“Do What’s Comfortable” is one of the many helpful & profound phrases in Al-Anon. This is a useful suggestion, especially as ACoAs tend to live in perpetual dis-comfort (in the “wreckage of the future or in the misery of the past), subjecting ourselves to almost constant physical anxiety & the endless rumination of self-defeating ‘mantras’ (S-H), sometimes called ‘spinning’.
HOWEVER, we are so used to being uncomfortable that we barely notice, thinking it’s ‘normal’, AND believe we have no other option. So this phrase is incomplete, since ACoAs stick to what we know – no matter how bad – & avoid better/healthier/safer things – so we can cling to the connection to our abusive family (refuse to S & I), and so we don’t have to risk being disappointed – yet again!
SOME stress in our life is not only inevitable, but also needed in order to gently push us to take actions & grow. As the bell curve shows, there’s the calm state, which is good, & the ‘beneficial’ Eustress, to keep up us alert, motivated & on our toes. But ACoAs typically live in the far right – in various intensities of distress. Too much stress tends to paralyze. While there are plenty of external situations in life which can be aggravating, & many things we are truly powerless over, this post focuses mainly on how we experience & categorize Comfort & Discomfort, negative & positive .
Originally, our harmful life patterns were learned grown up, which we had little or no control over. Now we keep them going :
— because they’re deeply ingrained // to obey family rules
— to avoid deeper painful realizations, anxiety & accumulated terror
— from the belief that we don’t know any better or can’t possibly change.
Still hanging on to them actually comes from the mistaken belief that the way we’ve always thought, felt & acted (T.E.A.) is our actual personality, & therefore no changes can be expected or even attempted. This belief persists even in ‘recovery’ !!
IN REALITY – all ongoing negative behaviors (character defects) are expressions of our False Self, developed in childhood in response to the abuse & neglect of our family & other environmental dysfunctions (baby sitters, neighborhood, school, ‘church’….). Therefore, the main goal of Recovery is to shed as much of this made-up persona as possible, in order to uncover, own & live in the REAL Self we were born into before the damage.
NOTE: Many of the items on the list below also fall into the more severe category of Negative Discomfort in Part 2, (like self-injury, bad relationships, lack of self-care….),
Also, it may seem counter-intuitive that these damaging patterns would be considered comfortable. READ/ review posts “Negative benefits of.…)” & info about how we learns, in posts “CDs — Info & the brain” to understand why. What we experienced from birth on is what makes the most sense to our ‘computer’, which will fight tooth & nail to keep from having to change – as if we’re asking it to destroy itself!
Changing our programming will create great anxiety – at first. So for some time in our efforts to grow it will genuinely feel more comfortable (a great relief) to go back to doing things the old way – no matter how ‘sick’. Unfortunately. But with persistent repetitions of new thinking & actions, that terror will lessen a great deal.
IRONY: Identifying these dysfunctions as ‘comfortable’, just because they feel ‘natural’, doesn’t mean they promote happiness & calm. While some ACoAs are in such deep denial that these patterns may seem like minor disturbances – from being numb to their long-term consequences – they in fact create endless stress, anxiety, shame, self-hate, frustration, physical & mental illness…..in all of us, whether acknowledged or not.
1. NEGATIVE Comfort
• all forms of addictions, inching ‘addicted’ to religious / ‘spiritual’ pursuits “They’re so heavenly minded no earthly good”
• try to avoid everything hard or painful // regularly zone out, over-sleep, over-use internet, games, TV….
• always complain but never change //refuse to be self-reflective
• make excuses / blame all difficulties on others, never seeing our part
• stay the victim / be in self-pity / ‘practice’ unnecessary self-sacrifice
• never use direct communication (leave out things, beat around the bush, don’t stand up for our rights….) // justify, exaggerate, lie
• never rock the boat // stay in denial // act dumb
• always have to ‘be the ‘good’ one
• try to “know everything”, be perfect
• use self-injury to ‘cope’ with too much pain
• isolate / distance everyone // be invisible
• stay connected to unhealthy family & other dysfunctional or dangerous people
• don’t risk trying new & better ways to live
• be controlling (trying to force PPT to be what we want)
• people-please / don’t say NO when appropriate
• look for others to rescue, validate & take care of us
• always busy minding someone else’s business, rescuing, over-helping
• stay constantly busy, over-work / try to be perfect
▶︎Think of all the ways you use to escape, & fill in the chart ↖︎
Keeping these patterns alive, especially once we know better, insures that we stay stuck. It’s the WIC who is in charge of this resistance, & it takes great deal of determination, correct info & unconditional love to pry it loose from the toxic family system.
NEXT: Negative Discomfort – #2