Dr Nadine Harris delivered this stunning TED MED talk in 2014. She gives the bear in the woods an important walk-on part. A paediatrician herself, she tells how a child’s ‘dose’ of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) creates clearly higher rates of health problems. And that’s not just mental health troubles, but physical ones too … all the way to suicide.
The bear truth
Dr Harris talks of how the body switches on the fear-fight-flight systems if you happen to meet a bear in the woods. Then she adds: “What happens when the bear comes home every night, and this system is activated over and over and over again?”
The constant experience of ‘fright without solution’ amounts to the pattern of disorganised Attachment and terror described by Alexandra Stein. We reviewed her book here because it shows how ‘all harmful coercion works’.
If you map ACEs and Attachment terror together, we build a strong case that links what children experience in the middle of high conflict separations and the cult-like stress of Alienation to the immediate and long-term physical and mental harm it helps cause.
It’s emotional abuse
That proven mental and physical ill health and harm from sustained emotional stress is what shows that in high conflict family separation we’re in the domain of emotional abuse, not just of insignificant passing upset in children.
Children have little power. They just have to suffer. Adults are responsible. Family, friends, agencies and professionals could do more about it. We could learn about it, say something … anything more than being just a bystander.
Faced with this, adults make something that’s difficult worse than it needs to be. That means we’re dealing with an evil not just a tragedy.*
This sustained stress and its health consequences applies to adults too. But even sticking just to the children, Dr Harris has to wonder why people still don’t take it as seriously as they would any other health threat to children.
She suggests we all tend to choose the familiar bystander thinking: Oh, it’s ok, this stuff doesn’t happen to me, to us, to my kind of people. Plus: What can I do about it anyway?
Dr Harris reminds the audience that ACEs have indeed happened to them, to us. And to me and you readers as well.
There is very good reason for us all to take this human and proven evil much more seriously.
Nick Child, Edinburgh
* The link is to a 42 min talk by Jordan Peterson on Tragedy vs Evil. He summarises at: 39.30.