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记忆的空白格



我们翻译这篇文章的理由


昨天的记忆制约了今天,因此塑造了明天。       

—— 克里希那穆提 


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记忆的空白格


作者:Kristin Ohlson

译者:张一丹

校对:宋一

策划:唐萧 & 叶永健


Our first three years are usually a blur and we don’t remember much before age seven. What are we hiding from ourselves?

七岁前的记忆,零零散散;三岁前的记忆,更是混沌。我们隐匿了什么?


I’m the youngest by far of five children. My mother was 35 when she conceived me in 1951, so chagrined by this chronological indiscretion that she tried to hide the pregnancy from her sister. My mortified oldest brother didn’t want to tell his high-school friends that a new baby was on the way, but it was a small town. Word spread.

我家有五个孩子,我最小。1951年,母亲怀上我时已有35岁,因高龄怀孕感到窘迫不安,试图向她姐姐隐瞒此事。我大哥更是觉得难堪,不愿告诉高中朋友“我”的存在。无奈镇小,纸还是包不住火。

 

My mother’s age and my late arrival in the family felt burdensome to me too, especially when I started school in 1957 and met my classmates’ mothers. They were still having babies! Still piling their children into cars and heading off to picnics at the river or hikes into the lava-capped, wild flower-rampant plateau outside town. They still had to mediate hair-pulling and toy-snatching. But by the time I started first grade, my siblings were gone, the oldest three to college and the youngest to a residential school four hours away, and we went from a very noisy household to a very quiet one.

有位高龄母亲,自己又是家中“姗姗来迟”的新成员,这些都徒增了我的心理负担。我六岁上学见到同学们的年轻妈妈时 ,这种负担尤甚。我在想,她们还怀着宝宝呢! 还在把孩子们一股脑儿塞进车,然后驱车去河边野餐,或去有熔岩覆盖和鲜花遍地的郊外高地远足。她们还得在孩子们互相扯头发,抢玩具时,进行调解。可我读一年级时,哥哥姐姐们都离开了家,老大,老二和老三都去上大学了,老四也去了有四小时车程的住宿学校,原本闹哄哄的一家子,现在却异常冷清。

 

My family has told me stories about those years before everything changed. How my oldest brother nicknamed me ‘Ubangi’ because my hair grew in tight fat curls close to my head. How my other brother liked to ambush me around corners with a toy crocodile because it never failed to make me shriek in terror. How my oldest sister carried me around like a kangaroo with her joey. But I can offer very few stories of my own from those early years.

家里人会跟我讲以前的故事,那时哥哥姐姐还在家。他们说,因为我的头发紧贴着脑袋,长得又密又卷,大哥就给我取了个绰号叫什么“乌班吉”(指非洲土著人)。另一个哥哥总爱用鳄鱼玩偶在拐角吓我,每次都不会失手,吓得我哇哇大叫。大姐抱着我四处转悠,我就像只呆在袋鼠育儿袋里的宝宝。可我却想不起自己小时候的事。

 

My strongest recollection is a constant straining to be with my brothers and sisters. I remember having to go to bed when it was still light out, kicking at the sheets as I listened for their voices coming down the hall or through the windows from the back yard. Sometimes I could smell popcorn. The next morning, I’d search the living room rug for their leftovers and roll the unpopped kernels around in my mouth. I do remember that, probably because it was something that played out night after night – our father loved popcorn.

我记得最清楚的,就是小时候总想和哥哥姐姐们一起玩。可那时灯还亮着,我就得上床睡觉。所以我会边蹬被子,边注意听他们从楼下或是后院传来的声音。我还能时不时闻到爆米花的香味。隔天早晨,我就到客厅地毯上搜寻他们落下的爆米花,把还没炸开的玉米粒放在嘴里尝一尝。我能记住这些,也许是因为每晚都有这种活动,毕竟老爸爱吃爆米花。

 

Several years ago, I thought I might have the chance to recover that lost past when we were all tightly clustered together in one house. My brothers had driven to Bucks Lake up in the Sierras of northeastern California where, until I was around three years old, our family had leased a house every summer to escape the Sacramento Valley heat. They found our old cabin unchanged. Even a table built by a local sawmill was still in the living room. They knocked on the door and, weirdly enough, my younger brother knew the current lessee. He invited them in and then invited the rest of us back for a look.

