12 thoughts that could mean you're repressing childhood memories (2023)

As you probably know, there are connections between the experiences you had growing up and the way you live life as an adult. For example, if he had a traumatic experience as a child, such as physical or emotional abuse, it can affect his thinking and behavior well into adulthood. But for some, there is a phenomenon in the brain where they simply cannot recall their traumatic childhood memories. If you've ever wondered, "Why can't I remember my childhood? Maybe you've been repressing childhood memories. It doesn't happen to everyone, but according to experts, certain thoughts you have may indicate that this is it's happening to you.

"Repressed childhood memories or amnesia blocks can indicate trauma," says the psychotherapist.Rev. Sheri Heller, LCSWsays Hustle. "When I do an initial consultation for someone in therapy, I usually ask if there are times early in their life when their memory is patchy or inaccessible."

As this energy is blocked or suppressed, Heller says these memories typically morph into various forms, such as episodic crying, phobias, aggressive outbursts, or generalized fear, among others.

“The repression of negative childhood memories contributes to later revictimization, as the person unconsciously acts on the repressed dynamic in the unconscious hope of overcoming the trauma,” says Heller. Because of this, some people with repressed memories may respond with reckless compulsive or addictive behaviors. Even if they are not fully aware of it, they may act a certain way based on experiences from their past. It may not happen to everyone, but it does to some.

So how can you tell if you have any?repressed negative childhood memories? Your thoughts can point this out to you. These are your thoughts that could indicate that you are repressing a trauma. And if you find that this is your case, remember that it is not your fault and that it is important Seek help from family members or a therapist to ease the pain.

Warning: this article contains information about childhood trauma and abuse that some consider triggering.


"I'm afraid of …"

"is replaced byChildhood memories in which phobias develop, then look for the phobic reactions that you are harboring and it is likely that you will find a repressed childhood memory behind them”, clinical psychologist,Dr. Juan Mayer, knee Hussle.

Memories are repressed because they are traumatic, he says. If you are afraid of snakes, spiders or heights without really knowing why, there may be a repressed memory. "Thoughts surrounding repressed childhood memories manifest as fears later in life," Mayer says. "For example, a typical thought could be a negative reaction to people yelling, and this could stem from a repressed childhood memory from the parents of being an angry yeller." If you believemaybe you have a phobiaThis makes your life challenging, talking to a therapist can help you uncover potential traumatic memories and help you develop coping mechanisms.

(Video) Repressed Memories, Dissociative Amnesia, PTSD, and the Memory Wars


"Why am I always so nervous?"

"A person who always seems nervous may be afraid of getting hurt and may be overly alert and anxious."Janika Jones, a licensed clinical social worker, tells Bustle. So if loud noises, like doors slamming or a car speeding away, easily annoy or make you uncomfortable, this could be fear resulting from a repressed memory.


"I do not like to be alone".

If you hate the idea of ​​being alone, you may have attachment and abandonment issues. "A person who expresses fear of being alone may be looking for support because she's been hurt in the past," says Joyner. She may also stem from feelings of isolation that she may have had as a child, such as B. Bullying. If the thought of being alone really scares you, seeking the help of a therapist can find out why this may be happening.


"I hate the smell of..."

If you feel uncomfortable with certain smells, sounds, textures, places, or even names without being able to explain exactly why, it could be a sign that you have some kind of repressed childhood memory. "My experience in therapy is that a client may discover that he doesn't like a certain tobacco smell because he had a negative childhood experience with a smoker," says Joyner. And fromSmell is often strongly linked to memories., an aversion to certain smells can help you figure out what memories you might be repressing.


"I hate showing skin and I hate being touched."

A person struggling with negative memories of their body may not feel comfortable showing up.a history of sexual abuse. As Joyner says: "A client I worked with was afraid to wear shorts and show her legs because she had feelings that would expose her and increase her chances of unwanted attention. If you think you've been sexually abused, remember that it's not your fault." Is You don't have to suffer in silence. Talking to a therapist or loved one you trust can be cathartic and help you come to terms with the trauma that may still reside within you.

If you don't feel comfortable talking to someone you know, you can also callNational Sexual Assault Hotlineal 800-656-HOPE (4673) o hangonline.rainn.org speak anonymously with someone who can help you process what you are going through.

(Video) What are Repressed Memories and are they real?


"Why do I always feel bad?"

