ACoAs & Boundary Distortion (Part 2)

no one cares 

because nobody cares about me

PREVIOUS: ACoAs & B. Distortion (Part 1)

Genogram expl

BOOKs: Genograms links

PARENTS with distorted Bs don’t know how to connect with their children in a fair & balanced way. The children are either:
a. Being watched – too much (Part 1) —  OR

b. Being ignored: Others of us felt adrift – left too much alone, unsupervised, unguided. Yet even as small children we were expected to know how to behave, & to participate correctly in all sorts of social events without our parents teaching us directly or setting a proper example. And they had NO clue of the burden they put on us!

One result is that externally – ACoAs we don’t have Bs with others, and internally – have not learned to set Bs with ourselves, so we do whatever the WIC feel like, no matter how unhealthyhiding in public
Another result is that many of us, who were neglected, are uncomfortable in public, especially with groups. We feel ill-equipped to socialize, sure we don’t know what to say or how to act. We watch other people to see how they manage, & even tho we’re great mimics, we still don’t trust ourselves to be acceptable. Extroverts will at least try but feel inadequate, & introverts don’t even bother!

EXP: Sheila was a bright, sensitive girl, living in a family that moved many times because of her father’s career. A talkative extrovert, she’d grown up mainly in the company of adults, so even tho there always were people around, she was very much alone.  She was expected to be sociable, charming, well-behaved & polite to the grown-ups, but she was deeply lonely, angry & hurt.  To cope, she found escape & solace in books – in the library after school, walking down the street, under the covers at night…. Her mother would comment sarcastically: “I can see it all now – you’ll be reading a book as you walk down the aisle!”

The Family MOBILE
• All of us grew up as part of a larger mobile of generational inter-connections. A mobile is a collection of objects that are in constant motion within a framework. A family is the most versatile, ever-changing one that exists, made up of human personalities. The stability of a mobile depends on all the parts being in balance, in a specific relationship to all other parts.

For example, an alcoholic or other addict upsets a mobile’s very delicate symmetry. Mobiles-aquTheir unpredictability, violence, contempt, and self-focus distorts much of the family’s interaction. To keep the mobile balanced (but still skewed) the other members try to adapt to these disruptive behaviors by doing such things as :
— absorbing the addicts anger, and suppressing their own
— denying the effect of the addict’s behavior
— avoiding him/ her
— trying to cover up the disease to outsiders
These maneuvers force everyone to become progressively more damaged, & co-dependently trapped in that state.

• Dysfunctional families are always replete with confusion & chaos. But there are also rules that must be followed to keep the mobile from collapsing.
a. Equilibrium: On the one hand, no matter how distorted the mobile, each person has a part to play in keeping the status quo, called homeostasis. And just like an inanimate mobile returns to its normal state after being shaken up, so do families.  This is why when someone goes into treatment to get clean & sober, their return to the family is often met with great resistance – and anger.  The returning parent or sibling changed too much – the role they originally played has been destroyed. It undermines the shape of the disease, sending the whole family setup tilting uncomfortably off of its normal axis

There are two ways to regain the old familiar balance:
— the simplest is to manipulate the changed person back into their old role by unconsciously sabotaging their recovery & getting them to drink or use again
— the other way is much harder and is met with a lot of anger & refusal, because it would mean every member of the family having to face their own damage & make serious changes

IMAGINE a broken arm that is never set professionally – it ‘heals’ crookedly & is only partially useful. To make it fully functional again it will have to be re-broken & set, then patiently wait for it to heal, maybe needing rehab & re-learning how to use it correctly! It’s scary, painful & tedious. Broken lives & broken families are like that too, so people would rather keep to the twisted familiar ways than have to fix the problem in Recovery

b. Fragility
On the other hand, we see how precarious the dysfunctional mobile actually is. Because the members of a wounded family are bound by symbiotic needs rather than healthy egos, have a lot of self-hate, fear of abandonment & distorted boundaries – there’s little room for ‘error’ in the system (newness, difficulties, unexpected changes, expansion…) This kind of mobile, with all its convoluted dysfunction, has been jury-rigged, held together by the Toxic Rules & Toxic Roles.fragle castle

• While it appears solid & inflexible / rigid, it’s actually too fragile to withstand any major shift, such as one person becoming sober or another going into ACoA recovery. Unless other members are also willing to grow, like the alcoholic’s spouse going to Al-Anon, or parents doing some deep soul-searching….the family unit falls apart. This is particularly threatening when there are small children, so members will do almost anything to keep the (sick) status quo.

NEXT: Boundary Distortion (Part 3)

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