Note: Page numbers enclosed in parentheses are citations from The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler: A systematic presentation in selections from his writings. (H. L. and R. R. Ansbacher, Eds.). © 1964, Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. Used by permission of Perseus Books Group.
Early recollections are stories of single, specific incidents in childhood which the individual is able to reconstitute in present experience as mental images or as focused sensory memories. They are understood dynamically; that is, the act of recollecting and remembering is a present activity, the historical validity of which is irrelevant to present purpose. They are considered to be projective (Mosak, 1977), therefore, Individual Psychology understands early recollections as mirroring presently-held convictions, evaluations, attitudes, and biases. Individuals usually retain only a few early recollections that come to mind in response to chance stimuli or upon inquiry, in either case without explicit awareness of meaning or purpose. They may be thought of by analogy to the myths of the peoples that validate and sanctify the practices and values of a cultural form (Powers, 1973). As personal myths they are similarly held in memory and periodically rehearsed for purposes of individual identity and orientation. Early recollections are examined for their implications as they come to be reported in the course of therapy, either at the initiative of client or counselor. For example, in response to the client's report of a troublesome feeling, the counselor may ask, "Can you remember the first time in your life you felt this way?" In the recollection that comes in response they may recover the context of the original shock reaction, reappearing in the current feeling as a caution or expectation directed toward an apparent similarity in the client's current situation and challenges. Further, the systematic gathering and interpretation of a set of early recollections is a component of lifestyle assessment. [See Errors/Basic Mistakes/Interfering Ideas.]
Among all psychological expressions, some of the most revealing are the individual's memories. His memories are the reminders he carries about with him of his own limits and of the meaning of circumstances (p. 351).
There are no "chance memories": out of the incalculable number of impressions which meet an individual, he chooses to remember only those which he feels, however darkly, to have a bearing on his situation (p. 351).
The first memory will show . . . [the individual's] fundamental view of life, his first satisfactory crystallization of his attitude (p. 351).
If we have found the real law of movement in an individual's recollections, we will find the same law confirmed in all his other forms of expression (p. 354).
Memory, like attention, is selective, in keeping with the economy of the mind and the purposes of the individual. Actively to remember everything, even if it were possible, would so clutter and fill attention that it is difficult to imagine how we could endure it. The theoretical problem, therefore, is to account not for the fact that we forget so much (which is the burden of theories of repression), but rather for the fact that we remember what we do (Powers & Griffith, 1987, p. 185).
Individual Psychology is a theory of expression. It assumes that we retain these particular memories in order to maintain an orientation through time, to reherse our understanding of the fundamental issues of life, and to provide ourselves with reminders of the reliability of our convictions (Powers & Griffith, 1987, p. 185).
© Griffith, J., & Powers, R. L. (2007). The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology: 106 terms Associated with the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler (2nd ed.). Port Townsend, WA: Adlerian Psychology Associates (p. 26).
Definitions of concepts are used by permission of Jane Griffith. A comprehensive list of concepts and definitions can be found in The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology: 106 Terms Associated with the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler by Jane Griffith and Robert L. Powers, available for purchase on Amazon.com.
Clark, A. J. (2002). Early recollections: Theory and practice in counseling and psychotherapy. New York: Brunner-Routledge.
Maniacci, M., Shulman, B., Griffith, J., Powers, R. L., Sutherland, J., Dushman, R., & Schneider, M. F. (1998). Early recollections: Mining the personal story in the process of change. Journal of Individual Psychology, 54(4), 450-479.
Powers, R. L. (1973). Myth and memory. In H. H. Mosak (Ed.), Alfred Adler: His influence on psychology today (pp. 271-290). Park Ridge, NJ: Noyes.
Powers, R. L., & Griffith, J. (1987). Understanding life-style: The psycho-clarity process. Port Townsend, WA: Adlerian Psychology Associates.
Mozak, H. H. (1977). On purpose: Collected papers. Chicago: Adler School of Professional Psychology.