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Jul 3

When ACEs Become AGEs: What Do We Do With Adverse Grown-up Experiences?



Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.com


Wisdom is nothing but a preparation of the soul, a capacity, a secret art of thinking, feeling and breathing thoughts of unity at every moment of life. ~ Herman Hesse


For the past nine years, I’ve been thinking about the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences. In 2010, I wrote about the ACE Study for Raising Arizona Kids magazine: www.raisingarizonakids.com/2010/04/casting-light-shadow-abuse/, and that article changed my life in many ways.


The welfare of the world’s children is in constant focus in my perspective. I’ve worked to do whatever I could to share the story of the study, to support others who are advocates for the well being of children, and, to explore healing modalities that allow people to discover and use ones that bring relief from the traumas they suffered as children.


Now, my current awareness is on adverse experiences that adults—grown-ups—feel. Their traumas involve feelings of failure at personal and professional levels, the near-daily pain of living in a world where injustices occur and inequality rules, and, deep disappointment by the actions and speech patterns of people who are positioned as leaders.


How you handle angers, traumas, and disappointments in your career, in your spirituality, in your relationships relates back to what you learned as a child. Since it is true that adverse experiences happen to people of all ages, I believe humans need and want dialogue on aspects of healing across the entire timeline of a lifetime.


Thanks to the ACE Study, the effects of trauma on a child’s brain and a child’s future are known. There is no one study—yet there are many studies—about what I’m calling AGEs.


So, what do you do when you experience an AGE?


How does an AGE stick in your adult brain and continue to affect your health?


I don’t have the answers to those questions, but I do submit that AGEs caused by society need to be submitted to a healing process, too. Please, I welcome your comments. Let’s figure this out together, in this community we’ve created.


For the moment, my best advice is this: Know your ACEs, and face your AGEs, for both exist on your road to wisdom.


Dear Mary - I am so grateful to have peddled into your life over 5yrs ago! You have shaped and informed my thinking, have been a mentor, a source of inspiration and are a cherished friend. Like you I have committed the rest of my life to bringing ACE's science awareness to the world. Like you I am constantly intrigued and left in wonder by how OUR CHILDHOOD ADVERSITY impacts the lens through which we see the world and even more importantly constructs the false lens through which we see ourselves. Intrigued by the fact that our ACE's carries over into adulthood and actually prevents us from truly seeing ourselves. Your ending line of advise and shared wisdom "Know your ACEs, and face your AGEs" is profound and prophetic!

James! Pedal you did...and I will always remember that call from you when I was at the airport in Phoenix on my way to Michigan for a writers' conference! Thank you, my friend, for all the work we've done together...so far. I know there will be more, and they will be AWESOME Grown-up Experiences!

Hi Mary: This makes me think of two things. One, the ways that ACEs and AGEs relate as so many with ACEs also have AGEs but not all with AGEs have ACEs nor do all with ACEs have AGEs. I think of teachers in schools, and school nurses when there's a school shooting as well as the kids. I think of parents, and extended families, as well as the kids who are cages right now in camps. For the kids, they are experiencing one thing and the families are also experiencing trauma, loss and pain, though often as adults (though some parents, like mine, were so young as to still be considered kids even as parents). Thanks for a thought provoking post. Also, would be great to be cross posted on ACEs Connection. Cis

Cissy...yes, it is a Venn Diagram! Thank you very much for suggesting a post on "ACEs Connection," but really, there are so many good posts in here...maybe I could just write a blog post on ACEs connection about this Forum. I guess I could ask Jane for permission to do so...right?

Mary -


I think you're on to something for sure, and it raises two intriguing lines of inquiry for me:


1) as one of the other commentators mentioned, secondary trauma that comes from being a nurse or a teacher or a first-responder is REAL and takes its toll in ways that only recently has been acknowledged;

2) at the risk of being accused of making everything about race - I can't help but note that the chronic trauma associated with being African-American or Latinx in the US of A, regardless of SES or other traits (e.g., sexual-orientation, gender-orientation, immigration status, etc.), for most of us amounts to adverse grown-up experiences, ranging from daily hassles to major violence against us. This is especially true in the fresh, new backlash that is the current administration and its cult of followers.


How do we raise critical awareness and strategic action with the compassion that needs to accompany our connection and mutual support to one another given the traumas folk experience in adulthood? Good questions, for sure.


Thanks for this thoughtful line of examination, Mary. As I say - I truly believe you are on to something important.

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