top of page
  • Writer's picture Zalman Nelson - Therapist

What Can I Do If I Can't Remember My Childhood?

Updated: Feb 9

What do you do if you can't remember your childhood at all? What if you have no memories? Many people have told me this over the years. Can you help me? I don't have any memories. What do you do? All right, we're going to talk about that today because there's a lot you could do, and a lot of good can come out of it. There's a lot of hope for you.

Many people come to me and say, 'Are you going to be able to help me? I don't have access to childhood memories.' Some of that comes from this thought that psychology is always about 'tell me about your mother,' and we've got to spend a lot of time in childhood. For me, that's not true. Cases where a person doesn't have access to their memories prove that. I've worked with many people in that situation, and they've done well.

The short answer, and stick with me to the end, is if you really want to start to jump into it yourself, the short answer is when you are triggered at the moment, the feelings that come up with your partner at work, with friends, those feelings are the same feelings that you felt back as a kid. The emotions are the same, and you can work with them in the moment. Sometimes, those very feelings in the moment that get triggered will bring you back to childhood. But let's talk for a second.

Why does this occur? Is there something wrong with you? Are you broken? Are you bad? Really, not at all. I think there's this perspective we feel uncomfortable with ourselves. We grew up not so sure of ourselves. Maybe you grew up feeling it's not okay to feel. Somehow, there's some issue with me. We tend to blame ourselves. If I'm not getting the love, security, and reassurance I need and want, I've got to somehow make sense of it to feel okay or trust a parent. The typical response of a child 24/7, 365 in such a situation is to blame themselves. There's something wrong with me. I'm bad. I'm not good enough.

We will struggle to feel good or okay about ourselves. It can lead to the sense that I'm at odds with myself, a part of me I'm fighting, or this deep, dark secret. Throw it in the closet, and don't go there.

A lot of people have. Not only am I uncomfortable in myself, but I'm at war, on guard, or constantly anxious. That's another source of anxiety. What's going to come up next? I'm at odds with it. Part of the inner child healing, part of the therapy work, is building a relationship with that part and realizing that, wait a minute, we're on the same side. This part is in my corner. That can manifest as the triggering emotions we feel, fears, anxieties, and worries. It could also be part of why you don't have access to many memories. It could be because if it's too much, if it's too intense to be a child and feel unsafe, insecure, not loved, abandoned, it's overwhelming.

We are a small child. We come into the world. We are primed and programmed to be absorbent of the messages received around us. We are looking for a sense of ourselves from the people around us, looking for basic emotional needs, safety, security, love, reassurance, acceptance, and validation. Look at a tiny baby, utterly dependent on the parents. Is the parent tuned in and attentive to the needs of the child? That continues as the child gets older, being aware of the child's emotional needs. For a lot of people, that didn't occur. That didn't happen.

We have this sense that there's something wrong with us. Part of the response can be just to cut it off or to bury it and put it away. Be out of touch with it. It's so overwhelming. It's so much. Let's shut it down, pack it away, or bury it. That's often trauma. It's overwhelming. What is trauma? Something very painful, uncomfortable, hurtful to me over which I have no control. The complex trauma of childhood or experiencing emotional pain or lack of neglect, and we have no control over it. Let's cut that off. Let's pack that away. Let's bury that because it can't be handled. That's not an attack. That's not a bad thing. That's actually a loving act by this part of you inside of you that's like, 'This is too much to handle.' That's where that comes from.

Again, I'm going into that because it's part of this general reframe where it's me and myself. Let's start over. Let's redo this. Let's get to know each other. Let me learn to run from myself less, avoid less, and self-medicate less. Let me start getting more curious about what I think and feel and what's going on. What do I need? Let me start to build a relationship with you. That, to me, is the essence of therapy. The therapist with the client helps the client discover things about themselves, learn more about themselves, learn how to be in touch with what they feel and build up a sense of worth, value, validation, and the confidence to affirm and express that to the people around them in a way that really works and builds successful relationships.

A person isn't meant to live life memorizing a list of responses. If this happens, do this. It's to handle things as they come. At the core is feeling good within yourself, being well in touch with yourself, trusting your instincts, having a good sense of your inner voice, and practicing living your life based on that. The core of a healthy childhood is that the parent is tuned into the child and helps that child meet the child's needs. That helps the child feel safe as a tiny baby; that's a physical need. As you get older, it's more emotional needs. Post 12, 13 years of age, we then take over. We're not just a child part anymore. We're also an adult part and part of parenting ourselves, which is the healing, is getting in touch with what we feel, what we think, what we need, and being aware of that. That's step one, and then step two is taking action to meet those needs. That helps us feel safe and secure.

The general reframe is that I'm not at war with a part of myself. I'm not under attack from a part of myself. Part of me has put away or buried or put out of reach some of these memories because they're too difficult to handle. I find that memories will start returning as we do this work. They'll come up as we're able to handle it, as we practice our emotional tools and skills, getting in touch with what we

If you want to delve deeper into this concept or have specific questions, schedule a free consultation and check out the other informative videos on my YouTube channel – be sure to like, subscribe, and share while you're there :)

32 views0 comments


bottom of page