Zomergasten (Summerguests): the body and the experiences that are not forgotten

In the last week of August, in the run-up to the impending broadcast of ‘Zomergasten’ (‘Summer Guests’, an interview programme since 1988), there was commotion around the core figure of the three-hour conversation. Three academics had a warning for the Dutch people, which led to lively discussions on social media. In the last episode of the season, the stepping-down presenter Janine Abbring would receive as a guest the world-famous psychiatrist, scientist and author Bessel van der Kolk (1943), a man with Dutch roots who has lived in the United States since the early 1960s and has created furore as a pioneer and expert in the field of trauma. He did this, among other things, through his roles as an adviser or expert witness to international investigations and trials, such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa after the end of apartheid and on the road to democracy. His acclaimed book ‘The Body Keeps the Score’ (translated into Dutch as ‘Traumasporen’, trauma traces) has as its core message that the intellectual brain is sometimes so overwhelmed by events that it uses the mechanism of dissociation as a survival strategy. The emotional charge of the experiences is deeply buried so that the one who endured the events can somehow continue with life. Conscious experience of the trauma would be too painful, too unbearable. However, the body has gone through all that toxic stress, and those experiences affect stress regulation, brain development, neurophysiology and thus the immune system, resulting in a range of potential social and health problems. The body carries everything with it: the body keeps the score. This view is clearly not yet universally accepted.

The three authors of the Volkskrant article (a professor, an emeritus professor and an associate professor) stated that Van der Kolk might be given room in the program “to spread incorrect and dangerous ideas” about repressed memories (de Volkskrant, 26th August 2022). They stated that he “makes a living popularising that idea” that traumatic memories are repressed and that many therapists who believe this are talking people into believing they went through all kinds of abuse and misery. They tell their patients that the physical and psychological symptoms they report to a psychiatrist “have arisen because they were once abused but the memory of it is hidden in their subconscious mind.” This approach would lead to “fake memories of abuse”. The client does not heal, but is “talked into a made-up traumatic past”, according to the article. The academics said they feared “disastrous consequences (…) for patients and their families”.

And then it is Sunday evening, August 28, and I’m going to sit down properly. I want to hear this man, because I know his work, which is in line with that of other big names in the field, and I am curious about what he will provide the Dutch public with in terms of knowledge, considerations and visual material.
It is impressive, and when I watch the broadcast a second time, I am even more moved. Here is a true expert speaking, a man humble in all his wisdom, who, with humility and self-reflection, tells the story of elements from his field and reveals aspects of his life, and who scrutinises both himself and patterns of interaction. The still ongoing ignorance, despite the extensive research, does not go unmentioned either. Already in the first few minutes he tells that PTSD was still defined in 1980 as a very rare phenomenon. “That says something about how blind we were to the misery in the world”, he concludes. Later in the broadcast, he fears that little has been learned from Harry Harlow’s studies with monkeys in the 1950s and 1960s, based on the work on attachment by John Bowlby, who was a good friend of Van der Kolk. According to him, there is still too little attention for the suffering that many people go through and at two-thirds of the interview he wonders with some fierceness in relation to the Volkskrant article: “Who are those people who are so afraid of the reality about which I speak? Who are these people who don’t want to see how many children are being abused? Who are those people who cannot listen to what is going on in other people’s lives?”

