The weapons we have for fighting the long term impacts of Adverse Childhood Experiences are a little like fighting a dragon with a wooden sword. While I can imagine some unlikely ways a dragon could be killed with a wooden sword, can we agree that it’s not nearly as effective as say, C4 explosives and some strategically placed duct tape or a Blackhawk helicopter? It just isn’t a good choice of weapons.
But what if that’s all we have?
I spent Monday and Tuesday with a group called APPI (ACEs Public Private Initiative). It’s made up of community advocates from 15 different counties in Washington. Each of us is part of a community where 47% of the population has been affected by Adverse Childhood Experiences in at least three categories. Clark County is on that list.
This group of people is a powerful force in bringing restoration to our communities. They represent creative intelligence, strength and fierce will in the battle against the forces that do damage to our kids. I was astounded at the passion, the stories and the battle scars.
A new study was introduced that demonstrated a capacity to kill a dragon with a wooden sword. In less metaphorical jargon, it showed that social cohesion and collective efficacy makes a significant measurable difference in depression experienced by trauma affected adults.
This is good news!
Social Cohesion arises when bonds link members of a social group to one another and to the group as a whole.
Collective Efficacy refers to the ability of members of a community to control the behavior of individuals and groups in the community. Control of people's behavior allows community residents to create a safe and orderly environment.
When we come together as a community and get good at it, we heal each other. It means that building friendship with your neighbors, helping when it’s needed, gathering regularly, sharing resources and celebrating our identity actually make us healthy as a community and as individuals. The more we work and play and live life with our fellow Battle Groundians, the better we get at being Battle Groundians. That’s collective efficacy. Especially when we are willing to lean on each other when we are hurt.
However, the difference this study demonstrated was a 10% improvement. While any improvement is good. It felt a little anemic when compared to the significance of the impact childhood trauma has on us. I raised my hand in Tuesday’s meeting and whined. The percentage increase of negative impact goes up so dramatically when kids experience more than a couple categories of trauma. All we can do is ten percent?
Whine. That’s not enough. How is that encouraging?
Fortunately, there were wiser, more experienced people than me in the room. Lots of them. They explained how to fight a dragon with a wooden sword.
The answer is, together. Many swords, same dragon.
It’s still not easy. People will get hurt. But, they already are getting hurt so that’s not new. At least we get hurt fighting instead of being helpless victims.
Social cohesion means we fight as a unit. A swarm of warriors with shared intelligence and instinct. We know each others strengths and weaknesses and we fight as one. Having wooden swords for weapons is not a detriment if we are all fighting the same dragon. Because, that’s a lot of wooden swords.
One person with a wooden sword can irritate a dragon.
A whole community with wooden swords can kill a dragon.
It’s Quantum Mechanics on a community scale. It’s a universal, scaleable force. Where we put our attention changes things. And right now, we don’t like the way things are. So let’s pay attention. Thank you for being part of the Caring Adult Network!
Let's get to know our neighbors. The young ones and the old ones. Call them by name every chance you get. Borrow an egg. Loan a weed-wacker. Play hoops (that’s basketball). Wait around when you take the trash out. Sit on your front porch. Better yet, sit on your neighbors front porch (I’d check with them first - might make them nervous if they come home and you’re napping in their rocker).
I write about belonging, storytelling, community building, prevention, trauma, resilience, neuroscience, and epigenetics.