What’s More Impactful Than Adversities Are The Secrets, Shame, And Drama We Create Around Them

Raising Daughters | Adverse Childhood Experience


Dive into the profound exploration of the lasting effects of adverse childhood experiences in this enlightening episode with Dr. Tim Jordan. What holds more weight than a challenging childhood encounter? Dr. Tim unravels the intricacies surrounding various adverse childhood experiences, shedding light on the often intertwined elements of drama, shame, and secrecy that accompany them. Delving into the impact on our children, Dr. Tim advocates for a nuanced reaction to these experiences and emphasizes the crucial role of someone who listens and mentors those affected. Furthermore, he underscores the significance of self-compassion in navigating the aftermath of adverse childhood experiences. Join Dr. Tim Jordan as he unveils a treasure trove of insights for both parents and their children, offering a wealth of invaluable guidance in this must-not-miss episode.

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What’s More Impactful Than Adversities Are The Secrets, Shame, And Drama We Create Around Them

For this episode, I would like to talk about adversities that kids experience, but even more than talking about the adversities is how sometimes we can make the experience worse. Everything I’m going to say here about kids pertains to us as adults as well. Oftentimes, the drama that we create around the events becomes more impactful than the actual experience. The act of keeping secrets about things that happen to us is oftentimes more damaging than the actual experience or the adversity.

There have been hundreds of studies that show that what predicts distress after adversities is not the severity of the event, but how alone somebody feels afterward. Sharing secrets and having supportive people in your life is the most powerful predictor of being able to feel good in adulthood as you go through life after the adversity. Communication does create community.

The Deepest Well

It’s also true that the dramas that we create around our adversities can be worse than the trauma itself. There’s a whole bunch of different kinds of ways that kids can experience adversity and trauma growing up. There’s a good book I read called The Deepest Well. They’re talking about what they called ACEs, Adverse Childhood Experiences. The woman who wrote the book was a pediatrician in California. She was documenting all these negative effects that she was seeing in kids in her clinics. Her clinics were for disadvantaged kids from very poor backgrounds; failure to grow, asthma, diabetes, and all kinds of illnesses that way more so than a more typical population.

What she did after years of research was to show that those adverse experiences that kids experience growing up were affecting things like their long-term physical health. Those seeds were sown later on for diseases like heart disease, inflammatory diseases, etc. There are ten categories of what she called ACEs, Adverse Childhood Experiences; emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect, emotional rejection or neglect, household substance abuse, i.e. mom and dad who are addicted, household mental illnesses like having a depressed mom or dad, a mom who was treated violently or there’s some kind of domestic violence, divorce or parental separation, and any household criminal behaviors. Those are the biggies.

Other factors are less home and more community factors that can also increase kids having more toxic stress. Community violence is probably around them. Homelessness, discrimination, living in foster care, being bullied, repeated medical procedures or life-threatening illnesses, the death of a caregiver, the loss of a caregiver to deportation or migration, and teen verbal or physical violence from a romantic partner. Stressors at the household level seem to have a greater effect on health than stressors in the community. That seems to be self-explanatory, but it is true. There’s a Kaiser study by the way, unless you’re thinking that adverse childhood experiences are only for people who live in impoverished environments, etc. It’s not true.

That was one of the factors that kept her study from getting funding in the beginning. People said, “That’s the poor kids. That’s the kids of color. Why does that pertain to me?” They did a huge study with Kaiser Permanente which had about 18,000 members, 60% of the people they surveyed at Kaiser had at least one adverse childhood experience growing up, and 13% had four or more. This is a population where 70% were Caucasian and 70% were college-educated. All of them had good health care. There have been some states that show that up to 75% of kids and teens are exposed to at least one adverse childhood experience growing up.

