I don’t know where you live, but in the Washington, DC area the heat has been constant and oppressive. I have this great deck and patio, and they stand empty, day after day, because it is too hot to sit outside. I am convinced that global warming is real. Also, when I see the huge floods and storms in the Midwest, I know the climate is changing. This is not the first time that the weather has been devastating. Remember the dust storms of the 1930’s? The pictures of walls of dirt traveling across the Plains are frightening. Houses were buried, and people died when they could not outrun the walls of dust and dirt or find safety in their homes.

What are you trying to outrun or avoid? We all do it.

One of the most common things to outrun is our childhood history. Before we reach puberty, our brains think in binary terms: yes/no, right/wrong, good/bad. We divide our experiences into absolute opposites. That means that early life experiences get stuck in that place of absolute negative or absolute positive. Each of these can lead to problems later on. For now, I want to focus on the absolute negative.

When the first child in a family is replaced by the second, danger lurks. The sense of loss and rejection that can overwhelm the first child is akin to a form of panic. When you move from receiving the full attention of both parents to having to share that attention, the hurt and loss are real. Many times, parents do not realize how powerful this loss is, and they fail to find ways to continue the older child’s experience of being special. When we are replaced by another, we are in pain. The accompanying confusion and grief are disorienting. The older child is destabilized.

That sense of “I can be replaced” stays with you even if it is buried in your memory bank. The fear and instability associated with that thought can cause us to fear connection or overreach for connection and importance. When we fear connection, we miss out on opportunities to build friendships and support networks. When we overreach for connection, we alienate others and become burdens. Facing the early childhood injury can help us to reorient and change our view of ourselves and others.

We all carry early childhood memories with us, and they influence how we behave in the present. We cannot outrun them, but we can turn and face them without the fear of being buried. Understanding our early experiences and their influence on the present opens us up leading to cooler times.