NEGATIVE BENEFITS of Damaging Patterns (Part 3)


I’d rather do it my way!

PREVIOUS:   Negative Benefits (Part 2)

SEE posts:Denial & Acting out
The UNIT: Healthy Adult, Loving Parent”


Why do we keep forgetting what we’ve learned in Recovery?  Because ACoAs have a powerful built-in forgetter, pounded in place by our family. We can hear the same thing over & over, & still…. So, when clients are asked* some of the basics of ACoAs damage & recovery, such as:
a. “What is self-hate & why did we develop it?”
b.  “What do we need to have in place in order to have good boundaries?”
c. “How does this relate to your childhood?”
d. “Why do you need to stay vague about your finances?” …..
…. they often give a blank stares & a shrug, even after years of program & therapy!

• ACoAs are not stupid people.  In spite of ADD, depression, hormone imbalances or other issues – we remember lots of other things – like how to do our jobs, how to surf the web, how to buy a house or car, how to expend lots of futile energy giving great advice to friends, lovers, family – that we don’t use for ourselves ….. but NOT what we’ve learned about our own damage OR about mental health!  adults-acting-childish
(IMAGE: adults acting like school kids  —>)
So if we want to grow, it’s very important to keep looking for the unhealthy payoffs (same as NB) behind our self-defeating patterns.

ANSWERs to the above Qs :

a. If we did understand what S-H is truly about, it would be harder & harder to maintain. THEN we’d have to deal with the intense pain & rage of the many ways we were neglected, abused & abandonment by our family.
NB: to keep all that swept under the rug – locked away in a room in our unconscious.  The kid thinks that if you ignore something scary, it doesn’t exist.  Too bad it doesn’t work that way

b. To have good boundaries we need to:
1) Know what our needs are
2) Give ourselves permission the actually have those need
3) To actively go about meeting those needs, a day at a time.  It would mean disobeying fundamental Toxic Rules, taking care of ourselves, not staying a victim (which we were originally) & stop waiting to be rescued
NB: Not having to be in charge of our own life – not ‘growing up’ emotionally, & facing angry or fearful reactions from our family & ‘friends’ if we were to get better (we think it prevents getting abandoned – but that has already happened by those people!)S-H

c. Identifying how each problematic situation / relationship / emotion / pattern – in our life mirrors our childhood (S-H), would mean having to face what our parents were really like, what they did to us, what they didn’t provide….which we can see reflected in how we treat ourselves now.  We’d have to break many illusions & feel the deep hurt & longing of our early years
NB: Not having to look at these realities on a deeper level (even when we think we’ve deal with these issues or that we already know all about what happened)

d. To stop being vague about anything (our finances, time, our emotions, our knowledge…) means identifying the Toxic Messages we’re still obeying, feeling the old terror & having to take full responsibility for our actions in the present. (S & I = becoming your own person, the one you were born to be, minus your damage!)
NB: Not knowing how bad it was at home, not dealing with our accumulated old pain, not having to separate from the dysfunctional system we grew up in — which the WIC thinks means abandoning them, & us being alone forever!

• willingness & capacity to re-experience childhood emotional pain (“If it’s hysterical, it’s historical”)
• the right kind of therapy, recovery programs, books, support systems – to understand what actually happened back then (validation)
• COURAGE, and great patience to chip away at our damage, slowly over time

• Find out what our defensive strategies are. They’re so enmeshed in our every waking moment it’s hard to see them. “Does a fish know it’s wet?”
• learn healthy, alternative ways of getting our needs met, & then practice them a little at a time
• “Stick to the plan” when the going gets tough. No one grows in a straight line. There are always detours, regressions & delays. We may:
— hit a plateau when it doesn’t seem like anything is changing. This can just be a needed rest – even if it takes months
— we may change strategies – try different forms of therapy, spirituality, supportive groups ….
— stop working on ourselves completely for a time (hopefully not years), to deal with starting a family, career changes, illness & death….. OR simply from running awaycourage

• develop the “UNIT”  (Healthy Adult/Parent”) which can then form a loving relationship with the Inner Child/Children (wounded & healthy) to create trust & safety
• gradually give up our self-hate (in thoughts & actions). Since our most rigid defenses are basically S-H, many of them will diminish as we value ourselves, because they won’t be needed to hold down that old hidden information & pain.

• grow appropriate boundaries, to keep us from getting enmeshed & others from stepping on us
• have some type of spiritual practice, to calm & sustain us
➼ AND – remember that all of this takes a lifetime to unravel.  Be Patient & Loving toward yourself in the PROCESS.  We know it’s hard to give up our old ways! None of them go away completely but the Positive Benefits of growth begin to outweigh the damage, so we feel better & live better!

NEXT: “What just happened” Part 1


3 thoughts on “NEGATIVE BENEFITS of Damaging Patterns (Part 3)

  1. Donna…. the notion of a Negative Benefit makes perfect sense. There is an inticement that motivates us to certain behaviours. An inticement that we perceive as value. Speaking as an alcoholic, I got a negative benefit from drinking. I got momentary reprieve from the torment in my head.

    Peace brought about by alcohol consumption could be isolated from the hurtful parts of this indulgence, it would indeed be a benefit. Unfortunately for us alcoholics and problem-drinkers, the negative cannot be divorced from the positives. They come only as a package. So the euphoria (benefit) then comes with a price (negative), namely:
    – hangovers, health deterioration, hurt family members, danger, prolonged immaturity of the alcoholic, nurtured self-pity, avoidance of responsibilities, etc.

    So why would the same not be true of any behaviour or pattern of thought or emotion?

    We perceive that there will be something positive in the choice we make. And in a very odd sense, there is. But it is finite and always comes with a cost equal to or greater than the benefit.


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