Heller says that if you're constantly feeling depressed without knowing why, it could be a sign that you're repressing childhood memories. "A weakened immune system can be caused by anxiety-triggered adrenal glands, which may actually be the result of somatization of suppressed material," she says. If she also finds that some of these other thoughts accompany these feelings of illness, it may be worth talking to a therapist or loved one about how she is feeling.


"I hate who I am."

Egocentric negative thoughts like “I am stupid”, “I will never be good enough”, “What is this?” or "I keep screwing up" could be a sign of repressed negative childhood memories. OKElicia Miller, Emotional Healing Coach and founder of Core Emotional Healing, these thoughts come up because you may have experienced and learned this about yourself growing up. "[Someone with these thoughts] could have been shamed, blamed, or even abused," Miller tells Bustle.

(Video) 12 signs you might be suffering from PTSD


"I always feel uncomfortable with this person and I don't know why"

Some memories can be very traumatic or difficult to understand. When this happens,Arien Conner, LCSWThe Therapist at Clear Path, LLC, tells Bustle that the brain may not know how to process a specific "event," so it may disassociate or store it in a "mental closet." Some may completely forget these memories, while others recall fragments when they least expect it. "It allows us to continue our daily operations," says Conner. But even if the mind has forgotten or blocked a memory, you can still probably feel it in your body. For example, if you feel uncomfortable around a certain colleague and you don't know why, they may resemble someone from your childhood who made you feel insecure or threatened. If that's the case, your body may respond with these uncomfortable feelings, even if you don't remember the triggering event from childhood.


"People Always Leave"

It's important to note that traumatic events don't have to be physical to leave a scar on your psyche. second psychotherapistPriscila Chin, LCSWMemories of emotional abuse or racist microaggressions can also be hidden. A person may even block out the entire memory, certain aspects of it, or just the emotional experience of it. "For example, someone might remember that a caregiver was frequently away from home, but not remember feeling abandoned or confused," Chin says. Even if you don't remember the emotional experience, there is still a chance that it affected you as an adult. For example, you may not have many lasting friendships or you may not form relationships and expect a breakup.


"Why do I get defensive so easily?"

If you have trouble remembering your childhood, certain situations, people, or places can trigger strong reactions. A very common or minor situation can trigger strong feelings such as shame, anger, abandonment or fear. When this happens, you may find yourself constantly on the defensive. According to Chin, this could be a sign that your brain has registered something familiar about the situation and emotions are surging to alert you to potential psychological or physical danger.

"It's important to try to understand what triggers it, instead of blaming yourself for 'overdoing it,'" says Chin. "Maybe it's the thought of someone leaving you. Maybe it's the possibility of being blamed or betrayed. Maybe it's the situation. These are important things to understand and work on in therapy so that what was previously painful and traumatic may have less impact. in you. "you".


“Bad things always happen to me”

Repressing traumatic memories can take a lot of mental energy. Left untreated, it can affect your life in many different ways. While some people respond to triggers by becoming defensive, others may respond by accepting what they believe to be their fate. OKSara Makin, licensed therapist and founder of Makin Wellness, self-punishment is a sign of repressed childhood memories. “Being a victim becomes part of a person's identity and prevents them from moving on,” she says. They live their lives believing that bad things will always happen to them and that there is nothing they can do to change that. On the other hand, people who always see themselves as victims have a hard time taking responsibility for things that are actually their fault.

(Video) Recovered Memories of Sexual Abuse Explained


"Nothing happened, I don't know why I'm acting like this"

A traumatic experience can be difficult to put into words. Because of this, people sometimes choose not to talk about it and instead hold on to these negative memories and feelings. Over time, some people block out these feelings, while others consciously suppress these memories. "The denial experience of our culture as a protective mechanism for our psyche can be very powerful," board-certified clinical psychologist Erin Miers, PsyD, tells Bustle. "This can be seen as repression because denying the trauma implies a similar concept: denying that the trauma occurred." Regardless of whether you block or deny certain memories, there is still a chance that your behavior has an influence.

Struggling with any kind of repressed memory can cause you to feel confused, protected, or act out whenever the memories come up. That is why it is important to seek help. "Going to therapy would be the best way to help the person learn how to put the pieces together and deal with their trauma in a safe and caring environment," says Joyner.

If any of these thoughts are keeping you from living your best life, know that you don't have to let that happen. Fixing the problem and asking for help may be in your best interest.

EDITOR'S NOTE: If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit usonline.rainn.org.


