Fear of Commitment – ACoAs (Part 1)

chasing the alcoholic I REALLY WANT TO,
but I just can’t get myself to do it!

PREVIOUS: Fear of Commitment – general (#2)

QUOTE: “If you don’t make a total commitment to whatever you’re doing, then you start looking to bail out the first time the boat starts leaking. It’s tough enough getting that boat to shore with everybody rowing, let alone when a guy stands up and starts putting his life jacket on.” Lou Holtz, football coach

1. ORIGIN – the basis for this fear (FoC) is the fear of intimacy, ie. “in-to-me-see”.
• In general, INTIMACY is the mental & emotional closeness between 2 people which allows each to know the other person behind their defenses or socially acceptable mask. Sexual intimacy may or may not include this.

a. But initially, it’s the intimacy between a child & it’s mother. From the very beginning of mother-childlife, each child is totally dependent on its primary caretaker(s), & therefore totally vulnerable to their plusses & minuses.
If the mother (or substitute) is an active addict, controlling, cruel or crazy, depressed, ill, distracted, insensitive, manipulative, raging, scared, (usually some combination) – the child will be in an intimacy double bind:
— on the one hand, desperately needing the adult(s) to love it, protect it & take care of all its needs
— on the other, emotionally & intuitively aware that the connection with that person is totally unsafe & therefore terrifying.

The child is trapped in this most intimate of all relationships which is truly dangerous to its well-being, but inescapable. Being raised with unreliability & chaos inevitably creates a lack of trust, which then becomes the model for all future relationships, creating a deep terror of intimacy.

b. In most cases we witnessed one or both of our parents:
— be unable to make a commitment – to each other, to their children, to work, to personal growth…. OR
— be committed to work instead of relationships (us), to their spouse not their children, to their addiction & nothing else!……
…… so we didn’t have a role-model for the emotional & spiritual requirements needed for consistent reliability

• Sometimes a child has another parent, older sibling or other relative who is more available & attentive than the primary. But if they are part of the same family, they too will have narcissistic damage & be limited in how much emotional safety & love they can provide. Often this ‘better’ person will either leave, die or turn on the child at some point – multiplying the abandonment pain.

All roads lead to Rome” was a familiar statement to the ancient Romans, & still is to all roadsmodern-day History students. The ACoAs version is: “All roads lead to Abandonment!”. This fear is the bottom line for us, governing all our responses to the world. So much so that we can even feel abandoned by the end of a book or movie we intensely connected to!

• Whenever we obsess, beat ourselves up, feel distrustful or hopeless, are terrified something bad will happen to us – we are tapping into old abandonment pain (E). Given how much abuse & neglect we experienced as children, it makes sense that the WIC would believe (T) that Ab. is the only possible outcome for us. SO – why bother committing to anything, if we’re always going to mess it up or have it taken away??

➼ Making a commitment to something or someone means showing up regularly, being self-motivated, taking risks, not knowing everything, asking for help along the way, having rights…. all the things we’re not allowed!

• The ACoA’s WIC has a whole trunk-full of reasons for FoC, even when we don’t have words for it or are aware of the WHY. As adults, this fear is perpetuated by Self-Hate & weak or confusionmissing Boundaries. We can apply the following issues to PPT (people-places-things), even tho the focus here is mainly on relationships. It shows up as:
— Confusion (I don’t know what I want, who I am)
— Indecisiveness (should I or shouldn’t I?)
— Perfectionism (I have to know it all & do it right – the first time!)
Procrastination (maybe later, but secretly – maybe never)

Some REASONS for FoC
a. Fear of abandonment (FoA) – our most basic fear. A = not getting enough of our legitimate childhood PMES needs met, AND being abused in each of those 4 categories. It created the belief that we will always lose what we need & love, so there’s no point in setting ourselves up for more pain by committing (C) to something we care about. This is one reason ACoAs are ‘best’ at what we like or love to do – the least. It’s inevitable that FoA would create lack of trust. SO – if our parents & other important caretakers neglected & assaulted us, how can we possible believe anyone else would be dependable or care for us?

