The Imprints of Our Childhood

a footprint in sand

Today’s article was written by Change Coach Missy Maiorano


God comes to you disguised as your life. —Father Richard Rohr


Recently, I was asked to think of a childhood memory from my first decade of life. I was instructed not to overthink it…just to say the first thing that came to mind.


And, without any difficulty, an image of my sister Amy and I riding in the “way back” of our parents’ blue station wagon with a Raggedy Ann sleeping bag and a Baby Alive doll came to mind. I smiled when I described the memory, feeling its lightheartedness and pure delight resonate throughout my body.


Then, I was asked to think of my earliest uncomfortable memory.


This one took me a few seconds, but what came up was an image of myself playing a duet in Mrs. Hanson’s piano recital around the age of eight or nine. I was so anxious that I ruined my part of the song and left the piano feeling humiliated and ashamed. I had actually been so anxious the entire morning leading up to the recital that I ran a fever and felt sick (immediately after the recital, the fever vanished and I felt physically well again).


I was asked to describe how recalling that uncomfortable childhood memory felt in my body. I described the feeling as a hot, dense ball in the base of my throat. I also felt like tears wanted to come, but for some reason they couldn’t. Most notably, I could visualize this younger freckle-faced Missy perfectly, and I had a deep longing to hold her and tell her she’s OK.


As children, we all go through challenges and unmet expectations that we have no real idea how to process at the time. Everything from losing a favorite toy to being mistreated by a trusted family member or friend influences the way we see life. Studies show that even distress in utero and during childbirth can have an impact on the lens through which we see and process our world. As we grow and develop, circumstances beyond our control leave little imprints in the very fabric of our human system. Those imprints—mostly registered on a subconscious level—influence the degree to which we feel inherently safe, worthy, capable, and loved as children and later, as adults.


These same little imprints also serve as the undetectable framework from which our decisions are made. Even though that adorable narrator in our mind will always claim ownership of our choices, it is actually those little imprints—the ones left by our perceived losses, failures, or disappointments— that work continuously, just below the radar, to direct our moment-to-moment decisions.


And if we stopped there, this would seem like a ridiculous design of life. After all, no one seems to emerge from childhood or young adulthood untouched by some type of upset. Even those of us who are raised in the most loving and protective families are not exempt from the little (and not-so-little) disruptions, shocks, and adversities. This is simply part of the experience of being human.


On the surface, it might seem as though these imprints…these little pools of residue left behind after a perceived threat, loss, or disappointment…are, at best, unhelpful; at worst, detrimental.


But, let’s not stay on the surface. Let’s not stay where the intellect and the five senses run the show, unquestioned, without investigation or inquiry. Let’s zoom in and take a closer look, with curiosity and openness; with a willingness to drop into that space beyond the grabby little mind, to a stable place of knowing and trusting.


What if we consider that those little imprints—the ones woven into the fabric of our bodies—are actually in service of us; in service of our truest, formless nature? What if those imprints are not problems to solve or figure out, but instead, are opportunities—invitations to revisit, honor, and reintegrate the parts of us that were innocently cast aside when we were younger?


What if…


…you began this life with an infinite capacity to love? You are, after all, an expression of unconditional love; an expression of life itself. You have simply taken the temporary form of a person.


What if…


…when you—the essence of you—agreed to become part of this creative, miraculous human experience, you agreed to be reminded, again and again, of who you really are? You agreed to be reminded that you are an expression of life and love. And you agreed to be reminded, again and again, to TRUST life; to TRUST that the things you perceive with your temporary, limited, human senses, are not THE truth. They are merely part of a distorted landscape, filtered through billions of layers of human conditioning.


What if…


…as a child, you had no way of knowing how to process the little (and big) upsets that made their way into your young world? So, Life, in its infinite wisdom, set those aside for later so that you could forge ahead, learning and growing. Events and circumstances that seemed too scary, sad, disappointing, or upsetting were neatly tucked away, below your level of awareness. NOT so that they could come back decades later and haunt you…but so that they could come back decades later and serve you.


What if…


…the old, tucked away emotions that never got processed when you were five or eight or fourteen are now ready to be seen, felt, held, and honored? What if there has simply been a very big, very human misunderstanding about all those emotions that want to show up now?


Remember when you—your essence—agreed to take part in this amazing, colorful, creative human show? You also agreed to be reminded—pointed back to—your true nature as life, as love.


There is so much intelligence in these old, once-hidden emotions. They are not at all what your mind has made them out to be. When an inexplicable wave of sadness (or fear, insecurity, or shame) arises, and your mind searches in vain for the cause, just breathe. Smile, even. The suffering is only in the search.


Instead of attempting to figure out the emotion, why not try something new? Imagine sadness (fear/insecurity/shame) knocking on your door, asking simply to be seen and held. The sadness says nothing about you. It is not personal. It is here, for a brief moment, to help you remember that you are primarily an expression of unconditional love—and secondarily, a human being.


The strong emotions that are coming your way, often in waves, are GIFTS. They are helping you remember, little by little, who you are beyond the human costume you are wearing.


With a heart wide-open, welcome each emotion as a friend that has come to walk you home. If it is helpful, picture each emotion as a younger version of you—a four-year-old you or a twelve-year-old you—coming back to be held, loved, and reintegrated into the wholeness of who you really are. LOVE.


Missy is a Certified Change Coach and you can learn more about her and contact her here.


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