Rev. Sheri Heller, LCSW, psychotherapist

Dr. Juan Mayer, clinical psychologist

Janika Jones, licensed clinical social worker

Elicia Miller, Emotional Healing Coach and Founder of Core Emotional Healing

Arien Conner, LCSW, therapist at Therapist en Clear Path, LLC

Priscila Chin, LCSW, psychotherapist

(Video) 9 Signs You're Dealing with Childhood Trauma

Erin Miers, PsyD, Licensed Psychologist and Psychological Counselor at Mom Loves Best

This article was originally published on


Can childhood memories be repressed? ›

Repressed memories, also known as dissociative amnesia, are a common occurrence in those who have experienced childhood trauma. While some are unable to recall a small period of time, others are missing entire years of their life.

What does it mean if you can't remember your childhood? ›

The good news is that it's completely normal not to remember much of your early years. It's known as infantile amnesia. This means that even though kids' brains are like little sponges, soaking in all that info and experience, you might take relatively few memories of it into adulthood.

What are examples of repressed memories? ›

Repressed memory examples include being scared of all spiders after receiving a terrible spider bite in childhood. In this example, one might experience sudden anxiety, depression, or a lack of sleep due to the sight of a spider.

How do I know if I had childhood trauma? ›

You might have difficulties trusting, low self-esteem, fears of being judged, constant attempts to please, outbursts of frustration, or social anxiety symptoms that won't let up. Can childhood trauma be healed?

How do you unlock repressed childhood trauma? ›

Other suggestions for navigating and processing traumatic and repressed memories include:
  1. individual therapy modalities, such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy or cognitive processing therapy (CPT)
  2. group therapy.
  3. yoga.
  4. meditation.
  5. art as therapy or expression.
May 13, 2022

What does childhood trauma look like in adults? ›

Childhood trauma in adults also results in feeling disconnected, and being unable to relate to others. Studies have shown that adults that experience childhood trauma were more likely to struggle with controlling emotions, and had heightened anxiety, depression, and anger.

Why do I miss my childhood so much? ›

You might be nostalgic for simpler days and miss your childhood. It could mean you're exhausted from the current situation in your life. Often, it's said people miss their childhood because they're bored. It can be a sign of loneliness.

What does unresolved childhood trauma look like in adults? ›

Other manifestations of childhood trauma in adulthood include difficulties with social interaction, multiple health problems, low self-esteem and a lack of direction. Adults with unresolved childhood trauma are more prone to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicide and self-harm.

How do memories get repressed? ›

Repressed memory occurs when trauma is too severe to be kept in conscious memory, and is removed by repression or dissociation or both. At some later time it may be recalled, often under innocuous circumstances, and reappears in conscious memory.

What are false memories of childhood experiences? ›

These memories are often traumatic, such as childhood sexual abuse. These memories may directly relate to a person's behavior today. They may inform their identify and relationships. This is called false memory syndrome, or the creation of a reality around a memory that isn't true.

How much of your childhood are you supposed to remember? ›

Adults can generally recall events from 3–4 years old, with those that have primarily experiential memories beginning around 4.7 years old. Adults who experienced traumatic or abusive early childhoods report a longer period of childhood amnesia, ending around 5–7 years old.

Do I have childhood trauma that I don't remember? ›

"If you're having difficulty remembering important parts of your childhood, that may be a sign of trauma. Talking to a therapist can help you explore childhood memories in a safe and supportive environment." You're more likely to remember something if it had an emotional impact, whether positive or negative.

What are some examples of repression? ›

Repression is one possible response to something unpleasant. For example, if a person is confronted with a fact about himself that he finds unbearably shameful (a discreditable wish, a degrading fantasy, an embarrassing physical feature), one option is to banish it from awareness, to pretend that it doesn't exist.

What are repressed thoughts? ›

Definition of Repression

“In the realm of psychology, repression is generally viewed as a specific psychological defense mechanism wherein the individual unconsciously suppresses thoughts, feelings, or desires that are perceived as unacceptable or undesirable.”

What's an example of repression? ›

Examples of Repression

An adult suffers a nasty spider bite as a child and develops an intense phobia of spiders later in life without any recollection of the experience as a child. Because the memory of the spider bite is repressed, he or she may not understand where the phobia originates.

What can unhealed trauma look like? ›

Cognitive Signs of Unhealed Trauma

You may experience nightmares or flashbacks that take you back to the traumatic event. Furthermore, you may struggle with mood swings, as well as disorientation and confusion, which can make it challenging to perform daily tasks.

