I was chatting with the wonderful Engel Jones earlier today (he’s currently going for the world record for the most podcasts in 3 months), and one of the topics we were talking about was our earliest memories. Talk about unexpected insights! It was one of those “Woah!” moments. Let me explain…
My earliest memory was from when I was about 2 years old. We used to live in an old farm house in the countryside. As such, it didn’t have mains water supply. Instead, there was a pump in the pantry which pumped water up from a spring at the foot of the garden.
To me, the pumpwas massive (I remember it as being the size of our fireplace!) and made a fearsome noise and was, not to put too fine a point on it, utterly terrifying! I always remember being scared of the pump, unable to bring myself to enter the pantry – no matter how much I wanted to, I couldn’t ever bring myself to set so much as a single foot into that room.
When we came to move out of the house, I was a big brave boy of 4, but even then I still could not bring myself to set foot in that room; I kept telling myself I would do it before we left, but when the time came, I couldn’t do it. So when we left the house, I had never managed to face my Nemesis, to conquer that fear, and now I never would be able to.
Many years later I finally mentioned this to my Dad (during one of our chats reminiscing about the Old Days). Turns out that this huge monstrous pump was about 1 foot by 1 foot, a tiny thing quietly pumping away to itself. And he never realised that I was so terrified of the pump – mainly because I never told him about it.
As I shared these memories with Engel, I was hit with a sudden and massive thought – what if this was my earliest memory not through chance (as I’d always assumed), but it was actually my unconscious attempting to send me a message.
Sounds crazy, right? I mean, what sort of message could anyone send my remembering a scary pump that wasn’t scary after all?
And that’s when it dawned on me. I’d spent those couple of years being terrified of that pump, it was the scariest thing in my entire world, something I could never quite face, a fear which I could never conquer, something which stopped me from being able to enter the pantry. And yet, the reality is, as I look back upon it, it was something very small and tame, no threat to anyone at all (not even 2 year old me). Not only that, but no matter how frightened I was by what I felt was a scary monster of a threat, there was a very simple way I could have made it safely into that pantry – all I needed to do was ask my Mum or my Dad, and I know they would have taken me in, they’d have showed me there was nothing to be scared of – they would have helped me to put the “problem” into perspective and to overcome it.
And, of course, this is not about a pump at all.
The more I thought about it, the more I realised that it definitely seems that my unconscious has been trying to remind me for a long time now that when I feel that I am facing an insurmountable problem, or facing a deep-seated fear, then no matter how things seem, the reality is that it is never as bad, dangerous, complicated, scary or frightening as I think it is; looking back at the same situation from some point in the future will reveal that it was almost certainly an insignificant problem in the great scheme of things.
And, perhaps even more importantly, the realisation that I never have to face any situation on my own – there will always be people who I can call upon for help, people who can help me to find a way to completely conquer any situation, if only I actually just ask them!
The more I look back at times when I thought I’d been experiencing major challenges or problems, the more I appreciate the message my earliest memory was sharing with me – they were never as bad as they seemed at the time, and there were always sources of help if only I’d asked.
Now, was my unconscious really trying to give me this message? I guess there is no way of knowing for sure, of course. However, the primary function of the unconscious is to preserve and protect us, and the unconscious does work in symbols, memories, emotions, thoughts, feelings etc. When our unconscious wants us to get something, it will communicate in that way (it is not uncommon for dreams to work that way, for example).
So I suspect it is not beyond the realms of possibility to think that this really was my unconscious projecting this old memory to help resolve things. Curious, and very interesting.
All of which just leaves me wondering one thing – what other early memory will spring up with another message for me!
And what about you?
What are your earliest memories?
What could your unconscious be attempting to tell you by letting you remember that?
And how can you make use of that to help you?
Something to think about!
So what's YOUR earliest memory? And what does it reveal about you now you think about it? Leave a comment and let me know!
Also published on Medium.