几年前,一家人又都凑在一间屋子里,我想这也许是找回那部分失去记忆的良机。哥哥们曾开车前往位于加州东北部塞拉山(Sierras)上的雄鹿湖(Bucks Lake),在我三岁前,我们家在那儿租了个小屋。每当萨克拉门托河谷 (the Sacramento Valley)酷暑难耐时,我们就前去避暑。哥哥们说木屋还是老样子,就连客厅那张在当地木厂做的桌子也还在。他们敲了敲门,真巧,我二哥竟认识现在的租客。他邀请他们进屋,然后邀请紧随其后的我们也进来看看。


With our father, we set off a few months later, up highways that narrowed into dusty roads through dark pines and past bright stony summits. When we got to the cabin, my siblings scattered to claim their favourite outdoor spots, but I was rooted near the car, struck by how much this place differed from what I thought I remembered.

数月后,父亲带着我们出发,车子从高速公路上驶向尘土飞扬的小路,穿过了阴暗的松树林和明亮的石峰。抵达木屋后,哥哥姐姐们纷纷选中了他们最喜爱的户外地盘,我却呆立于车旁,不觉惊异到这里同我记忆中的模样相差甚远。

 

I recalled that the water was a long walk across a sandy beach from the house; I had an image of my mother standing on that wide beach, her dress whipped by the wind, her hand cupped near her mouth. But the pebbled shoreline was just a few feet away. I recalled the spine of a dam jutting from the water not far from the house, a perilous and sudden cliff at the edge of the lake that my siblings had once ventured too close to. But even though the lake is a man-made one, the dam wasn’t visible from the house. I followed my father inside, where the tininess of the kitchen fascinated him. He kept opening cabinet doors and laughing as they banged each other in the narrow aisle. ‘Mother just hated this kitchen!’ he said. ‘She always made big breakfasts – eggs and sausage and pancakes – and as soon as she finished cleaning up, you kids would come running back in the house wanting lunch.’

记忆中,从家到湖边要在沙滩上走很久。记得母亲站在宽阔的沙滩上,拱手捧在嘴前,任风肆意吹动她的裙摆。卵石铺就的湖岸就在不远处。离家不远处就能看到湖中凸起的水坝,湖的尽头有个陡峭险峻的悬崖,哥哥姐姐们曾靠近过那里。尽管那是个人工湖,从屋子这边却看不到水坝。我跟着父亲走进屋,小巧的厨房吸引了他。他打开一个又一个储藏柜门,厨房过道窄,打开的柜门“砰”地撞到一起,引得爸爸哈哈大笑。“你妈可不喜欢这厨房!” 爸爸说,“她总会做一大堆早餐,鸡蛋,香肠还有煎饼。可刚等她洗完碗,你们就又跑来嚷嚷着要吃午饭。”

 

I didn’t remember that. I didn’t remember the table. I didn’t remember anything about the place. My siblings tugged me through the house, pointing out where everyone had slept – they said I had been in a little alcove in the hallway, though I recalled staying in my parents’ room and watching them sleep in the early morning light. They pointed out other features tied to the life that we all lived in the cabin, eager for me to remember, but there was nothing. I even dropped to my knees and circled the living room at toddler level, peering at dusty windowsills and sniffing at the knotholes in the pine walls and running my fingers over the floorboards. Nothing.

可我却不记得了,记不起那张桌子,记不起那个地方的那些事。哥哥姐姐们拉着我进屋,指给我看谁曾经睡在哪儿,他们说我曾睡在走廊的小璧龛里,可我记得自己是睡在父母的房间,透着晨光看着睡梦中的他们。哥哥姐姐还给我介绍我们在木屋生活时其他的物件儿,努力让我回想起些什么,可我什么也想不起。我甚至还低下身子,以蹒跚学步小孩的视角在客厅转来转去,注视积满灰尘的窗沿,细嗅松木墙上的节孔,手指飞奔在木制地板上。一无所获。

 

I now know that it would have been unusual for me to remember anything from that time. Hardly any adult does. There is even a term for this – childhood amnesia, coined by Sigmund Freud in 1910 – to describe the lack of recall adults have of their first three or four years and our paucity of solid memories until around the age of seven. There has been some back and forth over a century of research about whether memories of these early years are tucked away in some part of our brains and need only a cue to be recovered. That’s what I was hoping when I revisited our old cabin with my siblings. I intended to jostle out a recalcitrant memory with the sights, sounds, smells and touch of the place. But research suggests that the memories we form in these early years simply disappear.