There’s another study that was done about 15 years ago. It was called the Adverse Childhood Experience study. It took 18,000 middle-class families. Two-thirds of the kids reported having at least one adversity. Half of the people reported two or more adversities. The ones that were affecting kids over and over again were called cumulative traumas. I’m going to talk a little bit more about not the serious ones. They’re all serious. I’m not going to be talking as much about things like sexual abuse or child abuse. I’m going to talk about things that kids tend to experience a little bit more often. I think it goes through all the traumas and all the adversities that kids can experience.

Thought Distortions: The Drama We Create

Let’s talk about the drama part first. The drama that we tend to create around our adversity experiences is oftentimes worse than the actual trauma itself. All the traumas and the adverse things we experience have their own feelings that have cost, but we oftentimes add on to it in a big way. When I say drama, I mean things like blaming other people, holding on to anger, being a victim, complaining, spreading gossip or rumors, talking about people behind their backs to get attention or to get back at people, allowing yourself to get depressed, and isolating yourself and being lonely.

A lot of that stress that we oftentimes have around adverse experiences is self-inflicted. It’s caused by not dealing with experiences, issues, and feelings in healthy ways. We tend to stuff our feelings and that ends up creating symptoms of overload and overwhelm. Oftentimes, that’s more intense than the actual feelings that were initially brought about by the experience.

I talked to you before about how often girls ruminate, overthink, chew on thoughts, and over-analyze. I think that’s another thing that sometimes that’s part of the drama that we can do around experiences as we ruminate. We live too much in the future and we start creating these bigger and bigger negative stories about things that almost always don’t happen. We end up making an experience feel like a house on fire when in reality it was burnt toast. I teach my girls in my weekend retreats in my summer camps and also in the office that when their anxiety flares, it’s like a smoke alarm in your house.

I asked the girls, “When the smoke alarm goes off, do you call the fire department right away? They said, “No.” I said, “What do you do?” They say they go in the kitchen and they look around. They check and 99 times out of 100, they see a piece of burnt toast from the toaster, somebody is frying something, or somebody let the oven door open. You take the toast out, you take the towel, and flap it until the smoke goes away.

The experiences that girls face in my experience, oftentimes, are more burnt toast kind of moments, but then they ruminate them into what feels like a house on fire moment. I was talking to a girl at my counseling practice about a week ago. She’s stressed out about her grades. She’s stressed out about getting into a good college. The way she ruminates is if she gets a bad grade on a test. Her thoughts go like this, “I got a bad grade. What if it brings down my GPA? If my GPA goes down then my overall GPA goes down. If my overall GPA goes down, I’m not going to get into the top college I want to go to. If I don’t get into a top college, then I’m not going to get a good job. If I don’t get a good job. I’m not going to be able to make a lot of money, and then I’m going to be a bum. I’m never going to be able to live out my dreams.”

All that starts with an adverse experience i.e. one bad grade, and they ruminated into a house on fire. I may have a crummy life. Girls do that so often in my experience. I bet you’ve heard that from your daughters as well. A psychologist talks about thought distortions. Let me read you off a lot of thought distortions that we all can do sometimes. It makes things bigger than they need to be. These are things like all-or-none thinking, black-or-white thinking, and mind reading where somebody says something, and then we read into what we think they mean when in reality, we always don’t know that.

Thought distortions make things bigger than they need to be. Click To Tweet

Fortune telling is the same thing, assuming the worst case, and catastrophizing. That’s when you hear your daughters say things like, “Nobody, always, never.” Other thought distortion is jumping to conclusions without having the facts, being a perfectionist, being hard on yourself when things don’t go exactly right, any unrealistic expectations, and also focusing on the negative, focusing on your flaws, forgetting about other potential outcomes, and forgetting about your strengths.

What we do with adverse experiences is we can handle it appropriately in a healthy way or we can catastrophize it and start blaming people. Let me give you an example. One of my sons tried out for the basketball team in high school when he was a freshman. He got down to the final cut and then he was the last kid cut. One of the coaches took him aside. He said, “You’re a great little player. You’re smart. You know it.” They gave him the Hustle Award for the tryouts. This is one of the dumbest things you could possibly say to a freshman in high school. He said, “The reason I’m cutting you is because you’re so short. You’re not tall enough.”

