Their ATTITUDE Inventory (4 of 5)

of this I can take!

PREVIOUS: THEIR Attitude Inventory (3 of 5)


FYI: This INTRO will be repeated for all 5 posts in this series, but with different topics

THIS CHART is much more specific & includes listing many of the statements family & others made to us (or we overheard, often) that have become our Toxic Beliefs. More issues in the next post.
List the people you want to ‘learn’ about.  To start, you can pick ONE you think you know more about & see how far you get.  Of course you can use this chart any way that suits the way YOU process info, so experiment.

* TAKE YOUR TIME. You may feel even more overwhelmed than with the previous chart (there are 62 possible topics altogether). There’s no rush – if you push it you’ll be more likely to give up or to miss important details.

** Naturally you won’t be able to fill in every category for every person. but if you make a separate page for each topic, you can play around by filling in anything that comes to you right away. If you can only write one line per category, start there. Fill in more info at any time later. That can encourage you to work on the rest.  PROGRESS not PERFECTION!

REMINDER: Not surprisingly, many of us don’t remember what
we heard, felt or experienced as kids – mainly we blanked out from fear, but our unconscious remembers.
As you proceed you might be surprised at how much you DO know, and at what will ‘be revealed’ about yourself as you go thru this exercise.  Siblings, other family members & friends or old notebook/ diaries / photo albums – may be helpful.

NOTICE that for each topic you’re asked to consider 3 aspects:
a. Verbal messages: What did this person actually say about the issue? If we pay attention to the way we talk to ourselves – & others – especially when we’re frustrated or angry – we can hear ‘them’ coming out of our mouth.
Also, if someone you’re inventorying is still alive, you can get it from the ‘horse’s mouth’. Without being confrontational or angry, just slip some questions into your conversation & you may get lots of material for your writing. Even what they leave out is very informative!

b. Personal experiences: this is usually the easier one to remember – what  actions did they take about each issue – what did they go thru? Lots of jobs, kinds of relationships, the many ways they did something stupid / abusive / self-destructive / OR helpful / kind / amusing ….. especially any repeated patterns

c. General Attitudes: This may be the hardest because you are the repository of their unspoken, disowned parts! But there are things you’ve always known about them (or at least suspected) that you may not want to admit. Remind yourself – “I know what I know”. You’re NOT crazy – kids are very intuitive & absorb everything!

Suggested PROCEDURE:
More than likely you’ll be doing this on some kind of device.  Make a separate page for each topic & perhaps each subheading
• OR you can use a loose-leaf notebook, & maybe 3 different color pens
• Take as much room for each a. b. & c. as needed, filling in first the things you’re sure or have an idea about – in NO particular order!

• Include all positive & negative points, to get a rounded picture
• Skip any topics that don’t apply to a specific person or that you simply don’t know about, & include more later
• Add any topics not listed which applies to a specific person
PS: If a topic specifically impacted you – growing up – you can make a separate column / page to comment

NEXT: Attitude Inv. (5 of 5)

THEM Inv 4

ACoAs: Our TIME-LINE Inventory


my life all laid out so clearly

PREVIOUS: Family Inventory – General

See ACRONYM Page for abbrev.


Family Inventory charts are next. If you want to start with a Personal Inventory (or have already done one, try c.), here are a few options:

Al-anon “ 12 STEP Workbook ” (as an adult) and12 Steps of Adult Children” (about you & family in childhood)

These 2 books can be done together – one Step at a time – of course! & share each one with a sponsor or therapist. You may need some suggestions on how to answer the various ones, since it’s hard to see oneself. Do not rush, but do it.

If you just want to do a character Self-Evaluation, you can do:
a. the 4th Step of the 12 Step Program: “Made a fearless moral inventory of ourselves”. Most newcomers just write everything they think is wrong with them (personality defects) & all the wrong things they’ve done (bad actions). Actually it’s supposed to include our strengths, skills & gifts, but ACoAs rarely think to do that.
• This can be done with an outline such as the AA version at “
• or done ‘freehand’, as things come to you. Then later you can categorize them for clarity.