Up to these critical questions, he has mainly been very mild and contemplative and shows film fragments that demonstrate how much the mutual relationships between people are coloured and marked by their life stories. With his first fragment, from the American television series Ted Lasso, he illustrates how important it is that people within groups and teams can tell the truth of their personal history in a safe way, in a secure setting. That history helps to explain why they sometimes behave rudely, lash out at others or build a wall around themselves, for example because their authoritarian father never allowed them to be weak. If attention is paid to this, says Van der Kolk, then people can use their idiosyncrasies for the greater whole and do not have to use them in a negative way against themselves and each other. When vulnerability becomes a virtue instead of a weakness, you can reflect on your own behaviour and learn to behave differently where necessary. However, you need the support of your social environment for that, because loneliness, he later says, is the most important aspect of trauma: “We are members of tribes, we belong together. We have to belong to someone, we have to have a home, especially as children, and if children do not find that protection at home with their parents, then they are alone in the world and then they have to find some kind of adaptation. A child usually says, “This is happening because I’m a bad person.” What arises is a lifelong sense of ‘there’s something wrong with me, or they would never have done this to me’. Not being seen is the most difficult thing for a child. The feeling that everyone is acting as if nothing is wrong, that the interests of the adults are more important than what happens to the child, that those adults cannot find the courage to bring things up: that is the real trauma. The child has no choice, no other reality, no other possibilities and therefore blames themselves for bad events. That leads to deep loneliness: ‘I am different, I don’t belong here, I can’t be here, I am a bad person, I deserve what happens to me.’ Such a belief becomes a major problem as you get older. Such trauma carries on for generations.”

He uses all kinds of fragments to show and explain how traumatic experiences become fixed in the body, how they keep coming back via different sensory perceptions, associated with deep emotions. People get stuck in that event as if it were happening today, instead of the event being experienced as something from the past that no longer poses any danger. That is why, he says, talking alone is often not enough, and sometimes it is just impossible because it triggers too much pain. That is why he has done more experimental research than anyone else into all kinds of body-oriented therapies and why he has also been cautiously enthusiastic about the results that can be achieved with psychedelics for some time now: “Under the influence of them, people can sometimes finally find words for themselves and their story and above all, they experience compassion for what they have experienced. Humans are meaning-making creatures; as a therapist you don’t have to put anything into them. Listening attentively and not judging is enough. When there are people who offer you a safe setting for your story, psychedelics can be extremely helpful. You then see other dimensions of your own life and of yourself.” In line with that, at another moment: “People usually do not want to remember bad things at all and that is why it is very difficult to talk people into things. By really feeling in your body what things have done to you and are doing now, you can learn to see and do things differently. You can learn to let go of the role and the beliefs you grew up with. If you cannot tell your own truth, it all gets stuck in your body and your heart will break. Then you will break other people’s hearts with your anger and bitterness. Connection is indispensable for us as humans.”

There is so much more worth mentioning. We therefore sincerely recommend watching the replay of the broadcast, so that everyone can decide for themselves about Bessel van der Kolk’s vision: is it ‘dangerous’ or urgently needed? You can watch (in Dutch) for a few more weeks via this link.

At least one question has remained unanswered: what would Van der Kolk, led by Ted Lasso, have thrown into the barrel as a sacrifice to exorcise the evil spirits…?! 😉



An invitation to write!

Recently we shared with you our review of José Al’s book, ‘The soiled nest. Transgenerational Trauma’. There is clearly great interest in this theme, because the blog has been very well read and widely shared. That is understandable, because this is a theme that, often invisible and unspoken, undoubtedly affects many more people than you would think at first glance.

Emotional and physical neglect, abuse by both your parents… these are not topics that can be discussed just anywhere and with everyone. It is not something you happily share. Because of the pain and often the shame that accompany it, such experiences are sometimes shared with close others only after years and years. In this context, what do you actually know about your neighbours, about colleagues, about your children’s friends? What do you know about your brother(s) or sister(s), especially in a larger family, where the experiences of the individual children may sometimes differ enormously? And maybe even… what do we know about ourselves? What are things that we deeply tucked away in order to survive under difficult circumstances? What can we allow into our consciousness only bit by bit, because otherwise we become overwhelmed by the fear, the sadness and the pain?

The stories in ‘The soiled nest’ offer us a glimpse into what it means to grow up in an unsafe and insecure setting. It doesn’t even have to be as intense and dramatic as in the book, however, to leave traces. This is because the perception of insecurity in childhood influences how our brain grows and which behavioural patterns we develop. Many of our reaction patterns are not a conscious choice, but an automatic response. We do not choose to go into fight or flight mode – it just happens. A look, a smell, a choice of words, a posture or something else touches something in us that in a flash brings us back to a look, a smell, a choice of words or a posture of that unsafe past. Much of what seems to be happening in the now is in fact a memory of the then. It brings us back to a phase in our lives in which we still had insufficient overview and independence to regulate ourselves. We did not understand what was happening. We felt anxious, lonely, sad, and could not break free from the circumstances. We depended on the people with whom we felt unsafe and insecure. They said things that made us feel like we were not good enough, that we should not really be there in our most authentic form. We kept quiet and adapted, or we rebelled and freaked out. Left or right, however, we lost an important part of the connection with our true self, with our essence.