我现在明白,无法事无巨细地回忆往事这很正常,毕竟能做到这一点的人也屈指可数。1910年,西格蒙德·佛洛依德将这一现象命名为“童年失忆症”(childhood amnesia),指成人会缺失3-4岁的记忆,0-7岁的记忆也很模糊。过去一世纪,学界一直在研究是否是我们大脑中的某部分隐藏了早年记忆,得要一点提示才能想起,。当我和a哥哥姐姐们重访老木屋时,我也抱着这样的期望。我希望,在木屋的所见所闻,所听所感能勾起彼时的回忆。但研究表明,人们的早期记忆只是不见了。

 

Freud argued that we repress our earliest memories because of sexual trauma but, until the 1980s, most researchers assumed that we retained no memories of early childhood because we created no memories – that events took place and passed without leaving a lasting imprint on our baby brains. Then in 1987, a study by the Emory University psychologist Robyn Fivush and her colleagues dispelled that misconception for good, showing that children who were just 2.5 years old could describe events from as far as six months into their past.

弗洛伊德认为,人们遭受的性创伤(sexual trauma)会压抑早年记忆。但上世纪80年代以前,研究人员的主流观点是人们小时候还没有构建记忆的能力,所以那些经历就如过眼云烟,没有在我们儿时的头脑里留下长久深刻的记忆。1987年,艾默里大学的心理学家罗宾·菲伍什(Robyn Fivush)和她的同事研究发现,两岁半的孩子最多能叙述出他们六个月大时发生的事情,这一发现有力地证明了之前的观点是误解。

 

But what happens to those memories? Most of us assume that we can’t recall them as adults because they’re just too far back in our past to tug into the present, but this is not the case. We lose them when we’re still children.

但这些记忆都去哪儿了?大多数人认为是由于年代久远,所以成人想不起那些记忆。事实上,我们还没长大这些记忆就丢失了。

 

The psychologist Carole Peterson of Memorial University of Newfoundland has conducted a series of studies to pinpoint the age at which these memories vanish. First, she and her colleagues assembled a group of children between the ages of four and 13 to describe their three earliest memories. The children’s parents stood by to verify that the memories were, indeed, true, and even the very youngest of the children could recall events from when they were around two years old.

纽芬兰纪念大学的心理学家卡罗尔·彼得森(Carole Peterson)做了一系列研究,目的是发现这些记忆是在哪个年龄段消失的。首先,她和同事们找到了一群年龄为4-13岁的儿童,让他们描述出三件记忆中最早发生的事。孩子的父母站在一旁进行证明孩子们回忆的是真的。,结果发现最小的孩子能回忆起两岁左右的事。

 

If the memory was a very emotional one, children were three times more likely to retain it two years later

如果记忆具有强烈的情感色彩,那么时隔两年,孩子们能够回忆起的可能性是其他记忆的三倍。

 

Then the children were interviewed again two years later to see if anything had changed. More than a third of those age 10 and older retained the memories they had offered up for the first study. But the younger children – especially the very youngest who had been four years old in the first study – had gone largely blank. ‘Even when we prompted them about their earlier memories, they said: “No, that never happened to me,”’ Peterson told me. ‘We were watching childhood amnesia in action.’

两年后,研究者对孩子们进行了回访,看看他们的记忆是否发生变化。结果发现,10多岁的孩子中,有三分之一都能想起他们在第一次研究中中所讲内容。但年龄较小的孩子,特别是第一次研究中刚满四岁的孩子,他们的记忆陷入了空白。彼得森告诉我,“就算给他们提示,他们也会说,“没有啊,哪有这事儿。” 我们正在观察“童年失忆症”的发生过程。

 

In both children and adults, memory is bizarrely selective about what adheres and what falls away. In one of her papers, Peterson trots out a story about her own son and a childhood memory gone missing. She had taken him to Greece when he was 20 months old, and, while there, he became very excited about some donkeys. There was family discussion of those donkeys for at least a year. But by the time he went to school, he had completely forgotten about them. He was queried when he was a teenager about his earliest childhood memory and, instead of the remarkable Greek donkeys, he recalled a moment not long after the trip to Greece when a woman gave him lots of cookies while her husband showed the boy’s parents around a house they planned to buy.

