How to overcome Adverse Childhood Experiences

Maxine Harley (MSc)
Jul 8, 2015 · 4 min read

ACE’S HIGH — with high stakes!

Life is a gamble and for those of us who had Adverse Childhood Experiences it becomes even more so.

Image for post
Image for post

Social and health care research of 17,000 participants from 1995–97 looked at the link between the stress of childhood trauma and long-term physical and mental health, longevity and quality of life and social status. The original study into *Adverse Childhood Experiences (or A.C.E.) has since been followed up with similar results.

It seems that the odds are greatly stacked against us the higher our A.C.E. score is out of 10.

The 10 types of recurrent adverse childhood experiences studies are:

  1. Physical abuse
  2. Sexual abuse
  3. Emotional abuse
  4. Physical neglect
  5. Emotional neglect
  6. Loss of parent(s) — due to abandonment, separation, divorce or death
  7. Family member in prison
  8. Domestic violence
  9. Alcohol and/or drug use in the household
  10. Mental illness of a family member

(There were other categories of childhood trauma that weren’t included in the study— e.g. poverty and peer shame, being bullied, having chronic ill-health and hospitalisation as a child.)

At least 67% of people have an **A.C.E. score of at least 1 out of the 10 categories, and 25% of us have 4 or more.

It’s no surprise then that about 25% of people seek professional psychological help as teens and adults.

Frustratingly, therapy with children is by nature restricted — unless it involves the broader and deeper complex family system.

I have an A.C.E. score of 6, which is high, but I hope I’m proof that things can be changed and predicted outcomes averted. In my case that took years (and several thousand pounds worth) of therapy, as well as extensive psychotherapy practitioner training.

I’ve taken the long route and can now offer people a ‘short cut’ (I could have done with one of those myself decades ago!)

Image for post
Image for post

We’re probably all aware that the template for our adult lives was created in childhood, and that a lot of the time we react and behave ‘automatically’.

This is because we perceive, think, feel, speak and behave from our programmed sub-conscious belief system — our ‘auto-pilot’ mode — about 90% of the time!

This is resistant to being changed because it was created to keep you safe, to-toe-the-line, and follow the ‘shoulds’ that were imposed upon you as a young child.

It would have felt as if your very survival (at least in emotional terms) depended upon you following the rules, and wearing the masks of compliance and secrecy, that the family expected of you.

This old programming affects how you’ve dealt with stress, later traumatic experiences, loss and grief, any anticipated or feared rejection in your relationships, and the way you in turn parent your own children.

It also affects your lifestyle choices and your expectations of happiness.

The good news is that with awareness things can start to improve and a high A.C.E. score no longer means fewer throws of life’s dice.

When we chose to explore how we think, feel, speak, and behave — and more importantly the effect this has on people around us — then we can leave the gambling table with our pockets full of chips to share around!

I have created an acronym for the process we need to go through to recover from our A.C.E. score — I call it ‘S.E.L.E.C.T. Your Life’ © — and not to passively accept the live and the low ‘odds of success’ handed down to you…

S — Self Awareness

E — Education

L — Learning new skills

E — Emotional intelligence and balance

C — Control, clarity and choice

T — Transformation

My own approaches have this overarching aim and structure — to help you to move from being the victim of the whims of the dice to being the one who plays the table to your own advantage and becomes a winner!

* and


Image for post
Image for post

Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy)


— where you’ll find LOTS OF FREE RESOURCES — to help with your own therapeutic self-development.

For those wanting to heal and recover from having had a troubled childhood and a toxic parent, you’ll find a FREE e-booklet called ‘How To S.H.I.E.L.D Yourself’ to get you started on your path to recovery.

— helping women to understand and manage their emotions, boundaries and behaviours — and to FEEL better, so they can BE, DO and HAVE better in their lives!

Originally published at on July 8, 2015.

Thrive Global

More than living. Thriving.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface.

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox.

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store