ACoAs ‘FEELING SORRY For’ (Unhealthy)

How can I turn my back on them?



The HEART of the matter: ACoAs feel sorry for the wrong category of people. 

1. For OTHERS – Negative
While ACoAs have a strong caring & compassionate side, which we use for others instead of for ourselves, we misplace our sympathy by focusing it on inappropriate people – like a parent, a spouse or lover, a BFF, sometimes a boss, sponsor, teacher… So, we ‘feel sorry for…’

WHO: Anyone who is
☛ emotionally & practically irresponsible. This can not be rescuing
emphasized enough!  These are people who are unwilling to use available resources to help themselves, hooking us into do it for them! This can be in a practical way, but most often wanting to be taken care of emotionally.

☛ abusive, abandoning, narcissistic (but often charming) – because they prey on our desperate need to stay attached. That way they can “feed on” us without having to give back. Some even act like they need us, but if we set boundaries or disagree, they’ll throw us under the bus in a heartbeat! It’s so familiar from childhood, we think it’s normal

Their behavior patterns TRIGGER our WIC to:
• (E) feel sorry for them (they’re manipulating this), the way we felt sorry for family members who we tried & tried to fix, but never could
• (A) act out our pre-programmed training to rescue & enable them
• resonate our WIC with theirs, feeling their pain – so we take on the Good Parent role, for them but not toward ourselves

• our need to feel superior (compensate for feeling powerless)
• copy what we learned from our para-alcoholic parent (usually mom)
• don’t want to face who this (current) person really is, because then we’d have a different relationship with them, or have to leave

• to not feel the hurt of how they affect our life – if it’s a selfish, irresponsible parent we’re super-girlprotecting – how they’ve hurt us; if it’s another close person – all the ways they’re not able to legitimately be there for us.  See ACoAs’ Under-Expectations

• to never have to feel our deep ANGER at everything bad that happened to us at the hands of these particular people, & others like them
• to maintain our own need to feel ‘better’, useful, needed, important*.
*Every person needs the experience of being effectual: ‘having success in producing a desired or intended result’.

▶ A huge missing piece of ACoA upbringing was that we never got to be effective. We weren’t able to have any effect, much less a positive one, on those around us.  We couldn’t get them to listen & believe us, to change, to stop hurting us, stop drinking, to see our worth….
…. which has left us with an intense sense of hopelessness (‘why bother, I won’t be able to do it anyway, nothing I try works, no one’s going to listen or care, nothing works out for me anyway….’)

• So as adult we continue trying to compensate in ways that are not effective! – such as expending a lot of time, $$ & energy on people who can’t love us, who will never get better, OR who may, but not in OUR timing – like now!

• This becomes a vicious circle – trying to do the impossible will always lead to failure, which reinforces our sense of  ineffectiveness. ACoAs get the Serenity Prayer backwards. ineffectiveWe need to learn & use it correctly! It wasn’t God who didn’t listen, it was out damaged parents!

• POTENTIAL does NOT count – when it has to do with others!  We’re attracted to them because they’re familiar & we can rescue them & feel superior.  BUT most of the time they never develop their latent capacities – so we end up drained, feeling inadequate, disappointed & angry – just like we did at home.

, we need to be with people who are ALREADY willing to & capable of taking care of themselves, & therefore can be available to us, without causing a lot of drama & stress.

Feeling sorry for & trying to rescue the ‘wrong’ people, means:
• we never hold them responsible for their actions / non-actions – we keep thinking ‘they can’t help it’. (See end of ‘Parents Blaming Us‘ & “They did the best they could, Point 2, b, ii).

• we continue to be abused & neglected by them, without admitting what we already know in our gut, even when others tell us they clearly see how we’re being hurt!
• we enable our rescuee to never change or have to face the effects of their actions to themselves & others (doing them a dis-service)love them BUT...

