Perpetuating Ableism in Treating Adult Children of Alcoholics

Based on a recommendation, I am currently reading The ACoA Trauma Syndrome: The Impact of Childhood Pain on Adult Relationships, by Tian Dayton, PhD. I would like to say that I find the book intimately enlightening, but I don’t. The book replicates and perpetuates an ableist ideology that is subsumed in western psychology (e.g. pp. 22-25) – treating people who have experienced childhood trauma as if they are psychologically and emotionally stunted; psychologically and emotionally stuck in childhood; psychologically and emotionally located lower on the developmental hierarchy.

I find this incredibly offensive in how it patronizes people. This offensive ideology needs to be re-examined through a divergent perspective. Through such a perspective, people who have experienced childhood trauma may have extreme emotions and may be prone to generalizations that result in dichotomous all or nothing thinking. However, these people have developed strategies for survival based on the various types of abuse they have faced throughout their lives. When people hurt you, people who are supposed to protect you, people who don’t know you, and everyone in between, over and over again, what is the most reasonable disposition to take towards people? You err on the side of caution and you immediately take everyone and every problem as a potential threat to your survival.

People who have experienced childhood trauma are not psychologically and emotionally stunted. They are people who have developed strategies for survival based on their experiences. They are people who have had to navigate and deal with adult issues at a very young age. They have developed habitual responses to the abuse and violence they experienced that have helped them survive. While these responses are not conducive to individual flourishing and developing healthy relationships, they are not childlike.

These people are not childlike. They are doing the immense work of self-reflectively examining their habitual responses by breaking down their thoughts, feelings and actions in order to reconstruct their psychological and emotional worlds. This is an ongoing process that will take the rest of their lives. The capacity for sustained self-reflective introspection is incredibly mature. More able-normative people ought to try it.

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