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Professor’s Book Examines the Influence of Childhood Memories

CANTON – As a graduate student in the early 1970s, St. Lawrence University Professor of Education Arthur Clark was introduced to a personality appraisal instrument that shed light on his lifelong problem with spending money.

In one of his counseling classes, Clark explored an early childhood memory in which he accidentally lost all of the cash that he had received from his relatives on the day of his first communion. Immediately, he was struck by how the remembrance related to his ingrained pattern of excessive frugality and anxiety about money.  As a response to this awareness, Clark slowly began to adopt a more sensible and balanced approach to finances, rather than deny himself and the people he loved access to the pleasures of life which money affords.

After spending more than 40 years studying and using early recollections in therapeutic and social contexts, Clark, coordinator of the Counseling and Human Development program at St. Lawrence, has written, Dawn of Memories: The Meaning of Early Recollections in Life, in order to bring an awareness and understanding of the remembrances to the general public. The book is being published by Roman & Littlefield in mid-June.

Dawn of Memories is a journey into the realm of early recollections of childhood and a search for the meaning of the remembrances. The book brings together Clark’s extensive experience with first memories, a scholarly base of knowledge on the remembrances, and an easy to follow structure for understanding early recollections in life. A systematic framework involving core themes, personality dimensions, and perceptual modalities enables individuals to comprehend first memories in order to enhance self-understanding and personal development. Throughout the book, Clark suggests ways for people to capitalize on characteristic strengths uncovered in their early recollections. At the same time, he offers avenues for cultivating constructive responses to challenge areas of personality functioning which may emerge when evaluating the remembrances.

When discussing captivating case examples from everyday life, client experiences in counseling and psychotherapy and narrations of the lives of historical figures, Clark details how early recollections relate to adaptive and maladaptive behavior. Exploring the remembrances of celebrated individuals, such as Mother Teresa and Albert Einstein, helps to understand the meaning of first memories, and how the iconic figures dealt with adversities by utilizing their personality strengths and personal endowments. The accounts are instructional and inspiring for anyone who would like to develop these capacities more fully.

“Recalling early childhood memories is an exercise in human understanding,” Clark said, “as individuals gain a sense of how they experience the world and how other people perceive life.” Written in an informative, engaging, and accessible style, Dawn of Memories examines the fascinating realm of early recollections of life and explores their meanings through the brief stories which influence and shape our lives.

Since the first publication on early childhood memories in 1895, the remembrances have been a subject of hundreds of investigations around the world. The age of a person’s initial recollections, the content of the memories and other intriguing topics are of enduring interest to researchers and people of all ages. In the early 1900s, Alfred Adler, a psychologist and psychotherapist, made a groundbreaking discovery that early recollections reveal glimpses into an individual’s deepest nature. Yet, even with the innovative work of Adler and other researchers, most people lack an awareness of the potential for first memories to convey insights into the human personality and ways of perceiving life.