I NEVER REALIZED
how much my infancy shaped me!
PREVIOUS: Inventories – In the Beginning-#2
See ACRONYM Page for abbrev.
Early impressions: Infants don’t have verbal language, only emotional & physical signals for communication. They are highly impressionable – hungrily absorbing all the sights, sounds & touch they’re exposed to. Each child also has its own maximum threshold for how much activity (stimulation) it needs or can tolerate. Dysfunctional homes force on us either or both:
a. Not enough stimulus (of the right kind), so that some areas of the brain don’t form certain necessary pathways, leaving it deficient in whatever types of reasoning or understanding that were affected. This can cause the child to be sluggish in body & mind, always anxious, &/or lacking* fundamental info that will be needed later on to live a ‘normal’ life as an adult.
(*Some antidepressants, as well as Recovery activities, can build missing areas of the brain which were deprived in childhood)
• Being neglected is as deadly as being over-controlled – such as left alone too much, not nurtured, attended to, guided & included, OR allowed to do whatever you want, so you never get to learn boundaries, options & discipline. It’s not unusual for ACoAs to have chunks of basic life-know-how actually missing (lack of software), to the point of not having a clue about things other people take for granted – common sense, quick responses to crazy situations, the right things to say when confronted, making small talk…. ** This is different from info we do have but are not allowed to acknowledge and use. And neither of these states implies being stupid (faulty hardware), but only suppressed & can be reclaimed, or missing & can be filled in.
b. Too much stimulus, and not providing emotional & physical relief (down time). For years, day in & day out, an overload of stress & tension is typical for children in alcoholic & narcissistic families, coming from: too much noise, rage, fights, yelling, bickering, cruelty, teasing, constant DO-ing, moving, losing, high expectation… mental & physical illness, drunkenness, suicides, hospitalizations, crippling poverty… generating fear, fear, fear! This has left us with a lifetime of anxiety & low resilience, making it hard to bounce back from the normal difficulties of every-day existence
• This hi-stress environment becomes the life-pattern for many ACoAs, & eventually several things can happen to us:
— the frontal cortex chemicals responsible for good feelings burn out, leaving only the neural pathways related to pain & unhappiness, which shows up as numbness, depression, difficulty learning & thinking clearly….
— we become ‘addicted to excitement’, also called being adrenalin junkies or drama queens, keeping the pot stirred, causing problems unnecessarily, always looking for the next high (not always chemical), most often in bad relationships
— we slowly shut down on our emotions (the pleasant as well as painful ones), which can eventually manifest as nervous breakdowns, recurring suicide fantasies, immune deficiency diseases, insomnia, panic attacks, & the ever-present depression
EXP: If we started out talkative, lively, smart, friendly, doing well in school…. but by age 13, & often much earlier, we became withdrawn, sullen, difficult, hiding, staring into space…. (not counting injury, illness of birth defects) this ‘unexplained’ shift is a blatant sign that something was very wrong with our home life – rather that with us!
PRESENT PARALYSIS : Whenever we’re so emotionally overwhelmed, hysterical or panic-stricken, AND stuck in a CD loop – that we can’t take care of ourselves – it’s imperative to recognize we’re completely in WIC mode – & the Healthy Adult / Good Parent has been silenced! Something in the present has freaked us out & we’ve slipped back into a mental & emotional state we genuinely did live in as kids. It may FEEL real to the WIC, but is not about current reality – because we’re no longer a child & do have choices we didn’t back then. The sooner we can catch this regression & see it for what it is, the sooner we can do something to pull ourselves out of it – journal, call someone, pray, do a gratitude inventory, go the 12-Step meeting …. and comfort your kid. It’s necessary to bring your Good Parent back from limbo.
• When we get into a regressed state – IF we’ve done extensive Family Inventory work – we can more quickly figure out what old painful button just got pushed & what toxic rule is operating. This can short-circuit the downward spiral of S-H & depression.
Even if we’re currently living in difficult circumstances that we can’t get out of easily or quickly, we can work on developing the UNIT (Loving Parent & Healthy Adult) every day. Eventually we’ll begin to see new options & then try them out, leading to improvements in self-esteem & sometimes even to a better situation.
SO: How can everything that we have historically ‘messed up’ be our fault (S-H), when we were pre-programmed to be dysfunctional? Without deep FoO work we’re just following our training. We are not stupid, f–ups, idiots or crazy!
You decide: Either you’re born permanently defective – OR you were wounded & can Heal & Grow. One or the other*!
— IF you’re convinced you’re hopelessly defective, there’s absolutely no point in therapy, Program, books, spiritual disciplines…. It’s a waste of time
— BUT if your background twisted, suppressed & wounded your True Self, then you can use that knowledge to very carefully crawl back from the far edge of the self-destructive limb you’re about to fall OFF of, back to the fork in your Tree of Life, & this time consciously chose a stronger life-giving branch to climb UP.
** One way or the other – it can’t be both. It’s up to you to choose!
NEXT: Family Inventory overview