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Ellen Alderton studied psychology as an undergraduate at Wellesley College but did not truly learn about Alfred Adler until she had her early memories intrepreted in Vienna, Austria. She has been an unabashed Adler fan ever since. More...


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Free Online Book: Soul Metaphors: The Art of Early Memory Interpretation

Learn the previously unpublished technique of early memory interpretation as handed down directly from Alfred Adler!

Early Memories: A Brief Overview

Adler wrote that "every memory is a chosen reminder." The mind selects what it remembers based upon what it thinks is real, true or important. When we remember something from our early childhood, we are actually saying, "Such is life!" Our memories may seem trivial, but they are in fact profound: They serve as metaphors for our personal philosophies about life.


Gary's memory: The pool


Probably when I was three or four, I remember playing in the backyard in the pool. We had a little plastic pool that my parents put together. It held about two kids. They would just fill it up with water and put it in the backyard, and my sister and I would play in it, and I remember playing in it. I guess at the moment that’s the earliest memory I have. I just remember playing in the pool and my mom was sitting by. She was probably drinking a beer, and my sister was in there as well. We were just having fun, splashing water on each other.

Ellen's comment: This memory suggests a social person who enjoys the company of his peers. Life is a relaxing and playful undertaking. Gary does not appear to be particularly goal driven and, rather, seems to prefer to go with the flow. His attitude toward his mother may be complex and would merit further exploration. On the one hand, she has made this enjoyable form of entertainment available to him by providing him with the pool. On the other hand, the image of her drinking a beer may suggest perceptions of carelessness or neglect.


Nancy's memory: The sailor suit


I was in the first grade and it was photo day. My mother had something out for me to wear and I told her I really wanted to wear my sailor suit. I stood my ground and she relented. I was so happy to wear my favorite outfit. From all the photos from each grade this one is still my favorite.

Ellen's comments: From this memory, I would expect Nancy to be an individualistic, even quirky, person who is highly optimistic. She knows what she wants, she is willing to make her case, even to authority figures, and she is pleased with the results -- not only in the short term but also in the long term. Her insistence on a particular look suggests a creative person who is used to presenting her ideas to other people and persuading them to come around to her point of view.

Nancy's comments: Although I might add that most people see me as doggedly determined - in a highly optimistic way of course <grin>. Thank you for the insightful comments.

Laura's memory: Looking out


I remember standing in my crib. I was standing up holding onto the slats on either side of me looking through -- as if a prisoner looking through her cell. Don't remember what was discussed or what was happening. Nor hold old I was.

Ellen's comments: The self description of being a prisoner is emotionally strong and makes me wonder whether Laura feels constrained in some way in her life. At the same time, the memory is one of looking out from beyond these constraints. Even though she is an infant and still in a crib, she is standing and holding herself up -- which suggests self sufficiency. The fact that she does not remember anything else about her surroundings also suggests that she tunes in on one thing and meanwhile tunes out the rest of the world. This is probably the memory of someone who is driven to look beyond life's immediate limitations.

Zinnia's memory: School milk


I was 4 and a half. I had just started kindergarten. The government was getting rid of surplus milk by making school children drink it. I hated milk. Everyday the teacher would bring in a tray of half pint milk cartons. We were asked to line up to pick up the milk. After a couple of days of this, I figured out that there was a milk for each student and I refused to line up. The teacher tried to convince me to line up but I explained that there was no reason to line up. Since there was a milk for every one, I could sit until there was one milk left. Then I would walk over to get the milk.

Ellen's comments: We see someone here who is skeptical of authority figures and willing to challenge them. She seems to have a quick even precocious read of social systems and organizational patterns and is able to figure out that there's enough milk for everyone without having to line up. We might expect Zinnia, as an adult, to seek out a profession where she doesn't have to answer to authority figures or where she is the one advising people in authority. She sticks to her guns and is forthright.


Ellen's memory: Sea turtles


I couldn't have been older than 5 when I went looking for baby sea turtles with my grandfather and some of his friends. The adults explained to me that some hatchlings emerged from their eggs later than the rest of their brood and could become trapped in the sand. It seemed like we spent hours looking for such a nest, and I was warned that we might not find one. After a long time combing the beach, we came across a nest with some buried baby turtles. We dug them out of the sand, and I remember watching them crawl across the beach in the moonlight toward the water. I had been led to understand that they were embarking on a dangerous journey and few would survive.

Zinnia's comments: This is a person who likes a bit of mystery and things that she may not find. She probably loves going to flea markets looking for prize finds. The looking may be more important than the finding. She likes the companionship and guidance of older people. She is aware of the intrinsic dangers in life but not paranoid about them. She will take risks and try things that are difficult.