Changing the Future by Acknowledging the Past

Healing is Possible

No series on how positive childhood experiences (PCEs) can mitigate the effect of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) would be complete without speaking about the future. Not only the futures of adults who are living with the scars left by ACEs but the future of children being born today.

This article will focus on how we can change our prospects by acknowledging and using the past as a jumping board into the future.

Learning to Live with ACEs from the Past

Adverse childhood experiences affect survivors from the moment the trauma occurs to throughout their lifetime. Science tells us that having a high number of ACEs affects our mental health and our physical health.

Tragically, ACEs are not rare as about 61% of adults surveyed across 25 states reported they had experienced at least one ACE, with nearly 1 in 6 stating they had experienced four or more.

Adverse childhood experiences have long-lasting negative effects on health and well-being and increase the risk of injury, sexually transmitted infections, chronic diseases, and the leading cause of death, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and suicide.

However, like the quote I found states, “Science tells us that biology does not have to be destiny.” Donna Jackson Nakazawa

Adverse childhood expenses can last a lifetime, but we can reboot our brains by practicing becoming more resilient and accepting the past as the past.

Changing History Through Visualization

It is true that once an event has occurred, it cannot be undone, and it becomes part of who we are. This statement is especially true when we are talking about traumatic events such as abuse or neglect.

However, what if I were to tell you there is a method to return to the past, even your childhood, and rewrite history? You can go back in time and rescue yourself or have your abuser arrested through using visualization.

Visualization is a method of self-exploration that has gained notoriety because it allows one to visualize oneself having overcome a situation or to become who you wish. However, it can also be helpful when dealing with the emotions and harsh realities of a traumatic childhood or event.

How it works is that you, generally with the help of a therapist (it can be done alone as well), visualize the trauma but give it a different outcome. For instance, you may visualize the memory of someone coming into your bedroom at night to harm you, but in your visualization, that person trips and falls and must answer to the police as to why they were sneaking around your bedroom.

I, myself, have used visualization to help me to overcome terrible and powerful memories of abuse and neglect. Visualization gave me powerful control over what happened and allowed me to feel victorious. I found I could go as my adult self to rescue my child self from danger, and in this way, not only did I gain power over that memory, but I also felt an enormous relief afterward.

Once one has gained the power they always wanted over their past, they are ready to move forward into the future.

Loving Oneself to Acceptance

While it may seem you cannot do so right now, learning to love yourself is the most significant and remarkable thing you can do to heal from ACEs. Like with positive childhood experiences, learning to practice self-love is vital to overcoming adverse childhood experiences.

You may need to start small by looking at yourself in the mirror and repeating several times, “I love you.” Do this every day, preferably twice or more daily, and it will change your outlook about yourself.

Be good to yourself. Eat well and get plenty of sleep. If you have problems with food and sleep, contact your doctor or therapist for help. Insomnia is an unfortunate side-effect of ACEs, as are eating disorders.

Allow others to compliment you. Don’t brush aside or casually dismiss a compliment. Acknowledge it and allow it to sink into your psyche. People do not typically offer compliments to people unless they mean it, and brushing aside one is rude and non-productive. One can grow quickly by accepting the compliments others give them.

Remember that the trauma you have experienced is not nor ever was your fault. You were a victim, not a perpetrator. Surviving what you have takes bravery and tenacity. You have come a long way in your recovery by just acknowledging that you need to heal.

Did you accept those compliments? I meant them. It’s hard, but you can do it.

Keeping Adverse Childhood Experiences from Happening

While it is true that one cannot know what adverse childhood experiences are going on in a different household than our own, as a society, we must do something to end the horrendous toll ACEs have on our children.

As you may have surmised by now, one way to defeat ACEs is to increase the number of and exposure to positive childhood experiences. We are all responsible for the care and nurturance of the children in our communities. By building better communication and reaching out to hurting children, we can change lives.

One framework for change is called HOPE: Healthy Outcomes from Positive Experiences. By focusing on the need to promote and create positive childhood experiences, the HOPE framework helps to prevent or at least mitigate the effects of adverse childhood experiences (Bernstein et al., 2021)

There are four broad categories of positive childhood experiences:

  • Being nurtured and having supportive relationships
  • Living, playing, learning, and developing in a safe, stable, and protective environment
  • Being allowed opportunities for constructive social engagement and connectedness
  • Learning emotional and societal competencies

All the categories are common sense methods of ensuring that children experience positive childhood experiences so that the experiences they have that are negative and traumatic have less of an impact on their future lives.

Summarizing

 This series has focused on how positive childhood experiences can mitigate the damages done by ACEs, adverse childhood experiences, such as abuse and neglect. The damage from ACEs is grave as children grow up believing they are not worth the air they breathe and desperately need someone to believe in and care about them.

Society must band together to change the outcome of children who face negative childhood experiences every day by supplying them with the love, respect, and dignity they deserve and need. We can utilize the HOPE framework to work in enhancing the lives of children.

We can travel back in time to rescue ourselves through visualization and help ourselves through learning self-love for those of us who are grown.

I put it to you that all people, no matter their age, deserve only the best, and this includes you.

“You can be the most beautiful person in the world, and everybody sees light and rainbows when they look at you, but if you yourself don’t know it, all of that doesn’t even matter. Every second that you spend on doubting your worth, every moment that you use to criticize yourself; is a second of your life wasted, is a moment of your life thrown away. It’s not like you have forever, so don’t waste any of your seconds, don’t throw even one of your moments away.” – C. JoyBell C.

“Dare to love yourself
as if you were a rainbow
with gold at both ends.” – Author-Poet Aberjhani

References

Burstein, D., Yang, C., Johnson, K., Linkenbach, J., & Sege, R. (2021). Transforming Practice with HOPE (Healthy Outcomes from Positive Experiences). Maternal and Child Health Journal, 1-6. Retrieved from: https://positiveexperience.org/publications/

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