I am a huge fan of audiobooks, and the last one I listened to was, What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing by Dr. Bruce D. Perry and Oprah Winfrey.
I was shocked when they talked about Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs and the impact they have on forming neurotypical pathways, behavioural responses and our ability to self-regulate. I first heard of ACEs during a mental health conference I attended years ago. They talked about ACEs being linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance use problems in adulthood. ACEs can also negatively impact education, job opportunities, and earning potential.
The CDC defines ACEs as potentially traumatic experiences that occur in childhood (0- 17 years old). In What Happened to You? Dr. Perry talks about how early a child experiences a traumatic event is more predictive of chronic health problems, mental illness or substance abuse. This was fascinating, and a little frightening when I discovered this.
As a mother of a three year old, who had a hard time adjusting to the demands of motherhood, I felt guilty. A part of me was relying on the fact my child wouldn’t remember the struggles I had during my transition from Maiden into Mother. I never thought of the impact of my husband going to Iqaluit for a month right after my child was born, would shape his neurology more so, than the months he has been separated from his father when he was a toddler.
The earlier the exposure matters more than the length of the exposure in terms of likelihood of developing maladaptive behaviours. Now, the human brain is extremely flexible. Our neuroplasticity means that we have the ability to change throughout our entire life. We can change the way we are wired.
Yes, our childhood and ACEs will shape our neurology and our coping strategies. ACEs will activate the sympathetic nervous system to be on overdrive, leaving people to have short fuses, see the world as unsafe and live in chaos. What is really important is that you can change that. There are ways to heal from past traumas. That wiring doesn’t have to dictate your life.
Just because there is a link to chronic disease, substance abuse, low income, and a multitude of other consequences, doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. It means that we have to look at different strategies when dealing with children or adults that come from trauma. It means that working with the deepest structures of the brain is mandatory. Being part of a community that helps you get over the hurdles is mandatory.
As a person that checked off all the ACEs except for my parents getting divorced, I can tell you that change is possible. That finding that inner quiet and changing your behaviours to get you where you want to go, is easier than you think.
Every interaction and relationship you experienced shapes your brain structure. We like it when those interactions and experiences are healthy. They lead to neurotypical pathways. Make no mistake, it does not matter your background, there is always hope for a brighter future.
If you suffered from any past trauma and want to start living the life you have always dreamed about, book a discovery call with me right now. I promise you there is always a way to get to where you want to go!
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