I can’t remember anything from my childhood except for a few little things. I know my childhood wasn’t a happy one from the few memories that I do have. Why can’t I remember the past? It seems so important to me that I remember it yet for some reason I can’t.

First, as a proportion of our total experience, our memories correspond to an extremely small slice of our past. To warrant being remembered, our experiences typically have to have had a strong emotional component, or at least involved something unusual. Second, personal or autobiographical memories are not stored as video recordings – faithful portrayals of what happened. In fact, personal memories are continually re-made, sharpened, and focused with each instance of recall and description. So, by the time we are adults, our memories of childhood are actually memories of what we have recalled and described, rather than memories frozen in time, simply reflecting what happened. It can be frustrating to realise that you have very few childhood memories, but that frustration results from a (perhaps unrealistic) expectation as to what you should be able to remember. Just because other people claim to have many more memories, and often vivid ones, it is easy to assume that those memories were formed at the time of the events, and are accurate. Memory researchers know that both assumptions are liable to be wrong.

I have a question regarding stress and embarrassment. If my teacher is yelling at me for not finishing an assignment my face becomes numb, and I can’t speak; I think it’s is due to embarrassment or shock. I want to know if there is a way to get rid of this feeling, so I don’t freeze up every time I hear something offensive. I want to have a normal conversation, and be able to defend myself when I need to. Is there anything I can do to fix this?

What you are describing affects many people, some more significantly than others. In fact, it’s common enough that mental health professionals have a name for it: Social Anxiety Disorder, or Social Phobia. From what you’ve described, it sounds like a course of cognitive-behavioural therapy may be a good fit for you. Cognitive-behavioural therapy can help you explore situations, such as teachers “yelling” or “talking in a stern voice” and the thoughts and meanings that you associate with those experiences. A qualified mental health professional can also help you with relaxation strategies.