My son was a late bloomer. I don’t know how tall he was. He was one of the shortest ones out there. He had a size 13 shoe. His whole life until puberty had been in the 90th percentile. He was delayed with his puberty. My point is my son could have blamed the coaches, he could have been bitter, and he could have handled it with lots of drama. He was upset driving home from the tryout. He was crying. He was upset because he loved basketball. What he did was he started practicing more.

We got him on a team that was a high school team. it was more like whatever kind of team, and so he got to play. The point is that instead of getting all wrapped up in the drama and blaming the coach and maybe making fun of or criticizing the other kids whom he thought he was better than, instead of doing a bunch of things like that and becoming a victim, he did something different. He tried harder. He practiced harder. It’s like Michael Jordan, a famous basketball player. There’s that well-known story. I believe that when he was a freshman in high school, he wanted to make the varsity and he only made the freshman team. He was disappointed.

Spiral Of Beliefs

Instead of creating a lot of drama and being a victim, what he did was practice harder and practice longer. We know what happened to him. My son is not in the NBA. Michael Jordan ends up becoming one of the best scores in basketball history. Oftentimes, we suffer more with our adversities because we get so wrapped up in all the drama, the blaming, and the anger. We’re not taking responsibility and being a victim that we can’t see our way out of it. We can’t resolve the problem because we can’t see the problem. There’s so much distraction around it now. There’s another thing that happens that I find creates a lot of drama. I talked about this in a previous episode.


Raising Daughters | Adverse Childhood Experience


It’s what I call the spiral of beliefs when an adverse experience happens to us when we’re growing up. For example, a girl gets left out of her friend group. They exclude her and kick her out. What do girls do? They go inside their heads. They’re upset and say, “Why did they kick me out? Why are people leaving me out? Why don’t they call me anymore?” They start to answer that question in their heads with their own private logic. They’ll say things to themselves like, “Maybe it’s because I’m not good enough. Maybe I’m not cool enough. Maybe I did something wrong. Maybe I’m awkward. Maybe I’m too much. Maybe I’m too little. Maybe I’m too quiet. Maybe I’m not pretty enough. Maybe I’m not popular enough. Maybe I’m not good enough.”

They have all that stuff in their heads as they’re trying to figure it out. Those thoughts that they have in their head oftentimes end up becoming belief systems. That’s what they’re thinking to themselves when they enter a new social situation. If you’re thinking, “I’m not good enough, I’m too loud, I’m too awkward, I’m not enough,” you’ll act a lot different than if you walked into a social situation feeling like, “I’m a good person and I deserve to have good friends.” You’ll act a lot more confidently. You’d be more willing to stretch yourself and reach out and talk to people.

Because of those thoughts and beliefs in your head, you recreate the same situation. You won’t be noticed. You may not make friends and then you go back in your head and you say, “See. I’m not good enough. I’m too awkward. There’s something wrong with me.” Those initial thoughts become beliefs. We then make a lot in life a lot harder because we’re walking around in life with some negative limiting beliefs about ourselves until we do something or take the time to refrain. I’ll talk about that a little bit towards the end.

Secrets And Shame

That part about those decisions about ourselves can become part of the drama that makes whatever happened a lot worse than what happened. The other thing that big piece of what happens to make our adversities worse is the secrets we have around them. A lot of times, we’re embarrassed by things that have happened to us. We feel shame about it. I’ll give you lots of examples in a minute. We’re worried people will find out something and so we keep it in. We’re afraid to share with other people. What happens is what is unexpressed becomes unmanageable.

There are some severe traumas like being raped or being attacked by somebody bigger or older where we get scared and speechless. There’s a reason why we don’t speak out about things sometimes. I’ve seen a lot of girls in my counseling practice who have had their boundaries crossed, some girls who have been raped or who had been sexually assaulted. One of the reasons why didn’t disclose was that at that moment, because they were so afraid, their brain went right into an old primitive defense mechanism called freeze. It’s not fight or flight but freeze as a way of protecting themselves.

