Several months ago, I spent quite a lot of time looking at a photograph of my 2-year old self. I made it a part of my almost daily meditation and reflective practice. Gazing upon the face of my 2-year old self, I wondered at the experiences that have shaped who, what and how I process and respond to the world around me today. Some of those experiences have been positive, some negative and others simply traumatic. Some of those memories are delightful and a pleasure to recall, others not so delightful and so uncomfortable or embarrassing to recall. Other memories are so distant and have faded away into the mists of time. Then there are others, no doubt so traumatic that they have been repressed as a self protecting mechanism.
I know that all these memories both good, bad or traumatic, remembered, forgotten or repressed have all influenced and shaped how my ego, body, mind presents itself and responds to the visible world around me.
For example, I remember a good 25 years ago, I woke up from a dream in tears. In the dream, I saw a small black child in a park with a white lady carer. Each time a black woman or couple walked by, the child will toddle in their direction expecting to be picked up, and each time the black woman or couple will pull back because of course they didn’t know this child. The child, too young to comprehend, took the black women pulling away as a rejection. In the dream, I felt the emotion of this child’s rejection so intensely that I woke up in bed, a grown man, in tears!
The dream felt so real and had such an impact, that I picked up pen and paper and wrote a letter to my dad sharing the details – letter writing was still a thing in those days. Dad wrote back a month later and said that my letter had triggered a memory in his mind from back in the 70’s as he and mum sat with my white foster nanny in Kent, UK. My parents were young students working and studying in London and I had lived with my nanny and family during the week in Kent. Dad recalled that the nanny had shared an anecdote about how each time she took me for a walk in the local park, I would approach every black woman I saw thinking they might be my mum. Embarrassed and not quite sure how to respond, these ladies would pull back from me as nanny stepped in.
So it turns out, I was the child in that dream. A repressed memory was being revealed to me to explain the root of the rejection complex I still carry in my ego mind till this day. The experience was real. The emotions were real as was the traumatic effect it had on my 2-year old psyche. Yet the premise was based on error. Those women were not my mother. I wasn’t being rejected. But then when has the ego ever been known to get it right? It’s foundation is fear based not love based. The ‘lie’ behind the 2-year old’s processing of those encounters did not change the very ‘truthful’ imprint of a rejection complex left on me.
So what is my approach as a grown adult, to both the known and unknown traumas that have shaped my ‘auto-responses’ and sometimes continue to inform how I respond and react to the world around me?
I do not deny them.
I recognise them in me.
I acknowledge them.
But I refuse to be defined by them!
Instead, I choose to look beyond them to my identity and beginnings in God.
I look back to the little child I was, and I try to imagine what I knew of my origins before subjective experience and trauma started to erode my innocence and pure wonder at life.
See also – Father I am human now.