The concept of Tabula Rasa is that you as an individual are born as a blank slate, you have no pre-entered software in the system. Everything that you experience from the time of birth is added to the database of information, creating the operating system as you go. This makes sense, as your environment is a large determining factor of what you need to know. If you are born in a poor town in Central America, your life experiences are vastly different than those born into farm life in the Midwest. Whatever your experiences are, as a child you put operating systems in place that help you adapt and ideally thrive in your surroundings. In some cases, things go awry and compensation techniques need to be put in place to help keep you as a functioning person. Here is where things be end up proving limiting in the future.
All of us have had something happen in their childhood that could be considered “traumatic”. Some have horrific things happen to them as kids, others live a charmed life with nothing really bad happening directly. In the latter case, your perception of something could easily be enough for you to build walls, harden up, be untrusting of strangers, etc. While these immediate changes in the operating system can be critical to getting through a very difficult scenario, a review of this is highly necessary to ensure that you are not using childhood solutions to live an adult life.
As you may have noticed through some of my blog posts I have been doing a lot of soul searching and delving into my childhood. I do not have many memories in general before about age 12, which is when we as a family moved to Phoenix. During the course of a recent road trip, my father revealed some things to me that I was, at least on a conscious level, largely unaware of. This has been weighing on my mind ever since.
I am just beginning this process, but I have decided to commit to digging around in the darkness of my mind to see what if anything can be discovered about my past. Neither of my parents or my sister had any recollection of things for my childhood that they would pinpoint as a starting point traumatic event. My mom reiterated that I was an intelligent and HIGHLY sensitive child, and it is possible I was more intuitive than thought, picking up on things that were going on around me far more than anyone realized. I think that has to be my starting point, unless a professional who deals with this sort of things has a better idea.
No marriage or relationship is ever picture perfect, and my parents were no different. I remember my parents doing their best to never fight or argue in front of my sister and me. While I am sure this is better than the alternative, the icy coldness of the room I walked into probably did not escape my intuition. Apparently there were plenty of these occurrences, but I don’t currently have access to these files in the database. I’m gonna need to dig to recover these files, and then I will have to decide what to do with this information. This is where the professional help comes in. My guess at this stage is that regardless of what I heard or saw, my reaction to these situations is what matters. I may have been traumatized by some run-of-the-mill situations, but that is the important piece to consider. It is my reaction to the situation, not necessarily the situation itself, that matters.
I am not sure at this point if some of the early memories I do have are actually memories, or if they are the memory of the story shared with me years later. One that sticks out is me at a very young age at the YMCA for my first swimming lesson as a kid. All of the kids were lined up on the edge of the pool and waiting to jump into the water as part of the class. I remember being paralyzed with fear, not ready to jump. I hesitated. I waited, not wanting to do it. And then someone pushed me in. I went under, and came up quickly, gasping for air. I didn’t know how to swim yet, and I was panicked. The class instructor came to assist me after what felt like an eternity, and guided me to the side for a moment. At one point I was brought back out away from the edge and told to put my face in the water and swim back to the side.
I didn’t want to, but I don’t remember having a choice. Needless to say, I did not enjoy what I recall as my first experience with swimming. It wasn’t until my mid teens that I ever went under water and opened my eyes. I can swim, but I never learned to dive into a pool. Hell, I don’t even like having the water in the shower hit me directly in the face. I have to assume this is all stemming back to this early childhood incident, and the defense mechanisms that I put in place.
I know I had a lot of anxiety as a kid. I worried about everything; things that were going to happen, like going to the first day of school, and things that had little chance of happening. I get it from my mother and her mother as well. Maybe others too, but I know my grandmother and I were very close and I am sure I learned some of these responses from her and they stuck. I do not consider myself an adventurous person by any stretch of the imagination, again, likely stemming from the intense fear of the unknown. I can’t imagine going skydiving or bungee jumping. I would rather try to land the plane with no experience at all versus jumping out of the plane to try to save myself. I seem to be having more of these thoughts again lately, unsure of things and therefore fearful of them. I know it holds me back at times, keeps me from enjoying certain moments to the fullest. These are the things hiding in the dark of my mind that I want to hunt down and kill. Or at least figure out how to short circuit it and move on. These childhood experiences should not be guiding my adult life, but that is how the system is set up until you change it.
So, to make those changes, I will be speaking with a therapist soon. I have done some work like this before, most of it centered around sports performance but of course sometimes it bled over into personal issues. Every time I “release” a trapped childhood memory and let it come to the surface, I am miserable in the moment but feel much better shortly thereafter. As my sister put it, it’s:
“Pain with a Purpose”
I think that is spot on. I am actually looking forward to this process for the most part; it won’t be easy, but if I am better for it, then why wouldn’t I undertake this journey?
I’ll keep you posted on my progress. I wish myself luck in this endeavor.