✶ When someone is unwilling to get help for themselves to change & improve their lives, using available resources – you know they’re not the right person to feel sorry for. Love them, but don’t rescue – it’s a waste of effort!
➼ Being compassionate does not mean being a patsy: ‘a person who is gullible & easily taken advantage of ’. Self-centered, abusive people are only interested in what they can take, & want to give as little as possible in return. We are worth more than that!

• Often the only thing we can do is pray for them. A Program truth says:  “Each person has their own Higher Power” — & it ain’t US!

✶ It’s our responsibility to protect our Inner Child from emotionally unavailable & dangerous types, no matter how much we care about them. Our kid comes first!  STAY AWAY from anyone who tries to seduce you but only offers CRUMBS!

NEXT: Feeling Sorry for – Positive


7 thoughts on “ACoAs ‘FEELING SORRY For’ (Unhealthy)

  1. Hi, God I relate. All my friends are/were dysfunctional – I wanted to help/fix them all! Even my dear partner. What a trap this disease is – it really is a family disease….

    I attract all kinds of people but the men that home in on me want me to fix their lives, be their mother, save them! AND these are the types of men I am attracted to. Thank God for my Program and I am learning to stay away for my own wellbeing/sanity.

    I have a question for you, I will see if I can email you through your blog 🙂


  2. Hi Lisa, you can send me a message from my Face Book page or thru my website ( bottom of Page: ABOUT ME).
    Keep up the good work. The less you want to take care of them, the less attracted they’ll be! 🙂


  3. This post really hit me. I am in my 40’s and a series of events have unearthed the trauma of my early life. I realized recently – that I have succeeded in taking responsibility for so many other people, always feeling “sorry” for others (and yet so unduly harsh on myself). I am ALWAYS the “strong one” LOL.

    Thank you so much for your posts, they are appreciated.

    Happy Holidays, Kira


  4. Thank you for letting me know, Kira. It sounds like you’ve had to take on the Hero role. You have developed all the rescuing skills – so now you can use them on yourself ! Your Inner Child will certainly appreciate that.
    Be well. D


  5. Ok Donna, you really knocked one out of the park with this one! Good stuff….Particularly….

    “WHO: Anyone who is –
    ➼ • emotionally & practically irresponsible. This can not be emphasized enough! These are people who are unwilling to use available resources to help themselves, hooking us into do it for them!
    • abusive, abandoning, narcissistic (but often charming). Their type is so familiar to us – it’s what we grew up with, so we think it’s normal”.

    To me, this describes the person who in their sick way likes where they are. You later to on to mention the manipulative nature of their behavior… referring to the person we are feeling sorry for and codependent to.

    I never saw as clearly the misplacement of sympathy. Yet we can be sympathetic but instead of expressing it with pity and caretaking, express it with the offer to help them find the help they need that is independent of the sick dynamic with us.

    It would take someone with a lot of strength and courage to help the manipulative narcisist in a meaningful way, rather than play their game. And maybe the most helpful thing we can do it get away from them and let them discover their self-deception on their own and not falling on us as their crutch.

    I have to say, that I look back and see that I played many of those games as the alcoholic. And it wasn’t until pain was just shy of fatal that I woke up to what I was doing. I had to be abandoned by my family and turned over to a less-than-honourable recovery house to really wake up. This is a tough nut to crack.

    Thanks as always.




  6. Thanks Chaz.
    In the early years I occasionally went to AA when I needed a meeting late at nite. No phone or internet 35 yrs ago!
    I would just sit & listen – & I heard the men talk about how they had mistreated the women in their life, while drinking. They had all done exactly the same as my active boyfriends had to me. I wasn’t bad or crazy, as they told me – except for being with them! 🙂

    I was enlightened & greatly relieved. I had already stopped dating drunks, & then I gradually stopped trying to help people who were not ready to be helped! As I heard in Al-anon: “This program will fuck up your fucked-up-ness!”


    • It is just incredible how ensnared in these relational dynamics people get, and how common it is. Can you imagine the days before there was an awareness of all of this and no help available?




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