The Trauma of America: What's America's ACE Score?

Scared, Helpless, Hopeless, Loss, Weight, Fear, Uncertainty, Disappointment, Anger, Paralyzed 

These are all the words that my body has stored over the last several days.  

As I sat down on Monday to record my weekly video blog, I just couldn’t follow through. 

It’s taken me days to really realize what I’m experiencing and even find words.  

And, even in this moment, I find it easier to write than to talk. I cannot articulate, out loud, what’s  occurring, internally and externally 

So, I write.  

Let me set this up for you.  

On New Year's Eve, I was sitting on a couch in Denver at the home of one of my dearest friends (also a clinician). We had just watched the ball drop. There was music and dancing and laughter and toasts. I was taking it all in. Feeling the excitement of a new year with new energy.  

I was so thankful that I was at this particular home: with the bi-lingual conversation, the multiple colors of people, the various socioeconomic groups. All landing in the same place, at the same time, to experience the same moment.  

In that exact moment, I received this text message from one of my deployed people, "yeah shit is really starting to heat up over here." I immediately got online and saw the assault on the US Embassy in Iraq. 

It was a vortex. A moment that stopped in time. One of those experiences where you know something extremely significant had just happened.  

And yet, the party went on.  

It was a moment in MY time that was extremely significant in MY life. No one else in the room was experiencing the same thing.  

The beauty of being a therapist is that we have many therapist friends. My dear friend, whose home I was at, noticed a shift. She immediately checked in with me. I shared the message with her. She hugged me and reassured me, “You know, Stace, you can do whatever you need to in this moment. Take a break, leave, go lay down, cry. Just let us know how to support you.” I was deeply gracious and thankful for her empathy and connection.  

Then, the moment was over. But, the weight of the moment was still left, in a space of my heart I didn’t even know existed 

In the coming days, we would hear and see President Trump’s order to kill the Iranian military leader, Qasem Soleimani. We would see Iran’s response with missiles dropped on Iraqi bases with US troops. All the while holding space and wonder for what these events meant for the world.  

Fast forward to yesterday.  

Yesterday, I was finally able to identify the myriad of feelings I was having. They are all listed above.  

Then, I had this major revelation of why this is all so intense and deep for me.  

As an empath, I normally carry the weight of the world. But, this, this just feels different. The revelation: I am carrying the Trauma of America. We all are. And we are perpetuating it and not healing it.  

The reality: America has an ACE score of 10. So do other countries in the world.  

What does that even mean? ACE stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences. Check out to find out more information. Basically, the more adverse childhood experiences we have during our development, the more resiliency/protective factors we will need to offset those experiences so we can be healthy. A higher ACE score is directly correllated with physical and mental health.  

Sure, America is not a person. Yet, we are an entity of people. A group. A community. A country.  

If you take the 10 questions ACE survey, you will see that America has experienced all of these things. Hence, our ACE score of 10.  

So, what do we do to heal? To overcome? To move forward in a healthy way and not perpetuate the generational atrocities that we continue to carry on? 

I think these are the questions I landed on the last couple days. 

1. We have to acknowledge the Trauma of America.  

This may be the hardest step. It means getting real and honest about what’s occurred in our history. It means facing the hard truths that we are not proud of. It means acknowledging the choices of our ancestors that have done harm that impacts so many generations of humans who are currently trying to live together in America. It means discussing slavery and the slaughter of Native Americans. It means talking about the discrimination of women and the hatred that LGBTQ+ humans have experienced. It means we have to talk about the history of immigration and all that comes from generations of people who have worked hard to get to America and stay in America.  

That’s just part of the list. There’s so much more. There’s our war history-every war that we have participated since our American Independence. Each of those stories are passed on from generation to generation. My list is definitely not all-inclusive. I know that I have missed so much. It’s not intentional. It’s just overwhelming and I’m still processing it all. These thoughts of mine are ever evolving. And yet, just this mini-list carries the weight of the Trauma of America. Just acknowledging the trauma of humanity won’t be enough to heal our Country, but it will be a start. 

2. We have to own our own actions within our various circles of influence. 

What does that even mean? It means that I have acknowledged the above and now I have to change the narrative in all the roles I have. As a woman, a mom, a single mom, a divorcee, an ex-wife, a girlfriend, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a colleague, a social worker, a therapist, a speaker, an author, a Soldier, a female Soldier, an Officer, a military family, a granddaughter, a cousin, a niece, an entrepreneur, a business owner, a home owner, a voter, a citizen, an American.  

My roles are many and varied. Each one brings me into contact with others who are different than me and have their own roles and their own journeys. When I start to realize that the experience between myself and someone else carries the Trauma of America, I can relate with compassion and work to create a positive moment in time for both of us, even if we are working through hard things. 

3. We have to be curious about others’ experiences.  

One of my favorite qualities is the gift of curiosity. Curiosity gives us permission to pursue interest in others, their experiences, and their world perspective. When I meet someone who has a completely different experience than I do, I can seek answers and understanding through curiosity. It allows us to see the world through others’ eyes and have perspective on an experience that may be totally different than the world with which we live.

4. We have to engage in difficult, differing discussions with mutual respect.  

Social media has taught me that we are quick to offer our opinion with a snapshot meme and zero insight or discussion. This is so damaging to our skillset of discussing important topics. We’ve also sent huge messages that we should not discuss religion, politics, or sex at family events or around the dinner table. That has done all of a disservice. We can no longer engage in meaningful discussions that lead to a deeper understanding of someone else’s view.  

We are also doing a disservice to the children and teens around us who are listening to our conversations or following us on social media. We have to do better at opening a door for the hard conversations and modeling the skill set of seeking information to understand, not sharing information to convince.  


Here we are. A new year. A new decade. Welcome to 2020.  

We are contemplating world events. We are offering judgement based on the labels that with which we associate. Are you a Democrat or Republican? Are you a feminist? Are you pro-choice? Are you against immigration?  

All of these hot topic questions and labels perpetuate a culture of divisiveness. They are toxic and full of Judgy McJudgerton.  

At the end of the day, I am thankful to be an American. Because I have the freedom to talk about the Trauma of America. I have the freedom to be curious. I have the freedom to disagree with the beliefs of my Commander in Chief and my best friends. I have the freedom to change my mind when I gain more understanding.  

After a week of carrying the Trauma of America, I will close my eyes tonight and know that tomorrow I get to wake up with the choice of whether I will contribute to the healing of America or perpetuate the Trauma of America.  

Be sure to drop me an email at [email protected] and tell me how your contributing to the Healing of America!

I am proud to be an American,


P.S. For everyone who replies, I will put you in for the weekly drawing!

(Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash)

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