OUTGROWING Co-Dep Niceness (Part 3)


but it’s worth it to me

PREVIOUS: Outgrowing Co-dep, #2

MEN:  Stop Being a “Nice” Guy

WOMEN – Don’t be so nice


RECOVERY from “Too Nice Syndrome” (TNS) cont.

Tool #3  ASSERTIVENESS (cont.)
As we practice self-care & accept things the way they really are, rather than how we would like them, we can be more direct in protecting ourselves. This makes P-P less & less necessary.

++ Don’t excuse your opinions (T), they are a part of you, even if only for the moment. However, to be sure of what we think & feel, we must first identify all those long-held ideas we had to swallow whole from our family, & separate them out from what we truly believe for ourselves. There are some things we can be sure of, unequivocally: “I know what I know”. But we can’t know everything – certainly not what others are thinking or feeling, unless they say – & we don’t have to know everything. If you believe in yourself, you’ll always want to keep learning AND won’t be ashamed to correct any ignorance or misconceptions

++ Identify your boundaries. We all have the need for personal space, a greater amount for some than for others. P-P generally deny this need, believing that not setting limit is the only way to keep people attached to us, (symbiosis). Trying to meld with each person we interact with means constantly taking on a new fake persona. At least when actors do that they get paid! And trying to be what others want or copying them – never gets us the pay-off we’re hungry for. Keeping this up year after year takes a lot of energy & creativity, but is ultimately exhausting AND ineffective! Remember “Zelig”?

++ Don’t shy away from conflict or confrontations. A basic philosophical tenet of martial art is to a) know how to defend yourself, if attacked, but b) never start the fight if you can avoid it. Following this 2-part principle psychologically is crucial to having a safer life. Books like “The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-defense” by S.H. Elgin, give us several excellent ‘weapons’.

When we start setting boundaries, some people will be confused & others will be angry – who may give you a hard time – since they’re used to you automatically giving in to whatever they want from you.

No matter how scary it is at first to deal with push-back, if you’re sure of your beliefs or needs, stick to your guns. Some of those reactors might even apologize later.
Eventually the right people will get used to the new you, even admire & respect the changes. The ones who can’t get with the new program will fall away. “Man’s rejection is God’s protection.”

Tool 4. RIGHTS
To outgrow P-P we need a replacement for the Toxic Rules that drive our co-dependence. We need to know our RIGHTS.

☁︎ BTW – How we use Language is as important in the quest for ‘sanity’ as other factors. The words & phrases we choose either help or hinder our progress.  A questionable statement we hear often is:“You deserve it” / or / “I deserve to…..”
The problem is the word ‘deserve’. Sounds OK? Well, in terms of actual meaning, ‘deserve’ refers to whatever is given as a reward for acceptable, special or difficult behavior (as in: “Here is your A+ / medal / Oscar / gold watch…..you deserve it”). It is something you earned, which is OK, since it’s good to be recognized & honored for accomplishments.

BUT, using ‘deserve’ in the context of personal growth is misguided, because it implies that our worth is based on how much & how well we DO thingsThis reinforces our difficult childhood, when we were only acceptable (if at all) on condition of how well we conformed to dysfunctional rules, instead of being loved unconditionally for just being here.

So, connecting “I deserve …..” with self-worth is a subtle distortion, disguised as Recovery, which ignores our BE-ing. The implied message is: “Produce or lose!” It sneakily tells us that we have to keep on earning validation for things which in fact are universal Human needs (love, freedom, respect, identity, guidance, dependability….), & therefore should not have to be struggled for. This deep-rooted negative assumption is why we keep trying to be perfect & please everyone.

NEXT: Outgrowing P-P #4


Co-Dependent Anger-Niceness (Part 2)


from ‘availables’!

 PREVIOUS: Co-dep angry-nice #1

SITE: 6 Basic human NEEDS


NEEDS:  As young, vulnerable beings every one of us had legitimate needs that were supposed to be met by caretakers, in order to flourish. Instead, we constantly got the message that our need were annoying, overwhelming, unacceptable, even ‘evil’. But since normal human requirements don’t go away, we had to find other ways to try to supply them. As a result –
— Co-deps will take on the submissive role, trying to get others to take care of them
— Passive-aggressives (P-As) will compensate by copying the dominant parent’s role, trying to exert power over others.
The purpose is the same as for the Co-dep, but reversed. Both styles are done indirectly, to hide their early abandonment rage

A fundamental human need is for connection, but angry-niceness, in any form, prevents that very thing. Focusing on ‘protecting’ others from our anger along with ignoring all of our needs & wants is classic ACoA damage (remember:”Damaged, not defective”!). Co-deps live by the Toxic Rule: “Every else’s needs are more important than mine (always)”. The obvious implication is that we should not have any needs – that needs are a weakness & therefore bad.

