Did You Experience Adversity in Your Childhood?
If you are anything like I was before I started writing my stories for Let My Legacy Be Love, you hear the words “childhood trauma”, and you immediately feel compassion for a child who was molested or horribly injured in an accident or involved in a school shooting or something equally horrific. You don’t, however, feel that trauma is anything that has affected you personally.
Yet, more and more research points to the fact that nearly 70% of the U.S. population has been affected by Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in the form of emotional or physical neglect, physical abuse, loss of a parent through divorce or death, etc. You may think that those experiences did not affect you because you believe they were just part of what was considered normal in your neighborhood. You love your parents, and you make excuses when others accuse them of bad behavior. You explain that it wasn’t easy raising you and your brothers and sisters.
Parenting Isn’t Easy
Parenting is a very tough job. It becomes obvious from the first sleepless night that it’s exhausting and will take everything you have. But that’s only the beginning because there comes that moment when you realize that it is incredibly difficult to understand the best way to communicate with your child. You are determined to raise a well-balanced, thriving adult, and you do the best you can every single day. Your intentions are wonderful, but you’re only human and raising a family is stressful.
So, here’s an example on how it may have gone on in your childhood home or how it might be playing out in your own home right now: Money is tight in the household and there is worry about making ends meet. The taxes have gone up again, food prices are skyrocketing, and money is going out faster than it is coming in. Tensions have risen to the breaking point. How is the situation handled in your household?
- a) It’s discussed over dinner with young children listening in. Maybe the discussion turns into an argument with one parent or the other storming off and slamming a door after yelling accusations at the other.
- b) The matter is quietly discussed in the confines of the home office with young children out of earshot.
Think for a moment about your own childhood experiences or the experiences of the young children in your household right now. I think it would be safe to say, and most of us would agree, that childhood is a very vulnerable time in our lives. We are born into an environment where we have no control and where our parents and caregivers hold ultimate authority over us. We spend our days listening to and taking in the words and actions of the adults in our life, and we are trying to understand our place in our families. We love our parents; they are the center of our universe and each word they say means everything to us. Our minds are like sponges taking in everything around us. We draw assumptions and begin setting up behavior patterns that can last a lifetime. But some of those behavior patterns are built on false assumptions and even on untrue stories.
Children are always listening even when you are certain they are occupied in their rooms with the doors shut. Bruce Perry,M.D., Ph.D, a leading expert on childhood trauma and author of The Boy Who Was Raised as A Dog, explains how this type of stimulation affects the brains young people. In March of 2018, he discussed the topic on 60 Minutes with Oprah Winfrey, who has become an advocate for those suffering the effects of ACEs.
Healing from ACEs
Before unhealthy patterns can be stopped in our lives, we need to first recognize their existence. There are signs that may help you begin to uncover your own patterns. For example:
- Do you struggle in intimate relationships?
- Do you feel alone in a crowd?
- Do you feel worth less than your friends and family?
- Do you feel you are unattractive or undeserving of love?
- Are you prone to emotional outbursts?
- Do you drink too much or do drugs?
How do we begin to understand and get to the root of the source our own repeating patterns, patterns that may have been festering in our families for generations? How do we heal ourselves?
The far-reaching effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences were originally discovered by Dr. Robert Anda when the original ACE Study was done in the 1990s. As ACEs have gained notice, more organizations have risen to the cause.
This is a great article by Donna Jackson Nakazawa, author of Childhood Disrupted. In her book, Ms. Nakazawa explores the concept that our biography becomes our biology noting that the emotional trauma we suffer as children not only shapes our emotional lives as adults, but also affects our physical health, longevity, and overall wellbeing. She explains, “Scientists now know on a bio-chemical level exactly how parents’ chronic fights, divorce, death in the family, being bullied or hazed, and growing up with a hypercritical, alcoholic, or mentally ill parent can leave permanent, physical ‘fingerprints’ on our brains.”
But healing is possible. Were you affected by adverse childhood experiences? Take the ACE Test here and find out.
There are many options. We will be providing workshops for ACE survivors which will include assisting to examine their stories with the intention of seeing their stories from a different perspective, so they may come to understanding and forgiveness. We also provide private mentoring which are one-on-one workshop sessions. Plus, we will continue to publish articles and share information as it becomes available.
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