It’s impossible to change the past, but you can change your relationship to the past. The Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) test is a list of ten simple yes or no questions about one’s personal bad experiences as a child. My previous blog post Avoiding Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) and creating Positive Child Experiences (PCE) gave statistics for how strong a predictor of a troubled adulthood the ACE test can be; and another previous post, Adverse Childhood Experiences versus Positive Childhood Experiences, provided a chart, shown below, that had intentionally opposing questions about childhood. This post will give some suggestions for how one might change their relationship to an adverse past into a more positive one. It is based on changing habits that are self-destructive into ones that are self-constructive.
Read through the numbered ACE questions and compare them to the numbered PCE questions. I contrasted them to make an alternate questionnaire, because there is more to having a good childhood than just not having a bad one. ACE question #10, Did a household member ever go to prison? is compared to PCE #10, Did a household member ever receive a public-sponsored award? I would include in the public award such things as being elected to a leadership position in an organization. It is possible to answer both of these questions with a yes, which is also true of all the other questions. The questions don’t cancel each other out, but by having a Positive Childhood Experience, a person does have more potential for a positive self-image and for positive habits to have formed in their childhood. Also, most adults will be able to find some positive behavior in their family members, even if it isn’t as pronounced as in the questions, and they can choose to remember those events; and by choosing to remember the positive events, and choosing not to dwell on the negative events we can to some degree reprogram our memories of our childhood to be increasingly more positive.
Each time we have the opportunity to tell a story about our childhood experiences we can pick one that reveals the good side of our guardians’ behavior and of our good times with those people. When we must talk about something negative, we can intentionally choose to put a positive spin on the story. For example, if our father was an alcoholic, we could say, “Yes, dad got drunk sometimes, but he always got up and went to work on time. He was a thoughtful provider.” Or, “Yes, he did go to prison, but there he had the time to cultivate some of his natural skills, and now he has some paintings he made in a local art show, and has a good job in construction.” Or, “He yelled at me a lot as a child, but I remember the times he defended me from the local bullies.” When telling these stories about your early years make a point of acknowledging the bad in a single word, but then talking for a long time about the various positive actions you can remember.
Every time you retell a story about some particular event about your guardian, try to remember even more of the positive things that happened, and at some point mention how those things have improved your life. By remembering the positive things about your past you will create a more positive foundation for living your future.