Sadly, we tend to surround ourselves & stay in relationships with un-recovering addicts & other narcissists – who take their damage out on us. While most of them truly do not have the capacity to provide an emotional connection (compassion, empathy, understanding, love….), we can still clearly state how we want others to behave toward us, which is about actions, not emotions (T.E.A.).

NOTE the difference between needs & obligations:
a. NEEDS are qualities, necessities & situations that are universal to everyone – see Maslow’s pyramid. There are also needs specific to you, based on your unique personality (EnneaType, Myers-Briggs Type, Signs, Numbers, Learning Style, heredity, PTSD, physical issues….)

b. OBLIGATIONS are activities that relate to functioning in the world as older children (homework, chores….) & as adults. People tend to say “I need to do the laundry, to get to work, to call my doctor, to finish this project, to do my taxes, to walk the dog….”. These are important but not your personality needs.

Of course – there is also the 2 ‘wounded’ versions.
1. Passive-Aggressive version: Many ACoAs find it hard to take care of basic maintenance tasks which represent self-care, or to honor outside obligations, like doing work we’re being paid to do. It’s the WIC saying – not just “I don’t wanna” – but flat-out ‘I won’t! & you can’t make me! You don’t care about me so I don’t care either”. It’s the hidden rage that makes us wait to be taken care of by others.

2. Co-Dependent version: Since ACoAs are not allowed to have needs, many of us focus all our energy on tasks & obligations, as if we could earn our way to heaven – the heaven of our family’s love! Co-deps take on too much – of everything – & then pile on the tasks of others as well, trying to do it all without help! No wonder we get sick, feel depressed, overwhelmed & angry!

AWARENESS: In our current life we’re afraid to honor the need of setting boundaries for ourselves as well as with others, & afraid to admit the need for others to treat us – at the very least – with respect, much less kindness.

But asking for better responses from others is very hard for us, because:
— we’ve been trained to not deserve better, so we think it’s selfish
— we really do know (even while in ‘denial’) that unhealthy, narcissistic peoplespeak up for me only care about themselves, do not want to change their ways, might retaliate in some form…..

Even so, we need to ask! Most of the time we’ll only get lip-service, but if you get thrown an occasional crumb, don’t let that keep you on their hook! It’s much better in the long run to gather your resolve, back off & suffer temporary crumb-withdrawal!
Otherwise, we end up feeling more & more confused, frustrated & hopeless, wondering why all our efforts aren’t paying off.

Speaking up is for the benefit of our Inner Child – no matter what the response from others !



I can do to get going

PREVIOUS: Putting things off, #3

Reminder: See ACRONYM page for abbrev.

SITE: ‘Beating Procrastination

“WHY BOTHER?” underlies all our indecision & procrastination. We don’t take genuine care of ourselves, no matter how busy or cocky we seem to others. On a deep level we’re paralyzed by:
a. Not knowing or having access to our healthy True Self, so we believe we don’t know what we want or like, nor what our rights are!

b. Not being allowed to be our own internal motivator so our only reason to take actions has to come from outside. We have to use family, a boss, teacher, a cause, religion, a career, friends & lover relationships, AND ultimately our terror of abandonment & punishment to push ourselves. Left to our own devices, we just collapse inward

Our Internal Conflicts:conflict
• losing someone, being hurt or punished vs. feeling ‘safe’ (even if that safety is an illusion or self-destructive)
• WIC & PP vs. the Healthy UNIT
• obeying vs. disobeying the Toxic Rules
• old patterns vs. new ways of doing things
• what we want vs. what we’re ‘supposed’ to be, do, think, feel

d. Double messages, originally forced on us by one or more adults, we had no choice but to internalize the resulting Double Binds* (simultaneous but opposing demands, with a penalty for whichever one we can’t fulfill).
• As kids they expected us to do for them (which may still be going on with an elderly parent), taking advantage of us to be their parent substitute – using hints, guilt, shaming, manipulation, demands, threats…. AND were angry / abusive if we did nothing (the penalty)
• BUT THEN were totally dissatisfied with & critical of (the penalty) whatever we did do for them, no matter how much effort we put in, what it cost us, what we had to sacrifice, how clever we were at it….