小孩和大人的记忆都有随机性,会选择性地记住或遗忘。彼得森就在她的一篇论文中讲述了自己儿子童年记忆遗失的故事。儿子一岁多时,彼得森带他去了希腊,在那里他看到了一群驴,兴奋不已。随后一年多里,家里人还会时不时地谈起这些驴。不过等他上了学,那些希腊驴早已被他抛之脑后。等他到十几岁的时候,再询问他关于童年最早的记忆时,他所记得的不是那些可爱的希腊驴,而是希腊之旅不久后,他们在房主家看房,当男主人正带着父母在看房时,女主人给了他很多曲奇饼吃。

 

Peterson has no idea why he would remember that – it was a completely unremarkable moment and one that the family hadn’t reinforced with domestic chitchat. To try to get a handle on why some memories endure over others, she and her colleagues studied the children’s memories again. They concluded that if the memory was a very emotional one, children were three times more likely to retain it two years later. Dense memories – if they understood the who, what, when, where and why – were five times more likely to be retained than disconnected fragments. Still, oddball and inconsequential memories such as the bounty of cookies will hang on, frustrating the person who wants a more penetrating look at their early past.

彼得森不明白为何儿子会记得这个平淡无奇,家里人茶余饭后从未提起过的桥段。为了弄清为何有些记忆会更持久,她和同事再次对儿童的记忆进行了研究。他们发现,如果事件带有强烈的情感色彩,那么时隔两年,孩子们记住的可能性将提高三倍。相比于那些零碎记忆片段,孩子们记住完整记忆的可能性要高出五倍,因为他们知道事件中的人物,事件,时间,地点及原因。但也会有像曲奇饼这种稀奇古怪,无关痛痒的记忆留存下来,这会让想要对自己早年经历一探究竟的人感到沮丧。

 

To form long-term memories, an array of biological and psychological stars must align, and most children lack the machinery for this alignment. The raw material of memory – the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and tactile sensations of our life experiences – arrive and register across the cerebral cortex, the seat of cognition. For these to become memory, they must undergo bundling in the hippocampus, a brain structure named for its supposed resemblance to a sea horse, located under the cerebral cortex. The hippocampus not only bundles multiple input from our senses together into a single new memory, it also links these sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations to similar ones already stored in the brain. But some parts of the hippocampus aren’t fully developed until we’re adolescents, making it hard for a child’s brain to complete this process.

想要形成长期记忆,必须协同生理和心理机制,但大多数孩子都缺少这种协同能力。我们生活中看到的场景,听到的声音,闻到的气味,尝到的味道及摸到的感觉,这些都是记忆的组成部分,最终抵达并储存到大脑皮层,完成整个认知过程。大脑里的海马体不仅是将多个感官刺激拼凑成一个新记忆,还会将视觉、听觉、嗅觉和触觉的刺激与已留存在大脑中的相似内容联系起来。但部分海马体只有等到青春期才能发育成熟,这使孩子的大脑难以完成记忆的全过程。

 

‘So much has to happen biologically to store a memory,’ the psychologist Patricia Bauer of Emory University told me. There’s ‘a race to get it stabilised and consolidated before you forget it. It’s like making Jell-O: you mix the stuff up, you put it in a mould, and you put it in the refrigerator to set, but your mould has a tiny hole in it. You just hope your Jell-O – your memory – gets set before it leaks out through that tiny hole.’

“储存记忆需要完成许多生理步骤,”艾默里大学(Emory University) 的心理学教授帕特里夏·鲍尔(Patricia Bauer)告诉我,“你要在忘记前尽快将记忆沉淀下来。这就好比做果冻:把材料混合,接着将混合好的材料放进模具,然后放进冰箱定型,只不过你的模具多了个小孔。你只希望你的果冻或记忆,能从小孔里漏完前定型。

 

In addition, young children have a tenuous grip on chronology. They are years from mastering clocks and calendars, and thus have a hard time nailing an event to a specific time and place. They also don’t have the vocabulary to describe an event, and without that vocabulary, they can’t create the kind of causal narrative that Peterson found at the root of a solid memory. And they don’t have a greatly elaborated sense of self, which would encourage them to hoard and reconsider chunks of experience as part of a growing life-narrative.

