dismantle your prison

PREVIOUS: What to do when Confused – #4

See ACRONYM page for abbrev.

we’re stuck
There may be several reasons why ACoAs are stuck. Here we’re concerned with the many Toxic Beliefs* we carry with us from our childhood experiences.

✶ 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 (PP = bad parent voice), whispering or screaming at the WIC, causing in S-H

• OBEYING the Toxic Beliefs guarantees that we stay trapped, continually failing, feeling more & more hopeless, even suicidal. BUT, they’re so much a part of us, we may not even know 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 (use it separately for each topic or issue that’s 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’s 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 haven’t 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’s familiar: using T.E.A. (Thoughts, Emotions & Actions), to ‘hear’ the damaged part of our thinking
•  Column 1. “Emotions” can be filled in right away if you’re 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 assuming about others (projecting)

•  If you left the first column empty, now add any emotions you’ve become aware of relating to the beliefs
• Then list the ways you ACT in response to those beliefs

2. FORM B – What is possible: Reversing patterns of thoughts & behavior will modify fear & greatly improve your experiences in life.
Use the same procedure as in 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 pleasant ones), which come from your WIC and/or PP.  Just let them be. Comfort your kid, tell the PP (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


'acceptance' stampACCEPTANCE – BAH!
I don’t like it, so I’ll ignore it

PREVIOUS: Healthy Give & Take

QUOTE: “Most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it.”
G.R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones

😁 Calvin: “Now what state do you live in?”
Hobbes: Denial.” ― Bill Watterson 

ACCEPTANCE is the middle ‘A’
 of Al-Anon’s 3 As (Awareness — Action).  Correctly understanding & using this tool will make our life much clearer & saner.
For ACoAs this pesky A2 is the most misunderstood & the one many ACoAs HATE!  We don’t even want to acknowledge it’s something we need to deal with, because thinking that “I can’t accept anything I don’t like or is too painful”, which is a CD – cognitive distortion

A2 does NOT mean:
• liking or not liking something! – a MAJOR misconception
• staying a victim, accepting our lot in life, being resigned
• giving up, not trying, not looking for a way up & out
• putting up with ‘crap’ from people, including our Introject ‘bad voice’
• sitting around waiting for things to happen or someone to rescue us

Part 2 & 3 will explain what it IS. However, as in other areas, ACoAs will turn almost anything against themselves, even good things. In this case we do use the 3 As, but only in the service of our dis-ease, a shorthand for all of our toxic thinking.

Negative MEANING
The unside downalcoholic / narcissistic message “You’re Bad, We’re Good, the World is Bad” can mean:
Neg. A-1 = “I’m so bad, no one will ever love me”, &
Neg. A-2 = “I try to ignore it, but believe it absolutely”
Neg. A-3 = so – “I must be perfect, (or dead!), to make up for it”
We’re assume we’re stuck with this awful protocol that we can’t escape :
A1 = re. US – the deep-seated belief of the WIC that we’re unworthy, not entitled, beyond redemption! (S-H)

A2 = re. THEM – that our family was right about everything absorbed from their overt / covert brain-washing. Guess whose opinions we still hold on to!? We believed them because :
• all humans are intensely loyal to their upbringing – it’s our most basic connection to others
• it’s the way our brain got programmed – every experience created the neural pathways which formed our understanding of life
• AND ‘they’ constantly made it clear that we were un-acceptable. Some parents even used God, spirituality & religion to convince us of their beliefs!

A3 = re. the WORLD – everything & everyone who’s not part of our out-of-balance & insulated dangerous worldfamily mobile is considered dangerous, unhelpful, unwelcoming, indifferent…. Our family (& community) forced on us their narrow, alcoholic, bigoted view of the world

Unhealed ACoAs deal with ‘A3‘ BY:
Defiance of all authority & systems, which have become substitutes for our parents. We can hate them instead of admitting our rage at the family.
AND since the world is SO-O-O dangerous – we’re NOT going to give in or let them get us! or —
Compliance – we have to give in, keep our head down, hide in the shadows, so no one will get us!

