I’ve enjoyed a cool sound-bite of one of my favorite podcast: StarTalk Radio: What Is Consciousness?. This question have been asked by Philosophers and Scientists for centuries, and I’ve always been curious about it as well.
In the sound-clip, they mention that self-awareness is not something experienced by infants. I do wonder, as I can recall a few brief moments in my toddler years where I did experience self-awareness.
People often claim that a baby isn’t really aware of themselves and for the most part that seems true. Not many can really recall memories of being an infant. not to a full extent as they can recall their first day of school or other life events when they were self-aware. So, it seems more likely that people aren’t generally self-aware during their infancy.
Which makes me wonder if my first memories are fabricated or altered by the start of my actual moment of self-awareness.
As a toddler , I remember my father holding me in his arms and bouncing me around a dark room, as I cried so much in distress. I remember the detail of the window within the room and beyond that was an electrical substation across the street. It was a massive building that had blue lights within it, and this light would shine toward the dark streets.
My vision was blurry, because I had tears in my eyes, and I was staring at these bright blue lights through the window, as my father frantically tried to get me to stop crying. In this moment, I was aware and thinking to myself, “Why am I so upset? Where is my mommy? Oh god, he’s going to sing again!”
And my father switched on the radio and began to sing along to a popular song at the time, “Every Breath You Take” by The Police, which came out around the time I was three years old. I remember the chorus of, “I keep crying baby, baby please!” and the blue lights seem to get smudgier and brighter. Then my memory ends there, with no other recollections until a few years later.
I asked my mother what that memory could have been about. She told me that I had very bad colic as a child, and my father was often the one to bounce me around and tried to get me back to sleep, so that must explain that memory. Although, it’s a lot odd that I was so self-aware in that moment,
Another memory that I have is standing in some kind of court-like place, with white marble floors, and a heavy wooden bench. I was in a pretty dress, so was my infant sister, and my older brother was wearing a suit. I’m sure that my mother was well dressed too, but I can’t remember. I would have guessed that we were in church, except for the marble floors.
I was self-aware that I was bored out of my mind and my mother kept saying to me, “We’re going to meet your father. You’re going to have a new dad.” which is a very odd thing to say. This part of my memory may have been altered, I don’t know. Anyway, in my boredom, I decided that I would go exploring.
I wondered through a door and found myself in a room with a holding cell of some kind. I remember men in orange jumpsuits behind bars and they were screaming at me, “Come here, little girl!” and other things that I didn’t understand but it frighten me. At that moment, my brother reached down and grabbed me up, then whisked me back into the room with the marble floors and wooden bench.
My mother looked worried and fussed with me to sit down and stay still. My brother laughed and said, “She’s okay.” And then my memory ends there. I can’t say how old I was at that time, I have no clue. I asked my mother about this memory, wondering if it was just some bizarre dream or could it be that my father was once in prison. She never gave me a straight answer on that one and had shifty eyes, so that memory has a huge question mark over it. o_O
Another confirm memory is when my brother was in a suit once again and we were attending an official baseball game, with my aunt who passed away in 2012. I don’t have much of a memory about what was happening, but I do remember that I was bored and had no idea why everyone was watching a bunch of guys hit a ball with a stick. I thought that memory was a bizarre dream, but my mother was a lot impressed that I had remembered that moment in time.
I have a few other memories of self-awareness, that happened before the age of six, but I won’t list them for now. Some where confirmed as actual events and others remain a mystery to me.
I became fully self-aware at age six, that much I do know for certain. That’s the age where my issues with anxiety began and I had thoughts of: “Why am I here?”, “What is my purpose?”, “What am I suppose to do in this life?” “Who am I?” “What is life?” “What is my place in the universe?”, which were very heavy thoughts for a six year old to have.
It’s no wonder why I was so anxious all the time and suffered from panic attacks at that young age. The problem was that I was way too young to communicate my distress, nor could I voice that I was very aware that my environment was abusive. I was suffering a lot of mental pain over the fact,
This is why I warn my friends who are parents, “Be careful what you say and do around your child. They are aware and it can affect them greatly for the rest of their lives.” I should know, because what my parents were doing or wasn’t doing left heavy marks on me to contend with in my adult years.
The idea of, “They’re just children, they’re unaware.” can be very false. Even if a child can’t yet understand the complexity of an adult situation, they can feel it when something is not what it ought to be.
What is the common age where a person becomes self-aware? I do wonder what triggers it and what triggered me in those moments of early self-awareness. I’m not alone in trying to find out the meaning and origin of consciousness, as many scientists are researching this phenomenon as well.
The human mind and soul is such a mystery! I will do more research into the topic.
Thanks for reading! ^_^