此外,小孩还缺乏对于时间先后顺序的把控。他们还小,不会看时钟和日历,因此很难记住事情具体发生的时间和地点。他们也没有足够的词汇量讲述出一件事的前因后果,彼特森发现这便是建立牢固记忆的基础。他们也没有清晰的自我意识激励他们储存和反思,并无法将大量人生经验做为不断累积的人生故事。

 

Frail as they are, children’s memories are then susceptible to a process called shredding. In our early years, we create a storm of new neurons in a part of the hippocampus called the dentate gyrus and continue to form them throughout the rest of our lives, although not at nearly the same rate. A recent study by the neuroscientists Paul Frankland and Sheena Josselyn of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto suggests that this process, called neurogenesis, can actually create forgetting by disrupting the circuits for existing memories.

孩子们的记忆本就脆弱,易受到损伤。小时候,我们的海马体中会衍生出许多的新神经元—海马齿状回(the dentate gyrus),它会在我们长大的过程中继续缓慢生长,虽然不是完全同步多伦多儿童医院的神经科学家保罗·弗兰克兰徳(Paul Frankland)和希娜·乔瑟琳(Sheena Josselyn)最近发表的研究显示,神经发生时期(neurogenesis)的确会扰乱记忆过程,导致遗忘。

 

The mother engages the child in a lively conversation about events, always passing the baton of remembering back to the child.

母亲与小孩就事件进行热烈的交谈,将记忆接力棒递给孩子。

 

Our memories can become distorted by other people’s memories of the same event or by new information, especially when that new information is so similar to information already in storage. For instance, you meet someone and remember their name, but later meet a second person with a similar name, and become confused about the name of the first person. We can also lose our memories when the synapses that connect neurons decay from disuse. ‘If you never use that memory, those synapses can be recruited for something different,’ Bauer told me.

自己的记忆会受到他人对相同事件的不同记忆或是新信息的影响而有所曲解,尤其是当新信息和已有信息相似度较高时。比方说,你认识了某人并记住了他的名字,后来遇到了第二个人,他们都叫一个名字,你就会困惑第一个人是不是也叫这个名字。当大脑里连接神经元的突触因缺乏使用而衰退时,我们也会失去记忆。鲍尔告诉我,“如果你从不调用那些记忆,那么这些突触就会有别的用武之地。” 

 

Memories are less vulnerable to shredding and disruptions as the child grows up. Most of the solid memories that we carry into the rest of our lives are formed during what’s called ‘the reminiscence bump’, from ages 15 to 30, when we invest a lot of energy in examining everything to try to figure out who we are. The events, culture and people of that time remain with us and can even overshadow the features of our ageing present, according to Bauer. The movies were the best back then, and so was the music, and the fashion, and the political leaders, and the friendships, and the romances. And so on.

当孩子长大后,记忆就会更牢固,更不易受到损失和扰乱。许多我们能铭记一生的记忆,都是在15-30岁的“回忆高峰期(the reminiscence bump)”形成的,这段时期我们会投入大量精力审视每件事,以找到真正的自我。鲍尔表示,我们会怀恋这个年龄段所经历的事,感受到的文化,以及遇到的人,与其相比,年老后当下的生活也会黯然失色。我们会觉得当时的电影、音乐、时尚潮流、政治领袖、友谊以及爱情等都是最美好的。

 

Of course, some people have more memories from early childhood than others do. It appears that remembering is partly influenced by the culture of family engagement. A 2009 study conducted by Peterson together with Qi Wang of Cornell and Yubo Hou of Peking University found that children in China have fewer of these memories than children in Canada. The finding, they suggest, might be explained by culture: Chinese people prize individuality less than North Americans and thus may be less likely to spend as much time drawing attention to the moments of an individual’s life. Canadians, by contrast, reinforce recollection and keep the synapses that underlie early personal memories vibrant. Another study, by the psychologist Federica Artioli and colleagues at the University of Otago in New Zealand in 2012, found that young adults from Italian extended families had earlier and denser memories than those from Italian nuclear families, presumably as a result of more intense family reminiscence.