b. AL-ANON‘sThe Blueprint for Progress” booklet & online

c.  The TIME LINE Inventory (DMT 1986)
This chart may seem sketchy, but can be quite powerful. Because it’s so visual & simple it’s hard to miss the obvious – trauma & repetitions of trauma. You may:
•  find yourself reluctant to start , OR you may fill in some & then drop it. This is most likely because it’s painful & you’re shying away from facing the pain – doing it alone can be hard
•  If you do continue, be sure you have a good support system in place ahead of time when you need encouragement if the emotions that surface come up too strongly. Don’t give up!
•   Tape together as many sheets of paper as needed (20-30…)
•   OR use a roll of sturdy white paper
•   OR a loose leaf notebook with unlined paper
❇️ Doing this online is not as effective, since you can’t see it all at one time. Plus – the physical act of writing is good for stimulating the brain

Draw a horizontal line about 2/3 of the way down, all the way across. At far left put the year of your birth & then mark off every 2 or 3 years with the date and your age, all the way to the present. Leave more space between later 2/3-yr. periods than early ones

Above the horizontal line add slanted lines as they fit your life experiences & briefly write on each one a major event: illness, moves, school, graduations, special events, travel, hospitalizations, awards, relationships, work, physical abuse…. It’s OK if you don’t know the exact date or yr, especially from your early life. Put in everything you can think of, even if dates are approximate. ASK the Inner Child for memories (or reliable relatives)
(USE PENCIL to make changes or corrections)

Below the line write in any event that happened to another person close to you which had an impact on your life: birth of siblings, divorces, illness, deaths, their loss of jobs….

Start anywhere in your lifetime, filling in the things you remember most easily, & then go back & fill in earlier events as you think of them. Ask siblings, aunts…. or anyone who knew you then, who can give you some history you forgot or difind the patterndn’t know. Do the best you can.

👀 When you’ve filled in as much as you can (you can add things at any time) you’re going to be looking for :
•   the recurring pattern of your early experiences
•   how you’ve copied them as an adult
•   what had the most impact on you
•   what did you just realize for the first time now
•   what are you clearer about, that you sort of knew, but hadn’t solidified

IMP: Take your time. Allow yourself to feel all your emotions – sadness, anger, frustration, loss…. Bookend this exercise with someone your trust, & review it with a therapist, sponsor or sibling, if possible.

NEXT: OUR Education Inventory – #1

Inventories – In the Beginning (Part 3)

  birth treeI NEVER REALIZED
how much my infancy shaped me!

PREVIOUS: Inventories – In the Beginning-#2

See ACRONYM Page for abbrev.


2. NURTURE  (cont)

a. Wounded mother
All children are vulnerable to the feelings & expressions of their first caretakers, and will be severely affected by a Wounded Mother. Even if she tries to hide it, every day the infant absorbs her fears, worries, anger, overwhelm – as well as joys, interests, attitudes & reactions she may feel.
For many ACoAs, she was one or more of the following:
Presenting : –– demanding, ruthless, controlling
— self-hating, overwhelmed, with severe abandonment issues
— drunk, self-absorbed & narcissistic
— generally anxious, especially of parenting responsibility, often having to do it alone
bad moms— distant, emotionally cold, perfectionistic
— passive, flaky, irresponsible
rageful, verbally, physical & emotionally abusive
— un-nurturing, unsympathetic, judgmental, cruel
Unhealthy Expectations:
use child to make up for her own lack of love
— demand child be perfect, self-sufficient & NOT need much

b. Developing Child : At birth, the nerve cells in a child’s brain are not fully developed, growing & expanding continuously until about age 25.
The brain grows in complexity & therefore ‘intelligence’ – according to how much stimulation it receives. This includes a colorful & interesting environment, being talked, read & sung to, and any kind of beneficial movement – touched, held, massaged, played with….

• Because babies imprint (like ducklings) onto caretakers via emotions & the 5 senses, all helpful and hurtful events stay with us forever, some even after much ‘work’, in modified form.
For ACoAs, the wounding experiences need to be inventoried & slowly detached from as much as possible, but it’s not fair or realistic to expect them to all disappear, if only we “did it right”!brain2

PS: We know now that we never have to stop learning & growing – that brain plasticity is possible even into old age, if a person practices new & difficult tasks. In childhood it’s called Developmental Plasticity, which depends more on the effect of the environment.

