What is an early imprint?

During our earliest developmental period – conception through the postnatal period – our whole system is geared toward rapid learning, meaning rapid neurophysiological development and growth. Our bodies, minds, and psyches are forming, creating an interconnected, complex construct of neurotransmitters, behavioral patterns, physiological pathways and anatomical structures. In order to achieve this rapid learning, nature relies in large part on “imprinting”: a single experience creating a particular pattern, causing a specific set of behaviors, which is then repeated whenever a triggering event occurs. Any experience we have during gestation, birth or the postnatal period can cause such learning, leading to the formation of early imprints.

How do early imprints affect us?

Early imprints were laid down during a time when we did not have the neurological structures for creating explicit memory. This means we do not remember what happened during this time or how it affected us. Instead an implicit, somatic memory was created. The difference between implicit and explicit memory is that when we are recalling an explicit memory we know it is a memory. For example when remembering our 10th birthday party, we know that we are our current age, having a memory of an event in the past. In contrast implicit memories feel like they are occurring now. Since we have only implicit memory throughout our gestation and approximately first two years post birth, everything that happened to us then is affecting us to this day without us being aware of it. Our early imprints may cause us to feel safe or unsafe in relationships, may be the underlying reason for positive or negative beliefs about our selves or our lives, and can greatly affect the choices we make every day.


How do we know we are being affected by an early imprint?

If a certain pattern, behavior or belief keeps showing up in our lives, despite having received support from qualified professionals, and it feels like this pattern has always been there, then we are very likely dealing with an early imprint. This means the imprint has to be renegotiated on the developmental level that it occurred at – working with the developmental brain structures that were most active then. Usually this means the renegotiation has to happen on the somatically and emotionally, addressing learning that happened on a brain stem and limbic system level and our practitioner needs a highly specific skill set for this.

© Sarah Theismann, 2015

All Rights Reserved