诚然,有人对童年的记忆比其他人多。这表明,我们的记忆在一定程度上受到了家庭文化的影响。2009年,彼得森同康奈尔大学的王琪、北京大学的侯玉波共同研究发现,中国儿童的记忆要比加拿大儿童的记忆少。他们表示,这一现象可从两国文化背景差异中找到答案:中国人不像北美人,鼓励个性发展,因而他们也不会花太多时间关注个人生活。相反,加拿大人常会回忆往事,这就能让构成个人早年记忆的突触保持活跃。2012年,奥塔哥大学(University of Otago)的费德丽卡·阿捷奥莉(Federica Artioli)和同事研究发现,来自意大利大家庭年轻人的记忆比小家庭年轻人的记忆更早更多,这或许是由于大家庭会制造出更多的集体记忆。

 

But it doesn’t necessarily take a crowd of on-site relatives to enhance a child’s recollection. Bauer’s research also points to ‘maternal deflections of conversation’, meaning that the mother (or another adult) engages the child in a lively conversation about events, always passing the baton of remembering back to the child and inviting him or her to contribute to the story. ‘That kind of interaction contributes to the richness of memory over a long period of time,’ Bauer told me. ‘It doesn’t predict whether a given event will be remembered, but it builds a muscle. The child learns how to have memories and understands what part to share. Over the course of these conversations, the child learns how to tell the story.’

但为提高孩子的记忆力,也不一定得有一群亲属都在场。鲍尔研究提出了“母亲谈话影响”(maternal deflections of conversation)的概念,指的是母亲或其他成年人与孩子生动地谈论往事,常会把回忆接力棒交给孩子,并让他/她对故事进行补充。鲍尔表示,“这样的互动会使孩子们在很长一段时间内,仍保持丰富的记忆。虽然无法预测会记得哪一件事,但它会形成肌肉记忆。孩子们会学会如何保存记忆,明白哪部分可以拿出来分享。通过这些对话,孩子甚至学会如何讲故事。”

 

Borrowing Bauer’s Jello-O analogy, I’ve always suspected that my mother had a tinier hole in her Jell-O mould than mine, which allowed her to retain information until it was set into memory. She seemed to remember everything from my childhood, from my siblings’ childhoods, and from her own first six years. Intensely, she recalled the fight between her mother and father, when her mother wound up getting knocked out cold and her father forced her to tell visiting neighbours that his wife was sleeping. The day my grandmother packed up my mother and her sister and moved them from Nebraska to Nevada, with their unwanted household goods strewn across their lawn for the townspeople to pick through and haggle over. The day the doctor took out my mother’s appendix on the kitchen table. The day she wet her pants at school and the nuns made her walk home in weather so cold that her underwear froze. I wondered if her memories were so sharp because these were all terrible events, especially compared with my presumably bland early years.

借助鲍尔的果冻类比分析,我总怀疑我妈果冻模具上的孔要比我小,帮助她把信息转化为记忆。不论是我的童年,我哥哥姐姐们的童年,还是她自己前六年的事情,她似乎都记得。她清清楚楚地记得父母争吵的样子,父亲把母亲打晕后,还逼她跟来访的邻居说妈妈正在睡觉。她还记得我祖母带着她和她姐姐从内布拉斯加来到了内华达,把家里不想要的东西都堆放在草地上,留给镇上的人来挑选,或是低价出售。她还记得医生在餐桌上跟她剪阑尾的那一天,记得她在学校尿裤子,修女让她在这么冷的天走回家,她的内裤都甚至结了冰。我常想是否是因为这些事都很悲惨,所以她才会对这些场景历历在目,毕竟我的童年经历太过乏味。

 

I now suspect that my mother’s ability to tell the story of her early life also came from the constellation of people clustered at the centre of it. Her young mother, bolting from a marriage she was pressured into and retreating to her brother’s crowded house, her two girls held close. And her sister, three years older, always the point and counterpoint, the question and response. My mother and her sister talked their lives over to such an extent that it must have seemed as if things didn’t really happen unless they had confided them to each other. Thus, ‘Don’t tell Aunt Helen!’ was whispered in our house when something went wrong, echoed by ‘Don’t tell Aunt Kathleen!’ in our cousins’ house when something went amiss there.

