How do you deal with painful childhood memories?

My parents went through a difficult divorce when I was ten years old. I never fully understood what was happening back then but I still remember all the shouting and the fighting. It bothers me that I still think and even dream about it every now and again.

My question is, what do I do with these memories? Does anybody here have a similar experience with a bad childhood memory?


  • edited August 13

    Dear Aaron Gilbert,

    I have a similar experience back when I was still a child. I think I was six years old at the time and here's how i remembered it. The living room was dark and my parents were fighting. They were being so loud and it woke me up. My mother was yelling and breaking stuff. I even heard her say something about going out and killing herself. She left the apartment. I followed her into the darkness. I was preparing myself to see her dead body because that's what she said she will do. I felt like I was in a movie. Every step down the stairs was exhilarating. Alone, i followed the path to the streets and it really felt like a was a character in a film. I looked to the left and to the right but nobody was there. I took a few more steps and I found her. I was so happy. For a second, things were movie-like but then I snapped back into reality. I cried, "Mom! You're alive!"

    But she got mad at me. "WHy wouldn't be alive?" she yelled. And that's the end of my memory. I don't remember what happened after that.

    So here's what I think happened. Children dissociate from an experience that has caused intense feelings. It's like the mind just shuts off automatically to protect the body from feeling pain that might have been intolerable. I think it is what happened to me. Somehow, I wasn't aware of reality like I was not there at that moment.

    The reason why you didn't fully understand what was happening at that time can be because you dissociated. But deep down in your subconscious, you still have the memory of the bad things that happened during the divorce. You may have found a means to escape like I did when I imagined I was in a movie.


  • Hi Jack. Thanks for responding to my post. I know some people find it hard to talk about stuff like this. What you said is very interesting. It is strange that children know how to zone the painful memories out just like that. But i think these memories and experiences are what makes us who we are at the present...however, they do not define us.

    I think someone told me once that everytime we try to recall a memory, it becomes at risk of modification so that as time passes, we can no longer really remember what had actually happened originally. I don't really have an explanation for why this happens. What im trying to say is that I think that if i can just remember, I wouldn't be having these dreams or asking all these questions.

  • Dear Aaron Gilbert,

    You said "these memories and experiences are what makes us who we are at the present…however, they do not define us". I totally agree.

    I think it is very important to heal ourselves from these emotional traumas so we can be able to define ourselves. You can try to forget the pain as hard as you can but it is impossible. I tried but i couldn't and i think a lot of other people have failed at this too.

    You also brought up how the brain is capable of modifying memories. Yes I have read about that as well. See, the brain is not perfect and sometimes not very reliable. It mixes up memories and it tends to focus on the parts that incite fear. It works like a survival tool for animals to help them identify potential risks and danger.


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