This week I had the unique privilege of speaking with David Carr.
I think the title of his expose, We Can Overcome: An American Trauma, says so much.
It speaks to what happens to a lot of kids (and adults), and it simply describes their day to day lives. Terribly.
This whole topic is enough to make anyone crazy.
Sometimes I wonder that I actually have a podcast dedicated specifically to this subject.
As some of you know, I recently left my full-time job at a clinic.
I loved the work. (Though I wanted desperately to launch full-time into my own work here.)
At the clinic we would assess and treat kids who were showing early signs of psychosis.
Part of the job was to do initial phone assessments.
Parents or teacher or therapists would call wanting to refer a kid.
We’d go through the list of questions. For example, some of the topics were:
Academic functioning?–usually a decline.
Social functioning?–usually a decline.
Participation in sports?–usually a decline.
Any medical issues going on?–sometimes.
Odd behavior? e.g. hearing strange noises or voices, and/or odd or suspicious thoughts?–Yes.
And the list would go on.
And almost always–in fact, I don’t think I can think of a time when there wasn’t–there was an experience of trauma, and this would run the gamut.
Once the caller had talked about what was going on, whether it was bullying, or verbal or sexual abuse, or witnessing to domestic violence from an early age–you’d look at the list of symptoms and then the puzzle of this young kid’s life would kind of come into view.
“Of course, this is what’s going on,” you’d think, to yourself. “How could it not?!”
Of course the kid would be:
acting out in class
isolating from his friends and family
and on and on and on
Then about a week later the young kid would come in for the assessment and it would be just a normal looking kid.
Just a kid.
Smiling, listening to the music on their phone, or reading a book.
Doing these calls over and over again, I finally got to the point where I said, “What the hell is going on?!”
And that was one of the reasons I began The Trauma Therapist Project and The Trauma Therapist | Podcast.
To try to bring some awareness to this craziness.
David’s story and life reminded me of my experience at that clinic.
His expose is riveting, and at times hard to read, and yet also inspiring and empowering.
As a boy, David heard the stories of what his father endured as a boy: Fists appearing like unexpected rain, kicks in the side, and nails in his skin. But Carr’s father never set a hand on him.
The cycle of abuse, however, was not broken: David suffered mental and physical abuse from the people that were supposed to protect him. As an adult, he realizes that his continuing mental anguish was self-inflicted.
In challenging himself to see his life in a new way, David realized that the story of his childhood trauma did not consist of what happened to him, but rather the way he responded to what happened.
This realization set the stage for him to embark on a transformative journey—one that began as a terrified child—but has since included him as a mixed martial artist, the vice chairman of The Joyful Child Foundation, as an advocate for children’s rights nationwide, and David has built two successful international companies. He lives in a Southern California ranch style home with his wife of twenty years and three children.
I loved speaking with David. His strength and courage are pretty palpable, and so too is his recognition and acceptance of his vulnerability.