Peter’s couple therapy blog

Kids and separation – remembering & experiencing

No matter how you explain it, many children experience you separating from your partner as personal to them – as you leaving them.

You can give them a story for their brain to remember, hope they hold on to it for example, that you will do your best to see them often. However, the experiencing brain feels the pain of an ending, and knows it as your separation from them not as yours from your partner. That may defeat almost anything you can say in hope they will remember.

Each moment of the experiencing self lasts about 3 seconds, most of the experience vanishing without a trace. What gets remembered by the remembering self are changes in the story, significant (intense) moments in the story, and the ending. Our brain tends to color the entire story with the intensity of the ending of it.

I would like to say that adults have an adult brain that has processed these experiences. But in fact, the experiencing brain operates without a voice and without the remembering self. Watch this TED talk.

For example, when someone listens to a symphony, and hears absolutely glorious music and at the very end of the performance, there is a dreadful screeching sound, someone could think/feel/believe the screech ruined the whole experience. But it hadn’t. What it had ruined were the memories of the experience. You have had the experience. You have had 20 minutes of glorious music. They can count for nothing if you are left with a memory that the performance was ruined. The memory was ruined, and the memory is all that you get to keep.

The tricky part is, we make decisions based on memory – the remembering self – rather than actual experience – the experiencing self.

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