*EITHER WAY we were/are punished. If they’re still live we compulsively keep trying – to please them, over & over. If they’re not around anymore we often find some other needy, critical person to satisfy – always with the same impossible, painful results! YES, we’re addicted to the rejection, while maintaining the illusion that we have the power to change them, if only we try hard enough, long enough!chained to rules

Ultimately, we stopped trying – but only for ourselves, because:
• we’re still waiting for them to approve of us, & give us permission to have a life of our own life (free us of their bondage because we don’t believe we can do it ourselves!)
• we’re convinced that if we failed with them (the family, also school, religion), it’s inevitably that we’ll fail with everything & everyone else, so there’s no point in trying
• we’re waiting for someone – anyone – to come & rescue us so we don’t ever have to be our own parent!

• Unfortunately, delaying inevitable responsibilities (as well as ones we’ve taken on voluntarily) creates endless obsession & self-recrimination. “”I’m just lazy by nature”, “I can’t do anything right” , “I’ll just mess it up – again” ….procratination

So why would we rather worry ourselves sick than ‘just do it’?
• we SAY it’s just a habit – but it’s really our self-hate
• we’re used to longing for things, rather than having them
• we’re waiting to be taken care of
• we think we don’t know how, even tho we actually do
• staying loyal to the family by copying how those adults ‘handled’ daily actions & problems
• we’re not allowed to do things easily because suffering is the norm (if it’s too easy it doesn’t count)

RESULTS:old vs new
more anxiety, to the point of ulcers, migraines, auto-immune diseases, weight gain, depression….
• getting caught / ‘punished’ at work, by the IRS, angry family & friends…..
• adds to the S-H, so we stay in league with the PP
• lose out on more income, develop an illness, pay $$ penalties, lose a good opportunity….

• We expect that when we finally get something done that’s been weighing on us that we’ll feel relief – & sometimes we do.
But more often – we just feel empty! Once the obsessing is gone we’re left with the hole in our gut. At that point ACoAs often think “Now what do I do?” Like when we have a day off with no plans, no one to take care of or obey (like a boss, parent, spouse…) we don’t know what to do with our free time! Very often we do nothing, and find something else to obsess about – like the fact that we’re wasting time!

Doing things in a timely & competent manner would MEAN: fighing angel
a. Disobeying family rules, which enrages the PP, — AND
b. Showing us that we are actually capable (without having to be perfect), which enrages the WIC, because it would force us to give up the demand (& fantasy) of one day being taken care of by someone else – finally!

IRONY: Not taking ‘right actions’ causes worry AND inevitably self-hate! This is distressing, yet we think we’re avoiding pain!
REALITY: When we have 2 conflicting actions – both leading to emotional suffering – we need to pick the option that will contribute to our recovery & growth. Ultimately, the healthier option

NEXT: ACoAs & Procrastination #5



dismantle your prison

PREVIOUS: What to do when Confused – #4

REMINDER: See ACRONYM page for abbrev.

we’re stuck
There may be several reasons why ACoAs are stuck. Here we’re concerned with the many Negative Beliefs* we carry with us from our childhood experience.
✶ Our fear is strong & pervasive, but the main cause for that in the present is what we are THINKING! Change that & we’re free!  NOT being able to pursue & reach our needs & desires is caused by intense inner conflict between what we consciously desire VS the family rules coming from the Introject (bad parent voice), which is whispering or screaming at the WIC (wounded inner child), resulting in Self-Hate

• OBEYING the Toxic Beliefs guarantees that we stay trapped, continually failing, feeling more & more hopeless, even suicidal. BUT, they are so much a part of us, we may not even know that we’re being coerced by ideas that were created for us (deliberately or not, it doesn’t matter). To get UNSTUCK – we need to know & own these self-destructive Rules, counter them & then slowly change our actions, ie. Only follow the New Rules!

IRONICALLY, these old beliefs are very hard to give up, because:
• the Inner Child actually believes them!pain
• following them represents loyalty to our family
GIVING them up would mean:
• getting in touch with the PAIN of our damage
• seeing what we missed out on (a loving, healthy family)
• having to give up what we thought was our ‘identity’ (our False Self
& one or more Roles)
• having to become our own person (S & I), grow up emotionally, make our own choices, be responsible for ourselves & our actions  – stop waiting to be rescued.