Back when our brains were forming 150,000 years ago, predators were animals. They weren’t people. They weren’t high school boys or college men. They were predators like lions, tigers, bears, or things of that sort. That old primitive freezing thing of becoming motionless was a way to protect yourself. If an animal saw you and they thought you were dead, they oftentimes moved on, They want fresh meat if you will. Nowadays, those aren’t the predators who oftentimes are going to attack us. It doesn’t work, but our brain goes into freeze. When we get scared like that or we are in terror and afraid, the speech center of our brain or Broca’s area of our brain shuts down. We are scared and speechless.

It’s hard to take what’s happening and put it into words because those centers in our brains go down, thus women don’t cry out. I saw a girl recently who had been raped and her roommates were two doors away in the same apartment. They didn’t know what was going on because she didn’t yell. She felt so ashamed because she hadn’t done that. That was making it harder for her to process when it happened to her because she was so racked with guilt. “I should have thought. I should have cried out. I should have screamed.”

It’s also the reason why sometimes the perpetrators get off because the defense says, “She didn’t scream so she wasn’t fighting so maybe nothing must have happened.” I hate it when I hear that. That’s an extreme form of trauma when you’re scared and speechless. That can be one reason why people don’t speak up. Oftentimes too, when those kinds of big things happen, I think talking about it gives credence to it really happened. If I pretend it didn’t happen or if I don’t talk about it, then maybe it didn’t happen.

There’s a little bit less intense problem than being sexually assaulted or raped. Let me give an example. I saw a girl a few weeks ago in my counseling practice who has an older sibling who has severe autism and has had all kinds of problems with outbursts, screaming, yelling, getting physical with his parents, and destroying property to the point where the parents had to call the police. He’s been in and out of residential facilities causing lots of commotion in this house.

The little sister has watched all that for years and what she has decided along the way is that “My parents have so much on their plate trying to handle my brother. Their needs are more important than mine, and my brother’s needs are more important than mine. Instead of speaking out or speaking up and talking about it, it’s better if I keep it to myself because I don’t want to overburden them. They’ve already got more than enough on their plate.”

She also has all kinds of mixed feelings about her brother like she’s angry because he’s taking up so much energy and so much time. She’s resentful because of all the time and attention he’s gotten over the years. She then feels guilty about feeling those two feelings. She also feels left out because her parents oftentimes don’t have time for her. She starts to wonder, “What about me? What about my needs?” She then feels guilty for thinking that because other people’s needs have become more important than hers. That’s her new belief system, even to the point of, “I shouldn’t have needs.” That is such an unhealthy decision to make about yourself. I see why she’s made that decision along the way.

Part of my job is to help her reframe that. She worries about him. She’s protective of him. There’s the love-hate thing she has with him. She’s exhausted because of all these emotions. A lot of times, what I’ve heard her say in my office as she’s crying is, “I want permission to be a kid. I had to grow up so fast to try and help take care of him and my parents.” Sometimes that’s one of the reasons why kids keep secrets. It is because they’re trying to take care of everybody else around them. They feel like they shouldn’t have needs.

Some kids don’t share their secrets because they feel embarrassed because of what’s happened to them. They feel ugly. They feel dirty because of things that have happened. They feel guilty because they should have stopped whatever it is they’re talking about. They did something different and said something different. They blame themselves. They feel shabby about themselves. They feel a lot of Shame. That causes them to be less likely to disclose how they’re feeling and what’s going on.

It also depends upon the environment they’re in. There are some loving and caring people who are good listeners and they’re much more likely to share. If they have shared things in the past and they haven’t been heard or their parents have blown it off like it’s no big deal, or the parents make it about themselves or any kind of ways that we deflect our kids sharing in their feelings. Our kids decide inside their heads, “My mom and my dad aren’t safe. I can’t talk to them. They don’t listen. They make it about them. They don’t believe me. They blow it off. They act like it’s no big deal.” They go right into fix-it mode, which makes you feel like they’re not listening and they don’t understand me.

