Failed Recollection of Childhood Memories

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Is it normal for me not to be able to remember 98% of my childhood memories? I’ve heard its common for trauma survivors but it doesn’t make any sense. Its not just childhood memories I can’t remember. I can barely remember any memories from my time at high school and I only left last May. I was wondering if this could be due to something I went through when I was 13. I came within an inch of being raped and the assault itself was very violent. I repressed that memory and completely forgot it had happened until January 2013. I’ve been terrified to be in a relationship since but I’m planning on getting a flat with 2 straight single guys. Why, I don’t know. What’s wrong with me? Could this assault be the reason for my lack of memories? If so how? Also is there any way to get them back? I’ve considered going to visit my high school to see what I can remember but I’m too scared. I was bullied to the point of suicidal thoughts my first 3 years there. Sorry if this post doesn’t make any sense its just all this stuff is in my head and I needed to write it down.

A. Individuals who have experienced trauma often have difficulty recalling memories of traumatic events. It may be due to repression, an unconscious defense mechanism in which traumatic memories are blocked from the conscious mind. In psychoanalytic theory, the unconscious mind blocks these memories because they are too psychologically painful for the conscious mind. According to the theory, an individual may begin to recall memories of past traumatic events when the conscious mind has been sufficiently prepared by the unconscious mind. This is how the unconscious mind, according to psychoanalytic theory, protects the conscious mind.

To answer your question directly, it is possible that traumatic experiences from your childhood and adolescence are making it difficult to recall memories from that time period. It may also be why you’re unable to recall most memories from that time. To demonstrate how traumatic those early experiences may have been, you are unable to visit your high school, the physical location of your bullying experiences.

You said that your traumatic history has made it difficult for you to be in a relationship. You also mentioned that you are moving in with “two straight single guys” and are not sure why. You then asked the question, “What’s wrong with me?” Given your trauma history and your difficulty with relationships, perhaps moving in with those two men is not a good idea.

The answer, to whether or not you should share an apartment with two single men and the answer to how you’re traumatic history affects your present life, can be effectively achieved in counseling. Counseling could be greatly beneficial to you. Choose a therapist who is specially trained to assist clients with trauma. You can find a therapist by asking your primary care physician for a referral or by clicking on the “find help” tab at the top of this page. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 Apr 2014

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2014). Failed Recollection of Childhood Memories. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/04/24/failed-recollection-of-childhood-memories/