TO RISK OR NOT TO RISK - That is the question
REMINDER: See ACRONYM page for abbrev.
Basic MEANING of RISK
Most people only use the term to mean a situation where there’s the possibility of harm, misfortune or loss.
However, there are 2 other possible outcomes – that of a positive outcome (pleasure, accomplishment & success) OR a neutral / acceptable result.
Conversely, it may seem obvious that if the outcome in known ahead of time or predictable based on previous information, then Risk is no longer a factor. But this is not so simple for ACoAs – because of our very deep denial system. We continually ignore things we do know, from years of experience, returning to dangerous situations or staying connected to harmful people, so we keep getting burned & wonder why we don’t trust!
In general, the most common considerations of Risk are:
• dealing with something or someone who is a known source of danger
• a chosen venture undertaken without regard to possible loss or injury
• being exposed to the chance of damage or injury, not of our choice
EMOTIONAL / PSYCHOLOGICAL
• a situation which may result in suffering shame, humiliation, being misunderstood, accused wrongly, being manipulated & used ….
• a factor, thing, element or course of action involving uncertain, unpredictable discomfort or distress
• the possibility that something unpleasant or unwelcome might happen beyond ones control
FOR ACoAs – These basic definitions include “uncertain / possible / chance of…” , which means that there’s more than one possible outcome – but not for ACoAs. WE believe that all risk is bad & will result in guaranteed harm – since we grew up in a physically & emotionally dangerous family & community. We are trained to assume that that’s the way life is, forever – at least for US! It’s so ingrained we don’t even know it’s what we think.
EXP: One man’s cold, abusive mother often told him that the world is a jungle, a survival of the fittest – the weak (him) are eaten by the strong (her) & no matter how big you think you are, there’s always someone bigger & badder who will get you! Naturally he grew up to be very timid.
Also, we were punished equally for big or small infractions of ‘rules’, many of which made no sense or were unspoken! This would make us avoid taking normal actions, much less branching out to try something important (to us) or more unusual.
As a result, it is common for ACoAs to:
– not know or a afraid to acknowledge what we think, feel or want
– not be able to make simple ‘I like, I want’ decisions
– put equal weight on all types of situations, regardless of their actual significance – an expl of B & W thinking (a C.D.)
This is exactly how many of us were treated – if we spilled something, made noise, cried, broke even something small, talked to a boy, got too excited – we were punished as harshly as if we had killed someone! (See Toxic Rules)
ACoA issues around risk-taking are always about that internal anxiety.
One of the characteristics on the Laundry List is: “We have become addicted to (negative) excitement after years of living in the midst of a traumatic & often dangerous family ‘soap opera’.” (pgs. 3 – 6, SiteMap).
ALL ACoAs are fear-based*. We usually say we have anxiety, but it’s Inner Child terror we bring with us into adulthood, & underlies every aspect of our life. This anxiety is what drives all our character defects, our acting out, our addictions – anything we feel we don’t have control of.
✶ This does not negate or ignore all of us in long-term recovery – our anxiety level may have gone way down – or not – but the terror-base is very deep. The intensity no longer as strong & not all the time, if we’ve been doing emotion-release work, but some level of fear will still be there. It can grab us in the gut if or when some combination of current events set it off again. The difference is, or should be – that we have years of experience in dealing with life from a healthy place & the tools to take care of ourselves, when our old buttons get pushed. (Use Book-ending)
• So – while some of us became adrenalin junkies other became some risk-allergic! (Yes, I know, one can be a combo…)
BTW – This is why the ‘Serenity Prayer’ (pg. 68 from sitemap) is so important for ACoAs — because we get things backwards. We keep trying to do the impossible & have trouble doing what is possible! We’re not sufficiently afraid of some very dangerous ‘people, places & things’ while being overly scared of things that are not actually harmful (like having our feelings)! Lets look at both types, The Risk averse & the Risk addicted.
CONTROL: Being controlling (as opposed to being in control) is the opposite of any type of risk-taking – which inherently implies unpredictability. That’s why ACoAs try so hard to be mind-readers. Because ACoA are fear-based, to us all risk is bad, so we scramble to control every outcome, to ensure that ‘people, places & things’ don’t abandon us – yet again.
NEXT: Risk Averse & Addicted