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SLU professor’s new book examines early childhood memories

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CANTON – A St. Lawrence University professor’s recent book aims to give everyday people a window into their own personalities by taking a stroll down memory lane.

Professor Arthur J. Clark’s “Dawn of Memories: the meaning of early recollections in life” focuses on the study of childhood memories.

The book, which can be preordered on Amazon.com, is coming out in July.

Mr. Clark, the coordinator of the Counseling and Human Development Program, said he first became interested in early childhood recollections and the window into the mind they provide in his late 20s.

Struggling to understand certain aspects of his personality, Mr. Clark said, looking at his early childhood memories helped him understand his fear of being irresponsible with money.

He since spent a 40-year career teaching the power of early childhood recollections to students and using techniques he fine-tuned with patients to seek out their meaning.

“People tend to have only a handful of memories up to the age of seven. Every childhood memory before eight years old has meaning; they’re not arbitrary,” Mr. Clark said.

Because of that, events a person can recall are telling.

“You had thousands and thousands of experiences and you remember less than ten. Which memories you remember is also an important factor,” he said.

He said the average age for a first memory is 3 1/2.

In particular, Mr. Clark said, these early recollections can reveal ingrained personality traits and how they were shaped, like how active someone likes to be or how social they are.

“You can learn about your strengths and you can capitalize on those,” he said. “It gets in the territory of self-acceptance.”

He said he hopes people will not only better understand themselves by reading the book, but feel like they have more control over their lives as a result.

The book also relies on personal examples, like his own experience dealing with the fear of financial irresponsibility, and historical examples using figures like Benjamin Franklin and Mother Teresa.Because they often provide details of early childhood memories in their memoirs, Mr. Clark was able to apply his techniques to them.

This isn’t Mr. Clark’s first book discussing the importance of understanding early childhood memories.

His 2002 book “Early Recollections: Theory and Practice in Counseling and Psychotherapy” was aimed at an academic audience.

But he hopes this book will be useful to everyone regardless of their educational background.

“It’s who you are,” Mr. Clark said of the early childhood memories.

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