The aim of ACE Aware NL is to make more widely visible how these mechanisms work. It is important to understand what goes on in that child’s head when you consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally, assert your position of power as an adult. What happens if you fail to assist your child in a calm, but firm and reliable way? A child who seems unreasonable or unmanageable is at its core often angry or anxious or sad. Can you look at your child and see the situation through their eyes? Can you look at your child and try to feel that it is you? How does it feel to be (in) that little body and listen to a big angry voice, see a disapproving face? As an adult you may not come up with your painful story, but your painful story does emerge in your behaviour. Hurt people hurt people. The more you become aware of this, the more compassion you will develop. By looking at your own feelings and sensations without judgment, you can learn to listen to the other person’s story without judgment. José has provided powerful examples of such stories in her book. Together with her, we wondered how we could encourage the sharing of stories about the lived experience. When stories are shared without the teller being judged, this often creates space and a sense of recognition and being heard.

That’s why we wanted to share the book review, about which José wrote us the following:
“I am incredibly impressed by this overwhelmingly pure, intense and valuable book review. The time, effort, energy and utmost care that you have put into this, so much appreciation and loving positivity, to be seen, heard, felt and understood in this way is truly overwhelming. So beautifully done! What an appreciation for my years of studies, work and research… I feel understanding and compassion and that means a lot to me. That cannot be expressed in words.”
Her mission and ours fit seamlessly together and she has made a wonderful proposal, which we gratefully accept with both hands.

Does your story deserve to be heard? Do you want to support and encourage others? Do you want to contribute to discussing early childhood trauma? Then share your story with us!
Write a text of 750-1000 words, in which you (anonymously) describe your experience with (sexual) abuse, (domestic) violence and/or neglect. Even if you think you are not a writer, we invite you to pick up the (digital) pen: we are happy to help you get it on paper in such a way that it does justice to your story. The ACE Aware NL team will look at the entries together with José Al and chooses the ten most beautiful, most gripping, insightful stories. If yours is one of the ten selected texts, we will contact you to draw up a version that can be published as a blog on our website. The authors of the ten stories chosen will receive a copy of José Al’s ‘The soiled nest’.

If you want to participate, send your story with your name, your telephone number from a valid e-mail address to info@aceaware.nl and make sure it is received by 20th July at the latest. You will receive a confirmation of receipt and of course we handle your data very carefully and completely confidentially.

Writing can be very healing, as can reading a story that offers recognition and encouragement. You are therefore very welcome to send in a text to increase social awareness about ACEs. We look forward to your contributions!

At a later stage we will make a similar call for healthcare providers. We then put in the spotlight what their motivation is for working with people with early childhood trauma. More information about this will follow in due course.

Learning from one another: a lesson about secure and insecure attachment (Part 2)

Recently our  was about the guest lecture I gave at a school in a course where the students themselves are experts in the field of insecure attachment. A lot was exchanged in a great collaboration and the time went faster than expected. The remaining material also deserved attention and we didn’t want to rush it. The solution was quickly devised: a second guest lecture! I gladly accepted that invitation, because a group like this is exactly what we do our work for from ACE Aware NL.*

The second lesson was last Wednesday, June 8. The group was a little different in composition; a few people from last time were missing and there were some new faces.
We started with a short inventory of what everyone remembered from last time. One of the first to speak was the mentor (who, just like the first time, participated intensively and concentrated in all exercises and conversations – wonderful!). The mentor referred to the ACE-score forms completed last time. That there were two people with a score of 8 and two with a score of 10… that those students had gone through (almost) all the sad experiences on that form… that had really hit and touched the mentor. I agreed and explained that I therefore found it very impressive to see that these people have once again taken up the courage to start an education trajectory, to work on their personal development and to invest in their future. That’s no mean feat; that means they probably have a few ‘cheerleaders’ somewhere in their social circle who have encouraged this challenge. That is beautiful; that gives hope. I emphasised that the mentor themselves also plays a valuable role in this by creating a safe climate in the group, so that the courage taken up finds solid ground and strongly supports the learning process.

