Do happy childhood memories matter? Seeing a slender boy perform killer cannonballs on a gorgeous summer day during a cross-country move impelled me to find out. Beyond his mighty splashes, the boy was a titan of joy. As he drew onlookers into his celebration of life, his exultation activated my research instincts: would later life reflect this exuberance?
Seventy in-depth interviews later, after touring North America five times for a diverse sample, I found the answer. Yes, upbeat episodes and retrospection of them promote a long-term imprint. The reality of joy appears complex, however. Although unasked, all interviewees also cited negative memories – at times devastating and tragic. Surprisingly, both negative and positive memories sparked life-affirming commitments. [If you’re wondering how negative memories could lead to anything good, here’s my response: Kindly buy the book!]
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