remembering presence

Memory is a particularly peculiar human trait. While we are all born with an instinctive memory that prompts us to let others know when we are hungry or cold (or even just lonely), we have to learn everything else – even how to be human. Learning to be human is a lifelong process, not one that ends at whatever arbitrary age of emancipation our laws might choose.

What we remember and what we forget also shapes our humanness. We have our short-term memories and our long-term memories. A lot of what we choose to remember depends upon how much and how often we are going to need that knowledge. We also choose to remember significant events in our lives . . . significant being self-defined not event-defined. Some of the events I remember from my childhood “didn’t happen that way” according to my parents and siblings. Well, they didn’t happen to them that way, but they happened to me that way. If I want to change how I remember a particular event, only now as an adult am I able to look back and take a different perspective.

I have also forgotten many, many events from my childhood and adolescence largely because I choose not to focus on them. What is the most difficult for me to forget is my way of being in the world. I learned to be human in a dysfunctional family that was only a microcosm example of the larger dysfunctional world. It is how I learned to survive and giving up any survival mechanism threatens my safety at a primordial level. Yes, I believe at some deeper level of my being that if I change, I will die.

I think a lot of people have this belief and are just unaware of it, but I cannot speak for them. I can only speak to how I work to change this belief each time it surfaces in my life. As any forgotten memory that has been living in my subconscious rises to the surface level of consciousness and becomes remembered, I have to note if that memory is associated with my current way of being in the world. That I have released the memory from my place of forgotten events means my higher presence, my eternal presence, knows that I am ready to deal with that way of being in the world. The memory serves as a sentinel pointing to a seminal event that could be inclusive of every other event where I made a decision of that particular way of being in the world.

At that point, I can take the event outside of me, place it on the movie screen, and get a little distance. I can watch me as a child go through the event and my decision-making process. I can ask me what I needed then and, as an adult, I can give my inner child now what she could not get then. I respect her so much for the decisions she made to keep us alive and secure until we reached adulthood and could take care of ourselves.

Then I invite her to come join and be with all that I am and let me the adult take care of us. The child who I was then integrates with the whole of me and suddenly there is a space for a new way of being in the world. How I am going to be in that new space comes from a greater whole me.

I do not forget the event but now it no longer has as much power over my way of being in the world. Forgetting has served its purpose and now I can safely remember and acknowledge events without reliving my life, without feeling now what I felt then.

As I move into my new way of being in the world, I still bring with me that wealth of experience, and experience is not something we forget.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

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9 Responses to “remembering presence”

  1. ButterfliesGalore-Kimberly Grady Says:


    Thank you so much for this great reminder this morning!



  2. jeffstroud Says:

    What I get is a sense of childhood work looked at, honored, and accepted for what was and for what is now for you. I think it is a matter of consciousness, whether we react from that old thought or respond with a new choice of how the event informs our lives.

    I am Love, Jeff

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Jeff — being conscious helps . . . for a very long time, I did not want to look at my childhood because it was so difficult and many of the difficulties were “unspoken” and “unknown.” I thought it was normal to have a mother with breakdowns and a father in shell shock. It wasn’t until I was able to spend more time with others that I realized just how nutty it was and to look back upon it was unbearable. I was fortunate to discover a method that helped me not relive the events and to discover just how valuable my childhood is.

  3. ntexas99 Says:

    Very interesting how you juxtapositioned remembering with the process of forgetting, and connected the two by the common thread of memory. I will most likely come back to this blog entry and read through it again several times to allow it to more fully be absorbed into my subconscious mind.

    The concept of integration has always been difficult for me, in that I find it difficult to remove the child that existed then from the current equation. The visual example of “placing it on a movie screen” helps to clarify the process. Honoring the child’s ability to make the decisions that kept them alive in order to reach adulthood is also a valuable tool in the process.

    My sisters and I have had many discussions about how our collective memories are so different from one another, in that we each have experienced the same event from a uniquely individual perspective. Just as I believe we all find our own path to survival when circumstances dictate it necessary, I also believe that we all evolve in our individual perspective and memory of the event as time progresses.

    I found it particularly interesting what you said abot the concept of believing “if I change, I will die”. I can accept that it is logical to come to that belief if one set of coping skills allowed you to survive a particular event or circumstance. To abandon those coping skills (to change your MO) would be tantamount to completely letting down your guard and becoming exposed to danger. It is easy to understand how guarding our safety can become entwined with remaining rigid in how we navigate the world. Allowing for the integration of “then” and “now” helps to lay the groundwork for a new way of being in the world.

    Very helpful, and another insightful post. A lot of information, in a short amount of space. Thanks for sharing a fresh perspective.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Nancy — I think my belief that I would die without the same behavior is similar to what an addict must think about the drug of choice: neither one of us knows how we are going to survive without what we know. The nice thing about this particular integration process is that nothing is lost. The skill, the development, the tenacity, and the intelligence that I possessed as that child is still with me, but now I also get to use my grown-up experience.

  4. holessence Says:

    “Some of the events I remember from my childhood “didn’t happen that way” according to my parents and siblings. Well, they didn’t happen to them that way, but they happened to me that way.”

    Barbara, that particular sentence carries a lot of weight with me. I have had the exact same experience — exact. And while it used to frustrate the bajeebers out of me, I now realize that the event was what it was — regardless of who remembers what. I can shrug it off more easily now than I used to be able to. I used to feel it was important to help them remember the event the way that I did. Thankfully, I no longer feel that way.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Laurie — what I always find interesting is other people’s perception of me during the event. Sometimes, I think that they must have me confused with someone else because I don’t recognize me in their description. It is all about perception and personal beliefs.

  5. holessence Says:

    Barbara – You’re right. Our perception in our reality (but doesn’t have to be real, just like Chicken Little thought the sky was falling but it was only an acorn). There are two instances, in particular, where I know down to the gnats whisker what happened — in vivid, living color detail. Yet a family member remembers it completely and totally different than I do. I know the difference between an acorn hitting me on the head, and the sky falling. I don’t know how-in-the-world the other person could possibly remember it any differently. But then again, it no longer matters, and probably never did.

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