Ts. Rage. Anger. Lack of Civil Discourse. Have you ever wondered why these emotions seem so prevalent in today’s political climate? Well, Progressive Diners hosted presenter Cory Alexander, MD at its June 7th meeting at the Seasons in downtown Coeur d’Alene and received some insights for consideration and discussion.
Consider childhood trauma and its effects on the lives of our citizens.
Cory shared a Ted Talk entitled “How Childhood Trauma Affects Health aross time” highlighting the work of Nadine Burke Harris. Research shows that high levels of stress during childhood affect life-long health and may even shorten one’s lifespan by 20 years. This same stress early in life sets fight-or-flight behaviors that flood a person’s reaction to the world in which we all live. This stress response system can be adaptive (life-saving) in the appropriate situation, or maladaptive when used to react to daily traumas of abuse, neglect, drug addiction, incarceration, divorce, etc. over the early years of a child. Because these stressors—and their inappropriate response behaviors—are not being addressed by our society/communities, we now have a public health crisis that threatens our families, our neighborhoods, and the health of our democracy. Anger, rage, and inability to communicate honestly and effectively challenge our very social structure.
Cory shared the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Questionnaire with the attendees. This tool is used to assess the trauma any one individual has experienced in the early years of development. A discussion followed on how exposure to adversity affects the development of children and what can be done to lessen the effects of this trauma. We all have heard of those resilient children who seem to rise above a difficult childhood, and may even be motivated to create a better life from the negative experiences. However, Cory maintains that these resilient souls are the exception more than the norm.
The positive component of the evening is the research that supports this fact: one caring adult in a child’s life can, and indeed often does change the trajectory of the traumatized child. Society has its work to do in the field of early childhood education, mental health, counseling, parent education, reduction of addiction, etc. However, in the meantime, every one of us should take heart and support the youngest members of our society in any and all ways possible.
Article by Jan Studer