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Early Recollections and the Conditioned Self


Last week we explored limiting beliefs, those thoughts that are often repetitive and nearly always negative that prevent us from doing, trying or changing things in our lives. Limiting beliefs are one of the components of our conditioned self. There are other terms used to describe the conditioned self that you may be familiar with: False Self, Pseudo Self, Ego, and Personality. We start developing this conditioned self when we are very young as a response to others' (typically people older than we were with authority, such as parents, other family members, teachers, other adults) reactions to our actions and words.

You may wonder how an incident from when you were six years old could have any bearing on your life now. Of course, some of us suffered greatly as children from physical or emotional abuse, and it is only logical that there are lingering effects into adulthood, but what if that were not the case? Could you still have some events that created your conditioned self? You might be surprised!

Psychologist Alfred Adler in his 1958 book Individual Psychology identified "early recollections" as specific events that a person can remember in clear detail almost as if s/he could see them. The memory includes feelings and thoughts at the time of the event. Adler believed that "people remember only those events from early childhood that are consistent with their present view of themselves and the world."

Psychologist Alfred Adler believed that "people remember only those events from early childhood that are consistent with their present view of themselves and the world."

Think about one of your earliest negative memories from before you were six. Grab a notebook or journal, write down that memory and describe what happened. Now write about how it made you feel. What were you thinking? What negative lesson did you learn?


This is a limiting belief that your conditioned self is still carrying around. Recall that what fires together wires together. You can still remember this event because your child brain processed that event and the associated negative emotions to form an "early recollection." Most likely, your child self felt threatened at some level and you were in fear or anxiety. Your brain is wired to protect yourself, so neuropathways started becoming entrenched so you could avoid this situation in the future and be safe.

This limiting belief combines with others to form the conditioned self - the self that has been shaped by the world. The conditioned self limits your authentic self, the person you were before the world told you who to be.

So what are we to do this all this mental baggage? Remember neuroplasticity? We are not stuck - we can change our brains by changing our thoughts. The brain is plastic, and with time and effort, new neuropathways can be formed and we can change our beliefs.

As we've mentioned earlier, developing awareness is key for rewiring. Once we start becoming aware of when we are in conditioned self and what the tape of limiting beliefs is looping in our brains, we can start shifting into healthier thought patterns. Over time, these positive and more realistic thought patterns become natural and comfortable for us.


While our conditioned selves typically cannot be eradicated, what we can do is spend less time there and start living more authentically in less anxiety. Our conditioned self has worked hard to keep us safe, but we're grown up now, and something new is needed!

As always, we love to hear from you! If you have a question or comment, please comment or email us.

About Julie Muhsmann

Through her ability to listen and connect intuitively on a deep level, Julie guides clients to acknowledge and honor their own personal strengths to (re)discover their own unique spark and achieve their goals, both personal and professional. She is a Certified Life Coach and MBA currently living in Dallas, Texas with her husband and two rescued Labradors, Candy and Boom. Shine Bright! About John Harrington

John dedicates his life to helping others deepen their connection with the Sacred in the world, nature, and within oneself. He is a Certified Spiritual Life Coach, Coach Trainer, NLP Practitioner, and Authorized Guide to John of God in Brazil. John currently lives in Boulder, Colorado with his fiancée and their wire hair terrier found on the streets of Brazil.

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