PREVIOUS: ACoAs & Confusion (Part 2e)
QUOTEs: “I pretty much stay in a constant state of confusion just because of the expression it leaves on my face.” ~ Johnny Depp
•“If I looked confused, it’s because I’m thinking.”~ Samuel Goldwyn
Childhood CONFUSION : OTHER sources (cont.)
3. Communication DISTORTIONS (cont.)
e. Subtext – implied meanings we all get, but can’t always put into words. And it’s never kind or helpful! EXP of subtext: “Even Johnny got an A on that test” – could mean: Johnny isn’t very bright // the test was that easy
AND for ACoAs – Painful stab-in-the-heart comments from parent to child:
• “You know dear, it’s better to have brains than looks”, means you’re not a pretty girl, so be happy you can rely on being smart (just trying to be helpful!)
• “I never expected you to understand”, means I actually expect you to read my mind son, but you’re too selfish to bother thinking about me
• “See, she got one”. Perfectionistic mother is so constantly focused on daughter’s appearance, it makes the girl complain
that she’ll never get a guy because she doesn’t think she’s pretty.
One day the 2 are out walking, & across the street mom spots an unattractive woman arm-in-arm with a plain-looking man – & points this out.
?? Does she really think she’s being ‘encouraging’ ?? while reinforcing daughter is ugly!
• Secretary – boss says she needs xerox copies of certain papers – immediately, no delay. Along with all the boss’s demands is the implied threat of punishment or dismissal – keeping employees frightened & compliant. As usual, the ACoAs worker rushes to obey, but finds those papers still lying around 2 days later! Crazy making.
• ‘You can do anything you want”. Sounds good, as if you’re given the freedom to pursue your own course in life. BUT in a dysfunctional family, children understand the subtext – even if they can’t describe it. Focus is on DO-ing rather than BE-ing.
– parents can’t be bothered / don’t take the time & effort…. to find out what exactly you dreams of, or are inherently good at
– it leaves you with too many options, with no boundaries, and no guidance or explanation of process (HOW TO get to a goal)
– you’re only allowed to choose what the family approves of, so can’t make a mistake. Wrong one may cause a lot of anger or flat-out rejection
– no support, encouragement or admiration for the choice actually made,
⬆️ MOST important: whatever you choose to do in life has to make THEM look & feel good about themselves. It’s their narcissism – you’re not considered a separate person, only an extension of them.
RESULT: The ACoA either rebels – doing things to piss them off, OR you do whatever they told you to no matter how unsuitable – & hating, OR drift & never quite decide.
Even more confusing is one of the Toxic Rules: “You have to always struggle, but can never get there.”
f. Silence as punishment : When a parent passive-aggressively stops talking to their child, it severs the vital connection between them, always devastating to the child. The angry adult may get temporary narcissistic satisfaction hiding behind their wall of disdain (“I’m more powerful, so I can shut you out”), but ultimately P-A behavior is even more destructive than overt aggression. Virtually all interactions with a P-A person end up confusing & destructive (see post: “Anger Categories #10”)
g. Double Messages cause confusion because —
– we were punished if we didn’t know how to —> shop for our dinner, care for the pets, fix the washing machine, or get all As in school , AND
– we were punished (or made fun / teased) if we —> did things better than the adults – playing board games, getting awards in school, making our clothes or balsa models, making friends….. (see posts: DMs, 1-9 & DB, 1-10)
NEXT: ACoAs & Confusion (Part 3a)