Writing Exercise: First Memories

Created by Kara Bopp (co-founder of Living Words)

We all know that babies from a very young age can remember. For example, they remember family members – even in the first week of life they remember what Mom and Dad look like! When they are a couple of months old they remember what their crib looks like and smile at familiar toys. But for some reason as adults we cannot remember anything from before the age of about 4 or 5. This phenomenon is called “infantile amnesia”. The age of one’s first memory varies from person to person (some research has shown it may be related to one’s verbal intelligence). There are all sorts of theories for infantile amnesia… but that’s not the point of this exercise.

What is your FIRST MEMORY? This simple question may produce a lot of written responses. Write down your “first” memory, but allow yourself to remember back to those years and you might find that you remember an even earlier memory.

Most people tend to remember highly emotional events – either very positive ones (like birth of a sibling) or negative ones (like going to the ER for a broken arm). Although some people remember benign everyday experiences. It is sometimes difficult to put a date on a memory. It can also be difficult to be sure that it is your own memory and not just information you learned as an adult through stories or by looking at pictures.

Right NOW write down what you believe is your first memory. Describe it in as much detail as possible. What do you see, hear, feel? What were your thoughts at the time? Do you see this event from the perspective of your own eyes or from the perspective of a viewer (e.g. floating above the scene)? Are you sure that it is truly your own memory or is it possible that you learned about this or imagined it later in life? When did the event occur? How old were you? What about the memory gives you clues about the date?

Repeat this exercise if you remember an earlier “first” memory!

As always, we would love to hear from you in the comments below!

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