ACoAs & Emotions (Part 1)

& you can’t make me!

Previous: Parrott’s Emotions List

REMINDER: See ACRONYM page for abbrev.

REVIEW: The Body & Emotions & Identifying Emotions

Those DREADED Emotions!
• ACoAs definitely believe emotions are a bad thing. When asked what’s going on with us, or how we’re feeling, ACoAs usually fail to mention our emotions. We’ll talk around them, over & under, but never hit the bulls-eye.  We’re terrified of our Es the way mice are afraid of cats.  We treat them as if they were a wild beast in us that has to be locked away in a deep dark dungeon.

• Then we wonder why we can’t get out of bed, why we always feel like the outsider,  why we feel so alone, why we don’t get along with others, why we have panic attacks….. Emotions that are ignored have sneaky ways of showing up in disguise. BUT those ways (listed throughout this blog) are the symptoms that give us vital information we can use to deconstruct (reverse-engineer) the source of our distress. Then we can set about making the necessary corrections

• Without healing, ACoAs are clearly not happy campers, having lived with depression most of our live – even the ones who don’t show it on the outside.  It’s not surprising, since our dysfunctional families indicated in thousands of direct & indirect ways that we should never object to being hurt by them, & then not express any pain caused by their abused & neglected! (“Stop your whimpering. You’re such a baby. You’re just too sensitive!”).  They didn’t give us much to be happy about but they also didn’t want us to react to their mistreatment. So we learned: “DON’T FEEL”!healthy combo

IMP: What they never told us was that our Es are not intrinsically bad to have, but were simply unacceptable to them, because:
they didn’t experience love & nurturing, so could not give it to us
• they had no clue how to cope with their own problems, much less be there for us.  The responsibility of parenting scared them to death

• if one or more parents had chronic mentally or physically illness or who were overly dramatic themselves, then there was clearly no room for our needs or feelings
• never having dealt with their wounded Es as adults, they shoved them under the carpet & demanded we do the same. An infant’s first ‘language’ is that of intense emotions. Then we learned to talk! This combination would be a constant irritant to parents who already felt too much OR didn’t want to feel at all – our emotions and needs acting like sandpaper. They had to shut us up!

• our needs as children enraged them because they wanted all the attention for themselves
• some of them delighted in hurting & humiliating us, & had no intention of giving us comfort or validation (did you catch one of them smirking when you cried?)
✶ One tender soul remembers her mother, the heartless narcissist, saying with a sneer: “I’m so glad I’m not sensitive like you & your father!”

As a result:  
• many ACoAs have a limited range of Es they are aware of, much like only being able to play 2 or 3 notes on a full piano keyboard – such as anger & disdain, fear & guilt, loneliness & desperation…. even tho there are many more available on both scales

muted Es• some have so many Es we can hardly breathe, acting them out all over the place or hiding under the covers as much as possible, always in ‘suffering mode’, which makes us wish we were like the other ones – numb

• others of us have intense Es without consciously knowing it OR being able to identify them by name – not associating certain physical sensations with actual emotions, but tending to be cranky & exhausted

• Unfortunately our culture reinforces the ‘don’t feel’ rule by telling us that:
— Es are not ‘rational’, so they can’t be relied on to tell us anything real or useful
— it’s not sophisticated, strong or admirable to be ‘emotional’ (meaning to cry or get too upset, no matter how terrible the situation!)

EXP: Josie insisted to her BFF that she couldn’t feel at all, but her friend Sara knew better – just from observation.  One day they went to the Planetarium to see a laser light show.  Afterwards Josie acted like she could barely walk – she was so bowled over by the intensity of her pleasure at the experience. Sara smiled & said “Those are emotions! So you do feel a lot!” Josie was stunned, but never again denied having Es , even if she didn’t always know how to talk about them.

NEXT: ACoAs & Emotions (Part 2)


7 thoughts on “ACoAs & Emotions (Part 1)

  1. […] So eloquently written and resonated so much for me. I DON’T WANT TO FEEL ANYTHING – & you can’t make me! Previous: Parrott’s Emotions List You know the 3 Laws of an alcoholic system, right?  “Don’t Talk, Don’t Think, Don’t Feel”  & the ‘greatest’ of them is – the last one! Those Dreaded Es! • ACoAs definitely believe emotions are a bad thing. When asked what’s going on with them, or how they’re feeling, ACoAs usually fail to mention their emotions. We’ll talk around them, over & under, … Read More […]


  2. Much of this sounds familiar. My mother is probably narcissistic mostly, and I guess heterosexual but dislikes men. So when we phone she talks about her stuff, sometimes manages to ask after me and mine, but rapidly diverts back by claiming she has got whatever much worse.


  3. That’s so painful – we are alone even when we’re with them – maybe more so. We futilely keep trying to put our ‘male plug’ into their non-existent ‘female-socket’ – like shoving it against a blank wall & bending the prongs! Not trying to be heard or seen by them is the answer, but leaves us aware of the emptiness.


  4. Yup, in my early world if you showed weakness you were the family “target” for the evening, week, even longer sometimes. It was ritual entertainment for them. God forbid you cried, my parents would cackle like hyenas at what they called “a good one” (getting you to cry) and then it would really start. As “target” anything went – they even encouraged my brother and I to attack each other verbally and physically to some degree. The only defense was to act like it didn’t bother you. No matter what. Soooo, needless to say I still have an uncomfortable relationship with my emo’s, but its getting a lot better, and I feel 🙂 like I have a pressure valve that works these days. Funny, but it was a big deal to even acknowledge my feelings for them, I’ll keep it polite here and those feelings aren’t nice ones but they are real and understandable.


  5. I sent an email to you recently regarding skype or phone therapy — you had discussed this with my wife, Kathy Gower recently, and it seemed a possibility. We live in France; tried a British therapist locally, but he was behaviourist, which is not my cup of tea. ( I was a registered psychodrama psychotherapist until retiring, with further training in psychodynamic approaches, worked in the NHS as a psych. nurse) Did you see the email?


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