Early Recollections – A therapeutic technique
When working with clients in therapy I always try to step into their shoes and resolve to understand how they approach the life tasks of: love, spirituality, social relationships, occupation and self-care.
It is very useful to assume that:
• All behavior is purposive
• Behaviour is best understood in a social context
• Behaviour is best understood in a holistic context
• Each person creates a private logic in how to deal with life
• Memory of early childhood experiences is selective and serves the function of helping us to be unconsciously guided by “rules” about life, ourselves and other people.
In session I might ask a client to describe an early memory from childhood to help elucidate “rules” that guide one’s unique style of living. This memory may also reveal and give insight to career choices and life interests. It isn’t uncommon for example to hear physicians talk about early experiences with death or injury in the family.
A personal example:
When I was 8 or 9yrs old my family lived in a very old house on Montreal’s south shore. One day my mother took a picture of our family in front of the home.
I can recall the bright flash from the bulb on top of the Polaroid camera. What was interesting about the instant picture was the appearance of a ghostly figure in the attic window, perhaps that of a child. My parents joked that this was “the ghost of your sister”. That picture spawned a discussion (for the first time in my awareness) about the loss of my sister and my growing up in the shadow of a ghost. That memory etched itself in my mind because it explained something about the family I belonged to, and explained the sadness I could sometimes feel in the family but couldn’t quite explain or understand at the time.
As I think back on that memory I recognize that I have spent much of my professional life trying to understand how relationships (past & present) continue to affect people’s thoughts and feelings. I remain very inquisitive about the etiology of symptoms and the profound effect illness has on individuals and families. It is no coincidence that I enjoy being a therapist.