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Childhood People who don't remember their childhoods

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I keep reading people (here and elsewhere) saying that they don't remember their childhood. I've been trying to think about whether or not I can remember it, or if I should be able to remember a lot more than my name, where I went to school and what the school looked like.

Also, I just remembered a few days ago my friend from little school, a really good friend I had but he moved away near the end of it, then I moved to secondary school and spent years having no idea that someone who was essentially the most important non-family person in my life even existed. So its nice remembering that I had friends back then and did normal kid stuff.

But since I have no reason to think anything traumatic happened at or before that point, I wonder if I actually have a perfectly normal memory of childhood and that everybody can only remember bits and pieces, (like "oh, my best friend moved house and his new house was really big, or that one really awful thing I said to someone once, whatever it once).

What *should* I be able to remember from before I was 12?

(I'll try to engage with replies to this post not not wake up tomorrow pretending I never made it I promise)


FWIW I think its normal to have patchy memories of things - we remember the things that we reaccess on a regular basis or the things that are important.

My memories of childhood are heightened because of the trauma I think, although there are gaps in some of the abuse events, - my sibling has very, very different memories of the time as they did not experience the bad things I did and barely recognise the world I describe.

Sorry if this doesn’t make much sense or provide what you were looking for. But maybe there’s no *should* to your answer? ;)
I think we also remember things through 'story telling'. Like our parents saying stories of what happened. Or remembering events with siblings. It's sharing experience and talking that keeps those memories more at the forefront of our minds?
I don't remember some bits but I remember lots of other bits.
And even with the story telling, my mum repeats some traumatic experiences for me (which she recalls as funny little stories, which aren't), and whilst I remember them, there are still bits missing which I think are from my memory rather than her lack of talking about that part. If that makes sense.

The other day I took time to think about life for me at a particular time in my childhood and I remembered things. It wasn't that memories were coming back, but I was just taking the time to remember. A bit like it sounds you were doing. So maybe it is not 'not remembering' but just not *thinking* about it, which means it isn't present in your mind, but also means you haven't forgotten?
I'm not sure if I am articulating myself correctly.
What *should* I be able to remember from before I was 12?
Bits and pieces. Of moments that impacted you.

Memory is such a complex thing. The way it's stored (smells go over here, trauma goes over there, tactile stuff goes somewhere else, emotional stuff goes all over the place, information we use all the time stays front and centre...)

Memory retrieval is just as complex. Sitting down and trying to make our brains remember something? Fraught with issues - our brain will most often make its best guess. Prompts may or may not be unreliable, as well. A photo, or a smell, might suddenly shoot you back to an event that you had no idea you'd even forgotten, while someone 'reminding' you of an event may create a totally fictional memory, or patch up your own memory with someone else's interpretation of the situation, so that what you remember is a patchwork of half truths.

Then there's things like your age. Your education and culture - how many different ways have you exercised your brain over the years to keep memory functions working well (or not). What things are culturally significant milestones? How diverse were your childhood experiences from one year to the next? What types of things were you taught were important to remember (your times tables and 10th birthday, or how to harpoon a fish from a rudimentary fishing boat)?

Were you someone who kept a lot of written journals, or photographic/artistic journals? They help solidify the laying down of memories, and help prompt recall.

Add in health issues - while you're depressed? Or suffering an acute injury? That changes your ability to lay down memory (so, there's not much from a depressed childhood to remember, because memory wasn't laid down properly at the time) as well as your recall ability (so if you're depressed now, you may recall very little, whereas in 12 months time when your mood and overall function improve, recall will likely improve right along with it). Not to mention early onset dementia, head injuries from high school football or a car accident, stroke, seizures, etc.

Are you still living in the same community (location and people) as your childhood? If so, many shared events will come up frequently in ordinary conversation, and recall will be good. If you've lived in a situation where the past was never spoken of, your brain will do something entirely different with those memories, because they serve no current social function.

