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. When we perceive our early childhood and adolescence experiences as emotionally supportive, are shown, taught, and observe patience, self-esteem, optimism, emotional control, and self-regulation, we absorb calm. This peace becomes our steady and reactive state over time. 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 all stimuli. 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 we portray. These memories are lessons. Children watch and listen, then mimic or model the stimulus they experience. If the stimulation 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 a 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 struggle 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, 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 stressful and angry situations, they model this behavior and learn to regulate their emotions, developing resiliency and coping strategies. All the things that make a child feel good, safe, and secure create a positive emotional memory. Our emotional support level in the first three years affects education, risk aversion, adaptive behavior, and relationship skills 20 to 30 years later.

When we have a positive emotional memory, we will be less prone to emotional overreaction stemming from insecurity or low self-esteem when stressed in the future. In addition, 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 on the abilities to interact and relate to others and themselves with mental and emotional flexibility and empathy.

Children learn and absorb these skills when they experience patience, optimism, self-esteem, emotional control, and self-regulation in their environments. Children who have parents who cannot regulate their emotions will have difficulty controlling their anger and maintaining relationships with peers. Without a positive emotional memory, the children will be more vulnerable to the stresses life will inevitably provide, leading to difficulty maintaining relationships and increased physical and mental health issues. A positive emotional memory allows for social connectedness (interaction/relationship skills), a stronger predictor of well-being than income and educational level. Many children and youth have not developed the resiliency skills or positive emotional memory gained through frequent conversations on essential topics in early childhood and adolescence and will suffer from anxiety, anger, depression, increased alcohol and drug abuse. Adolescent relationships that develop good emotional memory are more resilient to internalized depression, anger, truancy, and abuse of drugs and alcohol. Positive relationship skills learned at home allow positive interaction with teachers when children begin school, allowing better grades.

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

Louis Scotti

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