I was just about to preach during the evening service when one of the church’s elders, Don, let me know that a lady was on the telephone and said it was urgent. When I answered the phone, Jody let me know that her mother Marci (another member of the church) was having a nervous breakdown and they needed me to come over. Knowing the two of them I decided to go over there and not preach that night. I left the service with my assistant and went over to the house.
Marci had suffered for years from depression and long-term psychiatric problems. I had attempted in the past few months to introduce her to the concepts of lie-based thinking and the healing she could receive through Theopostic Prayer Ministry (TPM). She had not been willing in the past, but her depression and anxiety were so acute that she was more than willing to try anything.
I will skip details of the Theophostic session and cut to the conclusion. During our exploration of certain memories, she revealed something that startled me. She was seeing her father standing at the door of a hospital room; and she was sitting in a bassinet. That’s right – she was an infant in the hospital just after her birth. As I was digesting this information, she heard her father say, “We can’t keep this one. We’ll have to adopt her out.”
Marci was a twin. That much we knew already. But in this memory, she was experiencing rejection of the ultimate kind from her father. What amazed me is that she was describing incredibly lucid details about this unlikely memory container. First, I didn’t think that anyone could have cognitive storage memories from days after birth. The typical time frame for that kind of autobiographical memory detail is two to three years of age. Second, I found it hard to accept that she would remember the exact things people would say and the implications of what they were saying as a baby.
When I asked her to let go of the lies found in the memory (I also won’t go into detail here) she could not do so. The “clutter” connected to her bitterness and anger prevented her from letting go of the lies.
Weeks later, she contacted her mother (her father had passed away 15 years before) and asked her about the “memory”. Her mother assured her that ‘Daddy’ had loved her dearly and had never said any such thing. She called me up and relayed this information. I actually felt more secure hearing this, since I really couldn’t accept that Marci could remember anything from that young of an age. However, I wouldn’t hold onto that confidence for long.
A week after their first phone call, Marci’s mother called up again, and this time she was crying. After enduring several minutes of blustering and wailing, Marci finally got the story from her mother. When her mother had gone into the hospital to deliver the babies, they were not aware they were having twins. Her father had to be called in from the sawmill where he worked and didn’t arrive until after both babies were born. He first discovered that he had twin daughters the moment he came into his wife’s hospital room. He saw the one baby girl suckling her mother and the other one in a bassinet. His reaction was emotional and misguided: He pointed at Marci and told the mother that he didn’t want that one.
Marci’s mom wanted to know how she had found this out. The story went on to say that a few days later Dad repented of his fear and emotional outburst and accepted both daughters with equal amount of love and acceptance. Yet, for some reason, Marci never believed or felt that love.
When she called me over to throw this news at me, I was floored. This didn’t fit into the framework of child psychological development they had taught me in college. How could a baby know such intimate detail and respond to it with decisions that would affect the rest of her life? I couldn’t answer such questions then, and I’m not sure I have definitive answers now. Just to wrap up the over-story, once Marci was convinced her memory was true, she let go of her bitterness and renounced the lies found in the memory. She then accepted the truths that God showed her. God freed her from so many of her emotional problems and as far as I know, maintained good mental health until she just recently passed away.
But I constantly return to the question birthed in that experience: How can someone remember things that happened to them as a baby (or in some cases, in vitro)? There may be many theories, but there really can only be one answer. The process of memory is not completely a physiological function.
Research psychologists and Pediatric Neurologists have studied the brains of children and seen extremely consistent patterns of memory development. I won’t go into the details on their findings, but allow me to summarize through a paper by Dr. Karl Lehman, psychiatrist and Theophostic practitioner.
In 2004, Dr. Lehman published a paper titled, Basic Memory Phenomena, Explicit and Implicit Memory. The core idea of the paper explores the concept of memory and how that plays out in young children. One of his most startling statements comes in the first paragraph:
we believe that the mind is a psychological phenomena that uses the biological brain as a servant, but that is ultimately above, outside of, and more primary than the neurophysiological phenomena in the biological brain.
Here, he distinguishes between the concepts of the “mind” and the “brain”. He does not see them as the same thing.
Later, he uses this concept to explain the basis for Marci’s situation:
Early pregnancy (pre-brain) memories: If the core engram is carried in the biological brain, then a person would not be able to have any memories before the brain forms in development. However, some people seem to have memories from early pregnancy – sometimes so early that the biological brain would not even have begun to form.
Dr. Lehman goes on to give substantial documentation of research that has been done in this field of study and to supply amazing anecdotal evidence of pre-brain memories among many research scientists, including the famous Dr. Oliver Sacks (one of my favorite authors). Many people remember Dr. Sacks from his book “Awakenings” which is a fictionalized account of his experiments with giving L-Dopa to people with non-responsive right-brain disorders. I highly commend you to read Dr. Lehman’s paper at his website: www.kclehman.com. You have to register to have access to the paper, but registration is free.
So back to my original question: Where does memory start? Perhaps the more intuitive question is, ‘what is memory’? I am not sure I can answer that in less than an entire book, but allow me to summarize the work of many other more qualified people who have written on this subject. Memory is an amalgam of experiences we have stored in order to give meaning, purpose and direction for our lives. Memories are stored in our spirits (see 1 Cor. 2 where we are told “No one knows the details of a man’s life except the man’s spirit with him), our soul (what Dr. Lehman calls “mind”) and our physiology. Memory is stored in much more than just memory containers in our brain as well. We remember smells, body movements, sounds, visual cues, muscle memories, certain pains and pleasures. All of these are stored in parts of the brain not normally associated with autobiographical data.
Therefore, in Theophostic sessions, people may experience smells, sounds, tastes, body postures, pains, pleasures and other sensations that do not necessarily correlate with the memory container they are trying to focus on. In addition, they may have intuitive insights that come from the parts of memory that are stored in our spirits or our souls. My current studies are focusing on how the three “parts” of our total being work together in our memories and how the lies that we grab hold of are stored.