BELOW is one FORM to use whenever you want to know what’s going on in your head – what toxic beliefs are keeping you from getting what you want in life (separately for each topic or issue that is bothering or confusing you), AND another FORM to make your corrections

➼ Please DON’T just say “I don’t understand this”, or “I don’t know how to do it” & give up.  That is mainly resistance, even if you’ve never done this particular exercise before.  Anyone who has read self-help books & done therapy will definitely be able to fill these out, given some thought, but even if you never have, you can always ask for help from someone who knows you well.  Don’t worry if your answers are similar each time you use the forms. That’s to be expected.

resistSTART by identifying a problem you want to correct OR a goal you want to achieve, but have not been able to, so far. Suggested ‘Issues’What‘s stopping me from:
• starting a new career?  • looking for a new job ?  • leaving a harmful relationship?  • standing up for myself?  • letting go of my damage?  • cleaning up my apartment?  • studying  my artistic passion? ….”

1. FORM A – What is familiar: using T.E.A. (our Thoughts, Emotions & Actions), to ‘hear’ the damaged part of our thinking
•  Column 1. “Emotions” can be filled in right away if you are very upset & know what you are feeling, otherwise–
— go to Column 2, filling in as many negative thoughts as you can (one for each category is ok if that’s all you can think of). Make sure you separate out what you’re thinking about yourself VS what you’re saying about others (projecting)

•  If you left the first column empty, now add any emotions you have become aware of that relate to your beliefs about this topic
• Then list the ways you ACT in response to your negative beliefs

2. FORM B – What is possible: Reversing thoughts & patterns of behavior will modify fear & greatly improve your experiences in life.
Use the same procedure as for Form A. but change the harmful beliefs to HEALTHY, positive & hopeful ones, & then keep the list with you at all times so you can review & internalize them

• Based on that –  you can practice changing you ACTIONS, starting in small ways, whenever you can. Plan ahead how you’re gong to change an old pattern & try it out.
• In this case the Emotions column is last because you may not know how you feel until you try our new behaviors & get some positive results. Don’t be surprised if you have uncomfortable emotions as well as happy ones.  Those will come from your WIC and/or PP.  Just let them be. Comfort your kid, tell the pig parent (introject) to leave your kid alone, & focus on enjoying the relief & pleasure of living well (the best revenge!).

Sample PROBLEM :
“Why can’t I make & keep friends / lovers / bosses who are healthier, compatible & supportive??”

You may need help from a therapist, friend, sponsor or healer – to IDENTIFY the NEGATIVE and POSITIVE beliefs. Don’t be ashamed to ask!

MAKE several BLANK copies of these 2 FORMS,  and try it out on one of YOUR issues

ACoAs: Early Trust Betrayal

angry father 

for sure NOT my family!

PREVIOUS: Adult Play #2

See ACRONYM page for abbrev.


• Children automatically trust their parents (caregivers) – they don’t have a choice. But that trust can be destroyed early & easily, if their family & community is unreliable, non-nurturing & dangerous. The earlier the betrayal of trust, the more long-term damage is done – small children are not able to understand & process such disappointments

• Kids don’t want the instability & cruelty of their home to be true, so they can’t afford to consciously admit that the suffering they’re going thru is being caused by the unloving adults they depend on. If they did it would make life even more unbearable, so they do whatever they can to deny their painful experiences (blame themselves, people-please, fit into roles, rescue…..)

• At the same time, as a result of years of emotional pain & abusive family treatment, children make firm & lasting negative decisions based on very real events, about themselves & the whole world. These are  twisted conclusions & assumptions which lead to self-hate, cynicism, bitterness & hopelessness.  Then they’re  mirrored by & added to by the rigid unhealthy ‘laws’ of other dysfunctional groups such as school, church, neighborhood, the combination becoming the basis for all future interactions.  These toxic beliefs get ‘written in stone’ & are very hard to change as long as they stay out of our awareness

BETRAYAL of our trust came in several waysdisappointed
a. Our caretakers were undependable, disappointing, untrustworthy, even sadistic – understandably leaving us feeling unsafe, terrified & frustrated beyond words!
We were subjected to: all forms of neglect, lies, sexual abuse, physical / mental / emotions torture, mind-fucking, constant unavailability, not telling us what to expect in new & scary situations, taking us to places not suitable to young emotions or the capacity to process….