Putting Experiences To Words

There are a lot of reasons why sometimes kids sometimes don’t talk about things. The other thing is sometimes kids don’t have the language for it. They don’t know what they’re feeling. They’re overwhelmed with lots of emotion about things that are happening to them, being bullied at school, being left out at school, worrying about their futures, and having adversity like having that sibling like that girl I was talking about. Because they don’t have the language, sometimes they don’t know how to express it and so they keep it to themselves.

I saw an analysis of 150 studies they had to do on this topic. What these studies all pointed to was that self-disclosure after adversity is beneficial. Those that are undisclosed adversely experience more negative outcomes. It wasn’t the type of adversity that predicted the health problems later on, it was keeping the problems to themselves. The active keeping of the secret was more damaging than what they had experienced. What he experiences into words helps because it helps us to begin to make better sense of our thoughts and feelings.

It was in our heads sometimes. It gets distorted and then we pile on, we ruminate, but we put it out there sometimes just like I have girls who sometimes journaled their thoughts, and then read what they wrote. They’ll look at it and say, “Is that what I think? No,” and then they write some more and they can get clear. If they’re talking through their journal or they’re talking to you or through a letter, they can make better sense oftentimes what they’re feeling and what’s going on.

Also, when you use words to describe what happened to you, you shift the activity in your brain from the amygdala and all the emotion to your prefrontal cortex, which we can make better sense of. It doesn’t get overloaded with emotion. That’s huge. Disclosing it and talking about it shifts us out of our emotional centers into our prefrontal cortex. That’s much more reasonable than our executive center. There’s no expression. You need to name it to tame it. You need to put things into the words of your own choosing to make better sense of what happened to you.

You need to put things into words of your own choosing in order to make better sense of what happened to you. Click To Tweet

It’s also important that every kid finds somebody that they trust or somebody they feel safe with. I’d like it to be mom and dad, but sometimes, for lots of reasons, parents can’t be there for their kids because of their absence, because their parents are dealing with their own problems, and their parents might be depressed. Their parents might be distracted with finances and their lives. There are a lot of reasons why sometimes parents aren’t the same people for their kids, but it doesn’t mean that there aren’t other people in their lives who can step in that role sometimes.

Every time they find somebody to disclose their secret and talk about their adversity, every time the story becomes a little bit more organized, a little bit more understandable, a little less intense, and usually shorter. Sometimes when they first talk about something that happened to them, it’s a torrent of words. It’s a long story. It’s like whoa, but when they talk about it again and again, they start to make better sense of it. It comes out a little bit more clearly if you will.

One of the best single predictors of a good adjustment after adversity for children is having external support. The higher the number of adults with whom a child can associate and share, the more likely she is to make a more successful transition through adversity and into adulthood, even someone whom they call kids everybody’s favorite house guest. Kids have what they call high adaptability. which means that sometimes they are good at finding other adults than their parents who can be there for them. It might be their best friend’s mom or dad. It could be a teacher or coach. It can be like my camp counselors who become those people for them.

Some kids become good at reaching out and finding adults who can be there for them. Kind of substitute moms, substitute dads. It can be an aunt, an uncle, a grandfather, or a grandmother. It can be any of those people. It needs to be someone. I remember I read back in my fellowship training days a book called Vulnerable but Invincible by Emmy Werner. She studied hundreds of very poor kids on the island of Kauai who came from very impoverished backgrounds. Most people would have predicted that they’re going to have a horrible life because they grew up with all these ACEs, Adverse Childhood Experiences, etc.