NEXT: FoC – Part 2



not trapped 

there’s a way to protect myself

PREVIOUS: Fear of Responsibility (#1)

POST: Toxic Family Rules


SO — with all the frustration & lack of ‘success’ as children to fix our family, we assume that if we failed at that we’ll inevitably fail at everything else – so why bother. Since they didn’t take responsibility for their emotions & actions we didn’t learn how to either, & we don’t know there’s clear line between what’s our job in life & what isn’t.

a. Re. US – we do NOT:
• take care of ourselves – body, living space, appearance…self-neglect
• acknowledge the damage done to us, & get the right help
• stand up for our rights, provide for our own needs
• use our inborn talents & don’t contribute our best to society
• prosper, perpetuating general ‘anorexia’ — under-earning, bad relationships, isolation….

• Most ACoAs do not show obvious outward signs of this underlying problem, but all of us suffer from it to some degree, even in Recovery. We:
— didn’t learn self-care from our family, having been neglected & mistreated, thus given the message that we didn’t deserve any better, and
— this left us with a lack of information as to what self-care is, so that we don’t actually think in terms of what we need

• At the extreme, there are some of us whose self-neglect is more visible. Gibbons (2006) defined self-neglect as: “The inability (intentional or not) to maintain a socially & culturally accepted standard of self-care, with the potential for serious consequences to the health and well-being of the self-neglecters, perhaps even to their community.” (Wikipedia) (MORE….)

Some symptoms of self-neglect include hoarding items & pets, feelings of isolation, living in an unclean environment, poor personal hygiene, neglecting household maintenance, unwillingness to take medication, unkempt personal appearance, eccentric behaviors……(ACoAs may only have 1 or 2 of these & still ‘seem normal’ on the outside, but the damage is there).

b. Re. OTHERS:
At the same time we often treat others badly (How ACoAs Abandon Others5 posts):
• by not considering others’ rights, boundaries & emotions, being so focused on our pain & trying to protect ourselves
• by our narcissism, idealizing, constant criticism, being controlling…
THIS INCLUDES how we treat both our children and other adults

According to the WIC, we still have no one we can depend on for our needs, AND we’re responsible for everyone & slaveeverything around us. We say we don’t want to have such a great burden, YET we reject being with people or groups who would allow us to relax, focus on ourselves & also be supported. This leaves us completely overwhelmed & exhausted.
So with the assumption that we have to carry the weight of any association (personal or professional), we are too scared to be fully committed.

● To take healthy, ‘adult’ responsibility for our choices & relationships, we would need to become familiar with and embrace our True Self, via S & I, which is the goal of all therapy & Recovery. However, ACoAs greatest addiction is to our family of origin, making it very hard to let go of our symbiotic attachment to them. This result is a great resistance to taking center stage in our life, instead – playing the satellite (or slave) to someone or something else.
The irony is that at the same time – we think everything others do or say is about us, taking everything personally – which is not the ADULT ego state being responsible for ourselves, but rather the narcissistic stance of the WIC.

• While we consciously insist we never want to be anything like ‘them’, unconsciously we copy  them in every way possible, having absorbed the PP, ie. negative introject. Because the WIC is by nature narcissistic, it can’t distinguish itself from our narcissistic parents. SO:
— If they didn’t take responsibility for themselves, we won’t either.
— If they never connected with their True Self, we won’t either
— If they treated us badly, we’ll do the same to ourselves…..

• Even when ACoAs truly want to be connected in a meaningful way, our terror of being trapped in the position of caretaker leads us to have a back-door mentality – always looking for an out: finding fault, being resentful, feeling inferior or superior, getting bored…. & above all – picking people who are emotionally unavailable & not suited to our personality, but familiar because of our family structure. Keeping ourselves at emotional arm’s-length in all our interactions is the only way we think we can protect ourselves, since w don’t have actual boundaries

distanceThe WIC says: “I can’t afford to commit myself to anything serious – especially if it’s really important to me – because then I’ll be stuck having to handle everything (perfectly) myself. I don’t know how & I resent being in that position – so I won’t. Besides, since I always fail at getting my needs met:
— it’ll be too painful to try & fail again (lose out on what I really want)
— I’ll have to re-live all the ways I failed my family as a kid, kicking up more of my S-H

NEXT: Fear of Responsibility (Part 3)

ACoAs – NOT allowed to RECEIVE (Part 1)


I don’t need anything!