AND we should not underestimate the effect of inconsistency on a child, whether from broken promises, rotating caretakers, parents’ new mates, constant moving, conflicting messages or just plain cruelty.
EXP: A 5 yr old boy is standing at the edge of the pool, hesitating to make the leap. The father, already in the pool says: ”Jump in & I’ll catch you”. The little boy, needing the reassurance, jumps towards his dad – who smirks & steps back, not catching his son!

EXP: Equally devastating is the controlling, insensitive mother. One evening after being put to bed a young daughter hears the laughter of company downstairs & wanders into the living room to see what was fun is about. The mother in a rage at being embarrassed by her child’s desire for attention (in he PJs) drags her off to bed, promising to punish her – later. But in the busyness of being a hostess, she forgets her threat.
While the adults go on partying the terrified child curls up in a ball for agonizing hours in anticipations of a beating – which never comes.
waiting for unishmentThat may seem like a good thing – but her little nervous system is being overloaded with no outlet and no one to comfort, so the threat is torture enough, while the mother is unaware of the long-term harm she has done. That & other such events become anticipatory anxiety.

b. We were taught to not trust our own observations, opinions, emotions & conclusions.  We were:
• told: “you don’t feel that way /  that’s not how it is / I don’t know why you think that / Oh, nothing (is going on)” ….. OR
• not given important information about what was really going on in the family, leaving us with an uncomfortable feeling of insecurity, wondering what’s wrong, making up scenarios & blaming ourselves
• expected to go along with the program, no matter how harmful it was to our mental & emotional health, how it simply did not fit with our native personality, or how little it allowed us to explore options & possibilities in the world, or to find out who we really were

Exp: Look up the recent reality series “The Judds”, shown on the OWN tv channel.  Naomi (the mother) slowly spills all the ugly family secrets she’s been protecting for the past 20 to 60 yrs – murder, incest, suicide, neglect…. Daughter Wynnona finally has a realistic understanding of the source of problems between the two them & is now able to have more compassion for & a new trust in her mother

c. Higher Power also became untrustworthy. One of John Bradshaw’s statements about our Spiritual relationship common to all humans, is: “Until the age of 7 we deify our parents.  After age 7 we parentalize our deity”.  So if all children parentalize their bad goddeity & our parents were unloving & unsafe, then we conclude at a profound level that God (as we understand Him) is also unloving & unsafe! That’s why in ACoA meetings we need to be reminded that “God is not an alcoholic parent”.
We may have been raised in a conservative religion with no room for questioning, so we blame God for all our suffering (instead of our parents) & turn away from faith completely, or find our way to a metaphysical path in another form

EXP: Some children pray fervently for years that their suffering end, but as long as they’re trapped with damaging parents – it never does. This leaves them with the conclusion that God is not listening, or that God is punishing them because they’re soooo evil. Since kids can’t really face that their parents are responsible for their suffering, they usually conclude God had abandoned them & therefore is not to be trusted!

• Denying our need for a faith-based life of any kind is a tragedy, because people are made up of Mental, Physical, Emotional & Spiritual aspects. We need a spiritual connection to be complete. Also, recovering from deep childhood wounds is such a difficult undertaking that we need help from “a power greater than ourselves” to heal at the deepest levels of our being.  Anyone who has a regular spiritual practice can attest to the fact that it soothes the emotions, help us think more clearly & makes us better able to cope with life’s stresses.

ACoAs & PLAYING (Part 1)

having fun 1 

What’s that?

PREVIOUS: Inner Child Speaks, #2

See ACRONYM page for abbrev.

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”   Plato
“A little nonsense now and then is cherished by the wisest men.”  Roald Dahl (writer of children’s books)
“Play is the royal road to childhood happiness and adult brilliance.” Joseph Chiltern Pearce  (author of child development books)

Play with a capital P is a process, not a specific thing, which lights up our brain, benefiting us in PMES ways (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual). Being a ‘whole’ person means balancing between being serious & having fun, but ACoAs tend to live in one extreme or the other – being over-responsible or under-responsible.