我现在还怀疑,母亲能够讲述自己的童年早期经历与记忆中的那些人有关。外婆年轻时从自己不幸的婚姻中逃离,别无选择之下,暂住在兄弟拥挤的房子里,两个女儿紧紧依偎在一起。母亲比她的姐姐小三岁,她俩总是一唱一和,一问一答。母亲和她姐姐无话不谈,仿佛没经她俩谈论的事情就像没发生一样。因此,要是我家出了什么事,家里人就会小声说道,“不要告诉海伦阿姨”;同样,要是表兄家出了什么事,他们家里人也会说,“不要告诉凯瑟琳阿姨”。

 

I might have a very large hole in my Jell-O mould, but I also wonder if our family’s storytelling and memory-setting apparatus had broken down by the time I came along. My brothers and sisters doted on me – I’m told this and I believe it – but it was their job to be out in the world riding horses and playing football and winning spelling bees and getting into various kinds of trouble, not talking to the baby. And sometime between my being born and my siblings leaving, our mother suffered a breakdown that plunged her into 20 years of depression and agoraphobia. She could go to the grocery store only with my father close to her side, steering the cart, list in hand. Even when she went to the beauty salon to have her hair cut and styled and sprayed into submission, my father sat next to her reading his Wall Street Journal as she cured under one of those bullet-head dryers. When we were home, she spent a lot of time in her room. No one really knows when my mother’s sadness and retreat from the world began – and she’s not around to tell us now – but it might have started when I was very young. What I remember is silence.

我想也许我记忆模具上的孔很大,但也许是在我出生后,我们家就没有怎么讲故事了,记忆的阀门也因此关上。我的哥哥姐姐非常疼爱我,他们说什么,我就信什么,但骑马,踢足球,赢得拼字比赛,闯各种祸都是属于他们的经历,与我无关。我出生后,哥哥姐姐也相继离开,就在这期间,母亲精神崩溃了,后来的20年里,抑郁症和广场恐惧症与她为伴。只有在父亲的陪伴下,帮她推购物推车,拿着购物清单,她才敢去超市。就连每次去发廊剪头,烫头,染头,在子弹头干发机下等待卷发定型时,父亲也得坐在一旁看《华尔街日报》陪她才行。没有人知道我母亲是何时开始陷入悲伤,逃离现实世界。母亲直到去世前也没告诉过我们,但我想应该是在我很小时候,因为在我的记忆里母亲是沉默的。

 

Our first three to four years are the maddeningly, mysteriously blank opening pages to our story of self. As Freud said, childhood amnesia ‘veils our earliest youth from us and makes us strangers to it’. During that time, we transition from what my brother-in-law calls ‘a loaf of bread with a nervous system’ to sentient humans. If we can’t remember much of anything from those years – whether abuse or exuberant cherishing – does it matter what actually happened? If a tree fell in the forest of our early development and we didn’t have the brains and cognitive tools to stash the event in memory, did it still help shape who we are?

我们3-4岁的记忆犹如一张张空白页,神秘莫测,让人摸不着头脑。正如弗洛伊德所说,童年失忆症“犹如一块面纱,将我们的早年记忆遮住,我们因此对其没有任何印象。” 处在这个年龄段的我们,就像我姐夫所说“从一块有神经系统的肉团长成了具有感知力的人。” 早年的大部分记忆,不论是饱受虐待或是疼爱,我都不记得了,那么了解真正发生过什么,还重要吗?如果在我们小时候,森林里有棵树倒了,可当时我们还没有足够的认知能力来记住这件事,那么这仍会对我们的自我塑造产生影响吗?

 

I don’t remember, but I can choose to imagine myself on my siblings’ laps as they read me stories or sang me songs

虽然我记不得了,但我可以想象自己躺在哥哥姐姐们的腿上,听他们给我讲故事,唱歌给我听。

 

Bauer says yes. Even if we don’t remember early events, they leave an imprint on the way we understand and feel about ourselves, other people, and the greater world, for better or worse. We have elaborate concepts about birds, dogs, lakes and mountains, for example, even if we can’t recall the experiences that created those concepts. ‘You can’t remember going ice-skating with Uncle Henry, but you understand that skating and visiting relatives are fun,’ Bauer explained. ‘You have a feeling for how nice people are, how reliable they are. You might never be able to pinpoint how you learnt that, but it’s just something you know.’

鲍尔认为仍会产生影响。即使小时候的事都不记得了,这些事都会在我们感知自我,他人乃至大千世界时,留下或好或坏的印象。例如,我们对鸟儿,小狗,湖泊和山川都有具体的认识,尽管我们忘记了对它们产生认识的过程。“你忘记了曾和亨利叔叔一起滑过雪,但你知道滑雪和走亲访友都是快乐的事。” 鲍尔解释道,“你觉得那些人都很友好,值得信赖。可你也说不出个所以然,但就是知道这一点。”

 

And we are not the sum of our memories, or at least, not entirely. We are also the story we construct about ourselves, our personal narrative that interprets and assigns meaning to the things we do remember and the things other people tell us about ourselves. Research by the Northwestern University psychologist Dan McAdams, author of The Redemptive Self (2005), suggests that these narratives guide our behaviour and help chart our path into the future. Especially lucky are those of us with redemptive stories, in which we find good fortune even in past adversity.

