Example sheet for memory-focused identity assessment

Example memories for identity partitioning:

Example One:

Pre-addiction/during addiction/post-addiction: Pre-addiction

Age: 6.

Event/stimulus: Fight in playground

Positive/Negative: Negative

Catalyst: one child took a favourite toy from me without asking, snatching it from my grip.

Emotional reaction: Anger, outrage, hatred, urge to strike out, need to get my toy back whatever the cost, need to punish for injustice.

Behavioural reaction: wrestled the toy away from the child then broke his nose with it by smashing it into his face.

Emotional-behavioural outcome: grief over the broken toy, shame at hurting the child, a supposed friend, fear of reprisal and penalty from authority figures such as parents and teachers, sense of being lower than others for my actions, resignation to punishment, probably physical.

Identifying markers: a need to punish those who are perceived as unjust and hurt my emotions, strong emotional response manifested in violent behaviour, snap-physical reaction to perceived threat (fight not flight), immediate remorse yet felt worse about the broken toy than my friend’s broken nose, acceptance of punishment for actions, taking ownership of behaviours.

Example Two:

Age: 7

Event/stimulus: a computer game about the Divine Comedy

Positive/negative: Positive

Catalyst: parents brought me a new Spectrum computer with one text adventure game, Dante’s Inferno.

Emotional reaction: joy, obsession, thirst to learn more about the stimulus, gratitude to parents, overwhelming excitement when playing and a sense of apprehensive glee when new puzzles were solved, isolation in a fantasy world, wish to share my appetite with others irrespective of age, sex or any other factor.

Behavioural reaction: long periods spent playing the game, more interaction with parents, especially father, less attention to other activities and peers, isolation, acting out the game in the playground, drawing pictures and writing stories, reading more about Dante’s Divine Comedy and the concepts of Hell and Heaven. Bringing the concept into school and involving others in composing stories and adventures that brought them a sense of self-esteem.

Emotional-behavioural outcome: fascination with Greek mythology and all things devilish, elevated self-esteem from learning more about my obsession, disappointment that peers could not relate, enthusiasm to enlighten them (and scare them) about Hell so that they might share my zeal.

Identifying markers: obsessive tendency, gravitation towards the macabre, gravitation to concepts of just punishment for offenders,i.e. Hell, thirst for learning and experience concerning stimuli that are fascinating, expression and recognition of gratitude, willingness to share passionate ideas and make others see from my perspective. Delight in scaring people with tales of what might happen to them when they die. Self-esteem from knowing something that others did not, taking pleasure from involving others in something I had personally brought into the group.

Example Three

Pre-addiction/during addiction/post-addiction: pre-addiction

Age: 5/6

Event/stimulus: fight between father and maternal grandfather.

Catalyst: grandfather dropped his knife onto the floor whilst entering the house; he apparently always carried one for defence. It was a big kitchen knife and he was a diagnosed schizophrenic. I didn’t know any of this. Father wrestled him out of the house, flipped the table up to protect me and another child (my cousin or neighbour, I think) and a series of bangs and shouts were heard.

Emotional reaction: terror, fear for my grandfather as my father was younger and had reacted violently, the knife was still in the house but they were outside, confusion as to why this was happening, what was so wrong about the knife? Worry that my grandfather might have tried to hurt us, dismissed through love and loyalty. Need to be comforted by mother.

Behavioural reaction: cowered behind the table, screamed and cried, eventually calmed and came out as beckoned by my mother as she righted the table. Received comfort from my mother and was taken into the back room, away from the kitchen.

Emotional-behavioural outcome: I don’t really remember but my grandfather got committed to an asylum not long after and I don’t recall any more memories about him. He died soon after, a suicide through tablets and whisky. He was also an alcoholic. I did develop a fascination with knives shortly afterwards.

Identifying markers: fear of personal safety, fear of safety of others, needed to be in a safe place with a trusted figure of comfort and authority, inability to see why the reaction had occurred so strongly to what I saw as a simple thing, a dropped piece of cutlery. Inability to see the perceived threat as an actual threat, more alarmed by my father’s reaction and the safety of the elder man, confusion.

 

The interesting thing about this exercise is how by the time I’d written out the second memory, details and emotions had come back for the first memory and I added more. Similar things happened with all the memories.

Despite the awful emotional stress at the time, I don’t remember how I felt about him afterwards and how I rationalised the event in my mind. Those parts are not present in the recall. I came to understand about his illness after he died and to be honest, the more I learned the more I saw how everybody around him had failed him, even the mental health services and his own family. I came to pity him for the fact he had to take his own life rather than continue living with himself, a tragic outcome for everybody.

Hopefully, by completing this exercise, one can recall certain emotional identifiers that might hint at unearthing the latent identity. I’m just experimenting here, using myself as a guinea pig but from just these three memories, I can see some thinking patterns and traits that exist today, certainly the obsessive tendencies, the gravitation towards ‘just’ punishment for misdeeds, the fascination with the macabre and the thirst for knowledge, especially literature.

Some memories might not have a catalyst, they might be fleeting snapshots of a wider memory; running through hay with friends braying machine-gun noises, falling asleep at a funeral or excerpts of conversation that struck more of an emotional chord than the overall conversation. It is interesting to explore these memories and get an idea of the emotions and behaviours involved, that which brought us comfort or distress in youth, pleasure or pain, joy or depression. High emotional states and sensory awareness together form strong memory unless chemical inhibitors are involved, e.g. alcohol, cocaine or head trauma occurs. For snapshot-memories, it is good to try to delve into the wider perspective, the scenario at the time; if one is running with friends, where is the locale, what are they running to or from, who is involved and how did they feel (if perceivable)? If it’s a snippet of memorable conversation, a piece of wisdom, a joke, a threat then who was the orator, what was the situation, what was the wider context and the emotions involved?

The standardised sheet before entries should be as follows:

Pre-addiction/during addiction/ post-addcition: whether the memory occurs before, during or after addiction. By ‘post-addiction I mean recent memories created whilst in a recovery environment, not the memories formed in addiction during ‘moments of clarity’ although these are still important. Moment-of-clarity memories generated during phases of sobriety in addiction still count as ‘during addiction’ unless they are linked immediately to a recovery attempt. Basically, the memory I have of me feeling like shit and recognising my worthlessness after a particular emotionally remarkable bender is still counted as ‘during addiction’ despite the perceived state of sobriety. Similarly, any memories created in the first few weeks of abstinence are in a grey area as alcohol stays in the system for a good four weeks and some other substances even longer yet if they are formed in an environment that promotes recovery, it might be considered as a ‘post-addiction’ memory despite a relapse.  Use your own judgement based on your perceptions of your addiction at the time, whether you were not using, using or in recovery.

Age: The approximate age that the memory was created.

Positive/negative memory: Whether the overall emotional and behavioural elements of the event/stimuli were positive or negative.

Event/stimulus: The circumstances surrounding the event or stimuli.

Catalyst: The cause of the circumstances

Emotional reaction: How the individual reacted emotionally at the time

Behavioural reaction: How the individual behaved at the time

Emotional-behavioural outcome: The outcome of the event in terms of the individuals thoughts and behaviours, the effect the event or stimulus had on the individual in the immediate time following the exposure to the event/stimuli.

Identifying markers: Doesn’t need to be filled out by the individual but can be attempted and is a good exercise in evaluating traits and thinking patterns. The ‘markers’ are significant traits or patterns of emotion and behaviour that were influenced directly as a result of being exposed to the stimuli or event.

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