She followed them for 40 or 50 years. I think was the longest longitudinal study that had been done looking at the effect of adversities on kids. What she found was that 2/3 or 3/4 of the kids ended up like their parents, with lots of mental health problems, incarcerated, couldn’t hold a job, and couldn’t get a good relationship. About 1/3 or 1/4 of them end up being competent adults who could have a healthy relationship. The main thing that was different about those kids from the kids who didn’t do well was they had somebody in their life who was there for them. Somebody who took them under their wing that they could count on.

Oftentimes it was not a parent. It was a grandparent. It was a coach. It was somebody who took an interest in them and was like a mentor for them, a shepherd for them who was there for them. It’s so important that our kids have people like that in their lives. If a child grows up in a stressful community or a stressful environment, but they have a well-supported and healthy caretaker in their home, they’re much more likely to have less stress and they’ll be less affected by it.

What we don’t want is for our kids to experience things, go inside their heads, and be at the mercy of their thoughts because oftentimes they don’t do a good job with their private logic. They blame themselves. They feel ashamed. They make bad decisions about themselves. They need someone to to pour it out to who can frame it for them and help them see that the reason their friends left them out was not because they’re not good enough. It’s not because you’re not cool enough. It’s because they’re insecure because they want to get a sense of power by leaving people out. There are all kinds of reasons that are all about them and not about you.

One of the things that happens when kids don’t disclose is they end up feeling different because they’re holding on to the secret. Sometimes there are weekend retreats in our summer camps. We do a “how I feel different” circle. The girls and our staff are all sitting in a big circle. Somebody starts and they’ll say, “One way that I feel different and a way that I don’t like is blank.” We don’t process it. We just listen, then the next person, “The one way I feel different is,” and then we go around the circle.

It’s powerful. I’ve done it in schools with classrooms of girls. We’ve been there maybe 3, 4, 5, or 6 times, but we don’t know them like at camp. We’ve never had a circle where people who didn’t share. Occasionally, somebody else says, “Can you come back to me?” I say, “Sure. We’ll come back.” By the time we get around and we go back, they usually have something, and then almost always, they want to go around the circle again.

They’ll bring up things like, “I feel different because I have a brother who has problems and the police were called to our house one time. I feel different because my parents are divorced. I feel different because I don’t get to see my dad. I feel different because I do badly in school, and I have a hard time reading. I feel different because I’m slow in math. I feel different because of the color of my skin.”

There are so many ways that I’ve heard in these circles, but putting it out there and having people not like, “It’s okay,” it’s so powerful. It’s so powerful that kind of disclosure. Oftentimes, almost always there’s somebody in that Circle who can say, “You know what? I’ve also been through divorce, I’ve also been left out by my friends, I also have a sibling who has problems,” etc. They start to understand, “I’m not the only one,” which causes them to feel more ashamed and to pull in and isolate themselves until they are more lonely, which makes everything worse part of the drama that I talked about at the beginning.

“I’m not alone. I’m not crazy. There are other people who can understand. I never believed that before but now I do.” It’s so powerful. For some of the kids who have been through adversities, the way they ended up handling it besides being adaptable is they become what some people call superheroes. They’re super normal. I interviewed the author Meg Jay a year or two ago about her book that was called Supernormal. She’s talking about people who look good on the outside.

They become high achievers as a way of deflecting. If I can show you my straight-A report card, and I’m the star of the football team or the volleyball team, if I can do all that and I look good on the outside, then maybe people won’t look any closer to the inside. I described that in my office time. A lot of girls in my counseling practice, I can feel the angst inside them. I can feel the unrest. They look good on the outside and I’ll ask them, “Can I give you some feedback about something I’ve noticed?” They’ll say, “Sure.” I say, “Are you sure? I can be honest.” Let’s say, “Yes.” I say, “You remind me of a lot of girls I’ve seen.”

