Trauma seems like a large and discouraging topic. Let’s break it down a bit.
What you can do
Many things contribute to making this a really hard issue to navigate.
The stories can trigger emotions that lead away from the present moment, and raise many questions. It can be hard to share the information, and hard to hear it. But one huge issue is at the root: There are myriad experiences of trauma, but placing them in two groups can simplify things enormously.
Here are a few things you can do to simplify the issue, reduce the confusion, and balance problem with solution:
A. Learn the difference between developmental and non-developmental trauma.
B. If you work with youth, support positive experiences
C. If working with traumatized adults, show them the forest
D: Avoid quick-fix thinking
Learn the difference
Developmental trauma is much different from post-developmental trauma.
Traumatic events include direct abuse as well as neglect from living with domestic violence, mental illness, or addiction. When these occur from birth to age 18, they are considered developmental, and are sometimes referred to as ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences.)
Here’s a great article that makes the distinction very clear.
Learn your own ACE score
You can find your ACE score online for free in 5 minutes.
The higher the ACE score. The greater the likelihood of negative adult consequences: divorce, job loss, incarceration, chronic health conditions, addiction. If yours is below 4, celebrate. And empathize with the many of us who cannot honestly score below 7.
Here’s a great introductory story on the ACE quiz.
Look on the bright side
The companion survey called the Resilience score, also free online, quantifies the proven factors a developing person needs to offset the long term effects of trauma.
Support young people in positive experiences
They are sometimes called PCE – Positive Childhood Experiences
During development, young people experiencing ACEs do much better if they experience PCEs such as:
-Having two non-family adults take a genuine interest in you
-Feel a sense of belonging in high school
-Enjoy participating in community traditions
Here is a resource page on PCEs.
Help recovering adults see the forest
Stories of ACEs and PCEs are trees. Groups of stories, like the studies, provide views of the forests.
Encourage anyone you know who’s battling addiction, ADHD, autism, chronic illness, depression to find out their ACE and PCE scores and get help in that context.
Bonus: Don’t encourage quick fix thinking
Recovering from developmental trauma is a long-haul project, confusing, full of invitations for magical cures that don’t help. Take the time to learn, and resist the temptation to add to the pile of discarded shortcuts.