构成我们的不只是我们所有的记忆,还包括自己的人生故事,包括我们的个人叙述,对我们自己记得或别人所讲之事诠释或赋予意义。2005年,《救赎的自我》(The Redemptive Self)一书的作者,西北大学的心理学家丹·麦克亚当斯(Dan McAdams)研究发现,这些个人叙述会为我们的行为提供指导,帮助我们规划未来的道路。那些拥有救赎故事的人们是最大的幸运儿,因为他们能从过去的逆境中发现弥足珍贵的东西。

 

So our stories are not bald facts etched on stone tablets. They are narratives that move and morph, and that’s the underpinning to much of talk therapy. And here is one uplifting aspect of ageing: our stories of self get better. ‘For whatever reason, we tend to accentuate the positive things more as we age,’ McAdams told me. ‘We have a greater willingness or motivation to see the world in brighter terms. We develop a positivity bias regarding our memories.’

因此我们的故事并非刻在石碑上的那些扁平事实,而是鲜活的叙述,这也是许多谈话疗法的重要基础。年老有个好处:我们能更好的叙述自己的故事。麦克亚当斯表示,“不管是何原因,在成长的过程中,我们会更关心积极的事情,报以乐观的态度看世界,并倾向于记住那些美好的事。”

 

I can’t make myself remember my early life with my siblings nearby and my mother before her breakdown, even if I revisit the mountain idyll where the summers of that life unfolded. But I can employ the kinder lens of ageing and the research by these memory scientists to limn a story on those blank pages that is not stained with loss.

我想不起小时候和哥哥姐姐共处的时光,也记不起母亲抑郁前的样子,即使我们重访了山上美景,在那儿我们曾度过了一个又一个盛夏。但是年岁渐长后,我能以更温和的视角,借助科学家们的记忆研究成果,在那些还没被失落玷污的空白页上书写自己的故事。

 

I am by nature trusting and optimistic, traits that I’ve sometimes worried are signs of intellectual weakness, but I can choose to interpret them as approaches to the world developed by myriad, if unrecalled, experiences with a loving family in those early years. I don’t remember, but I can choose to imagine myself on my siblings’ laps as they read me stories or sang me songs or showed me the waving arms of a crawdad from that mountain lake. I can imagine myself on their shoulders, fingers twined in their curly Ohlson hair.

我生性乐观,信任他人,有时我会担忧这一优点也是我智性的弱点。但当记忆无法唤回时,我也可以视之为了解过去世界的方式,想象小时候与家人共同经历的许多美好时光。我虽忘记了,但我可以想象自己躺在哥哥姐姐的腿上,听他们讲故事,唱歌或是指给我看来自山湖的淡水虾挥动着钳子。我想象着自己坐在他们的肩上,小手拨弄着他们奥尔森式的卷发里。

 

I can imagine them patiently feeding me the lines to The Night Before Christmas, over and over, hour after hour, day after day, because someone had to have done it – my mother told me that I could recite the whole poem when I was two years old. Not that they remember doing this, because most of them were teenagers by then and off having the kinds of encounters with people and culture that would define their sense of self for years to come. But I’ll imagine and reconstruct it, both for me and for them. Because our pasts had to have had a lot of that kind of sweetness, given our lucky loving bonds today. We’ve just forgotten the details.

我能够想象出他们耐心地给我读《美丽的平安夜》(The Night Before Christmas),就这样一遍又一遍,一个又一个钟头,一天又一天。我相信一定有这么个人这么做了,因为母亲说,我两岁时就能背诵整首诗。他们有可能都忘了自己做过这回事,因为那时他们都还处在青春期,缺乏塑造他们未来自我意识的人文交流。但为了自己和他们,我愿去想象,愿去重建记忆。今日我们有幸关系和睦,过去必定也有诸多类似的甜蜜时刻。我们不过是想不起那些细枝末节罢。

 

  • 本文原载于 aeon

  • 原文链接:https://aeon.co/essays/where-do-children-s-earliest-memories-go



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