ACoAs & WEAK Boundaries (Part 1)

so they won’t get mad, or worse – leave me!

PREVIOUS: ‘Rigid Boundaries’

REVIEW:Safe & Unsafe People


People who brought up in a healthy home have what is called a ‘cohesive or integrated self’, based on consistent, good-enough parenting. They got enough of their needs met early on, which gave them a strong psychological foundation in the form of the internalized Good Introject.  Thrivers have good personal boundaries (Bs) that are self-protective but still allow them to be sensitive to the needs of others, making them open to giving and receiving nurture in relationships.
(MORE: read excerpts from: “The Reciprocating Self…“)healthy Bs

Healthy Bs  can be illustrated as a circle of our personal space – that has gaps, so we’re not walled in – but with a door at each opening, which WE are in control of.

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 2.27.06 AMWeak Bs (blue) have those same gaps in our personal space BUT without any doors, so the openings indiscriminately let in useful, neutral or damaging experiences.  EXP: anyone with lots of pet peeves & who constantly blames others for their discomfort. ALSO – having weak Bs makes it easy for others to get under our skin!
In contrast to the thrivers, no matter how we were wounded – ACoAs ended up with either :
i. a ‘vulnerable self’ & weak boundaries.  We are easily hurt by people, places & things, as well as noticeably needy, actively looking to be taken care of by others because of few or poisonous internal resources (Toxic Introject).  The most wounded ACoAs have:
ii. a ‘fractured self, with such severely bad parenting that they have no internal resources (no strength, resilience, esteem, empowerment, hope…), who are truly fragile, with no Bs, & so desperate that they cling, whine, complain, ‘suffer’… OR come across as demanding, controlling & rageful, cruel….

enmeshed• Since boundaries are not inborn, the way we were parented determines the state of our self-protective mechanism as adults. Weak Bs, also called diffuse, are a common result of our unhealthy childhood – when parents acted like they owned us, such as being over-controlling, sexually abusive, using us as a substitute spouse or substitute parent (role reversal)…, while they disowned the real us! They became too involved in our lives in the wrong way, never leaving us alone, which has made it hard for us to define who we are.

• This family symbiosis shows up as: members ‘understand’, accommodate & over-tolerate bad behavior (spouse – of the drinker / rager…  children – of sick, abusive parents….) making them increasingly dependent on each other at the expense of outside relationships. In some cases the understanding becomes a distorted form of empathy so that members ‘feel’ each others’ thoughts & emotions, wishes & needs – especially their suffering.  This kind of empathy is unhealthy, as it stifles personal growth & independence, insuring that outsiders are excluded from having meaningful relationships with anyone within the family

• Remember the Co-dependent triangle? When we are in our Victim Role we have weak Bs, so co-dep trinaglewhen anyone disrespects an important boundary of ours we feel discounted, hurt, oppressed, ignored, abused, or taken advantage of. The Victim’s slogan is “poor me!”, yet we perpetuate it by seeking out Persecutors & Rescuers to connect with, trying to get the love & attention we desperately need but don’t feel we deserve. At the same time we may also act the role of Perpetrator by imposing ourselves on others!

NEXT: Weak Bs (Part 2) – Characteristics


2 thoughts on “ACoAs & WEAK Boundaries (Part 1)

  1. Its very helpful when you describe “characteristics” of Alcoa’s – it helps to sort out where I may fall into a pattern. I see pieces of both weak and controlling boundaries in my case. Thanks for the insight.


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