Saturday, February 21, 2009

Subconsciousness

I read somewhere, I think in the book The Scientist in the Crib, that memory as we understand it consciously doesn't begin to occur in the brain until around 3 years old. I don't remember exactly how it was described, but basically what I recall is that we have memory before the age of three, but it isn't the kind of memory we have as we get older. The kind of memory we're used to, where we have little stories in our heads that we look at as if we're outside ourselves. Our lives become, as we grow up, a series of these kinds of stories. Before 3, however, our memories are more "in the moment", less self conscious. For example, an infant or toddler will remember from day to day where things are placed in the house, or the order of bedtime rituals. But (this is my rather foggy interpretation) young children before the age of three don't yet see themselves outside themselves; they have no perspective of themselves as part of their story. So, it is very unusual to have conscious memories of ourselves before the age of three. I personally don't have independent memories from much before four.

So, as I was thinking about this one day I began to form an idea that everything that happens in our first few years becomes part of our subconscious mind. Part of that murky space where dejavu happens, part of that dark little garden where our deepest passions grow and our silent fears lay dormant. This was a rather terrifying thought for me... the idea that I could have so much power over another person's deepest underlayments was dizzying. And when I have this thought in my consciousness, I try extra hard to be more patient, more loving, and keep my countenance positive and appealing. It was much easier for me to do this in the first months after Willow was born. As infants, we all are so obviously more vulnerable, and so different from older humans. But now that Willow is walking, talking, yelling, and doing all the things two year olds do, I see her more like me and less like an infant. So sometimes I forget my responsiblity as a primary architect of the substance of her subconscious. Regretfully, I yell sometimes, or get mad and say mean things. Not often, but sometimes. I do sometimes wonder about how I might be contributing to Willow's little slice of darkness. And I do everything in my power to ensure my good moments continue to far outweigh the bad... to give her lots of light to carry too.

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