PREVIOUS: Bad Decision Styles – #3

REVIEW: Abandonment Pain Now

WHY ACoAs can NOT take in anything positive
Mis-information: There are still people in our culture who insist (from ignorance, denial or control) that: “The past is over & done with & has nothing to do with now – let it go & get on with your life”!
Unfortunately those of us who experienced abuse & trauma as kids have a toxic programming deep in our bones (our thoughts, emotions & spirit). So, if we were conditioned to be unworthy of receiving, we can’t properly nourish ourselves or let others help us. To ‘let go’, we need the right info! To heal takes courage & time.


THIS CHART (& the expanded version) is the exact opposite of Maslow’s hierarchy of Needs. Instead of going from most basic to highest, this tragically common life cycle of wounded people without Recovery causes distress & tragedy :
• A damaging childhood leads….
➺ to Social, mental & emotional impairment, which leads ….
➺ to Developing health-risk behaviors, which can lead….
➺ to Disease, disability & social problems, which may end  in ➺ Early death

• While many wounded people manage to carve out a life without emotional healing, they can only manage by using rigid defense mechanisms to hold their world together (narcissism, bullying, rescuing, controlling, illness, isolation, addictions, cutting off all emotions…). If they ever do begin a Recovery process, all the pain hidden under these defenses surfaces, & causes an avalanche of anxiety, confusion & rage.

• In A.A. the general wisdom, based on over 50 years experience, is that it takes a newly sober alcoholic the first 5 yrs in the Program just to get their brains out of hock. Then they can start developing a life!

Some ACoA ASSUMPTIONS about Receiving
1. ABOUT US (our assumptions)
Co-Dependence – because of the ACoA rule ‘Other people needs are always more important than mine’, we have to keep on giving to everyone else, without ever considering our own requirements & desiresScreen Shot 2015-09-07 at 6.36.54 PM
Failure – “ACoAs are human doing, rather than human beings”.  The focus was always on what we did wrong – on actions, not personal value. And since we never seemed to do anything well, right or good enough – we haven’t ‘earned’ being treated well, receiving respect & consideration, much less love
Loyalty – staying connected to the family system as adults – to not feel rejected, abandoned, alone (even tho that’s exactly what they did to us!) – we unconsciously decided that it’s NOT ok to have more /better connections than with our family, in any category. That way we can all continue suffering together (“Misery loves company”)

Payback – If we DO take anything, we automatically feel obligated to that person or group. While reciprocity is a normal human expectation, ACoAs believe what we have to give back is our time, money, total attention…. our very life blood! No wonder we’re reluctant!
Punishment – to try for more of anything could easily get us deliberately ignored, a slap, a disgusted look, being humiliated in public or an abusive tirade. Some of us had to ask over & over for anything, even basics, before they reluctantly gave in
Scarcity – based on real experiences, we concluded that the universe has very limited resources, so to get anything for ourselves automatically diminishes someone else – usually a parent or sibling.

Selfishness – to ask for more is not just futile, it’s presumptuous & arrogant. Many of us were taught that wanting for yourself is a sin.
Self-Hate – it’s not hard to see then why we gathered that we aren’t worthy of beinsufferingg given to! Not only because we’re bad, unlovable, selfish,  greedy – “Children should be seen & not heard” – but that we haven’t ‘earned’ it, in some mysterious way! “ACoAs are human doing, rather than human beings”
Suffering is the rule of the (alcoholic) universe: ”Life is hard!” and “You’re always supposed to struggle, but never ‘get there’”. So – don’t bother trying

One of many ACoAs Double Binds:
a. We don’t want to take care of others, hate having to give & give, especially to angry & selfish people. We’re trapped in a debilitating conflict: If we disobey the Rules, we feel terrible guilt, but if we give in, we hate ourselves & the people we ‘help’. Tortured either way.

b. BUT – we’ve been brainwashed to believe we have no other choice but to provide whatever someone asks for. We obey the family rules – it’s the only way we can be tolerated.
• ACoAs handle the expectations, demands or whines of others BY:
— Most commonly: a knee-jerk reaction to comply – before we can take a breath we’re fixing, doing, comforting – giving, giving, giving!
— For some of us:  the only option is to be almost totally withholding – as the only way to not get sucked in.
✶ Either way, it leaves NO room for us to RECEIVE!

NEXT: Can’t Receive – Re. Others (Part 2)