Often times our memories are not accurate, the details muddle together creating a picture that’s either a caricature or an impressionists painting. The details are either softened or heightened depending on the emotions related to the event.
This is particularly important to understand when we think of our childhoods.
What emotions have you softened and which have you heightened? Do the happy memories stand out the most or the sad, scary, angry memories?
What You Focus On Matters
Whether your childhood was actually happy or not, doesn’t matter. What matters is what you focused on then, As well as what you choose to focus on now. Even if your childhood was scary or you recall it as sad, you can consciously look back and find happy moments to recall.
Everyone has unhappy moments, some are truly horrific. Yet some people can move passed them, seemingly, un-phased. Why?
Like the different painting styles, it comes down to what you focus on. I’ve had clients tell me about their unhappy childhoods and as I listened I wondered if they had any idea how good they had it. I’ve also had clients whose childhoods sounded pretty scary and miserable, yet they looked back in fondness. I wondered whether they thought their upbringing was okay or normal.
The answer to both questions is No. in the one case the client didn’t know how well she had it, because she didn’t see the good. Only the bad. In the other, he knew his upbringing was horrible, but the good moments and the good people held the largest part of his attention.
It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. This doesn’t mean you need to be okay with the bad things that happened. It also doesn’t mean you live a second childhood now. What it means is you can shift what you focus on.
Why You Need To Shift Your Focus
Shifting our focus can be so difficult. Often we want to justify the way we feel. “I have every right to be angry! My parents always…” There’s so many ways we justify and excuse the negative feelings we harbour, but we can just as easily justify positive feelings instead.
Maybe your parents pushed you to get good grades, yelled at you, insulted you, maybe they hit you. All of those things are wrong. Yes, you do have every right to be angry. But being angry won’t change where you are now and it certainly won’t change the past. Being angry gives all of your power to another person. Worse, it’s a person buried in the past. No matter what your parents were like in the past, or what they’re like now, they are not the same people now as they were then.
How do you feel when you realize you’ve left all of your personal power in the past? How would you feel if you knew you could get it back?
Instead of remembering the moments your parents yelled, recall the time they took you to the beach and for a brief moment things felt so good. (Any happy memory will do to start, it doesn’t even need to be about your parents, any positive memory from childhood will do).
Thinking of that memory releases tension from your body and gives you power over your past, present, and future.
Hold Onto Your Power
Catching a small glimpse of who you could be, seeing your personal power flit before your eyes feels amazing, terrifying, and sometimes leaves us more angry.
We see those happy moments and we wonder why the rest of our childhood couldn’t have been as wonderful. We tell ourselves, “If only…” we imagine how great we could have been had we only had more love, kindness, or support growing up.
It’s true, we MAY have been more successful, or more successful sooner. But we might not. How often have you read news stories of the people who grew up with everything you wish you had, but they end up on drugs or in jail anyhow?
In order to shift your focus and hold onto your own power, you need to see the positive aspects of the negative moments in your life.
This is NOT justifying abuse. This is shifting your view from the pain and fear and directing it to a different outcome. One you’re happy with.
Maybe when you were upset, you spent time with your dog. Maybe you learned how to train dogs as a result and have been able to use that skill to help foster dogs learn better behaviours so they can be adopted.
Yes, there are many other ways you could get to where you are now without experiencing a painful or sad childhood, the point is to see how you got to where you are.
Shifting what you focus on gives you the ability to decide for yourself what you want in your life and what’s important. It isn’t about anyone else. It’s all about you. What will you focus on?
How To Shift Your Childhood
- Seek professional help to deal with traumatic memories.
- Recall any happy memory from childhood. Remember it with as much detail as possible.
- If you find yourself thinking about your childhood with anger or sadness, tell yourself, “STOP!” And purposefully think about your happy memory.
- Recall all the people from your childhood that were happy to see you, that you were happy to see. Get rid of reminders of people that you didn’t like.
- Once you are able to recall happy memories easier, take time to explore the rest of your childhood to find positive outcomes.
It takes time to shift your mindset. It takes time to see the happy memories as bigger and more important than the unhappy memories, but it is possible. With some effort you can shift your childhood into a happy one. This will also improve how you see your current life, and you will feel more confident and powerful than you did before.