I describe them as a beautiful swan swimming around a pond. Swimming smoothly and gracefully, looking beautiful, but underneath the water, their feet are paddling furiously. Meaning, underneath that veneer is a lot of emotion, angst, shame, and feelings that they don’t want other people to see. Nine times out of ten, the girls burst into tears because someone sees them. Someone understands. I’ve been trying so hard to hide by being super normal, by being a great student, by being the head of the student council, whatever it might be. I’ve been so afraid to show people what’s going on inside of me, and being able for somebody to see it so I can then talk about it.

The pressure valve is released. Now, somebody knows my secrets and they’re not judging me. They’re accepting me. It’s okay. The other reaction I see from kids who have been through adversities is not the beautiful swan, looking good supernormal kid. I see a kid who ends up on their own because they’re so afraid of disclosing, trying to take care of themselves. Those self-soothe by smoking, vaping, using drugs, self-medicating, and drinking a lot. Sometimes they’ll use sex to self-medicate and fuel a sense of closeness. Any kind of connection they’ll tell me is better than none because they feel so disconnected and lonely.

Sometimes when kids hang on to the blame and the shame and the secrets, they will do unhealthy things to try and manage it because they’re not expressing their emotions in healthy ways unless a few thoughts. The other thing that I think is helpful for girls is my experience, and this is one of the things I do in my retreats and camps, and I guess my counseling practice, too. I want kids to understand their adversities and the effects they have had on them. Help them become aware of that spiral of beliefs. I’ll ask them, “Because of what happened to you in fifth grade, eighth grade, or whatever when your friend group ditched you, what do you start to think about yourself?” I’ll flush out those thoughts and decisions, and they’ll start talking about, “I feel like I’m awkward. I’m socially awkward. I don’t fit the mold. There’s something wrong with me. I’m not pretty enough, cool enough, or whatever.”

I’m saying it and having them have some awareness. It gives us the chance to allow them to have more control over those thoughts and to reframe them into what the truth is. The truth isn’t that they’re not good enough. pretty enough, or whatever. The truth is whatever it is about those kids, there are all kinds of reasons why there are people who tease and leave people out. There’s nothing to do with the kids that are being left out.

Being Of Service

Just giving them that information or the awareness of how they ruminate experiences from burnt toast ones into the house on fire ones is huge. Glenda had become aware of that process and started learning to catch themselves when they’re starting to ruminate and to stop it and bring themselves back. One of the pieces here is there have been some good studies that show that one way of getting through the good side of adverse child experiences is being of service. Helping other people has been linked and so many studies with improved health, improved well-being, and improved mental health.

Doing work or heavy activities that feel meaningful and purposeful is a great predictor of physical and emotional health. You move from being a victim to a hero. Instead of feeling like a victim and blaming and all that, you move into helping other people. I saw a girl last year who was adopted when she was about a baby or maybe about a year old from another country. As a senior in high school, she had a chance to do a service project week and she chose to go to that country that she was born in.

She worked in a school that would have been the kind of school she may have gone to if she had stayed there with her very poor mom. Her mom had five kids, all up for adoption. This school had lots of kids who came from very poor families and had lots of ACEs or Adverse Childhood Experiences. She got to work for a week with those kids and she talked about it. She couldn’t stop crying because she said those kids touched her heart so deeply. She felt such a connection with them because it reminded her of what kind of life she could have had.

Wisdom And Suggestions

Being of service and being there and helping kids who were going through what she had gone through or might have gone through was so healing for her. Being of service in any way is a great tool to help kids manage their feelings that come from adversities. Let me end you with some quotes and a couple of suggestions. Bessel Van Der Kolk, what a name. Her quote is, “Healing from trauma is as much about remembering how we survived as it is about what is broken. Remember not only how you survived but who helped you survive. Focusing on the positive, focusing on being grateful for those people can take you out of feelings of negativity and depression stuff into feelings of gratitude.”