✶✶ IRONY: these are the very messages we have accepted! – accept all sorts of terrible things as normal & inevitable for the rest of our lives, in obedience to our family & community’s lessons, which is why we always want to skip the middle A.
🏵 The fact that our suffering was endless & hopeless back then does not have to apply now.

NEXT: Acceptance & ACoAs (#2)

WHAT is SHAME? (Part 1)

I was born bad & I’ll always be bad

PREVIOUS: What is Guilt?


While guilt is mainly about negative actions,
SHAME is about our IDENTITY – about who we are, fundamentally.

🔹 It tells us that our very essence is bad, unlovable, unacceptable – to be eliminated. It makes us:
• want to hide, isolate, not talk, try to be invisible
• want to be dead! The pain of shame is so great & the conviction that we’re un-redeemable is so deep (not worth saving), that it eliminates Hope. Why bother even trying!
• OR we overcompensate – by acting superior, controlling, out-doing, knowing ‘everything’, never showing ‘weakness’ (grandiosity), shaming others…..

SHAME is connected to our NEEDs, rather than actions – specifically – each need we had as a child which was neglected, punished & made fun of.
Consider how many needs children have, & how many of them were met with abuse or not at all – you can imagine how huge our shame quotient is !!

BTW, most of us focus on the need for love, & while it is crucial, the need for safety is even more basic! We can’t begin to take in love, even when it’s available, if we’re terrified.

a. Being Ashamed – Children admire, even idealize their parents when they’re quite small. They need to do this to feel safe – to know they can rely on those people to be competent & available to them. It helps to compensate for the child’s extreme dependence & vulnerability.
✶ In reasonably healthy families, children gradually come to understand that their parents are human, fallible, imperfect – BUT still basically trustworthy & decent role models.

● But in dysfunctional families, one or more the adults act out their damage:
addictions, bitterness, constant criticism, cruelty, emotional withdrawal, depression, leaving & then never staying in touch, mental illness, neglect, not providing necessities, not staying groomed, not earning a living, putting each other & the kids in danger, verbal physical &/or sexual abuse ….

All of these & more, make children feel ashamed of their family (the chaos, the craziness, the cruelty) – & by extension themselves, as members of that group.
A sense of pride in themselves & their parents is eroded & shattered. This is devastating. That feeling is then carried, like a canker sore in our spirit, into adulthood.

b. Being Shamed – Children in damaged families are:
▪︎ teased & made fun of for many thing  (anger disguised with toxic humor)
▪︎ yelled at, attacked, harangued – often for nothing specific or obvious
▪︎ expected to know or do the impossible
▪︎ punished, yelled at, hit, humiliated – in public
▪︎ insulted about ones gender, looks, tastes, interests..
▪︎ pushed to do things when too young & then punished for ‘failing’
▪︎ treated unfairly, abused & then punished for crying, being upset or getting angry at the mistreatment

These & many other ways of shaming have been called soul murder. It represents parents’ lack of love & respect for themselves & so for their children, who stand in for their own Inner Child. Their dysfunctions negate / abuse the needs that all children have.
EXP: be paid attention to & heard, treated with respect, feel safe & loved, grow & learn at their own pace, find out who they are as individuals, know they can depend on their caretakers, look up to their parents, to LIVE, prosper & succeed….

EACH of these NEEDS became SHAMEFUL !
We conclude that if the adults hated these needs, then they’re bad (& us for still having them). So they must be suppressed, better yet – eliminated, no matter how deep & persistent they may be.

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 6.28.55 PMEXP: After hearing the 4th Step in Al-Anon (“Made a searching & fearless moral inventory of ourselves’), one member suddenly realized: ☁︎ his #1 toxic rule was: “I should be dead !”
☁︎ most shamed need was for love. “ I thought that was my greatest character defect!
After all, the constant message was that I wasn’t lovable  – so I must be a fool to keep wanting it – which I do, desperately!”

In Recovery he learned that this & all his needs were legitimate, universal & his RIGHT, & so he was able to reject the need to die, & start loving himself.
(The 12-Steps – comments & videos)

NEXT: Shame (Part 2)