WHICH WAY DO I TURN?
They’re mixing me up! (Part 4)
PREVIOUS: ACoAs & Confusion (Part 3)
SITE: Identity Versus Confusion – Stage 5 of Psycho-social Development
QUOTE: “However confused the scene of our life appears… it can be faced, & we can go on to be whole” ~ Muriel Rukeyser, American writer 1913-1980
Childhood SOURCES of Confusion (cont.)
8. Communication DISTORTIONS
a. Lack of information: We were expected to know how to do things by ourselves, even as very small kids, without guidance or practical knowledge: how to do math problems, what to do when you get your period, the most efficient way to do housework, how to cook, do repairs to house & car, shop…..
• It leaves us with unrealistic expectations of what we should know (grandiosity) – about everything, all the time. So we’re confused & full of S-H when we can’t be all-knowing & perfect at everything!
• Not being allowed to help them do things around the house (cooking, sewing, repairs….) because of their impatience, being drunk or not knowing how to explain – left us believing we were too stupid to learn
• BUT if we did figure out how to do certain things on our own – since ACoAs are very smart, determined & resourceful – we don’t valued the outcome of our efforts. We think that if we did it, it must not have any value, and is just not very good. And anything we couldn’t figure out on our own – we simply do without! Even to the present day, we think our skill & talents are only kosher if someone else shows us ‘how to’, or says they’re acceptable! Even then we often don’t believe the complements & validation. SAD.
Events / situations NEVER discussed, explained or processed:
— parents fighting at night, mom is black & blue
— loss of jobs (often due to drinking), with no acknowledgement or responsibility for messing up
— death of a family member (including any previous children), a twin or biological parent you weren’t told about, the disappearance of a beloved pet…with no time to grieve or reminisce
— moving (perhaps many times) without preparation, or reason….
— broken promises denied, & never apologized for or corrected
— fights so loud/violent that cops are called
b. Inappropriate information: Using child as an adult confidant
EXP: While dad & brother slink off upstairs, drunk mom keeps young teen up night after night, forcing daughter to listen to her slurred ramblings – complaints about her bad marriage, money problems, hated relatives….. Next day no one -ever- says a word about it
● The child (still young or fully grown), is told in some form by parent:
“You’re my only hope, no one but you understands me, I can’t have anyone else take care of me but you, you can never leave me”…..
RESULT: Besides feeling trapped & enraged, the confusion is about your role in the relationship. You’re being treated as a friend / caretaker rather than a son or daughter. You like the feeling of being confided in & needed, but they’re never available for you to ‘rest in’, to rely on, to go to when feeling ‘weak’, needy, in pain, overwhelmed with the responsibility…. You’re only acceptable, petted, admired (if at all) for taking care of them.
SO – ACoAs end up believing that this kind of sick symbiotic connection is real intimacy!
Overt incest – aside from the horror of the violation & profound breach of trust – confusion can set in if :
— the parent tells the child they need them, love them, doing them a favor, BUT also threaten punishment & withdrawal of love if the child reveals their ‘secret’
— the child is a bit older & has ‘pleasurable’ physical reaction to sexual stimulation, while being too young for sexual activity, AND not wanting the attention from a parent in that way
Covert incest is even more confusing. Aside from power & control, the parent is treating the child as if they were another adult, instead of caring for, protecting & nurturing them.
It can come in the form of:
— a mother being half-dressed & flirting with your friends or dates
— a father lying around the house in underwear showing his privates
— a child being watched ‘hungrily’ while undressing or in the bathroom…
— being treated as a substitute spouse by either parent – as in a mother “husbandizing” a son, or a father going to his daughter for comfort
— told lewd jokes, taken to brothels, called a slut, used sexual language about everything – all in the guise of “Ha Ha, aren’t I a cool parent”
SIDEBAR – Communication Styles
• Passive communicators truly believe their needs don’t count. They act sort of like mice – small & timid – doing just about anything to avoid being ‘seen’ & any confrontation. They like to please others, usually at their own expense, which can build up into resentment over time
• Aggressive communicators act as if only their needs matter. They accuse, insult, yell, threaten & dominate. Not surprisingly, they often get into relationships with passive people
• Passive-aggressive people don’t think their needs matter, but want them met anyway. They use manipulation, guilt & subtle ‘games’ to get what they want because they’re not allowed to ask outright. Instead of being straight, they hide their aggression by remaining silent, ‘forgetting’ things, refusing to listen, changing plans at the last minute…. & never admitting their anger
Assertive communicators recognize that everyone’s needs are important, so they use honest, neutral language. This requires a level of emotional vulnerability, which can only be done with some emotional/mental maturity. The reward is having healthier relationships, which include their own needs being met, emotions expressed freely but appropriately, with everyone feeling heard & connected (if the other person is available for that), most of the time.
NEXT: ACoAs & Communication (#5)