SELF-HATE & ACoAs (Part 1)


so I have to be perfect to make up for it


REMINDER: See ACRONYM page for abbrev.

SELF-HATE is the #1 deterrent to growth for all ACoAs.
It undermines our ability to function well, to have self-esteem & to be happy. Some people call it being ‘hard on yourself”, but it’s much more than that.  It’s so pervasive in the inner world of many ACoAs, that we don’t even know we have it & if confronted, vehemently deny it.
BUT the symptoms are all there, starting with a persistent nagging anxiety.

✶ In Childhood: being thoroughly convinced that everything bad that happen to us as kids was our fault, that we caused our own pain!
✶ In Adulthood: continuing from the past, we believe in our very cells that anytime we feel hurt, suffer a loss, get ignored, can’t get something we want, have something taken away, have to wait for something … that it’s because we are bad, don’t deserve, did something wrong , failed to do something, don’t have a right to it – anyway …

ALL self-hate is a LIE
✶  it’s a defense mechanism to deny our feelings of abandonment. This a crucial point:
S-H tries to cover-up all our abandonment painScreen Shot 2016-06-11 at 9.59.59 PM
• it’s a form of narcissism (ours) – making everything about US, when it rarely is.  We make other people’s bad behavior our fault & our responsibility
• it’s an attempt at feeling in control, to cover our intense sense of powerlessness & vulnerability
• S-H can be expressed in all 3 T.E.A. categories:
Ts: “I caused their accident, since I asked them to come visit me”
Es: “I feel bad & really scared they won’t like me since I spoke up”
As: staying with abusive people, not taking care of ourselves, not pursuing our dreams, not speaking up….

One of the characteristics on the ACoA Laundry List is being Over-Responsible, a symptom of FoA & S-H. What make S-H different from taking healthy, balanced Responsibility?
R.  is to acknowledge the reality of having our T. E & As – or not. It’s straightforwardly owning up, which can sound like: “Yes, I did that” (A), or ‘No, I can’t handle this” (A), or “No, I don’t agree with that”(T) , or “Yes, I love this” (E), etc.
S-H, on the other hand –
• can prevent us from admitting to any flaws, for fear of abandonment & because of feeling shame, OR
•  it can make us confess to wrongdoing even when we are in fact blameless.

In either case, what’s underneath is an unspoken Toxic Lie which is tacked on to legitimate responsibility, categorically stating:self-scolding
“I did / didn’t — and THEREFORE I’m Bad!”, no matter what the topic or truth is . This add-on is implied but at the core of out self-image.
ACoAs will take any opportunity to beat themselves up, even about good things!
“Yes, I did forget to sent the letter out today, & therefore I’m bad”
“No, I can’t do that for you, so therefore I’m bad”
“Yes, I went to the show without asking you, so therefore I’m bad”
“No, I haven’t ‘grown’ perfectly or as fast as I should & therefore I’m bad”… etc.

This is NOT what ‘taking responsibility’ means.

a. In Childhood:
i. Being abused, abandoned, mistreated, neglected by our parents & other caretakers.
✶ To any small child, parents are experienced as all-powerful gods. Gods are supposed to take care of us & only punish for good cause or to teach lessons, SO when we’re continually hurt by these gods we concluded that we somehow deserved it!

They let us know we were “unacceptable, stupid, weak, selfish, ugly, ungrateful, unlovable, lazy, a pain in the a@@, good for nothing”….. We clearly got these messages:
• INDIRECTLY, by all the ways they did not patiently, lovingly nurture & take care of us, guide, listen, mirror, be good role models…
• DIRECTLY, by saying things like : “You’ll be the death of me yet” “Why did I have to have a kid like you?”, “No one’s ever going to love you”,  “You’ll never amount to anything” “Kids always lie”….

ii. OUR OWN child-centered point of view: all kids think the whole world revolves around them & have the universal power to make everything happen – good, bad or iself-blamendifferent.  Therefore, when bad things happen to us at home, or to anyone else in the group (like our parents getting divorced), we’re convinced we must have caused it / been somehow responsible.  In the child’s ‘logic’:
• If WE were bad, then any suffering / punishment / verbal abuse…. we experienced of course would ‘fit the crime’. RESULT: we should work even harder to win back their good graces, or just give up & BE bad.

• BUT if we tried really hard to be good and still were neglected / belittled / manipulated / battered / violated / tortured….  – then we concluded it was our very essence that was at fault & therefore hopeless!
RESULT: there was nothing we could do to fix that, which could only end in intense rage, depression & a wish to be dead.

EXP: A young woman was in an ACoA group therapy. She was a very intelligent lawyer, somewhat stiff & all logic, but she knew she was sitting on a lot of rage at her repressive parents, who lived in another state. She admitted she was terrified to express those feelings out loud in the group, & never did, because her WIC was convinced that simply letting that rage out (here) would literally kill them (there) – at a distance.

NEXT: SELF-HATE & ACoAs (Part 2)


11 thoughts on “SELF-HATE & ACoAs (Part 1)

  1. This is a great post, and I’m thrilled to have found your blog (as well as your Recovery site and resources mentioned on your About page).
    I’d love to post a link to this on my blog, Guess What Normal Is ( — especially as I recently posted on feelings of worthlessness that can sometimes strike ACoAs and how to manage that head-on. My readers would relate.
    I look forward to your future posts. It’s great to see more positive-spin out there.
    All best,


  2. Thanks. It’s so good to connect with others who understand. I read some of your posts – they’re great! I identify with many. I love your visual language. I’ll add you to my blogroll.


  3. BUT if we tried really hard to be good and still were belittled/manipulated/battered…then we concluded it was our very essence that was at fault & therefore hopeless. There was nothing we could do to fix that, which could only end in intense rage, depression & a wish to be dead.

    This describes what happened to me living with my dad in high school. I still very much carry feelings that something is wrong with my very essence. The blanket only made it worse (even God rejected me). And mom’s treatment of me pre 14 has always lived inside of me telling me something is wrong with my essence. I’m telling my WICS right now, “There is nothing wrong with you”. I rarely tear up but this makes my eyes well a tiny bit – then I close down.


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