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Summing up Childhood Trauma

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    • #69199
      Ernest Izard

      Donna Jackson Nakazawa, in her book, Childhood Disrupted: How your biography becomes your biology, and how you can heal, summarizes in one easy to read, research-based on childhood trauma what I have spent the past year and a half researching. This is a great book for educators, pastors, doctors, and therapists to get more than an overview of what adverse childhood experiences does to the brain and body and how the trauma(s) can be healed. I really appreciated the several stories that Nakazawa wove throughout the book from events, health consequences, and recovery. Often in the study of childhood trauma we focus on low SES children. In this book, a variety of people, including successful professionals share their stories of horror, neglect, and verbal abuse and their individual journeys to recovery and health. I also value the research that describes in detail how the brain and body at the cellular level are (is) changed and the recurrent refrain is autoimmune disease at many junctures of abused children’s adulthood 10 to 20 even 30 or more years later. The book finishes up with a variety of therapies, some that be self-attempted, that have been demonstrated to heal the trauma, if not completely, to the point that a person can function in a vibrant many and the symptoms of some diseases like autoimmune and digestive problems disappear.

      I wish this book could be put into the hands of every person who continues to blame students and patients for their behaviors and health challenges.

      For parents there is a special section detailing 14 ways families can be healing for members who weren’t parented well in their own childhood.

      If healing childhood trauma is on your trajectory, this is a highly recommended book that will not only summarize the scope of the issue; it will also provide valuable pegs to turbo-charge your efforts.

    • #69995

      I share with you Ernest the interest in the effects of trauma and the importance of healing in order to stop the cycle and continuity even after the event and circumstances have change.

      In an interesting article “A Surprising Familiy Legacy: the molecular Scars of Trauma” by Stacey Colino in U.S. News &World Report they summarize the findings of studies about impact of childhood trauma across generations.
      They say Epigenetics and the intergenerational transmission of stress effects, suggests the descendants of trauma survivors have a biological memory of the hardship their relatives endured — namely, through alterations in certain genes and levels of circulating stress hormones.
      According Rachel Yehuda, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
      “There is evidence that epigenetic changes that are made through stress or adversity can have long-lasting effects that may impact your stress system or sex cells,”.
      In a study published in a September 2016 issue of Biological Psychiatry, researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York City, the researchers found that the Holocaust survivors and their adult children had alterations in various sites within the FKBP5 gene, which plays a role in regulating immune function, compared to the control group.
      I found interesting that from an evolutionary perspective, these transgenerational effects may be important for survival. Dr. Torsten Klengel, a psychiatrist and research scientist at McLean Hospital explains that “They might prepare subsequent generations for similar conditions because, for example, the stress hormone axis may be already prepared to encounter these environmental conditions,”
      Yet, this isn´t always good, because a continuous state of hyper-alertness means your body’s fight-or-flight response is constantly revving high and releasing adrenaline and cortisol, which could be harmful to your body and mind.
      The good part, is that this may make you more resilient in some ways. When you inherit the effects of trauma, you also may inherit a sensitivity that alerts you to signs of danger earlier and allows you to respond positively in ways that are powerful and effective.”
      We are lucky to live in an era of so much understanding which helps free generations from the victim stand.

    • #72032

      Ernest, I would also recommend “Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential–and Endangered” by Bruce D. Perry and Maia Szalavitz. A substantial volume that showcases the statistics and biology, but also many true stories re: trauma and its affects on how people regard themselves.

    • #72540

      Patricia you stated, “The good part, is that this may make you more resilient in some ways. When you inherit the effects of trauma, you also may inherit a sensitivity that alerts you to signs of danger earlier and allows you to respond positively in ways that are powerful and effective.” This correlates with significant findings that Maia Szalavitz and Dr. Perry share in “Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential–and Endangered”. One particular interviewee, Trinity, shares that her childhood experiences of trauma in particular from her abusive and drug-addicted father and vacant mother who was also a drug addict made her stronger, smarter, and more caring and parental with her seven younger sisters. The resilience she learned during those years of having to be the adult when she was a young child made her more successful in school. The authors state, “Trinity was constantly watchful and observant, considering what other people were feeling and thinking…her keen intelligences also gave her an advantage. Research on resilience shows that smarter children are often better able to cope with chaotic and stressful childhood.” (Fergusson and Lynskey, 1996, pg. 281-292 as referenced in this book). A counselor at school during 6th grade noticed Trinity’s intelligence and compassion and signed her up as a peer counselor which became a defining moment for her. As an adult she has worked as an advocate for foster youth in California.
      We all understand that students who have lived through traumatic experiences have permanent changes to their brains and lives, and through resources like the ones you have mentioned and the one highlighted here, we learn that some of those changes can work in positive ways if given the right amounts of encouragement and opportunities. This is hopeful!

    • #72693
      Ernest Izard

      Margo: I am away from my copy of Born for Love. Hopefully, I am remembering Trinity as the resilient survivor of trauma who was included in the subsequent study to the Kaiser Permanente/CDC study. She was a part of a group of overweight people who were well on their way to losing weight. Around the 85 pounds lost mark many inexplicably quit the program. Over 200 people from the 17,000 in the initial study were interviewed to find out why they quit losing weight. I think Trinity was one of many who said, “If I had lost one more pound, I would have become attractive again, and become a target for the abuse I had already experienced.” If a teacher does not have empathy developed in his or her own life, it will be hard for that person to hear a Trinity’s cry for help. A call to arms needs to be heard and heeded to provide experiences among children and adults alike in a loving, caring atmosphere of contagious empathy.

    • #81499

      I’ve been on a journey, perhaps and odyssey, to study childhood trauma and to develop a certification program to train service providers with knowledge, skills, and abilities, in order to strengthen the resilience of children from poverty and trauma. The journey has taken me to body and brain facts, the Adverse Childhood Experience Study, statistics on the prevalence and impact of trauma and poverty on long term health, academic success, and economic contributions or costs to society.

      I have learned how to be a detective and pick up on clues that a child might be a victim of trauma. These include acting out, withdrawing, promiscuity, obesity, lack of a vocabulary, inability to regulate social emotional responses, and the list goes on. And through the discovery of mirror neurons and their purpose, I learned why I and countless other educators are exhausted at the end of each day, week, month, and school year: not because the work is tiring; rather, our mirror neurons pick up the toxic stress of a victim of trauma’s own mirror neurons. without remedial practices, that toxic stress builds up in the service provider with unhealthy results. Of course the SES data reveals which students live in poverty. And yes, Eric and others have taught me that poverty traumatizes.

      So at this point in my journey, what is my most important take away. I could easily say I am grateful for brain plasticity and neurogenesis. With out them, the challenge would seem hopeless. However, at the end of this day, the most important lesson I have learned is that relationships, genuine human connection, heals trauma. Kind of reminds me of the passage on love in 1 Corinthians that says there are a lot of things we say, do or know, but if we don’t do them out of love, it is empty. Genuine, empathetic love and regard for those wounded by trauma, neglect and poverty heals.

      Let me say it another way. I this week’s blogs from, a trauma survivor said that you don’t have to be a skilled specialist or a trauma-free person to participate in the healing of another trauma victim. Words even from a trauma victim can be healing. Her metaphor that she borrowed described being out in the cold with no coat. She wrote: “Words can be warmth ’til we find our way home.”

      No, I will never discount the knowledge, skills, and abilities that have shaped and informed my understanding of trauma, neglect, and poverty. All those things have to be delivered in words, story, and with love.

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