After the check-in, a body-oriented exercise followed, in which the students could experience what it is like to be close to someone else while walking through the room. How does it feel when you’re standing right next to someone? Is that other person in your personal space? Can you bear that or does it feel threatening? And if the latter is the case… what does that do to your bodily functions? Is your heart beating faster? Do you feel warm and sweaty? Your body often speaks loudly and clearly!
They stood side by side in pairs and reported back what they had experienced. For some it felt fine, someone else felt agitated by so much closeness. One person said that the person next to them made them feel giggly – positive, because feeling giggly and laughing together is wonderful and gives a feeling of relaxation and security, while security is at the same time a precondition for achieving that relaxation together.

It seems so simple: standing next to someone. And yet those simple things can feel very complicated and scary if you’re constantly on the lookout for survival strategies. With someone so close to you, you can’t keep the overview well. You (literally) can’t wait from a distance and see which way the cat jumps and the wind blows. It seems as if the other is pushing against the wall you have built to protect yourself against outside threats. Will your wall stay standing or will it fall over a bit…? And if so… then what?
And if you are subsequently asked to turn towards each other and look each other in the eye, to hold each other’s gaze and not to avert your eyes… then it all comes (again literally) very close. On the one hand, as humans we want to be seen, but can we handle someone really looking into our soul? How long can we keep that up? When does it get uncomfortable? When do we want to break free from that connection? When has it been enough?

The experiment didn’t last very long, but long enough to feel how intense it is to get so close. This, too, was an exercise associated with secure and insecure attachment. The more times you’ve been faced with situations of insecurity and the more you’ve been (literally or figuratively) ‘overlooked’, the harder it often is to make deep and open eye contact. You may feel the urge to hide so that it all doesn’t feel so vulnerable.
As a result of this exercise, a beautiful conversation ensued, in which the students indicated in which situations they found this difficult and how it can be experienced as a test to see ‘who can last the longest’ – who is in charge, who has the force majeure, who is pulling the strings. That is a very different association than: ‘I keep holding your eyes, because I want to hold YOU. I want to know you and see you. I want to be known and seen by you. I won’t let go of you.’ Here too, experiences from the past play a role in the perception of the present.

After everyone had returned to their own chair, I indicated that we would go through some ‘hardcore’ theory. For example, I explained what is meant by attachment, that early attachment styles often stay with someone for a lifetime, and what the difference is between secure and insecure attachment (anxious, avoidant, disorganized). We talked about how important it is that a child can rely on the parent(s) and that signals are picked up and properly interpreted and answered. The video with Edward Tronick’s ‘still face experiment’ shows this in a penetrating way and one of the students broke down as a result – tears flowed. A fellow student put a comforting arm around the classmate and a third handed out handkerchiefs. We were all silent for a moment – ​​we paused to reflect on the grief of this human among us, without fixing, without talking, without judgment, but with a lot of compassion. There were more people who could barely bear these two minutes and I myself choked up, even though I’ve seen this video so many times. I can’t get used to it; it grabs me by the throat every time I watch it. I’m glad about that, actually. When you think about how many children have to endure this not just for two minutes, but day after day, year after year, the video is actually a horror movie. How can we be surprised about social dysfunction if we are not seen, heard, understood, if our questions and needs for attention and connection are not answered? It’s heartbreaking; that this student was so touched by the video means that their heart is open, that this person dares to let themselves be touched, that there is recognition (because otherwise it will not be so deeply touching). That also means that there is awareness and that efforts will be made to avoid the ongoing repetition of this pattern of emotional neglect.

