Fear of Responsibility (FoR) #1a
BOOK: “So the Witch Won’t Eat Me: Fantasy & the Child’s Fear of Infanticide” ~ Dorothy Block (INTRO – especially important)
ORIGIN in Childhood (cont.)
1. “I tried to fix them so they’d be OK”
2. “I failed to make them better & so to stop my pain”
3. “I have to carry all the things they refuse to acknowledge”
a. Children are highly sensitive to their environment, especially the emotions & attitude of their parents. Even as very little kids, ACoAs were smart enough to know when things were ‘off’ with adults, in terms of their behavior, motivation & interactions with others
b. The dysfunction in our home was so great that we felt unsafe all the time. Because kids see themselves as the center of the universe, we assumed that we could help out by picking up what they ‘dropped / denied’, as if that responsibility would even things out
COMMENTS: Unfortunately this is a common response for children. EXP:
• If they were hypocritical, did illegal things, were cruel & insensitive AND had no remorse – we felt ashamed for them!
• If one was depressed, suicidal (even if never acted on directly – but showed up in physically illness, addictions, not being able to work…..), we took on their depression, lack of motivation & wanting to be dead
• If one or both parents’ never dealt with their own childhood pain, we took that on & “felt terribly sad/bad for them”. This is true whether the parent was numb & acted like they were OK, or if they were always in ‘suffering / martyr mode’
Loving them is not enough. No one can relieve another person of their hurt or other sickness by carrying it for them! no matter how pure our motives are. And children’s motives are never pure – understandably so. We desperately wanted them to be OK so they could be there for us. That was/is a legitimate need!
▶ All of this was in addition to our own pain from neglect & abuse. The combination of our suffering & their dysfunction became overwhelming.
Unfortunately, holding all that extra responsibility was totally wasted – it never helped them nor changed our situation. No wonder we’re so terrified & traumatized now!
4. “I’ll always fail at everything I do, so I won’t bother trying”
a. It’s natural for children to assume they have magical power over their circumstances, which in fact they do not have. This is normal childhood narcissism
b. Our family, & often other adults, were unable or unwilling to take the burden of responsibility on themselves & thereby off of their children’s shoulders. Indeed, in many cases they actually dumped all their own weight on us, adding to our sense of obligation
COMMENTS: As children, being ineffective at stopping the abuse & improving our lot at home inevitably left us with the conclusion that it was because of a lack in ourselves.
If we failed at such a basic goal – of helping to heal our parents & getting our needs met inside the family – our WIC thoroughly believed there’s no way we can now have any effect on anyone outside the family either – much less positively. This became the pattern for our adult life.
• This assumption is one of the many CD common to ACoAs. As children we not only thought we could influence our parents with love & effort, but many of them insisted that is was in fact our job to take care of them.
We had no way of knowing know that:
√ we were given an impossible task, from the very beginning, which we took on because we had no choice
√ that the reason we were ineffective is exclusively because of the persistent unhealed damage in our parents, not because of any lack in ourselves. Our task had always been an impossible job
NOTE: In some cases the alcoholic parent joined AA, & stopped the overt part of the dis-ease. Even so, rarely did they clean out their personal wounds (via Al-Anon & FoO work) which continued to infect the family system. And very often, the non-drinking parent did not want nor receive needed treatment either.
NEXT: Fear of Responsibility (Part 2a)