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Know the number, not the story

It’s important to know the ACE score but not necessarily the story. Let me explain, since the inception of the ACE’s campaign, I remember sitting across from Nelson Hincapie, who at the moment was president of Voices for Children, and Madeleine Thakur, president of the Children’s Movement S. Florida, and setting the “ground rules” so to speak. This campaign is a massive undertaking and before asking the community to explore their childhood traumas, we needed to think of every possible scenario and how it should be handled. Obviously, privacy is a huge issue. We all knew that once someone disclosed their number, there would be a lot of questions. We also understood that everyone has a different comfort level with disclosing personal information. Take for instance Nelson, who has written about his traumas in a published book and also gave a Ted Talk about it. I, for instance, am just now testing the waters and I’ve found I really only like tip-toeing around the topic. While my stories are mentioning my traumas, I haven’t shared the incidents that contributed to my ACE score, and that’s ok. The stories I have been sharing are pretty much the PG stories of my life. Therefore, you can see the importance of finding one Golden rule that everyone lives by.

The Golden Rule is this “No one should have to relive their traumas to prove or explain their score to others.” 

But why is it important to know the score? It gives us the ability to look at a person and stop judging them and to start understanding that perhaps their actions were because something has happened to them. We become empathetic, and when that happens we tend to want to help instead of judging and pointing the finger. This reminds me of a scene from the movie Good Will Hunting. Specifically, one famous line where the therapist, Robin Williams, tells the patient, Matt Damon, “It’s not your fault.” According to PSYCHALIVE 

The line is a response to the revelation of abuse Will endured as a child. At first, Will is dismissive of the statement, but as his therapist steadily repeats “It’s not your fault,” he becomes increasingly agitated. Finally, he erupts into emotion, tearfully allowing the meaning of the words to sink in. This scene is a powerful signification of what trauma can do to a human being. It is also a testament to the importance of anyone who has experienced trauma embracing the irrefutable reality that it is not their fault.”

Take for instance the prison system, I recently attended a full-day event surrounding ACEs.The one shocking and definite fact I walked away with was that most incarcerated individuals were once traumatized children. My thoughts are this, if we want to stop generational trauma as a society, we need to start with rehabilitative and mental health programs in prison.

The beautiful thing is we can individually commit to looking within and exploring the traumas that have affected our lives. I spent all of last year doing it myself and my biggest takeaway was that it’s never too late to invest time and energy into who we aspire to be. Realizing my shortcomings really was the most challenging part, as I just wasn’t aware. Finding that key opened the door to a million possibilities where I learned that we all have the ability to transform and grow from our traumas, but it starts with recognition of them.

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