I’M ALL ALONE
I’m desperate, but no one is safe!
The ACoA DIS-EASE
In order to know how to heal ourselves, we must first know our wounded part as thoroughly as possible*. Our childhood damage is housed in the Adapted Child, who is intensely loyal to family & culture.
➼ Remember, we are DAMAGED, NOT Defective. Damage can be healed.
✶ Learning about & connecting with our Inner Child is not a waste of time & effort, or wallowing in the past, as some people believe. It IS a means of breaking thru our denial about how traumatic our childhood was. If there is any doubt, we simply have to look at the areas in our present life that don’t work to tell us how our family (& other sources) damaged us.
• To heal we need to know specifically what our negative thoughts are telling us, because it is the basis of all self-defeating behavior patterns. These toxic beliefs are our version of our family & community, called the Negative Introject. So no matter how much we may ‘know’ about our past, we need to do deep emotion release work as well as correct our beliefs. Otherwise the old pain we’ve stored up from the past will keep driving to ‘people, places & things’ whenever our buttons get pushed (wounds get activated).
HOW DID WE GET LIKE THIS?
While growing up, kids are never supposed to be in fully in charge of themselves or other family members. This only happens in dysfunctional families, sometimes out of necessity, but mostly because the parent(s) are not mature themselves.
• ACoAs were both criminally neglected AND forced to be hyper-functional (also a type of abuse: not allowed to just be a kid). It left us terrified & confused. There was so much we were never taught & had to figure out by ourselves, the best we could. We managed to survive, but now we always feel incompetent & like frauds!
We had to ‘raise ourselves’ because:
• the focus was on the drinking, fighting, chaos, rage ….
• there was only one parent & she (usually) was working, depressed….
• mother had 1 or more boyfriends /mates, who were always more important than the kids
• being the eldest (the Hero) meant being the parent substitute – for younger kids & sometimes for a non-functioning parent
• one parent was absent & we had to take over some of the ‘adult’ responsibilities
• we were expected to grow up very fast – be ‘little adults’- so they didn’t have to deal with us
• parents were only interested in each other & we were mostly ignored
• one parent or sibling had a serious mental &/or physical disability, so we were left to fend for ourselves
• parents were too overwhelmed by their own difficulties to notice us… (Fill in your own experiences)
• there was constant physical upheaval – moving, loss of jobs, trouble with the law, school, neighbors..
ACoAs, not fortunate enough to have grown up in safe, nurturing homes, learned to survive by the skin of our teeth, using every T.E.A. ‘trick’ we could come up with. If we made it into adulthood, more or less in one piece, it was because our adapted child (AC) found a way to do that, with a little help from a friend, relative or random adult.
• Our Natural Child (NC), always in the background, contributed our native personality to the mix, but most of the time in distorted forms.
• We learned very early that no ‘close’ adults were safe to trust, but unfortunately we internalized them as the Negative Introject (PP) & ended up carrying the danger with us.
WIC in charge
As a result, we never learned to be Healthy Adults or Loving Parents (The UNIT) to ourselves – our role models being mainly other people’s PP and WIC! So when ACoAs become adults, our Wounded Inner Child, in symbiotic slavery to the Bad inner Parents, is still the main persona running our life, in the form of the False Self.
It has kept us alive all this time, AND since it has no better inner parent to rely on, it is not going to let go just because we ask it to! It wants to stay in charge, not change anything or give up its hard-won control – no matter how unsuccessful & unhappy it makes us!
• is stubbornly loyal to the family, even if it kills us
• has learned to trust no one, even people who seem OK
• doesn’t really know what it’s doing, because it’s always faking it
• is in endless terror, (consciously or not) accumulated from birth – on
• is wrapped in self-hate & shame, smothering the Natural Child
✶ AND – is secretly very proud of it’s ability to survive the odds, which gives it a strong determination to keep the reins of power!
These are some of the reasons that Recovery is so long & difficult.
HOW do we find out WHAT our damage is?
• Al-Anon & ACoA 12-Step meetings – daily on the phone & internet, in person where possible
• ACoA therapist (phone sessions, if necessary)
• learn the 2-handed IC dialogue writing (“Recovery of your Inner Child” by Lucia Cappachione)
• do visualizations & inner dialogues, read any of the John Bradshaw & other relevant books (HEAL & GROW website Book List)
• write down all self-hating thoughts, every day, until you can FEEL how wrong they are!
• book-end with the IC before & after any activity that’s you find uncomfortable
• list every Toxic Rule that applies to you & do as much inventory writing as you can – how was it expressed in your family & how do you act it out in your current life?
• whenever possible, talk to family & friends about what happened, but don’t force anyone who’s not ready or willing
✶ STAY AWAKE for the emotional repercussions of your old behavior & choice of companions. If it always leaves you feeling bad, it’s time for a change!
NEXT: Our Wounded INNER CHILD (Part 2)