In general, it’s any activity someone voluntarily chooses to do (or for ACoAs to not do) because it’s fun, relaxing & enjoyable. It can include being creative, & sometimes even competitive – but without the need to win – otherwise it stops being Play.  Debbie Mandel, Stress Management expert suggests that F-U-N = Feeling Uninhibited Naturally. And a formula for ‘balance’ is: Concentrated Energy + Relaxation = Healthy living.

• One of the many sad results of having a traumatic childhood is that we were & are still deprived of the joy of relaxing thru playing & having fun. As a result of our damage we fall into several categories (lifestyles) which seem very different but underneath eaoverwhelmedch has the same problem – our WIC listening to the Negative Introject, believing the Toxic Rules:
 “Life is hard / you have to suffer / you can’t play until all your work is done / no one wants to play with you anyway / if you don’t like it you have to stay / don’t be yourself / the world is a dangerous place / you always have to struggle, but never get there!…..”

REACTION to growing up in a dysfunctional environment:
a. Many of us turned out to be compulsive, over-responsible worker bees, doing something we hate or are bored with, trudging thru life trying to be perfect, but never quite making it. No time for play, unless we consider participating in addictions as a way to relax. Obviously not real fun.

b. Some of us decided early on to give up & not really try at all. Hide & be safe, don’t rock the boat, don’t stick your neck out. No fun here.
c. And then there are those of us who are openly rebellious – the flamboyant addicts, promiscuous, belligerent, running wild, never finishing our education, never sticking to anything long enough to become accomplished, terrified of being trapped, controlled, of even committing to a book – much less a good job or relationship….

• To the rest of the world this third group may seem to be having a lot of fun. They do whatever they want, get away with ‘murder’ & play all the time. NOT SO. Sometimes even this type of ACoA may think so while in the middle of it, but it wears thin over the years, since the internal foundation is built with inferior material – not ours but what was given to us by our family & community. It’s cracked & crumbling. This is not fun.encouragement

BTW, If you identify with either the a. b or c. group, & are reading this, presumably you’re in the process of healing your wounds & working to outgrow the category. You deserve a lot of respect & encouragement!

However, some of you may say – “I’m an ACoA & don’t fit into a. b. or c. I have a decent life I’ve carved out for myself – family, career, some accomplishments, some travel…. & I know how to have fun & play.”
Response: “GOOD! You’ve used your own native skill & drive to achieve these things, & have a lot to show for it. BUT – how’s your anxiety level? Are you free of addictions, perfectionism & S-H? Are you content & relaxed? Or do you over-do for others & under-feel – for yourself?”

LAUNDRY LIST of ACoA False Self characteristics related to this topic:
ACoAs guess at what normal is. Here ‘Normal’ means healthy, as opposed to ‘average’. We don’t realize that playing, relaxing & having fun are a legitimate & important part of being healthy, happy & well-balanced. “All work & no play makes Jack a dull boy”. There is even a tribe in Papua New Guinea that frowns on sex and bans play. Anthropologists have been trying to study them for years with no success until recently – because they considered this tribe too dull! (MORE…) Scholars don’t know why the tribe developed this philosophy, but it’s not one we should emulate!

ACoAs over-react to changes they can’t control.
Genuine play allows us to be in the moment, not knowing the outcome, not having to be right or perfect and not “forcing solutions”. For exp, when children play they often change the out of control‘rules’ (which they made up in the first place) anytime they feel like it. Adult play doesn’t always have to follow pre-set rules either, & they can be thrown out the window if it’s more fun to not use them. This is hard to allow ourselves. Children need things to be stable & predictable in their every-day life, with clear rules & boundaries, something in very short supply in most dysfunctional homes. Chaos was the order of the day for us, so now we try to keep everything under tight control, which doesn’t fit in with playing.

ACoAs have difficulty with intimate relationships.
Everyone needs a certain amount of connection with other people, but the amount depends on one’s developmental stage, personality & on what’s going on in one’s life at the moment. And while it’s perfectly normal & acceptable to play alone, playing with others requires a certain capacity for intimacy* to be ‘successful’ – since being in authentic play-mode means being able to express the True Self without shame or reservation. This is not easy because our True Self got shrouded in shame & self-hate, making it hard for us to ‘let loose’ & to let others get emotionally close to us.  ACoAs are more likely to put others in double binds: “I hate you – Don’t leave me!” OR “I need you – Don’t touch me!”

