Negative ReACTions to Painful Events (Intro)

Should I hide or attack?


REVIEW previous posts: ‘Events, Conclusions’

REMINDER: See ACRONYM page for abbrev.


It’s inevitable that we will take some type of ‘action’ in response to a stressful EVENT.  What kind of action will depend on our native personality & the specific CONCLUSIONS we draw about the unpleasant situation (the CDs used).

• As previously mentioned, many ACoAs are not readily aware of our thoughts (beliefs) or our emotion.  So, when an old button gets pushed, we just re-act. It can happen so fast it seems we have no control of our actions, which may be verbal &/or physical.  We are driven either by fear or anger, terror or rage.

• It’s normal for humans to be angry whenever we’re hurt, frustrated or scared. Anger is simply the psychic energy needed to prepare us for action & is a fitting response to certain situations. Anger & Fear are on opposite sides of Plutchik’s  Emotion Wheel. To heal, ACoAs living mainly in fear need to connect with their angry feelings, &  those steeped in rage need to get in touch with the fear & sadness underneath.  The key is Balance.

COVERT: ACoAs who were trained to not be angry & are afraid to feel it now – are crippled by that suppression! Without healthy anger we can feel stuck, be depressed AND cannot stop others from mistreating us
OVERT: Other ACoAs are too ready to react with hostility whenever the WIC gets upset, especially when feeling abandoned.  We get nasty & cut people off, which hurts us just as much as the other person, since rage pushes others away & we’re already feeling unwanted & unloved!

Let’s see how the 3 circles work, in an ongoing situation:
EVENT (condition): Shakeera is dating a complicated young man – sometimes thoughtful, smart & sensitive, other times self-pitying & whiny. When he’s depressed & needy he Screen Shot 2016-06-19 at 7.42.42 AMthreatens suicide, can’t look for work & lives off of Shakeera’s income.
Her Emotions: pity, love, disgust, rage, panic, compassion

 + CONCLUSIONS (thoughts) – When he’s in a good space, Shakeera thinks he’s the best, ever!  When he’s very down, her co-dependence kicks in – “I have to fix this mess”, “I know how to help him – I’ll tell him all the ways he can get his life together”, “He just has to be ok, I can’t stand this” , “I feel humiliated being with such a looser”….

= ACTIONS: Shakeera alternately bullies him to pull himself together, gives him endless advice, tells him what he did wrong, listens for hours to his self-hate or joins him in a depressed stupor.
• He doesn’t change & she gets more frustrated. None of her actions helps either one of them!  Her FEAR of abandonment keeps her there and tries to cure him so she doesn’t have to leave!

Our actions can tell us which ego state is in charge at the moment & how healed or unhealed a particular button is.  How we act out our rage may be the way our parents reacted to stress, or how we were allowed to behave as kids, or how we would have liked to react, back then, but knew it was too dangerous to do so.

▶ Don’t let the self-help gurus tell you not to FEEL angry!  ACoAs have a lot of it pent-up from childhood abuse (& from bad experiences as adults) & need to get it out of our system – but appropriately.Screen Shot 2016-06-19 at 7.40.57 AM

What is of concern is how we ACT (express the rage). We need to have the emotion but change our behavior. I’m stressing rage, because it is:
• a response to prolonged abuse   • more highly charged than anger
• usually driven by great anxiety   • not governed by clear thinking
• an automatic reaction – as a form of self-preservation, even when misplaced from the past onto a present-day event

✶ How the 3 circles work in an anger-producing situation:
EVENT: Sal hates being bothered by people in public places. One night he gets on an almost empty bus, on his way home from work. A smelly bag-lady get on at the next stop, looks around and sits down right next to Sal!
Emotions: revulsion, anger, frustration, superiority

+ CONCLUSIONS (thoughts) – “Why does this always have to happen to me?! There are 20 other seats she could have picked! Why ME?? Why do I attract the crazies? Me, only me!” (CDs: ‘Personalization’ , ‘Egocentric’ & ‘Can’t Stand It’)

= ACTIONS: Sal starts yelling at the woman & gets off the bus at the next stop. He keeps talking about the incident, repeating it over & over the next day to everyone he can corner
• He’s taken this personally, feeling like a victim & tries to get validation & sympathy from his hearers. The woman could have either been lonely &/or wanted to bum some change.  It was never about him!

NEXT: Negative  reACTions (Fear)


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