When I give talks, webinars and workshops about Adverse Childhood Experiences and the impact of trauma on our lives, I am always very respectful of the magnitude of the Information I talk about. I have attended talks by very well-meaning speakers who fly through dense PowerPoint slides about trauma so factually that I watch a significant portion of the audience glaze over in overwhelm.
In my opinion we as ACEs/trauma educators must be very mindful that whether we talk about ACEs in front of a large group of people or one on one, it’s not just information. We are giving people an experience, an experience that may rock them to their core especially if they have never heard the information before.
Think back to when you first heard about ACEs. Do you remember what it was like for you? Imagine what it’s like for the person who has never considered the impact of their childhood experiences on their well-being. Maybe they thought they had a happy childhood. Maybe they are in a troubled relationship now and this information raises their awareness unexpectedly.
For me it was a mixture of excitement and tension as the ACEs frame offered me a new lens through which to view the magnitude of what I endured as a child, while feeding my hope for greater awareness of the prevalence of ACEs in our culture. For some people it’s the first time that they realize they are not alone and that many other people have had similar experiences. This can be a time of both relief and profound vulnerability.
I believe it is our responsibility as carriers of this important yet often intense information to be respectful of those we interact with in any setting and make space, sometimes a lot of space, for people to share their reactions on all levels: cognitive, physical and emotional. Yes, we often feel a sense of urgency in getting this message across because so many people need help. However, less is far, far more. Be willing to throw out your script and toss your agenda.
Each person in our audience has a history unknown to us. When we honor this truth, in spite of the intensity of the topic of ACES & trauma, people experience our offerings as an avenue of connection rather than overwhelm. This is where healing begins.