropriate contextual keys to access them.

It seems that memory in the human brain is a process that is a destructive read, followed by a rewrite. Thus some people get to hold on to memories of very early phases if they recall those memories during the phase change processes of life – the access keys change subtly with repeated use.

It seems that we all go through several major phase changes of awareness and many lesser ones.

Our earliest awareness is pre-verbal, sensation without label.

Our next awareness is languaged, as we build models in language that involve memories and distinctions to which we attach labels. I observed my daughter in particular very closely through this phase. Her recall of events was astounding. At age 3 she could recall in great detail experiences from about 1 month of age.

Then she made the transition to the next phase, she declared herself wrong in language and gave birth to her egoic awareness, and her original languaging awareness hid behind the egoic shell (as we all do in a very real sense). Over the period of a couple of months, as the egoic awareness built a new context, she lost the access to most of those earlier memories. So I have no detailed recall of that process within myself, but I have very clear and detailed observations of it happening in my daughter – as I was by then (16 years ago) very clear about the logic and mechanics of how the process must work, and was very keen to get detailed first hand observations of it in action (I had observed similar things in my son a decade earlier, but at that time did not have a particularly accurate model of the process I was observing).

I have many memories of early life, but I don’t trust most of them, as they are mostly of events that were part of the story telling lore of my family. There is one that I am reasonably confident may be real, and that involves a ridgeline on a hillside, and a fence down the ridgeline, and pain and flying. The family lore associated is that I was about 2 and a half and out with dad tending sheep and one of the rams hit me from behind so hard that I was thrown over a fence. I strongly suspect that incident is the point source origin of the back pain that has been with me most of my life (aggravated by subsequent experiences falling out of trees, fishing {hand hauling nets maintaining a line pull of several hundred pounds, in surging conditions} and crashing motrocycles etc).

The earliest memory that I would give over 90% confidence to comes from around 4, and is of being in the yard of our house at Matamata (Hinuera actually), with a strict line across the section, with me standing dry in the sunshine, looking across the section to where it was dark and raining just 20 ft away from me, like a curtain hanging from the sky, and a hedgehog is walking from sunlight into rain. That memory is sufficiently strange that I have kept on recalling it.

There are two major problems that I have with it (and all memory).

One is that I know in physiology and logic, that every time we recall something, we have to re-write it, and each re-write process can introduce subtle changes (the fundamental reason that therapy allows us to change our relationship to troubling memories), so given the many thousand times I have played that memory back, it is very probable that there are significant differences between my experience of the memory now, and the original experience.

The other one is that I know that I only ever have experience of the model of reality that my brain creates for me. I have no direct access even to my sensory experiences, those experiences are all mediated through the many levels of filters of the brain. And I am very aware that the model that I have now is very different from the model that I had then, so the experience of recall that I have now is highly unlikely to be anything other than a dim shadow of the original experience, however bright and vivid it appears in the experiential reality of having it.

So yes – I am confident that we all carry memories of experiences pre birth, perhaps even going back to a few weeks after conception, but it is highly unlikely that the recall of those experiences (in those of us that are able to find keys that give us an ability to recall) are actually what happened, though they are, without doubt, based upon what actually happened.

Human memory is highly unreliable in most cases, however vivid it is experientially, and there are some notable exceptions to that general rule.

So it is always possible that our memories are very close to perfectly accurate, and it is not very likely to be so in most instances.

It is a very strange thing – this experience of being human!

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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