Was I neglected as a child? ›

How do I know if I was emotionally neglected as a child? There are several signs such as feelings of detachment, lack of peer group, dissociative inclinations, and difficulty in being emotionally present.

What does emotional neglect in childhood look like? ›

Examples of emotional neglect may include: lack of emotional support during difficult times or illness. withholding or not showing affection, even when requested. exposure to domestic violence and other types of abuse.

What are physical signs your body is releasing trauma? ›

Some may have a fight-or-flight type of response, which may include muscle tension, heart pounding and sweating because their body "believes it needs to activate," she explains. Others maybe experience a freeze response, which can look like someone who struggles to move or get out of bed.

How do you uncover hidden trauma? ›

The steps include:
  1. Recognize – Pause and notice what you're feeling.
  2. Accept/acknowledge/allow – whatever strong emotion is occurring in the moment.
  3. Investigate – Start to investigate your internal experience. ...
  4. Non-identification– Don't allow the thoughts, feelings or experiences to define you.

Can repressed memories be false? ›

We demonstrate that research has shown that about 30% of tested subjects formed false memories of autobiographical experiences. Furthermore, this empirical work has also revealed that such false memories can even be implanted for negative events and events that allegedly occurred repeatedly.

What are three signs of childhood trauma? ›

Traumatic experiences can initiate strong emotions and physical reactions that can persist long after the event. Children may feel terror, helplessness, or fear, as well as physiological reactions such as heart pounding, vomiting, or loss of bowel or bladder control.

What childhood trauma causes anxiety? ›

Childhood trauma is a major predisposing factor in forming anxiety symptoms and disorders in adulthood. Traumas can include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, exposure to domestic violence, parental substance abuse, and abandonment.

What happens to adults who were neglected as a child? ›

Maltreatment can cause victims to feel isolation, fear, and distrust, which can translate into lifelong psychological consequences that can manifest as educational difficulties, low self-esteem, depression, and trouble forming and maintaining relationships.

What is Peter Pan disorder? ›

Peter Pan Syndrome describes people who have difficulty “growing up.” They may find it hard to manage typical adult responsibilities, such as keeping a job and maintaining healthy relationships. According to Kiley, people with Peter Pan Syndrome behave irresponsibly and may display narcissistic personality traits.

What age do kids miss people? ›

It isn't until they're between five and eight months old that they begin to miss you. And object permanence is the reason for your baby missing you when you're not there.

Is it normal to miss your childhood home? ›

Let yourself grieve

For some people, the sale of their childhood home can feel like an ending to the first act of life. You might feel dislocated or distressed, or even have strange dreams. It's normal to feel a sense of emotional ownership over a house you grew up in, so letting it go is challenging.

What are the 4 types of childhood trauma? ›

Types of Childhood Trauma

Sexual or physical abuse. Natural disaster (hurricane, earthquake, flood) Car or plane crashes. War.

Can you be traumatized and not know it? ›

Trauma happens to everyone.

It can be physical, mental, or emotional. Many do not realize they have had a traumatic experience because most believe “a trauma” is only something dramatic or changes their world entirely.

Why do clients smile when talking about trauma? ›

Smiling when discussing trauma is a way to minimize the traumatic experience. It communicates the notion that what happened “wasn't so bad.” This is a common strategy that trauma survivors use in an attempt to maintain a connection to caretakers who were their perpetrators.

Why can't I remember my childhood trauma? ›

Memory loss after surviving traumatic events is sometimes called traumatic dissociative amnesia. It can happen in people who experienced adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as emotional abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse or neglect, verbal abuse, or emotional neglect.

Do trauma victims repress memories? ›

Recovery from trauma for some people involves recalling and understanding past events. But repressed memories, where the victim remembers nothing of the abuse, are relatively uncommon and there is little reliable evidence about their frequency in trauma survivors.

What are the 7 types of trauma? ›

Trauma Types
  • Bullying. ...
  • Community Violence. ...
  • Complex Trauma. ...
  • Disasters. ...
  • Early Childhood Trauma. ...
  • Intimate Partner Violence. ...
  • Medical Trauma. ...
  • Physical Abuse.

Where is childhood trauma stored in the body? ›

Trauma is not physically held in the muscles or bones — instead, the need to protect oneself from perceived threats is stored in the memory and emotional centers of the brain, such as the hippocampus and amygdala.

What age do repressed memories come back? ›

Most children over the age of three start to develop memories that they can later recall in adulthood. However, trauma survivors may not be able to access these memories. Some survivors have unconsciously blocked out weeks, months, or even years of their childhoods.

