The fact that a crappy, scary and abusive childhood leaves a lifelong mark on people, is well known to psychotherapists. But the world in general is still behind on this. We know the psychology and biology of trauma. We know it takes its toll on the body, on our development, our capacity to fulfil our potential and our relationships. But all of this has been largely ignored by a society that still blames victims and refuses to look at itself and the environment it provides for children and people in general.
That’s why the message that came out of the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study from 1998 (yes, it is 20 years ago!) is so important. It comes from the medical profession itself. The original study shows clearly that people who have been traumatised in childhood by neglect, abuse, poverty, growing up around violence and addictions, to name but a few, have a much higher likelihood of suffering from health problems throughout life.
To be honest, it’s all about common sense and compassion really… But politicians, economists, educators, many parents and even some members of my own profession seem to be slow to catch on. I believe it is because the message is that society must change, and people don’t like this. Humans don’t need much to survive. But we do need very particular environments to thrive and fulfil our potential. We are not just mammals and no one lives a good life if all they do is survive.
But as a society we are run by people who would live with the self-serving illusion that if people have problems, it’s their fault entirely and nothing to do with anything that has happened to them or the circumstances they grew up in or are living in. Of course this flies in the face of science. But in an era where fascists are having a revival and when the Flat Earthers are getting new members every day we are marching steadily and resolutely back to a dark age ruled entirely by the limbic brain and the law of the jungle.
This is self-serving because these kinds of politicians and ‘leaders’ are not there to benefit anyone else except themselves.
They are descendants of the ancient hoarders among our species, those who looked after themselves first and who had no trouble stepping over everyone else’s corpses so that they survive. They are not working in the service of the larger vision of what we can become, of the potential we have. They are working for the simple imperative of the survival of the species. They are pawns in nature’s unconscious game that focuses on nothing else other than survival. But we are conscious mammals. We need to be and can be so much more.
Thinking that the individual doesn’t matter and that survival is the most important thing, means we don’t have to change anything collectively. As a society we’re off the hook. What this does to the victims though is incredibly cruel and uncaring. They are not only a suffering product of their environment they are also told it’s all their fault… Those with trauma are showing us what happens when we focus only on survival and when we construct a world built on competition, unnecessary scarcity and where those without empathy who don’t care about anyone but themselves, can do whatever they like.