Recently, Oprah Winfrey met up with Dr. Bruce Perry, a leading authority on childhood trauma. On the CBS “60 Minutes” interview, the well-known psychiatrist, and neuroscientist reiterated the fact that ACEs increase a child’s chances of experiencing physical, social and mental problems later in life.
ACEs Effects The Brain
The most important thing to understand about childhood trauma is that it causes developmental brain damage in a child. Studies have conclusively proved that long-term and severe stress have a harmful effect on the brain. And it is not just a phase which people get over or outgrow. Since a child’s brain is still growing its physical structure is more susceptible to environmental influences. And being dependent and helpless further increases a child’s sense of vulnerability to the damaging effects of negative exposure.
Dr. Perry elucidates the crux of the situation “That very same sensitivity that makes you able to learn a language just like that as an infant makes you highly vulnerable to chaos, threat, inconsistency, unpredictability, and violence.” Simply put it trauma wires the brain incorrectly. And it affects not just the physical structure and chemistry but also a child’s ability to learn and deal with stress.
Surviving And Thriving
And what is the one solution that helps an abused child survive and heal from the negativity of his growing years? The answer is something very simple according to Dr. Perry: Relationships. However being a scientist he does not outright say that love is the cure for healing the wounds of childhood trauma. And for those of us who were neglected, abused and invalidated being validated and cared for by someone makes all the difference to us from not taking that drastic step into oblivion.
Responsive care and support will help an abused child ride out of the debris of his life situation. For those of us who have been able to surmount the hell of our childhoods, all of had a kind, caring ally who reached out and pulled us up. I was fortunate to have my best friend’s parents, Aunt Amy and Uncle Nolasco in my life. Their home provided a safe haven from the turmoil of my chaotic life. They helped me retain my sanity and my faith in God and humanity.
Oprah credits her fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Duncan, for helping her feel valued. Oprah says,“Mrs. Duncan instilled in me this sense of believing that I mattered, and that is what every human being is looking for.”
Oprah on ACEs and her own”life-changing” story
Some 2000 years ago Jesus gave us this simple command to follow: to love our neighbors. And now we have a scientist telling us the same. Being kind may help us go to heaven but it could without a doubt change the life of a tortured soul. Loving-kindness is actually an act of selflessness. To look with empathy and give something that another person really needs. It may mean nothing to us but could be life-changing to a lonely, struggling human being. To really help another person heal Dr. Perry says we need to go beyond the question of “What happened to you “and ask “When did it happen” “Who was there to help” “Who has been there for you since” and “Is it still happening” We need to reach out, connect and offer our support.