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Robert D Stolorow Ph.D.

Failure to Protect

Neglect is a form of emotional trauma.

Over the course of a half-century of therapeutic practice, I have worked with a number of people who had suffered the horrors of physical abuse as small children. In most instances, the resulting experience of emotional trauma was composed of at least two dimensions. On one hand, there was the unspeakable devastation of the abuse itself. On the other, there was the experience of the non-abusive parent failing to provide protection from the abuse. Such emotional neglect—whether arising from indifference, obliviousness, weakness, or collusion with the abuser—is often even more devastating than the physical abuse itself.

The collective trauma of the tragic school massacre in Florida shows this same dual structure. First, of course, was the terrible massacre itself. Second is the failure on the part of our governmental authorities to respond protectively to the massacre and to the inevitable recurrence of such tragedy—by instituting gun control laws, for example. What is it like for the children of America to grow up in a country where the elders responsible for their safety show that they care more about protecting their wealth and donations than protecting them? (A similar question arises regarding the evasion of the impact of climate change on future generations ) Sending “thoughts and prayers” is an empty platitude. The insane suggestion to arm teachers would likely turn schoolyards into war zones. What is needed is genuine caring for the young in the form of strict regulations that make it much more difficult for would-be perpetrators to obtain dangerous weapons.

Copyright Robert Stolorow