Emotional Memory, The Source of Happiness

Our emotional memory is the deep emotions, the basement feelings, our primary impressions of early childhood and youth. These emotional memories become our foundation, a predisposition to stimulus, the way we react to stress, joy and pain.

Depending on our emotional memory of early childhood and youth we feel and resolve difficulties, stress and pain to varying degrees and effectiveness. Emotional memory is the invisible, underlying, residue of feelings that comes from our predominant general perception of experiences, what gives us our resiliency and comes from how we emotionally feel about what goes on around us in early childhood and youth. If in early childhood and youth we perceive our experiences as emotionally supportive; we are shown, taught and observe patience, self-esteem, optimism, emotional control and self-regulation, we absorb a calmness, a peace that over time becomes our steady and reactive state.

I use the words emotional memory and a residue of underlying supportive skills as a descriptive way of understanding resiliency. Resiliency is the ability to have successful outcomes when facing challenging or threatening circumstances and comes from a positive emotional memory or a residue of underlying supportive skills. Emotional memories in early childhood and youth come to us in various ways. As children we are looking for any and all stimulus. A child is a vessel looking to fill itself and will take anything that comes along with an unquestioning resolve that whatever gets put before them is supposed to be there and the way we as parents do things is the right way. They inherently trust us no matter what is portrayed. These memories are actually lessons. Children watch and listen, then mimic or model the stimulus they experience. If the stimulus is proper and supportive the child will learn to have positive emotional memories, if not they will have less positive or negative emotional memories.

  • When a child is paid attention to they learn values, self-esteem and relationship skills.

  • When we talk to a child they hear words, learn language, math skills, empathy, attitude and emotion.

  • When a child is appreciated for their efforts and told to try again they learn perseverance. Understanding about effort and failure begins at home.

  • When a child is shown patience they learn patience.

  • When we show gratitude for help or responsible acts children learn to appreciate.

  • When a child is angry and we acknowledge their anger we teach respect.

  • When a child is sad and we talk to them and say it will be ok we teach trust and offer security.

When children see and hear parents use self-regulation to react to difficult situations with controlled emotion they will develop an awareness and understanding of how to regulate their feelings and develop empathy. Over time children will learn to understand the causes of emotions in themselves and others. When children hear calm resolve to stressful and angry situations they model this behavior and learn to regulate their emotions allowing the development of coping strategies and resiliency.

All the things that make a child feel good, safe and secure create a positive emotional memory. The way we are emotional supported in the first three years and more effects education, risk aversion, adaptive behavior and relationship skills 20 to 30 years later. In the future when stressed we have a positive emotional memory, we will be less prone to emotional overreaction stemming from insecurity or low self-esteem. When children are in an emotionally supportive environment they develop a residue of underlying supportive skills that allow for success and happiness in the future based in the abilities to interact and relate to others and themselves with mental and emotional flexibility and empathy. When children experience patience, optimism, self-esteem, emotional control and self-regulation in their environments they learn and absorb these skills.

Children that have parents that cannot regulate their emotions will have difficulty controlling their anger and have difficulty maintaining relationships with peers. When children are not given a positive emotional memory they will be more vulnerable to the stresses life will inevitably provide. This can lead to difficulty maintaining relationships and increased physical and mental health issues. A positive emotional memory allows for the development of social connectedness (interaction/relationship skills) which are a stronger predictor of well-being then income and educational level. Many children and youth have not developed the resiliency skills or positive emotional memory, gained through frequent conversations on important topics in early childhood and youth and will suffer from anxiety, anger, depression, increased alcohol and drug abuse. Adolescent relationships that developed good emotional memory are more resilient to internalized depression, anger, truancy and abuse of drugs and alcohol. Positive relationship skills learned at home allows positive interaction with teachers when children begin school allowing better grades.

I am pushing hard to make conversations on important topics a mainstream concept. The majority of social problems, mental and emotional unbalance and behavioral issues are directly related to not having conversations on important topics in early childhood and youth. Let’s stop the recycled not knowing; the lack of intrinsic resiliency (positive emotional memory or residue of underlying supportive skills) that allows for greater mental and emotional stability. We need to develop and implement a strategic approach to the promotion of mental, emotional, and behavioral health in young people. This must, due to the nature of the developmental process, begin in the home. A parent does not need to be perfect to better support a child. A few simple consistent conversations and practices can increase a child’s perceived value. As a child learns and develops through these conversations and practices a parent increases their own positive self-perception in their ability to contribute to their child’s success and well-being increasing the parent’s desire to do it more.

If you would like to learn to develop a positive emotional memory in yourself or your children please contact me at and let’


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