Let’s talk about feelings and how they get recorded in our bodies and our minds! We don’t often think about the feelings that we have as babies before we have language to explain our experiences. These are called “preverbal feelings” and become unexplainable sensations of anxiety, excitement, anger or even feelings of abandonment later in our lifetime. Here’s how it works.
Let’s say a baby is present during a loud, angry argument between the couple/parents. Many people have said things to me about how they believe young children or infants understand and remember things, but often it is completely inaccurate. I know this because in my career people have said to me often things like… “don’t worry, they were a baby when that happened, she won’t remember.” Or, “ don’t worry, the baby was in the other room.” What we know is that, the baby may not remember the experience in words, but she likely has wired that message into her body. When a baby experiences loss, maybe a parent dies, or parents’ divorce or that cause the scared, anxious, or even terrified feelings, but her body will remember.
The takeaway here is twofold. Sometimes we have symptoms in our body (somatic symptoms) that have roots in experiences or memories from long ago. Unexplained anxiety creeps in, sometimes there is a trigger, but other times the feelings will just attack when we are off guard, like when falling asleep. Even when there is no immediate danger or harm, sometimes, anxiety can feel like panic but the reality is that there is no real danger, just a fast heart rate, feeling breathless, sweaty, or trembling. It can feel like it will never end, but the truth is that there is no real threat. This experience is coming from an unresolved memory that caused a feeling before words were available to explain the fear. Our bodies remember when our minds may not or forget.