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When Does Memory Start

May 22, 2006

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.

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8 comments

  1. First of all Thank you for your honesty. It is a relief to hear others who are more practiced yet still caught in the mystery.
    I have had a recent personal experience remembering my mother pregnant with me. I saw her pregnant, saw my father with her, felt the emotions of all three of us but did not hear a conversation in detail. I felt that it was my fault my Mom was stuck with my father because she was pregnant with me, therefore, I was sorry I was ever born. This was completely new information to me. I felt deep remorse.
    I have been practicing cranial sacral treatment on people and have witnessed many emotional releases caused by a memory. The body actually responds by releasing the area correlated with the memory. Dr. Upledger who founded the practice gives several examples of body release that are in vitro experiences.
    I am new at both practices TPM and CST, but I have witnessed Christ release pain both physical and physicological simultaneously. My point is that our dura matter also has a memory associated with the lie that can cause physical problems. I myself was dianosed with cancer, I wonder if there is any corrolation to feeling as if I should have never been born?


  2. Thanks for the insight. Here is my story.

    After reading this article I kicked my feet up onto my desk and tried to remember as far back as my memory would allow me to. The farthest I could go back to was when I was 3 years old playing in a sand box. I can clearly recall a friend of mine burying me up to my neck in sand as if I taking a sand bath. I remember it being fun and explorative. Out of my sight an older boy came and dumped a large bucket of sand onto my head. Because the weight of the sand was already so heavy it felt impossible to move and get the sand out of my suffocating mouth and burning eyes. I began to panic and believed I was going to drown in the sand. It has taken me years to wonder why I hated going to the ocean and why there was a fear of going under water. Because I have been trained in TPM this memory makes sense to me and I knew how to minister to it.

    I must confess that ministering to people whose memories take them to the hospital room where they were born or inside the walls of their mother’s body was a difficult concept of ministry for me. Not because I didn’t believe it was a valid memory rather it was impossible for me to relate to such an early life memory. This lasted until I met a woman who was interested in going through TPM with me.

    She has always struggled with feeling alone and abandoned. She even admitted that these feelings were so strong that she just couldn’t believe anybody would care for her so she lived her life in as much isolation as possible. So we started the process and I couldn’t believe were we ended up. She was born with an extremely weak immune system and the doctors had to put her in intensive care immediately upon her arrival to this world. Somewhere in between the doctors finishing up the delivery process with her mom and making sure she got the correct medical attention they left her in a room all by herself. During her time alone she could remember what it felt like to be cold, weak, and totally alone. When I asked her how she felt in that room she said, “My mom wasn’t with me; the doctors forgot about me, nobody will care for me.” I will skip the details from there other than to say that she was healed after we finished the process. Still intrigued by our time together I had an opportunity to meet this woman’s mother. With permission, I asked the mother what had happened when she gave birth to her daughter. She described the same situation I heard when I was taking her daughter through TPM.

    After that meeting I became a believer in infant memory. I am still immature and inexperienced in this, but I definitely accept its validity in ministering to these memories.

    Mike M


  3. I liked reading what you wrote. I had an experience in TPM prayer that went back to the womb. It was very real to me. Sometimes, I laugh at some of the polls and research that is published, with saying in my mind “duh” you don’t need research to prove that! God’s ways are mysterious and will never be figured out in the reasoning of man. I’ll never be an intellect, but that doesn’t bother me. I’ve got the living God inside of me! Who can compare to Him? I probably won’t ever go broadcasting my personal experience of TPM, especially something that took me back to the womb. Too many people react on a cognitive level, judging and dismissing inner healing miracles because it doesn’t make sense to them. I’d rather live a quiet, but hopefully noticeable testimony that may then compel someone to ask, “What happened to you that has made you change?” Then, I’d listen to the Spirit in me and respond with the words He gives me that would help bring that person closer to seeking the Lord for him/herself. My experience was real. The Truth has set me free. I heard the shepherd call me by my name and I followed his voice. (see John 10)


  4. Anonymous(1): Your question about wondering if there could be a correlation between having cancer and the feeling of wishing you had never been born. There could certainly be some connection, although I am reluctant to think that cancer would have that kind of root. I would think that an auto-immune disease like Chronic Fatigue, Schleroderma or Fybromyalgia would be more common. I see that the disease sometimes fits the nature of the lie. In an auto-immune disease, it is the body’s own defenses that are killing the body.
    However, I have seen lies that manifested themselves in disease, and if the lies go back far enough in our lives, the diseases may be quite severe.

    The beautiful thing is that I have also seen when the lies are gone that the diseases are often healed quite quickly. So take heart.


  5. Wow. Just…wow.

    Two thoughts on this:

    1) I wonder (almost speculate) if something happened when I was very young between me and my father. Still to this day, I find myself reacting at a very deep level with anger and annoyance toward him, when in reality, he is a very generous, loving man who (now) adores his granddaughter. What could cause that sort of resentment? I simply feel like I’m not expected to do much of anything with my life, and that “my husband” is supposed to handle all the issues. Um, still single!

    2) Considering the implications this has for me as a parent is mind-boggling. On the bright side, I don’t feel much guilt about anything I’ve done — from the beginning, I promised myself that my daughter should never suffer for how she came about. But still, yikes. Such pressure!


  6. Alli:

    Of course, there is no way to speculate what may have happened with you and your father. But if there is something there, a theophostic session would probably bring some of it into the open if it carries significant pain. If it doesn’t carry significant pain, then the TPM wouldn’t carry you there. It is that simple.

    As to your little one, I wouldn’t worry about it. It is not what we do to our children that affects them as much as it is how they interpret what happens. In that light, there really is no way to absolutely prevent them from believing lies. But on the other hand, there is no way to predict that our misguided parenting will adversely affect them either. That will be their choice. Do your best…as I know you will


  7. I had the same response as Allison to the weight of parenting. I can look at myself and my sister and see how two people raised in the same household can have such different views of the same circumstances. I don’t know how my children will react to their upbringing or how satan will try to decive them. I also know that I am the mom God chose for them and hopefully, through his guidance I won’t screw them up too much!

    This concept of infant/ intrauterine memories is a hard one for me. My earliest full memory is from about age 5. Before that I have 2-3 snapshot memories. I know others who can remember into their 3s and my husband has clear memories from age 2 but a memory before that blows me away. I appreciate you bringing this up. I trust you and TPM enough to believe this to be true. But it is a new thing to get my mind around. It really fuels my passion for pregnant women and the desire to help them with their pregnancy/ birth and post partum experiences. Thank you for bringing this into open discussion.


  8. Perhaps what we struggle with still comes back to the idea that all memories are cognitive. I would certainly say that lie-based thinking is cognitive…since we must make choices to believe lies. But the roots of how we “feel” about certain things may be “extra-cognitive”…that is, they may relate to the period of our life when our soul and spirit are moving ahead of our brains. Then, when events happen in our cognitive life that match up with the pre-cognitive feelings, we then choose readily to accept them.

    Another example: Many Christians believe that all of us are tainted by sin’s influence at conception. But how exactly does that work? Does that mean a fetus is guilty of sin? Not at all. Then it must mean that there is a spiritual and soulish influence that affects us through our genetics pre-cognitively. But we are not responsible for sin until we recognize that what we are doing is wrong.

    In the same way, pre-cognitive memories influence us, but they are not necessarily where we believe the lie. The belief must come later.

    That’s my theory at this point anyway.



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