The child’s mind; some thoughts on the past


My mind to mind, heart to heart, soul to soul conversation with my brother last night brought my firm beliefs about childhood experiences and the past into clear focus. A good friend of mine, who has been a counsellor for many years, often states ‘children are great recorders of information but not good interpreters’. I agree with this wholeheartedly (although, I will note that there are exceptional children that do seem to be great interpreters). While I do not believe in excessive reminiscing of past experiences, particularly in the form of rehashing the past over and over and awakening all the emotion that was felt at that time, I do believe that sometimes we need to assist our ‘childish’ memories to be rewritten with our adult consciousness.

I see life as being like a great tree:

  • The roots being our core beliefs and where we come from
  • The trunk being our growth, time in the world, memories and experiences
  • The branches and leaves our potential future path

We can rewrite what has been carved into our trunk, redirect the sap of memories that flow within us and, if so desired, change the core beliefs that our life is built upon. The past is not static. With a bit of mindfulness we can change our view of past experiences, even great tracts of time, so that we can respond to our present in a more balanced way and flourish.

Can you call to mind moments or situations in your life where you habitually respond with overly strong emotion, almost like a default setting? Or is there a pattern in your relationships that seems to be stuck on repeat? Have you ever wondered why certain words or phrases set you off and later you wonder why that situation blew out of proportion? It is highly likely that you may have an ingrained response linked to childhood experience/s that haven’t been contextualized into an adult perspective. It’s like a trigger that when pressed by particular pattern or similar situation to the past experience we are suddenly, emotionally, 6 years old again, or 12 or 15. Our adult mind, heart, body and soul is hijacked by this youthful version of ourselves. If we can identify the sensation and catch ourselves behaving in this way we can begin to recognise the pattern and instigate change.

As I mentioned I don’t believe that change requires an in-depth revising of the past (this is almost like rehearsing and reinforcing the behaviour). Just noticing what happens at these times is a powerful catalyst. What thought is prevalent? Is it actually relevant in this situation right now? Why do I think/feel/believe this? Try to catch the moment and slow it down, breathe and look at the thoughts that appear foremost in your mind before you say them out loud. Press pause while you breathe and assess the thoughts and emotions arising. If you can, take time out from the situation, write down what you have observed but keep it simple. When we challenge behaviour, or alter a pattern slightly, different neurons spark in the brain, beginning new pathways within our mind and igniting the process of change.

Sometimes we may have a distinct memory that arises in relation to the patterned response but a specific memory is not essential for this simple process to create successful change. The point is to break an association that is no longer serving us. As children we put in place coping mechanisms to deal with that which we do not, or cannot understand at that time. These mechanisms probably served us well when we developed them but as we outgrow them they begin to hinder us without conscious realisation that a patterned response exists.

Take your inner child’s hand and lead them through these situations with calm, care, love and attention. It takes a little time but it is not painful and leads to deeper understanding of the self, greater compassion and empathy as well as richer relationships. I am not saying banish the inner child, the innocence, imagination and wonder of the child-mind is a blessing. I am merely suggesting that there are parts of our mind that could do with a spring clean and a new perspective to improve our lives.

Change is easier than you believe.


Image from pinkparis1233 on deviantART

9 comments on “The child’s mind; some thoughts on the past

  1. dievca says:

    Wow! I know that I have some conditioned responses (running into one, lately — a second one from someone else, too). I’ve been working on it, but your ‘guide’ will help a little bit more. XO

  2. hispetitelle says:

    Your post is so timely. My husband and I have been deeply introspective and reflective as we have decided to go down a road that we only held in the deepest recesses of our desires. In order to make it happen we are doing the hard work of identifying and dealing with fears, habit patterns and triggers. Your tree analogy sparked a thought. There are many things we are doing right and have worked very hard these last two years at making trust so deeply rooted that nothing can unearth it, however, we are not always seeing the fruit and the reason for that is sucker branches. Sucker branches have to be hacked off a tree so the energy gets to the leaves and the tree grows. The underground root system of a tree mirrors the spread of the branches above. You have to get rid of those people, thoughts, habits, fears, and situations in your life that suck your energy away so your roots spread and so do your branches.

    • Oh Elle, that is a wonderful metaphor you have found! I am so pleased that my musings sparked this thought. Wishing you very well on this new journey. Your relationship seems deep and strong. I love hearing about the trust couples develop together when they are willing to be honest and put in the effort. The rewards echo through every part of life.

  3. Jayne says:

    Oh, yes. I wonder if having may others around (siblings) actually assisted me in this entire process. I am the younger of many so I observed all kinds of patterns and behaviors growing up – interactions with parents, different relationships between parent and children. Everything you said here has been habit since I started to look at my own self and relationships. It’s like using certain crayons to color your world..but then…you learn they had another name and with that new name, the color switches value and hue. If I do this with understanding that nothing was ever personal because we all only act according to our perceptions, the picture is still valuable. You don’t carry around any baggage if you do this too, right? Loved this topic Errant! thank you, Jayne

  4. lora4260 says:

    Love love this. Well well said and good advice. Thank you for this post. ❤ 🙂 Love

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