life is full of pain
PREVIOUS: ACoAs & being Visible
REMINDER: See ACRONYM page for abbrev.
This is another use of T.E.A. (Thought, Emotions & Actions ). Most ACoAs grow up convinced we’re crazy! We say we feel crazy or we’re going crazy or we afraid of being crazy.
Well, ACoAs are NOT actually crazy, but we came to believe it because, while our observations & emotions told us that a lot was serious wrong with family, school, church… most of the grown-ups kept telling us our opinions were way off base & anyway we were the bad ones.
✶ In Recovery we’re learning that we were (mostly) right about them all along!
Cognitive Distortions (CDs) identify those habitual thought patterns which are incorrect & therefore harmful. We have the ability to think more accurately, but need to be taught.
NOW, ‘crazy’ is believing what our S-H is telling us, along with other kinds of “stink’n think’n” which scare us – even to the point of panic attacks, like: “What if I fail the test / he doesn’t call back/ I can’t get there / they won’t listen …. OMG, I can’t take it!”
✓ This chart indicates a dysfunctional ACoA way of reacting to our experiences, rather than responding from a healthy inner core. It’s how millions of ACoAs are like before Recovery & many even during, before doing enough FoO work. The middle circle is where the CDs live.
• Some of us will stay in abusive relationships, be walking depressives, have constant anxiety, be at odds with everyone OR seem very normal & functional on the outside …. but, internally, all have at least some distorted beliefs about what is going on around us
• When things happen that bother us (event = Action), we start obsessing, trying to figure out what, why & how (conclusions = Thoughts) & what we’re going to do about it – even if we never actually do anything! (As)
• What gets ignored are our Emotions (Es) because even when overwhelmed by them, our early training automatically kicks in. We deny what we feel & so don’t take them into account.
1. EVENT (Stimulus)
Growing up with emotional & physical stress, ACoAs are hyper-alert to our environment. We have big antennae to catch even a whiff of danger, a hundred miles off – whether potentially real or projected from our past! We also have a camera over one shoulder, judging everything we say, do, think & feel.
This constant pressure leaves many of us with only 2 options:
– Hyper-vigilance: the ACoAs who are anxious, worried, controlling, touchy, paranoid, always looking around, easily taking offense
– Vagueness: other ACoAs seem to be so out-to-lunch that you wouldn’t think they were over-attentive, but internally they are, and it’s why these people need to be flaky – they’re under the same overwhelming internal tension, but it’s split off from their own awareness
Some sources of hyper-vigilance: Up late even on school nights, waiting anxiously to hear what state dad was in, coming home – how did the car sound, how hard was the front door slammed, how heavy were the footsteps, which room was he going into…? was there going to be a fight – yelling, hitting – or worse, a ‘visit’ to your bed…? trying to sleep with one foot on the floor, hating mornings, knowing you’d be a mess at school the next day, as usual & then being constantly worried…
• Never doubt that we are excellent observers. We notice things others miss, monitoring what we & others say or do – all the time. And we are usually spot on – about the actual occurrence.
Where we go wrong is in our ‘understanding’ of the situation – outlined in the next posts. This ability developed as a survival mechanism in childhood so we could anticipate potential trouble, to know how to manage it. Of course, in an alcoholic, violent, narcissistic, neglectful or cruel family – managing never actually worked. We always lost out, no matter how clever or careful we tried to be.
NEXT: Noticing painful events (Part 2)