How do you know if memories are real? ›

Look for sensory details to indicate true memories.

Some researchers have found that real memories have more details, especially about the way things look, hear, feel, taste, or smell. If you're trying to figure out if your memory is real, examine how detailed and complete it is.

How do you unlock childhood memories? ›

Still, if you'd like to try pulling up some memories from early life, these tips might help.
  1. Talk about the past. Discussing experiences you've had and other important events can often help keep them fresh in your mind. ...
  2. Look at photos. ...
  3. Revisit familiar areas. ...
  4. Keep learning.
Feb 10, 2021

What age is most people's earliest memory? ›

On average the earliest memories that people can recall point back to when they were just two-and-a-half years old, a new study suggests. The findings, published in peer-reviewed journal Memory, pushes back the previous conclusions of the average age of earliest memories by a whole year.

Why do I remember my childhood so vividly? ›

Hyperthymesia, also known as hyperthymestic syndrome or highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAM), is a condition that leads people to be able to remember an abnormally large number of their life experiences in vivid detail.

What happens when childhood trauma goes untreated? ›

Adults with histories of trauma in childhood have been shown to have more chronic physical conditions and problems. They may engage in risky behaviors that compound these conditions (e.g., smoking, substance use, and diet and exercise habits that lead to obesity).

What are the symptoms of trauma blocking? ›

You may ask “What does trauma blocking behavior look like? Trauma blocking is excessive use of social media and compulsive mindless scrolling. Binge drinking every weekend because you are off from work. Compulsive exercising to reach a goal you are never satisfied with.

What does a repressed memory feel like? ›

Remembering a repressed memory “could begin with dream-like memories,” says psychologist Pauline Peck, PhD. It's “something that doesn't feel like a coherent narrative. You might have bits and pieces of a memory or have a strong felt 'sense. '”

What happens when you uncover repressed memories? ›

Repressed memories can come back to you in various ways, including having a trigger, nightmares, flashbacks, body memories and somatic/conversion symptoms. This can lead to feelings of denial, shame, guilt, anger, hurt, sadness, numbness and so forth.

What is considered a repressed memory? ›

Repressed memory occurs when trauma is too severe to be kept in conscious memory, and is removed by repression or dissociation or both. At some later time it may be recalled, often under innocuous circumstances, and reappears in conscious memory.

How does childhood trauma show up in adulthood? ›

Children don't have the ability to understand their role in complex issues. Therefore, trauma can lead to feelings of personal responsibility, lack of stability, feelings of shame or guilt, and a mistrust of those around them. These symptoms can occur in childhood and remain into adulthood.

Can you block out childhood trauma? ›

Blocking out memories can be a way of coping with the trauma. Memory loss from childhood trauma can affect your life in many ways. Your memory loss may even make you believe that you were never a victim of childhood trauma. Physical, emotional, and psychological trauma can all play a factor with memory loss.

How do you unlock childhood trauma? ›

To do this, people often have to talk in detail about their past experiences. Through talking, they are able to acknowledge the trauma—remember it, feel it, think about it, share it and put it in perspective.

What are signs of unhealed trauma? ›

Cognitive Signs of Unhealed Trauma
  • Overwhelming fears.
  • Depression.
  • Guilt or shame.
  • Anxiety.
  • Anger.
  • Irritability.
  • Shock.
Oct 10, 2020

What is an example of repression? ›

Examples of Repression

An adult suffers a nasty spider bite as a child and develops an intense phobia of spiders later in life without any recollection of the experience as a child. Because the memory of the spider bite is repressed, he or she may not understand where the phobia originates.

What can trigger a repressed memory? ›

Stress and fear can cause your brain to vividly remember events to protect you later in life. However, the brain can also repress or push traumatic memories aside, allowing a person to cope and move forward.

Can repressed memories hurt you? ›

At first, hidden memories that can't be consciously accessed may protect the individual from the emotional pain of recalling the event. But eventually those suppressed memories can cause debilitating psychological problems, such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or dissociative disorders.


1. 8 Signs of Childhood Emotional Neglect
2. 7 Signs You're Emotionally Repressed
3. 9 Signs You Have Unhealed Trauma
4. Why Are Trauma Memories So Different From Other Memories? How PTSD Affects Memory
(Therapy in a Nutshell)
5. Childhood Trauma: The Lives of the Neglected Children
6. Do You Know Your 12 DEFENSE MECHANISMS?
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