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Provocative Thinking

November 24, 2010

Dr. Vincent Felitti, the co Principal Investigator of the Adverse Childhood Experience Study, has stated that “What we regard as negative and/or addictive behaviors may be functional solutions for adverse childhood experiences.” In other words, these negative behaviors may be “normal” coping behaviors for Survivors of ACE’s.

Yet these behaviors have a substantial impact on the ability of an ACE’s survivor to live a happy fulfilled life, on the health and safety of the general community in which the Survivor lives, and the coping behaviors most likely have a potentially huge impact on those whose lives depend in part on the Survivor and their coping behaviors. It also has a huge impact on those whose lives are devastated by Survivors.

When we encounter coping behaviors, our normal response is frequently critical of the Adult. If smoking is the coping behavior, we chastise the smoker and tell them that they are weak and could just quit if they wanted to. We almost never think about the consequences of quitting. If substance abuse is the coping behavior, we often respond to the negative outcomes of such behaviors with a lock them up and throw away the key mentality. Recent comments in the Anchorage Daily News sums up a prevailing attitude about drunk driving:

“The other two judges who slapped her wrist in the past should be locked up with her.” “She needs to spend the rest of her life in jail.” “I truly wish we had the death penalty here. Instead, we will be forced to pay to keep her locked up, and when she gets out, we will have to pay her benefits like social security which, I would wager, she will use to get drunk.” Comments like these are common in almost all drunk driving situations.

But when we examine Dr. Felitti’s comment, such negative behaviors are frequently rooted in childhood trauma that remains unresolved. We never know how severely traumatized criminal defendants are because of the crime they committed. At that time, they are severely criticized and ostracized. We are treating the ill perpetrated on society at that time by putting away the convicted criminal.

With Provocative Thinking, we could actually prevent the crime from ever happening with true prevention efforts. Learning about childhood trauma, the impact on the development of our young brain and the behaviors it causes, then treating the Survivor appropriately could save us money, and even more importantly, healthy happy and productive lives. Think about it.


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