I am trying to wrap my mind around an aspect of Adverse Childhood Experience Scores. Ace scores.
Raised in war or chaos or an addiction household or a crazy household, kids do their best to survive and thrive. I acknowledge that first. “You survived your terrible and terrifying childhood. You are amazing. You have crisis wiring in your brain. You had to wire that way in order to survive.”
And what does that mean? High alert, high adrenaline, high cortisol, reactive. One veteran says that the military loved him being able to go from zero to 60 instantly.
“Yes, and how is that serving you now?” I ask. “Do you want to change it?”
“No.” he says.
“Why not?” I say.
“Because I know I can protect myself.”
He can protect himself, as I can too. But being on the alert for a
crisis, being good in a crisis, being able to fire up like a volcano, is
that what I want and is that what he wants? If not, how do we change
I think of it as being able to see monsters. Other people’s monsters.
My crisis childhood wiring is to pay attention to the non-verbal
communication: what people do not what people say. The body language,
the tone of voice, what the person is not saying in words, when someone
is being polite but the body language is a shut down, a rejection, a
dismissal, posturing, aggressive, they don’t like me no matter what the
words are, belittling. But if I or my high ACE score patients respond to
the body language and emotional feeling, we have named the monster. And
the person is being “polite” and will not admit to the monstrous
feelings. Those feelings are unconscious or at least the person does not
want to admit if they are at all conscious.
In clinic I have learned to dance with the monstrous feelings. I
don’t always succeed, but I keep leveling up. It’s a matter of delicacy,
inviting the person to admit the monstrous. Some do, some don’t, some
don’t the first time or second or third, but the fourth time the
monsters are brought out. And they aren’t monstrous feelings after all.
They are normal. All I do then is listen and say that the feeling sounds
normal for what is happening. It’s like letting off a steam valve.
So how do I and my high ACE score folks learn to do this in social
settings as well? When someone is talking to me with a monstrous
feeling, meanly, I challenge it. Because I am not afraid of that
monstrous feeling. But I have then broken a social contract and the
person will like me even less then they already did. And maybe that
monstrous feeling is not really about me at all. It’s about their own
current life events and the feelings that they try not to feel, are
ashamed of, are afraid of. It’s not polite of me to challenge that
feeling in a social setting, I am not this person’s doctor or therapist
and they didn’t ask me. It’s hard because I feel so sorry for the
monstrous feeling and for the person feeling it. I am moving to
compassion and love for that feeling rather than taking it as directed
at me, taking it personally.
That is my intention. We will see how well it goes.
A naturopath told me to have the intention to release old grief. It’s not old grief though. It’s ongoing grief. Grief for all of the monstrous feelings that swirl around daily and the monsters that are not loved. Most people try to ignore them. I don’t. I love them, because someone has to and because they are so lonely and sad. They are crying. Don’t you hear them? That’s what love is, when you can love your own monstrous feelings and other people’s too.
And our own are the hardest.
ACE study: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childabuseandneglect/acestudy/index.html
I took the photograph in the Ape Caves, the lava tube at Mount St. Helen’s.