Reactivated Memories of My Childhood in the Second Half of Life
The extent to which “reactivated memories of my childhood” are a theme for many clients in the second half of life — is striking.
Naturally, childhood memories can be a focus for any individual in any part of their journey through adulthood. Yet there is often a unique quality in the life stories of individuals at mid-life or later. When they speak of experiences, or patterns of experience, that they have had in young life, it’s clear that these experiences have often impacted the whole of these individuals’ lives. What’s more, when people speak about often stunningly intense childhood experiences, it’s often clear that they have become intensely aware of the emotional and life-altering power of these experiences in a whole new way in the most recent part of their lives.
Rediscovering the Power of Memories of My Childhood
The human psyche is programmed to facilitate the survival of the individual. Not always, but often, an individual may undergo difficult or painful experiences, yet keep moving forward in his or her life, going through the life tasks of childhood, the teen years and the first part of adulthood. She or he may be so focused on survival issues during these life stages that the painful experiences remain very much in the background.
However, it may be that, as the person approaches or moves through midlife, even into later life, perhaps even as they watch their children go through key transitions in their personal journeys, the emotional impact of key life experiences from the past may become apparent.
There are a wide range of such painful or difficult emotional experiences that can have a deep impact on the whole direction of a life, and may well have linkages to depression or anxiety. Some of these may relate to traumatic experience, such as the possibly physical injury or the loss of a key family member. Others may relate to difficulties in key relationships. For instance, very problematic relationships with a parent who cannot bond with or love a child, or cannot accept a child, can have a very pronounced effect throughout life, as case studiess well know.
Specific life events may activate the memories of childhood in the second half of life. The times when children in their teens pass key milestones in their life journey (first love, transition to university) can touch key emotional sensitivities (called “complexes” by Jungian /a-midlife-transitions) in parents. This may open up significant emotional territory.
Example. Cecily’s 22 year old daughter was recently diagnosed with ADHD. As she learned more about her daughter’s diagnosis, and the nature of ADHD, she became acutely aware that her father had shown almost identical characteristics throughout his adult life, and that ADHD-related patterns of behaviour had led to a great many difficulties for her father and her family, and had involved great personal cost to Cecily. While she had soldiered through these issues as a young person, Cecily, now in her 50s, began to find that the feelings were now impossible to ignore.
“Cecily’s” experience has power, because it touches on some of the key aspects of human experience: fatherhood, parenthood and the family. Jung used the word “archetypal” to refer to “patterns of thought or behaviour that are common to humanity at all times and in all places” (D. Sharp, The Jung Lexicon). In this sense, we can say that peoples’ experience of the reactivation of “memories of my childhood” are often archetypal.
Jungian /a-midlife-transition deals with the past of the individual, including the “memories of my childhood.” It embraces the whole of the individual’s experience and life history, and accepting all as a key part of the “journey towards wholeness”. Through being open to all that the individual is, through this perspective of wholeness, the work seeks to uncover a new sense of personal identity, direction and meaning.
Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst
PHOTOS: Alyssa L. Miller (Creative Commons Licence) ; Neville Wootton (Creative Commons Licence)
© 2017 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)