“Healing from trauma is as much about remembering how we survived as it is about what is broken.” Click To Tweet

I saw someplace where a woman who had interviewed Maya Angelou, the poet. Maya Angelou told her to write this sentence on a notepad and to never forget it. The sentence that Maya Angelou told her to write was, “Every storm runs out of rain.” I teach girls about the concept of self-compassion. Self-compassion is how you talk to yourself and how you treat yourself. One of the things you can do instead of beating yourself up about an adverse childhood experience, blaming yourself, and feeling ashamed about yourself is to say, “If somebody who loves me and cares about me and knows me is in my head right now, what would they be saying about this?”

That is always a kind thing. It’s a more truthful thing. The other thing that they can say to themselves as part of self-compassion is to remind themselves that I’m not the first person who’s gone through this adversity. Hundreds and thousands of millions of people around the world over the centuries have gotten through divorces, and have gotten through experiences. If they can go through a breakup with their boyfriend and they can get through a bullying experience and come out on the other end, then maybe I can too.

You can connect with that universal experience of it can get better and you can get through this. That can be a powerful tool for kids. I also have one kid that I mentioned before. There’s a quote that says, “Life is thickly sown with thorns and no other remedy than to pass quickly through them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes. The greater is their power to harm us.” That’s a quote by the philosopher Voltaire. We’re not in charge of what happens to us. Sometimes and oftentimes, we’re in charge of what feelings come out of it for us, how we react to it, how much drama we create around it, and how much we ruminate into a negative thing like our house on fire thing.

I tell kids all the time to focus on what they have control over. You’re in charge of what you make of it. Amy Cuddy said, “The way you tell your story to yourself matters.” Somebody else said one time, I don’t know whose quote this is, “Nobody needs to be a victim of their own biography.” Carl Jung, the famous therapist, said, “I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” Focusing on what they have control over, which is what are you going to make of this? What are you going to decide about yourself, about other people, about trust, about life, and relationships? That part, you’re in charge of.

Two more quick quotes, “Ships don’t sink because of the water surrounding them. They sink because of the water that gets into them.” Unexpressed feelings become unmanageable. Negative thoughts can build up and that’s what content to sink us after a challenging experience. The challenging experience cares about its own costs and its own emotions, and we have to work through those. We can add a lot more to that. That makes it unbearable and unmanageable. That can bring us down into depression, anxiety, and lots of life’s misfortune if we don’t take care of it.

Ships don’t sink because of the water surrounding them. They sink because of the water that gets into them. They can take charge of what gets into us and what we make of it. Last quote and I’ll end. Actually, two last quotes. The first was by Steve Miraboli. “I love that this morning’s sunrise does not define Itself by last night’s sunset.” We don’t have to let our past childhood experiences define us in the present moment and the future. Nakeia Homer gave us his last quote. “May you never forget that when it was hard and you were overwhelmed and you felt afraid and you walked alone and felt invisible and didn’t have the answers and you couldn’t see the way and you wanted to give up, remember that you kept going.” I also want to close to focus on that.

“Ships don't sink because of the water surrounding them. They sink because of the water that gets into them.” Click To Tweet

The lessons they learn from their adversities, how they get through, and what kind of strengths they learn about themselves that allow them to pull through and move on. Those are important to focus on as opposed to the drama and the blame and all the other stuff. We can support our daughters and any girls in your daughter’s life. All of you can be that adult, by the way. You can be your daughter’s friend who is going through something and doesn’t have parents that she can share with.

Focus on the lessons learned from your adversities, how you got through, and what strengths you learned about yourself to pull through and move on. Click To Tweet

You might be that adult who makes all the difference in the world. I get that almost all of you if you’re an adult can think back to your childhood and remember a time when an adult who was not your mom or your dad was there for you. They listened to you and gave you a piece of advice. It made all the difference in the world. It could have been a mentor, a teacher, a coach, or anybody but all of us I think have had experiences with another adult stepping in.

Please feel free to be that adult for some kids who cross your path. They need someone to hear them, to see them, to understand them, and to help them not make such negative decisions about themselves. I appreciate you being here every week for a new one. Share these with your friends. I love it when you do that. I will be back in a week with the brand-new episode. Thank you so much as always for stopping by.


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