After a discussion of stress, stress hormones, brain development and the short-circuiting that can occur in your mental network if the wiring is not done properly, we discussed how important the environment is. You are not merely individually responsible for your life and the development of your brain: you are part of a much larger system, such as your family, your neighbourhood, your city, your country, your continent. You can also rarely change everything on your own, because it is the interpersonal dynamics that partly determine how well or how badly you are capable of developing and persevering healthy behaviour.
That is why it is important to realise that behaviour is an expression of an emotion, which is an expression of an unmet need. Without insight into and satisfaction of that need, the emotion will not disappear and therefore probably the behaviour probably will neither.

And a very basic need remains: security. If this is missing, because there is no (parental) care or there is a lot of anxiety and aggression in a family, then toxic stress arises: chronic stress that affects all kinds of systems in the human body, including social functioning. We watched a video that impressively illustrates this in relation to a prison population. However, it also applies closer to home: as long as you don’t feel safe and secure, you will be hesitant to tell what touches you and why. Your silence can be difficult for someone else, but it can be part of your self-protection.
We ended by choosing a photo card that reflected something of how people envisioned their own future. Beautiful dreams and intentions emerged there, which is always great to hear.

The on-site evaluation? Inspiring, educational, interesting, informative, gained insight into how their own children function and what they need, became aware of the love for their children, and (for me the most moving): ‘realised that it is okay for me to have more compassion for myself’. That is amazing; that is where it starts, and then compassion for others will follow. Then you no longer have to say: “I have failed; I should have done better”, but you can conclude: “I did my very best with what I could and had, and I wish I could have offered more.” Then self-reproach turns to sorrow; then anger and frustration can turn into grief and a sense of loneliness. Then you can look for support, ‘holding space’ in which you are safe without judgment, so that the sharp edges can soften.
And if after so many beautiful things the question is posed whether I would like to come and teach more often, then of course there is only one possible answer: “Yes, I would love to!”


* For privacy reasons, I use gender neutral terms in this blog.

Learning from one another: a lesson about secure and insecure attachment

Whether I wanted to give a guest lesson at her school about secure and insecure attachment. She also had to take an exam for that subject and this could nicely be combined with my lecture. Although I did not yet have a picture of what an exam within a lesson would look like, I didn’t have to think long about the question: yes, of course I wanted to do that! ACE Aware NL lives for more awareness about attachment and trauma, so a guest lesson is completely in line with our mission. We scheduled an initial meeting to see what she needed from me and how I could support her in preparing for her share of the lesson. It was an elective subject in which experiential expertise plays an important role.

We made an appointment at the work location of her internship; the manager there had put me in touch with her, so this seemed like a suitable option for an introductory meeting. We shook hands, she made me a cup of tea and then we sat down at one of the tables in the small, cosy restaurant that is part of her work location. She looked at me inquiringly and expectantly, not quite sure what to expect from me. I started to ask about her education, about her background, about what she thought of the internship, about what she encountered in her work, about how she used her personal experiences there. I didn’t have to pull it out, shall we say. Once she realised that I really wanted to hear her story, she became wonderfully talkative. Before we knew it, it was high time to wrap up, as she had to go home, where her child was waiting for her. We made some arrangements about how to proceed and said goodbye.

In the days that followed, I sent her some video and reading suggestions. This subject and everything associated with it is so close to my heart that I may have inadvertently overwhelmed her a bit. She was very interested, but browsing everything turned out to be impossible, especially because the past still catches up with her, despite her hard work in the present for the benefit of her future. Although the home situation appeared to be fairly calm when we met, a few weeks later there was again ‘stuff going on’. That stuff demanded so much of her attention and had such a high priority that it put pressure on her studies. Nevertheless, we found time for another conversation and we went through how she could organise her exam part within my lesson. She quickly sent me her proposal with a PowerPoint and so I could build my share around it.

