What We Know by Helen Jones
Robert Redford’s son is a filmmaker and his latest film is called Resilience. Roughly it’s about the negative impact of difficult childhood experiences….which last a lifetime. He was inspired by research carried out in 1998 by Vincent Felitti and Robert Anda into adverse childhood experiences. Examples of these range from witnessing substance abuse; marital breakdown; family mental distress; conflict in the home; being shouted at; physically and / or sexually abused and on and on. These create stress in children which they do not have the capacity to manage. They often have no safe place or person to comfort them. This creates a lifetime of difficulties including learning difficulties; anxiety; depression and on and on. Artists and Writers often develop this theme in their work. I just read an excellent book by J.D. Vance called Hillbilly Elegy which discusses this with great clarity.
Why am I writing this? Why am I exercised enough to do this? Because I am a Psychotherapist and have been hearing about these experiences for over 20 yrs. And I think that we need to be more vocal about what we know and not leave it to writers and Filmmakers.
I am not interested in Blame. However, given what is known about child development going back as far as Freud, Melanie Klein, Winnicott, John Bowlby to mention only a few, we could expand our influence further than the practice room.
The two areas we could increase our influence and stimulate thinking is in Education and Parenting. There are no perfect parents. We all falter and make mistakes but I believe that if every person who becomes a parent had an opportunity to explore their own experience of childhood and how it might unconsciously affect how they parent, that would be a good thing. We may have the best of intentions as parents but it is impossible to deny the unconscious where our repressed and split off memories lie. Parents need support. Single Parents need extra support. Where is it? What are the priorities of our Politicians? Helping the Property Developers get richer for a start. Come on Psychotherapists!
Here’s my list for today:
Decent practical support for all parents no matter what family configuration they live in …. they are minding the future.
Education …for parents, present or future, in schools, colleges, church halls, communities, articles and cultural events.