The Whole-Brain Child: Memory – I Cried and Nobody Came

Eby has an extreme fear of bees; when he sees a bee, or even a fly outside, he runs into the house and refuses to go back out.  It isn’t difficult for me to understand why.

When he was 2 1/2, he followed his brother into the pasture to feed the cows, and stepped on a wasps’ nest.  The wasps swarmed him, and as we ran to help, we were all stung multiple times.

Eby had 35 stings.

It was a horrible event for all of us – in fact, just writing about it makes me recall how terrified I was.

[This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.]

Today our Book Group for The Whole-Brain Child begins a discussion of Chapter 4: Kill the Butterflies! Integrating Memory for Growth and Healing.

As with the previous chapters, it is packed with fascinating information about the brain and how to help our children process memories and make sense of them, which then helps them better understand their thoughts and feelings in the present.

The authors explain that implicit memory is when “past experiences influence your behavior in the present without any realization that your memory has even been triggered.”

In contrast, explicit memory is a conscious recollection of a past experience.  They also state that during the first 18 months of life, all memories are encoded implicitly.

They would advise us to help Eby process this experience by telling the story – making the implicit memory explicit – so that he can make sense of what happened.

We need to help him take the scattered memories of that experience and put them together in a way that forms a complete picture.

This leads me to think about Karyn Purvis who teaches that in the first months of life, our babies form memories and are “primed” for future experiences.

They cry, we comfort them.  They cry, we feed them.  They cry, we pick them up and change their diaper.  They cry, and we come to them. The baby has an expectation that they have “voice” and their need will be met.

How is this different from our children who came from “hard places”?

I have a child who cried, and nobody came.  She was terribly hungry, and not fed.  When there was food, it was given to more favored children.  She was cold, and there were no blankets.

Numerous implicit memories were formed.

1.  I cry and nobody comes; I am alone.

2. I’m hungry, I will probably die.

3. People are dangerous, I must not trust them.  I will take care of myself.

How do I help her make sense of her overwhelming reactions to hunger, fear of trusting and attaching to parents, and a deep sense of competition with siblings?  Intensive

Intensive therapy, working through these fears and understanding her story – together with lots of prayer – is key.

But there is something else I can do on a daily basis –  meet her needs over and over again.

When she cries, I need to comfort her.  When she is hungry, I need to feed her.  When she doesn’t trust, I must be trustworthy and safe.

This is very difficult to do with a child who is volatile – but I need to press on, with compassion and the belief that God is for her, He sees her, and He can do great healing in her heart and mind.

Question: Do memories keep your child (or you) from living a full life?  Have you found ways to overcome this?

This post is part of a series on the book The Whole-Brain Child. You may also want to read Reflections on other chapters:

My reflections on Chapter 1: The River of Well-Being

My reflections on Chapter 2: Connect and Redirect

My reflections on Chapter 3: Three Steps to Regain Control

My reflections on Chapter 4: Memory – I Cried and Nobody Came

My reflections on Chapter 5: Feelings Come and Go

My reflections on Chapter 6: Why Fun Truly Matters

Encourage one another.


This post may contain Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Mama of a Dozen
    November 15, 2012

    Sadly, yes. My Little Miss has been severely affected by traumatic memories of her childhood.

    Sadly, due to my husband's ongoing unemployment and temporary jobs, we have no insurance or funds to pay for the therapy that she needs.

    It is heartbreaking to have a child with such severe needs, and not be able to get them the help that they so desperately need.

    Sadly, we had to move Little Miss to a Residential Care Facility because of her volatile behavior and verbal threats (which we believe she was fully capable of carrying through on).

    So sad. So hard.


  2. Gretchen
    November 15, 2012

    I don't have the experience of a child dealing with it but my self. I have always pushed away people I care about due to the fact that somewhere in my brain at such a young age I was abandoned or so I thought. So if I push away first then I won't be abandoned. Even though I was placed in a loving family as an infant that being abandoned originally is there. It has effected me my whole life and still does unfortunately. Thankfully I have a patient husband that reassures me he's not going anywhere. Overcoming it is still a chore and things like not getting phone calls while he's away are the things I have to deal with now. As opposed to as a kid it was friends not calling, not getting invited places. All perceived as being left behind or abandoned.

    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 15, 2012

      Gretchen, it means so much to me that you are sharing this. We adoptive moms need to hear from adoptees. I love the insight you have gained, and continue to gain, about yourself.

      1. Kemery
        November 15, 2012

        I see a lot of my own experience in Gretchen’s post – and you know me well enough, Lisa, to connect those dots. When I read your post I thought more about myself than anything – but I don’t have children I’ve adopted, either. I won’t go on and on, but that did hit home. Thanks for another insightful post. Loves.

        1. Lisa Qualls
          November 15, 2012

          Thank you, friend. It's good to see you here – and I know Gretchen will appreciate your thoughts too.

  3. sleepyknitter
    November 15, 2012

    We don't know yet what memories our oldest has suppressed. We have only just learned in the last week that her first three years were full of serious neglect — we had not thought before that it was as serious as it was because she is so healthy and active and happy now. At some point she will surely grieve over those first three years, but for now she is focusing on grieving her more immediate loss, that of her foster family before she came to us. It is all confusing and complicated but at this point we are able to move forward with her, and I pray that we will be very aware and sensitive if and when she does come to a time of grieving those early years of neglect.

  4. Emily
    November 15, 2012

    "When there was food, it was given to more favored children."

    Makes me want to cry.

    " God is FOR HER"- yes.


  5. Mary Andrews
    November 15, 2012

    These posts make me furious at Dr. Spock. As a young mother I wanted to do everything right for my children. He was the child guru of the 60's and we all tried to do what he said as his ideas were the current "best practices". One which always made me sick to my stomach was his advice that when a child is put to bed and cries you are to just let her/him "cry it out", whether it is for 20 to 60 minutes. My baby would cry in her crib and I would cry in the living room until I could not stand it any longer and had to go get her and hold/rock her. What memories did I ingrain in my children? A mom of the 60's

  6. Nathan
    November 18, 2012



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I accept the Privacy Policy