On the day of the lesson, there were eleven people: the teacher/mentor, eight students present live, one student online and myself. I opened with an icebreaker for the introduction. They have known each other for a while, but I wrote down a couple of questions to which they probably did not fully know each other’s answers. They worked in pairs and gave feedback in plenary, because the group was new to me. They had to introduce their neighbour to me and they sometimes noticed that it took some searching and thinking and inquiring to come up with all the details. After I had heard all the names, I explained how a range of attachment aspects immediately plays a role in such a small assignment. How well are you able to listen to the other person? Do you have peace of mind or is it all one big mess in there, because you have already started the day violently or because you are still tired from what happened yesterday? Can you keep your focus? Can you correctly retell what the other has shared with you? Or are elements creeping in that do not make sense? Do you understand what the other person is saying or do they somehow speak a language that you do not understand, literally or figuratively? Can you keep listening without judgment, even when you hear things that are strange to you or with which you disagree? All these aspects have a link with (in)secure attachment. They are about the set points you created in childhood for your stress regulation. Were you listened to? Were you understood? Was what you said well understood? Could they hear you without judgment? The less securely attached you are, the more difficult all these seemingly simple tasks often are.

One of the things that was discussed further in the lesson was filling in the ACE’s score form.
This is a list of the ten most common ACEs, although there are definitely more, as mentioned by one of the students. There are also versions that include racism, poverty, death of a parent, and violence of war. That is of course completely justified, because these events also have an enormous influence on child development.
Nevertheless, the list used today already provides a lot of guidance. The list contains ten ACEs, so your score can be a maximum of 10 if you add up all the times you answer yes.
Among these eight students, there were as many as two with a score of 8 and two with a score of 10.
I found it intense to hear the scores and find it intensely sad that there are so many children who start their lives with so much misery. How much happiness is not experienced as a result? How much potential remains un(der)developed? As a result, how much effort does it take people to build a fulfilling life? With such a start, how difficult is it not to be in constant conflict with yourself and others? It is great to see that these students have all found the courage and the opportunity to start a learning process again and to ‘exploit’ their own experiences in a positive way and to use them in the guidance of others with a ‘backpack’ filled with setbacks.

The matter was eagerly taken up, so we agreed on a follow-up lesson. I’m looking forward to it!
And the intern…? She got great feedback from her classmates, that she had made such progress, that she was so much more powerful than in a previous presentation, that she had touched her fellow students with her story, that she was considered brave for making herself so vulnerable through connecting the theory from the video she showed with her own sad experiences, that people had learned a lot and recognised themselves in what she had shared! The mentor was also full of praise and I had the honour to sign the form for her presentation as ‘second examiner’. When asked why she had performed so well this time, she replied that she had felt heard and seen and safe and secure during the preparation. Safe and secure… that oh-so-basic feeling, necessary to let your creativity and authenticity flow! I was touched by her words. For me, there was no exam form that had to be signed, but if there had been one, she could have signed it for me. I’m also not sure who learned more in this process: she and her classmates, or me. My thanks go to all in the group (no names, although I still know them from their introduction round), for the warm reception, the attention and the input and for the invitation for a follow-up. And most importantly, I take off my hat and bow to their guts and resilience!

From sharp edges to more softness

In the autumn of 2019, Victor Bodiut and Marianne Vanderveen made a plan for the start of ACE Aware NL. Their knowledge of physiology, psychology, anthropology, sociology, attachment, brain development, and neuroscience led them to understand the importance of a broad, compassionate view of the foundations of health and the role of adverse childhood experiences. The most recent neurophysiological insights deserve an important place in this. These show that the early social environment in particular has a significant influence on how we function and how our health develops. Every person is part of a larger community. Just as we cannot separate the mind from the body, we cannot separate the individual from the social context. That means that health is not simply an individual responsibility; it does not simply depend on whether we are now getting enough exercise and whether we are now eating healthy. Lifelong health largely finds its roots in childhood. Did we feel safe? Were we wanted, seen, heard, loved? Was attention paid to what we had to give the world with our unique personality? And what is the influence of poverty, education level, work pressure and discrimination on how our parents were able to guide us more or less well into adulthood? What about power relations? These are complicated issues that cannot be dismissed sharply and in black and white manner with: ‘Go exercise! Do not smoke or drink! Have fun!’ They require nuanced answers to uncomfortable questions. They deserve a boldly connecting, multicoloured approach.