Throw in medication and other substances (how much have you been a drinker over the years, for example) that impact all the different parts of our brain that combine to help us remember things...

At the moment, the most we seem to understand about memory is how little we understand how it works, and that it's infinitely more complex than most people assume. So, is there an average standard for what a 'typical' person remembers? Doubt that very much.

However much you remember? Is totally okay. It's a fascinating topic:)
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I can only remember fragments of my childhood. I blocked alot of it out due to so much trauma. I've suffered from trauma all my life but I seldom remember things from my childhood. It is just a sad big long memory. It's the violent attacks and abuse that I get flashbacks from.
Memory is strange to describe. A kind of patchwork. How do you describe, perhaps a slide show of layered images, sequential within a flash of thought. Our brains are mapping everything. I guess one might remember some endearing moments, some not, and some, really not. The scary ones I have vivid recall of. I remember the smell of my room 33 years ago. I remember what was laying all over the floor although, I could not give you specific details as in individual articles of clothes but that there was piles of clothes. That amongst other things, makes up the backdrop of the setting. The brain is doing some “filling “. It’s attempt to remember? Other things are remembered in startling detail. I suppose I don’t remember the clothing as much because that did not shock me. I know a lot about this memory but I did a lot of work on it.

My memory is hazy otherwise. I do not remember abuse when I was four or three. I don’t remember therapy either that came after.

One fun moment I got in trouble when I was five. I wasn’t really in trouble I broke some crackers on my mothers turntable and was watching them go around. I remember laughing and her also laughing so that must be my first good memory that’s readable. I don’t have memories before that. Nothing tangible, or vague, just not there.

More abuse when I was six and seven, again a bedroom and kitchen. My main bank of memories start to get clearer at seven.

In each group I am finding a flashback of me dissociating while something is going on.

I feel right now my brain is trying to process through areas of time/space and coming up empty handed with the exception of a few memories.

The world of the long-term memory bank is bizarre. You can delve into your memory you are thinking of and sometimes get a lot of detail. I was able to do this by speaking and writing my memory, details of the setting, any actions performed by self or others and the lIke at the same time. As the words flowed out of me so to did the details, along with emotions.

Just remember that within the old fragmented memory, as you write down what you see, hear and feel, that your brain is also going to fill in the unreadable information in an attempt to keep it cohesive. These details may include colors and textures. The order the images are shown in might also be out of order, which could lead to confusion of the timeline flow of the memory flash. As we remember it as we think it was we alter it each time. However small most likely. Part of the process of moving an old memory from the long-term bank to the short-term memory spot. Usually this is all inconsequential but the more we were remember something, the more the memory has changed over a span of time. If the brain dissociated back in the memory, the more permission the brain had to fill in the gaps because there wasn’t anything there except it’s focus. Which may be only an item or two within the memory that can be recovered.

This is why some of us can’t remember much. Our brains focus was all dedicated towards just a few targets perhaps. But details like smells and emotions and touch could be forefront.
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If it helps, for the longest of time, I remembered a fog, a stream of nice but veery fragmented memories I clung to like a lifeline - and then phobias and things to avoid like a plague.

It only was a problem when, in ongoing trauma, I couldn't stop avoiding, the fog lifted here and there or sharpness leaked through, and present people made me enough sad I couldn't cling to the happy kid narrative.

Because the world was grey and sad. And I was done with it.

Few moments later a single ooh. Shiny. patched my problems for a while.

But yeah. Even asked, beaten blue, what's up? Nothing. Fell. Genuinely high as kite, not drugged, happy.

Cause the disconnects just were that deep.
I think very happy or relaxed or very traumatic or poignant or amazing are easier to remember.

But really, as a child or adult, when run amok with trauma related thoughts (like anxiety is driving the bus, or horror, or fear, or grief, or panic, or numbness- which is apparently an emotion over other emotions, etc), it's no wonder much or most can't be remembered, there was or is too much else focused on (even if not out of choice).
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