Our brain is the most complex entity in the known universe. This compact organ’s capacity for adaptation is unparalleled; in fact, neuroplasticity (i.e. the capacity of our brain to adapt and compensate) is now widely recognized as an inherent, lifelong feature.
From before the time we are born, our brain organizes into distinct sections that serve specific but interconnected tasks. For example, the nucleus accumbens and amygdala work in cooperation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex to help us make decisions that weigh both potential gain and risk. Some of these tasks determine the intensity to which we respond to certain stimuli
About 50% of our behaviours are determined by our genes, while about 40% of those behaviours are responses to our circumstances (roughly 10% is discretionary, or dependent on attitude or outlook).
During developmental years, early experiences help shape our brain architecture, which impacts our future tendencies. Psychologists have identified a list of 10 Adverse Childhood Experiences that negatively impact brain development; while it is normal to experience about 1-2 of these, anyone with four or more is considered at higher risk for developing unhealthy coping strategies.
Categories of Adverse Childhood Experiences
- Emotional Abuse
- Physical Abuse
- Sexual Abuse
- Emotional Neglect
- Physical Neglect
- Family Violence
- Household Substance Abuse
- Household Mental Illness
- Parental Separation or Divorce
- Household Member Incarceration
Why are Adverse Childhood Experiences important to consider?
When we judge people’s behaviours and identify someone as more “resilient” or “adaptable”, do we consider whether or not the person was traumatized as a child? How might this have impacted the individual’s perception of self and the world, and therefore impacted the conscious and subconscious choices that they make?
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