Vic and Marianne were touched by the documentary film ‘Resilience’, which deals with these subjects. Fascinating conversations with psychologist and scientist Suzanne Zeedyk, one of the founders of the ACE awareness movement in Scotland, provided further encouragement to widely share the knowledge about ACEs in the Netherlands as well. Aspa Kandyli, with experience in education and knowledge in the field of baby sleeping behaviour and breastfeeding, joined ACE Aware NL. Due to her maternity leave, there was a need for another colleague and Petra Bouma, a nurse by origin and also a lactation consultant, babywearing consultant and birth trauma specialist, has been part of the team for a while now. Over the course of over two years, the project has grown a focus on powerful softness, on a genuine, non-judgmental curiosity about human stories.

When the world was confronted with major health challenges in the spring of 2020, it suddenly became even clearer how crucial a well-functioning immune system is. Many more pressing issues arose. What do you say to people when their health seems to be at risk? What tools do you offer to avoid illness? How do you deliver that message? How much space do you allow people to give their own interpretation to what they need (or think they need) to protect themselves against risks? What is the effect of the lack of contact with loved ones? What is the impact on mental health if activities that provide joy and meaning disappear? How do you interpret the way in which people deal with a crisis? What is the impact of fear?

Times of crisis, transition and transformation on the one hand call upon us to act decisively and proactively, to stand up for justice and for fundamental rights in the field of autonomy and freedom, both physical and mental. On the other hand, they also definitely ask for compassion and contemplation, to step back, to turn inward and reflect on what touches us and why it touches us. Do people react to what is happening in the present or to the memory in the present of the past?

Recently, the great relevance of the seven pillars under our mission has been strongly emphasised: connection, compassion, courage, curiosity, confidence, kindness and resilience. After all, ACEs are essentially also about crises, about childhood experiences that affected our sense of security and trust and that are associated with a higher risk of illness and problems. ACEs may seem primarily personal, but the personal can, as stated, seldom be separated from the social environment in which we are born, grow up and live.

In most cases, softness has a healing effect, especially when you experience the world as harsh: softness in the connection with others, softness in the absence of judgment about what you and the other person feel, choose and go through, softness also in how we colour the view of our ourselves, with the full palette of rainbow colours, and where necessary black and white and shades of grey in between.

The complexity of the past few years made us want to tailor the ACE Aware NL logo a bit more to the human need for softness and we therefore have a slightly rounder letter from now on. Furthermore, not everyone knows the meaning of the term ‘ACE’. We wanted the logo to explain this at a glance. In doing so, we not only wanted to highlight the sad side of ACEs, but also very consciously draw attention to the fact that ACEs are not a diagnosis, not a doomsday scenario for life. People are capable of much recovery, especially in an environment that sensitively deals with grief. In line with the impressive film ‘The Wisdom of Trauma‘, we have therefore given the A of ACEs an additional positive meaning: Awesome. After adverse ones you can gain wonderfully beautiful experiences, restoring the connection with yourself and others. In addition, the adverse experiences often entail developing a certain wisdom, ‘the wisdom of trauma’. With that experiential expertise you can be of very special significance to your close others and the world. Especially if you have done your own shadow work, you can look with compassion at the impact of trauma on human behaviour. That makes you an ‘awesome’ person, less ‘angular’, with less sharp edges, more ’rounded’ and fluid in your approach. That is also why the new font is a bit rounder.

Because we want to help raise social awareness about childhood, the word ‘Aware’ has been coloured from the beginning. The importance of this should be eye-catching! However, that colour will no longer always be red. Life is constantly changing and our mood changes colour regularly. The more we can heal grief from the past and let go of anger, the more playfully we can approach life. That multi-colouredness may stand in broad light and will be visible in various ways. (And yes… still working on updating the website with the new stuff… ;-))

We look forward to the time ahead, when we would like to visit you for a presentation with a film screening of ‘Resilience’, for a workshop or for a consultation. And do you want to tell us how you give the knowledge about ACEs a place in your work or personal life…? Let us know! We’d love to hear your story – feel invited and welcome!