There are some memories that we would never want to relive or remember again: abuse, trauma, loss, disasters, wars…
But there are other memories that we would want to relive… those memories that we deliberately and voluntarily replay in our minds.
An Adlerian therapist would be interested in asking clients about “early recollections” in psychotherapy. According to Adler, childhood memories that we selectively choose to remember have significant meanings to us and influence our perceptions as an adult. Early recollections are important and valuable because they are the one-time-only childhood moments that people choose to remember. They are able to provide insights into an individual’s lifestyle, goals, and the underlying purpose of people’s strengths and problems. When individuals recall a vivid childhood memory, with a beginning and an end and a feeling attached to it, the therapist could have a better understanding of their clients’ early ways of dealing with the world. The client could also gain a better, more vivid understanding of himself or herself, and the childhood memory might help the client to empathize with self. It could be like understanding and empathizing with a character in a novel or movie much more deeply if we are shown scenes from the character’s childhood.
Some of my favourite childhood memories are my grandfather holding my hand and walking with me in his neighbourhood. He always brought a whole bunch of $1 coins (HKD), and I would instantly light up with excitement!
There was a very shabby stationary shop in his neighbourhood, owned by an elderly man. There, at the entrance, were a few vending machines which had trading cards. I was a collector of Sailor Moon cards… and, those vending machines somehow were never working properly, so a $1 coin would give you more than just one Sailor Moon card. Sometimes, a dollar could give you one, two, three, four, or five cards each time! That really excited my grandpa and me!
I would see him putting so many coins into the machine, and we would take turns: turning the knob, and taking out the cards. Sometimes I got to put coins into the machine too! We laughed. We got excited. And we said “wow,” always thinking that we were very lucky to get more than just one card with a $1 coin! I looked up at him whenever there were more cards coming out of that red machine. That scene—in my memory—was like a video, captured by a video camera. I can still see it and feel it… I still remember the sounds of those coins, the clicking sounds of the knob… I still remember looking at his hand, turning the knob. I did not know how he could have so many coins: he told me that he collected them from change and often made a special trip to the bank to get some!
When we went back to my grandparents’ home, my grandmother would beam with excitement to see my Sailor Moon cards, and I would feel very proud to show her the new cards that I was adding to my collection. Somehow she would almost always ask me to give her one. Although unwilling, I would choose one for her, and she would usually give it back to me, and say she was just testing my generosity.
My grandparents gave me so many positive memories in my childhood and taught me so many valuable lessons.
Those memories are of events that happened more than 20 years ago. But I still remember the details. I have replayed them in my mind many times.
I no longer have the Sailor Moon cards that grandfather bought me. But I have other things that he gave me, and I am planning to keep them for the rest of my life. These objects symbolize, for me, my grandfather’s kind, generous, loving heart.
Although we lived so far apart, we met and spent quality time together about once a year. And in between, there were always phone calls and exchanges of letters. It was a really rich, heartwarming emotional bond that we shared.
I miss him so much, but I am so very thankful for all the memories and for all of his kindness.
Affirmation: I enrich my life when I review positive memories of loved ones, and keep creating positive memories with others.