I CAN HANDLE EVERYTHING –
I’m not weak or wounded!
PREVIOUS: Victim or not?
DISTORTED COPING (P = Perp / V = Victim)
As long as ACoAs have trouble facing the trauma of being a Victim IN our childhood, we can’t outgrow that state because it lives in our WIC & keeps getting acted out all over our lives. Another ‘backwards’ ACoA pattern: while we do many destructive victim-y things to ourselves and let others do them to us, we also are masters at trying to cover up the inner wounds, the same way battered people try to hide broken bones & external bruising.
a. Normal can mean what is average for any location or situation, but may be positive or negative & is never absolute : It’s the norm for people in a bar to drink a lot. It’s the norm for men in prison to be raped. It’s the norm for children of addicts to be scarred. OR It’s the norm for great teachers to produce some excellent students. It’s the norm for country air to be healthier than city air. It’s the norm for money to make life easier
b. Normal can also mean anything that is the opposite of unhealthy, & is only positive: Normal is to be a whole human being. Normal is being happy & productive, with satisfying relationships. Normal is to care for ourselves. Normal is being part of a community & helping others. Normal is for love to heal …..
✶ ACoAs desperately want to be ‘normal’, as in ‘b’, while not wanting to admit being damaged / wounded (NOT defective), with all it’s weaknesses, nor having to do the hard work of Recovery to become healthy. This false-normal is a facade to cover our lack of self-esteem & to quiet the bad voice (the PP), rather than being genuinely OK at our core. Many of us don’t want to ask for any kind of help, or be in groups that focus on healing, because “They’re all crazy & I’m not like them!” But Al-anon teaches us: “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” It’s one thing to feel empowered & be able to face life’s difficulties with equanimity & guts. It’s another to over-compensate for our un-acknowledged & unhealed history with grandiosity.
EXP: Trish was never taken care of as a child, even in basic ways, & was eventually left by her weak father to take care of her violent, mentally ill mother. In spite of not having any self-esteem or knowledge about self-care, in her early 20’s her talent as a performer got her periodic jobs in small venues. One day she found out she was pregnant, but wasn’t ready for motherhood & scheduled an abortion – for the same day that she had a gig in the Catskills. She went to the doctor in the am – alone, & that afternoon drove up to the mountains to sing – alone & in pain! It never occurred to her to have the operation on a different day, to have someone go with her, or that there was anything amiss about combining the 2 events – until pointed out to her by a therapist 20 yrs later!
KIDS: This is a normal characteristic of small children, all the way thru the teens – thinking they can do much more than they actually can (fly – with their arms, keep playing without having to eat or sleep, get away with misbehaving, doing something big – live driving or having sex – without guidance or training, not needing help “I can do it my-self!”….). It’s a self-focused survival mechanism – preventing children from being crushed by fully realizing the extent of their vulnerability.
The formal definition of grandiosity refers to anyone having a sense of uniqueness, superiority – ‘the belief that few others have anything in common with oneself and that one can only be understood by a few or very special people’. Sound familiar? This is a form of narcissism which is normal in children but should be outgrown by adulthood. For ACoAs it’s a continuation of that early psychological defense, from not having yet developed a healthy Adult Ego State. As long as our WIC runs the show we use that same protection to hide our sense of vulnerability – which NOW comes from being stuck in our frightening past. Some EXAMPLES:
Self-Hate : All of S-H is a form of grandiosity – in negative terms: I are the ‘worst’, the most hopeless, I don’t have the capacity to love, I’ll never get better, I have to give up the hope of finding someone right for me….
— Always feeling separate – “I never fit anywhere”, different – but in a bad way, or superior – “I don’t have any problems”, while staying in the Victim role “You just don’t understand!”
No Limits : Not having boundaries – “I’m the same as you, you are me, we feel & think alike…” the state of an infant that we need to outgrow.
EXP: Pushing ourselves until we collapse or go beyond normal limits – especially when in a weakened condition. (Run on an injured leg, overuse our hands, over-do exercise, go to work when very sick, try to rescue our Perps or other Victims, mind other peoples’ business ….)
Finished with an Issue : The opposite side of “I’ll never get better”. Most common in early Recovery – we think we’re DONE with a character defect or childhood pattern that we worked on for a little while. When that issue surfaces again (inevitably), we feel defeated, full of S-H & fall back into : I’m hopeless at this recovery stuff. I might as well not even try! REALITY: Repetition & Process lead to improvement – NOT perfection!
Perfectionism : This is an impossible goal, regardless of some spiritual teachings, yet we try to compensate for our ongoing inner & outer sense of danger by knowing everything & never making a mistake – instead of healing the wounds that cause our fear. We’re convinced that anything about us or in our actions that’s not 100% ideal (our distorted, inhuman standards) IS:
• proof of our inherent & permanently flawed identity, making us unworthy of anything good, since being defective means we can easily be thrown away. Our imperfect-ness is felt as a fatal weakness because the WIC says “Now no one will love or take care of me & then I’ll die”! PS: This is not being dramatic – to a small child.
• our failure to sufficiently compensate for the above false assumptions which we then use to beat ourselves up – & try again to be inhuman
• the reason why we don’t even bother trying many things that we are actually capable of doing, lest we ‘fail’ (to be perfect). What an illusion. What a waste of possibilities!
GIVING UP Grandiosity?
To let go of this defense we need to know all our needs & rights, as well as our limitations. It’s finding a healthy balance between realistic optimism based on acknowledging all examples of our progress – with a realistic understanding of the depth of our wounds & the ongoing nature of process, that will take the rest of our life – no matter how successful we become. That’s what it means to be human. Al-anon slogan: “Progress, not perfection”!
NEXT: What is Emotional Abuse? #1