*INTIMACY: (IN-TO-ME-YOU-SEE) “Relating to or indicative of one’s deepest nature / marked by informality & familiarity; something deeply personal, private, or secret”. In relation to others, it’s the ability to connect your ‘deepest nature’ with safe & appropriate others, because you know there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the Real You, so you’re not afraid of letting it be seen.

NEXT: ACoAs & Play (Part 2)

ACoAs – Healthy GIVE & TAKE (Part 2)

the more I can enjoy what I’m offered

PREVIOUS: Healthy Give & Take (#1)

IMP: In the context of these posts being reciprocal means that we ACoAs are supposed to receive something in return for our efforts – it can be a Thank You, a smile, a vacation or even a house! It means we ‘allow’ others to give to us in return for something positive we have done (once or on a regular basis) – OR just because they like us! Can you imagine?

Being able to receive is a normal part of life. This is hard for many ACoAs to believe & grasp if we’ve been blindly obeying our Toxic Rules, such as “Only other people’s needs count”. Do-ing for others is all we know & taking anything makes us feel guilty! Because we don’t feel worthy of anything good, we’re not comfortable letting others give to us – even when it is done freely & with an open heart.

Participating in beneficial exchanges of any kind depend on:
a. Knowing our needs. Directly or indirectly, we were taught to ignore & deny having needs. So now – how can we know what to take & what to reject, if we can’t tell what’s good for us or what we need?
TOXIC rules: “No one wants to help me, nor ever will” , “I should never be comforted when in pain”….know thyself

b. Trusting ourselves. We learned that we could never believe in our own thoughts, experiences, emotions, good judgement or intuition! They told us everything we felt was wrong, stupid or the reverse! So now – how can we discern what feels right for us or unsafe?
TOXIC Rules: It’s weak & dangerous to have needs, ask for help, have feelings”,

c. Whoever we’re dealing with. If we can’t trust our own judgement we can’t be awake enough to identify who’s safe to take from & who’s not!
TOXIC Rules: “ No one is safe or trustworthy” , “Never, ever, hold anyone else accountable for their bad behavior”

d. The circumstances. When there’s too much uncertainly (as in alcoholic family chaos), exchanges are not possible, as one or both parties will tend to hold on to all their ‘valuables’ – time, info, money, affection, confidences….
TOXIC Rules: “Life is suffering” , “Don’t expect anything good – ever”

ACoAs – with the focus being so completely on the addicts & narcissists in our family, we were left chaosout of the loop of information (Ts), nurturing (Es) & protection (As) that any healthy parent would have provided. Our training to not-be-given-to goes so deep that even the thought of someone legitimately treating us well can cause a panic attack. It can actually feels dangerous, terrifying & physically painful!

EXP: A successful business man found out (from some careful questioning) that over the past 10 years he had employed 3 different assistants who were ACoAs. One of them, Jane, was not only efficient at work but had consistently gone above & beyond her duties to ‘take care’ of her boss.
• This CEO wanted to show Jane his appreciation in addition to the usually expected business ‘gifts’, & asked her what he could do for her.  She was adamant that he should do nothing more. He was puzzled & insisted she receive some additional compensation, such as an all expense paid vacation or free school tuition. She began to shake & cry, insisting she could not possible take anything more. Her reaction was so intense that he finally backed off, shaking his head in

• To become more comfortable with the idea of receiving, it’s helpful to know some universal facts about the way human society functions. In social psychology, the “norm of reciprocity” is the expectation (assumption) that people will respond to someone else’s behavior in like manner – they will reward a positive action with another positive action, and conversely will react to hostile behavior by responding either with indifference or hostility. The focus is centered on trading favors rather than sharing givingmaking a negotiation or a contract with others.

• Reciprocity is basically an exchange of energy, and is beneficial to all concerned when the exchange is positive. It’s something everyone needs, like trees exchanging their oxygen for our carbon dioxide. So being a receiver is just as vital to smooth social functioning as being a supplier. And it’s not just about the things that are exchanged, which may or may not have value in themselves, but is a linking mechanism used as social capital (spend/expend) to bond with others – hopefully to create trust, affection & solidarity. It is a powerful mechanism for creating and maintaining social ties of all types – anywhere from 2 friends to 2 nations.

Reminder: Accepting honest kindness, respect & generosity from others is a way to say you value them. They are also some of the ways we can give back.

NEXT: Acceptance & ACoAs (Part 1)