Soul Metaphors: Contents

Chapter 22

Chapter 24


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Chapter 23: Venues for Early Memory Interpretation

          We have just considered how you may change your lifestyle. Other points to consider are: How can you use early memory interpretation to understand other people’s lifestyles? What venues might encourage you to be more respectful of and responsive to the private philosophies of the people around you? I believe that there are many settings where early memory interpretation can be exercised to improve human dialogue and understanding. Here are just a few of many possible approaches to early memory interpretation:

            1) Schools. Adler himself lectured to school teachers and was invited by the Viennese public school system to introduce his techniques throughout the city schools. Typically, he would ask all of the students in a class to write their memories on a sheet of paper and turn them in for him to interpret in front of the class. Teachers today might wish to exercise more discretion. One approach would be to have students write their early memories as an assignment and then for the teacher to review the recollections. In so doing, the teacher would glean a great deal of information about her pupils that might lead to more successful approaches to teaching, counseling, and disciplining students.

            2) Special education settings. In cases where students can articulate their early memories, memory interpretation may provide valuable insights to teachers who are struggling to enter into their students’ worlds and understand their points of view.

            3) Art therapy. Metaphors translate readily into other media of expression. Clients could be asked, for example, to paint the emotions of their earliest memories or to make a clay sculpture representing their earliest memory. These various art projects could then be discussed in the safety of a group therapy session.

            4) Group therapy. Established therapy groups that already have developed an atmosphere of mutual trust could take turns sharing and commenting upon one another’s memories. The therapist could also intervene by offering her professional interpretation. The group member being interpreted could then discuss what he sees as positive in the lifestyle and what elements he would like to change.

            5) Individual therapy. A trained psychotherapist who has learned this technique could integrate it into a regular part of her practice. In Individual Psychology, the lifestyle is interpreted as soon as possible since it lays out the direction that therapy should take.

            6) Religious meetings. Members of religious groups could practice early memory interpretation with a focus on its moral underpinning: social interest. Members of the group could discuss the extent to which they are satisfied with the social interest exhibited in their early memories and how they might like to change.

            7) Retreats. Early memory interpretation could be integrated into workplace or spiritual retreats. Group members could share their memories with one another and briefly discuss them in a group, or they could use other techniques such as drawing the feelings of their memories and sharing these drawings with one another. Besides emerging from the session with more self-understanding, members of the group would also have a better understanding of one another.

            8) Private gatherings. As already mentioned, private individuals could form groups to interpret one another’s memories.

            9) In families. Families who wish to deepen their relationships with one another could share their early memories and discuss them. In many cases, families who participate in this exercise may well be surprised by what they learn about one another. I have personally never interpreted the early memory of a friend or an acquaintance without being in some ways surprised.

            10) Between couples. Adler observed that couples almost invariable have early memories that complement one another. Just as Sharon demonstrated a lifestyle where she depended heavily on authority figures, it is a safe bet that her husband, Martin, has a lifestyle where he enjoys caring for other people or sees himself as making decisions for others. Couples who interpret one another’s memories may find that their mutual attraction is based both on positive and on negative forces, and these realizations can pave the way towards dramatic changes and deeper love, respect and understanding.
            Ultimately, the venues and purposes for interpreting the lifestyle are probably limited only by the imagination.

Finally: What to Avoid

            It is appropriate in this discussion to also mention where early memory interpretation should not be exercised. As we have learned, early memories are personal and laden with private information and emotions. The technique should not be used as a conversation gimmick at social gatherings. It should not be used in a public venue among young children. (I would argue that the old Adlerian method of interpreting every child’s memory in front of the class is not appropriate; school-based venues need to be more controlled.) It should not be used merely to impress friends; indeed, interpreting your friend’s memories in a glib way is a good means to drastically shrink your social circle quickly. In brief, memories should not be interpreted unless in an atmosphere of mutual trust, willingness and respect.


(Copyright Ellen Alderton, www.WeLoveAdler.net)