Unable To Fully Remember Childhood

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

It really just occurred to me recently. I’ve always had vague, small, random memories of it in my mind over the past few years. I knew it was my life, I never gave it much thought. But recently I started thinking about it more and I realized those vague memories were kind of all I had now.

I know there’s so much more to it but I just can’t remember fully no matter how I try. The things that I can remember, I’m confused about whether or not they’re real all of a sudden. It’s all very confusing.
My childhood was not the easiest but also not the hardest. I remember that there was a lot of fighting, I remember being afraid. I remember some small specific events and parts of fights but I don’t remember how I reacted while it happened, or me even being there to begin with. It’s kind of like seeing pieces of someone elses life. It makes me question if they’re even real memories because how could they be if I can’t remember myself being there?

But I also remember feeling happy with my parents. I remember that we went places, but I don’t remember what happened when we went there. I can’t explain it, really. I have a hard time even correlating ages with events.

It’s driving me crazy because I feel like a piece of me is missing. Like I’m not going to get past this point in my life that I’m at now if I can’t figure out what I’ve forgotten. It feels like I used to remember before but just recently I stopped remembering. But I’m not sure, maybe I’m just thinking about it too much.

I want to know if this is normal and what, if anything, I can do about this?

Thank you for your time!!

A. It is not usual to have difficulty remembering one’s childhood. Many people have limited memories of their early years. Rarely do individuals remember every detail about their early life. It is difficult to know why this might be.

Individuals who have difficult childhoods or who have experienced a trauma often report limited memories. From a psychoanalytic perspective one reason for this may be that the unconscious mind blocks these memories. The memories may be blocked because the individual is not psychologically ready to handle difficult events or experiences. Those memories may be slowly revealed to the individual over time, when they are psychologically able to handle them.

What an individual cannot remember consciously sometimes is revealed to them through dreams. Dreams are produced by the unconscious mind and can reveal important personal information. You may want to keep a notepad next to your bed and write down your dreams immediately upon awakening.

Hypnosis is another way to explore the unconscious mind. If your lack of memory continues to be a troubling issue, then you may want to consult a trained certified professional who specializes in the use of hypnosis.

The psychoanalytic interpretation of your inability to remember certain aspects of your childhood is that you are not psychologically ready to deal with these memories. When you are, those memories may be revealed to you.

I would encourage you to study memory recall and memory research in general. Those resources may provide exercises or tips that can help increase your ability to recall early memories. I wish you the best. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 16 Apr 2011

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2011). Unable To Fully Remember Childhood. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/04/16/unable-to-fully-remember-childhood/