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Adler

Soul Metaphors: Contents

Chapter 14

Chapter 16

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Chapter 15: Delving into Your Earliest Memory

            Interpreting your own early memories is a lot like giving yourself a haircut: You may be able to do an adequate job, but there will be areas that you can’t quite see and can’t quite reach. The most fulfilling way to have your memories interpreted is in a group setting. In this way, you can gather and synthesize the input of numerous observers.
            That said, in this chapter you are going to practice interpreting your earliest memory by yourself. This exercise will help you to bring together all of the interpretive tools that you have been developing in the previous parts of this book. It will also allow you, implicitly, to draw the graph of life because you yourself will know whether the patterns you observe in your early memories reflect your adult thoughts, feelings, beliefs and behaviors.
            Questions are provided below to interpret one early memory, but you can repeat this process with as many early memories as you wish. Start by briefly jotting down your very earliest memory of an event; like the memories that we have consistently interpreted throughout this book, the memory must be of an incident. Simply remembering that your room was green or how your grandmother’s perfume smelled cannot be interpreted. Your memory must tell a short story. Write this incident down now…

            Now, go back and read the memory with the same objectivity that you used when interpreting the earlier sample memories in this book. Once you have done this, answer the following questions:

1) Does the memory present a problem? If so, how is the problem resolved?

2) What does the memory say about your relationships with other people? Are there other people in the memory? If so, how do you perceive them and how do you interact with them? What types of people are they? Authority figures? Peers? Family?

3) What is the sequence of thoughts in the memory? Is this a belief pattern that recurs in your adult life?

4) What are the feelings in the memory? Are these feelings that pervade your adult life?

5) What is the level of activity in the memory? Does the recollection show you taking a more active or a more passive approach to life?

6) If there is motion in the memory, what form does it take? Do you move through life swiftly, directly, cautiously, in a meandering manner? Recall the sledding exercise.

7) Review your answers to questions 1 through 6 and jot down a brief, few-sentence synopsis of the sequence of events, thoughts and feelings in the memory. Your synopsis should tell a generalized story, in exactly the same form as the many sample memories you have already interpreted. Write it in the first person. This is your first draft for characterizing your lifestyle.

            Does this interpretation feel right to you? If not, recall that in some cases, one memory does not tell the entire story. In Chapter 13, we discussed compound memories. Try writing down a second particularly strong early memory and repeating the same exercises again. Using the techniques you practiced in Chapter 13, see if the two memories together tell the story of your lifestyle.
            If you hit the mark, the small story you sketched out here can be powerful. It may have an immediate impact as you review it, or you may simply agree with it but not give it much thought initially. Beware; even if you do not have a strong reaction at first, you may later find yourself reviewing your lifestyle and finding deeper layers of meaning and greater implications. You may discover that there are aspects of your lifestyle that you do not like, and simply by defining the problem you are paving the way for change. Ultimately, no one will uncover a lifestyle that he likes perfectly, because none of us are perfect people. On the other hand, you may also notice that you have strengths and positive character traits that you have never before given yourself credit for. Maybe you deserve to pat yourself on the back. Allow yourself some time to experience the journey that unfolds from having interpreted your lifestyle, and also look forward to gleaning greater insights by practicing interpretations in a group setting.

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(Copyright Ellen Alderton, www.WeLoveAdler.net)