I want to start by quoting trauma psychologist and healer Peter Levine. I was introduced to his work by Dr. Gabor Maté’s book The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture.

Levine says:

“Trauma is perhaps the most avoided, ignored, belittled, denied, misunderstood, and untreated cause of human suffering.”

Reflecting on this, have you ever found yourself avoiding or denying your own pain?”

Hurting is an inevitable part of human existence and growth. We all carry traumas we’d rather not talk about, and unfortunately, you cannot heal what you do not acknowledge. Dr. Maté defines trauma as “an inner injury, a lasting rupture or split within self due to difficult or hurtful events.”

My biggest challenge with emotional wounds and trauma is how they manifest in intimate relationships years later. The body remembers trauma even if our conscious minds don’t. I learned this lesson after battling a physical illness that was undiagnosable because it wasn’t physical at all. I had been traumatized for years, and once I started working on my mind, I began to heal.

Have you ever experienced physical symptoms that might be linked to unresolved emotional pain?

In the late 1990s, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente conducted a groundbreaking study on the relationship between childhood trauma and adult health outcomes. The result was the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) questionnaire, which assesses different types of potentially traumatic events.

The original ACEs study questionnaire consists of 10 questions about adverse childhood experiences:

Prior to your 18th birthday:

  1. Physical abuse: Did a parent or other adult in the house often push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? Or ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured? Yes or No
  2. Emotional abuse: Did a parent or other adult in the house often swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? Or act in a way that made you afraid you might be physically hurt? Yes or No
  3. Sexual abuse: Did a parent or other adult in the house often touch or fondle you, or have you touch their body in a sexual way? Or attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you? Yes or No
  4. Physical neglect: Did you often feel that you didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? Or were your parents too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it? Yes or No
  5. Emotional neglect: Did you often feel that no one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? Or that your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other? Yes or No
  6. Household substance abuse: Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic or who used street drugs? Yes or No
  7. Household mental illness: Was a household member diagnosed with a mental illness? Yes or No
  8. Parental separation or divorce: Were your parents ever separated or divorced? Yes or No
  9. Domestic violence: Was your mother or stepmother often pushed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? Or sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? Or ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife? Yes or No
  10. Incarcerated household member: Did a household member go to prison? Yes or No

Your score is calculated based on the number of “yes” answers you have. You get one point for each “yes.”

I scored an 8 out of 10. It was freeing to acknowledge that there was nothing wrong with me and that I just had a lot of healing work to do. This has fueled my passion to speak about trauma, healing, mental health, and parenting.

In What Happened To You? by Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Bruce Perry, Dr. Perry says:

“Not every tall person is a good basketball player; and not all good basketball players are tall. But overall, a group of six-foot-five athletes is likely to be better at college basketball than a group of five-foot-five athletes. In the same way, having an ACE score of 5 merely means you will likely struggle more than someone with an ACE score of 1.”

My ACE score was the mirror I needed to see that I carried a lot of wounds, many unhealed. It helped me surrender to the healing that comes with parenting and marriage. Dr. Maté said,

“For many of us, [trauma] rears its head in our closest partnerships, causing all kinds of relational mischief.”

Could it be that we are struggling within our romantic partnerships and relationships with our children because we are merely traumatized and in need of healing?

My life has been a constant case study of this, and I have found it to be true.

I have a profound fear of abandonment, criticism, and judgment. At worst, I loathe myself because I do not feel that I am enough. I know I am not the only one.

How might acknowledging and addressing your own wounds change your interactions with loved ones?

Another significant discovery in my case study has been the power of triggers. That writing will be coming next.

See you soon.

In the meantime, here’s a cool video on how we can avoid ACEs for the coming generation: