The Power Of Psychological "Imprints" & How To Make Them Work For You
One of the most beautiful and the most painful things about humans is how much we feel. Since you were born, you have been having feelings. As you grew and had more experiences, good and bad, some of those experiences that caused strong feelings made imprints on you.
An imprint is a belief system or a deeply embedded memory that has altered how you see yourself, someone else, or the world. When something happens to you that leaves an impression, your central nervous system creates a picture of it and keeps it stored inside you.
As it lives there, unprocessed, it can turn into what feels like an absolute truth, an unquestioned belief, an irrational fear, or, when the imprint is positive, a piece of wisdom or a positive self-concept.
How imprints affect us.
An imprint can make you act illogically, and it can make you believe things that aren't true. That's because imprints aren't based on your current reality. They come from a past moment or a past reality (or your perception of a past reality). You can grow out of them, but if you hang on to them, they keep you acting from an old place. They can hold you back from growth and stepping into the now of your life.
Imagine two people walking down the street together at night. They are both in exactly the same environment and are both at exactly the same risk of danger. Yet one of them feels safe because, as a child, she got a lot of attention and reassurance and is imprinted with a feeling of security. The other doesn't feel safe because, as a child, he was often put in precarious situations and he didn't feel protected, so he was imprinted with a sense that life is dangerous.
Maybe these two people were safe, and maybe they were in danger, but neither one of them is perceiving the present moment because they are both operating under the influence of imprints.
When you respond to the right-now based on the before, you cannot ever really exist in the right-now. Imprints may be affecting how you deal (or don't deal) with what happens to you in life, how you think about things, and how you see yourself when you look in the mirror.
Looking at childhood.
Imprints are most deeply formed in childhood, but you can keep accumulating them throughout your entire life. With every imprint, your response to your own feelings will shift and your interaction with your feelings will get more complicated. That's being human, and it's OK.
We are all shaped by stories from our past and labels that we've put on ourselves or that others have tagged us with. Imprints will always be with us; we can decrease their power by becoming aware of them.
Now, my dear, think back to your earliest memories, when you were just a few years old. The memories you still hold on to are clues to your imprints. What can you remember about the things that have formed your beliefs about life and yourself? Maybe your family labeled you as "the smart one" or "the outgoing one" or "the introvert." Maybe in school, you felt like "the loner" or "popular" or "too sensitive" or "the best violin player in school." Maybe you thought of yourself as "clumsy" or "bookish" or "rebellious."
It could be a good imprint or perhaps a sad one. Think about it and see if you can feel the feeling you had when the imprint was made, but bring your adult awareness and the knowledge you have now to the feeling you had then.
Working with awareness.
This is the beginning of awareness that can bring your imprints into the light where you can become conscious of them and release their control over you. Identifying and re-feeling these early memories can help point you to the labels you have put on yourself and the stories you believe about yourself or others.
Some of these imprints may seem trivial, but they can all influence your perception of life in ways that put a layer between you and your reality in this present moment. Just hold this intention of becoming aware of your imprints in your heart and see what arises over the next few days as you open yourself to recalling these early experiences. Please try to get radically curious and maybe even journal out a few things that arise.
As you explore what you believe to be true about yourself, you will begin to recognize where those beliefs originated, and you will be able to bring into clearer focus whether they are actually true or still feel true.
In many cases, if not most, old imprints—especially negative ones—were never really true, or are no longer true, beyond the ways in which you have made them true in your own life because of your belief in them.
Adapted from an excerpt of Burning Bright: Rituals, Reiki, and Self-Care To Heal Burnout, Anxiety, and Stress. Copyright © 2020 by Kelsey J. Patel with permission from the publisher.