🔸Early impressions – Infants don’t have verbal language, only emotional & physical signals for communication. They’re highly impressionable – hungrily absorbing all the sights, sounds & touch they’re exposed to.
Each child also has its own maximum threshold for how much activity it needs or can tolerate. Dysfunctional homes force on us too little or too much

🔹Not enough stimulus (of the right kind), so that some areas of the brain don’t form certain necessary pathways, leaving it deficient in whatever type of reasoning or understanding that were affected. This can cause the child to be sluggish in body & mind, always anxious, &/or lacking** fundamental info that will be needed later on to live a ‘normal’ life as an adult.
(**Some antidepressants, as well as Recovery activities, can build missing areas of the brain which were deprived in childhood)

• Being neglected is as deadly as being over-controlled – such as being left alone too much, neglectnot nurtured, attended to, guided & included, OR allowed to do whatever the child want. We never get to learn boundaries, options & discipline.

It’s not unusual for ACoAs to have chunks of basic life know-how actually missing (lack of software), to the point of not having a clue about things other people take for granted – common sense, quick responses to crazy situations, the right things to say when confronted, making small talk….

🔶 This is different from info we do have but are not allowed to acknowledge and use. And neither of these states implies being stupid (faulty hardware), but only suppressed & can be reclaimed, child in orphanageor missing & can be filled in. REMINDER :
NO under-functioning ACoA is lazy or stupid, just TERRIFIED.

Some causes creating this debilitating fear :
• isolated, neglected & abused
• not being nurtured, taken care of & validated
• not provided with healthy role models to copy
• being given incorrect & insufficient information about how to function well in the world
PICTURE: “This child was left unattended for a whole day at a Chinese state orphanage. The makeshift play chair was more like a prison.” ~  Paul Myhill

NEXT: Inventory  – Beginning #4

Inventories – In the Beginning (Part 1)

family portrait 

where I come from, the pluses & the minuses!


REGARDING Family Inventories: We need to start at the beginning of our life – what was happening inside & outside that effected us.

Doing inventories (charts in near-future posts) helps to become familiar with the patterns of thought & action burned into us as kids, so we can start to see why we think & act as we do in the present. Until this is clear we stay confused & full of self-hate, always asking “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I get anything right?”

We are damaged, not defective, so we can heal
Our early experiences do not have to condemn us to a permanent state of ‘dis-ease’. Under all the defensive layers every person has their own fundamental personality, housed in the Natural Child, who in ACoAs has mostly been ignored.

• Accurate inventories take into account that we’re the product of combined forces:
Nature: our genetics, & who we are natively, with a specific set of characteristics – mostly suppressed, but never destroyed
Nurture: how we were raised – the specific culture, language, religion & parenting style of our home & community (in Part 2)

• Most people don’t remember their first few years of life, although a few do. In any case, all our early experiences, even those we lived through before we could talk, are still in our unconscious & in our physical body

If those circumstances were stressful or harmful – we need to clean them out by accessing them (as well as later-life trauma) in order to heal.
All the fear, anger, loneliness & desperation of our infant & toddler self may seem ‘forgotten’, which makes it hard for most people to acknowledge that such emotions ever existed. But they do remain locked in our nervous system, & affect us in subtle ways our whole life

• All our pre-verbal energy impressions (Es) are harder to access – but not impossible. The way to get at them needs to be visual & experiential, which includes dreams, drawings, visualizations & experiential therapies such as Gestalt, Primal & Core work Brain Gym….. Using these techniques helps us re-experience those sounds & physical sensations, even without having a complete ‘explanation’ for them

EXP: When one client was asked to picture her conception, at first she was resistant – how could she possibly know what happened? But with some deep breathing & quiet, she gradually formed an image of her parents lying side by side on a bed, as a small spark of light floated towards them – her life-force arriving!

Pre-Birth: All humanpregnancy stresss are affected, long-term, by positive or distressing events a mother experiences while pregnant. For ACoAs, our mother may have suffered one or more of these while carrying us:
• a major illness, accident or crime
• alcohol &/or drug abuse, food allergies, medications
• death of a loved-one, lengthy separations, divorce
• long-term fighting, or physical & emotional battering
• living thru a big move, natural disaster, war….

Birth: this is traumatic at best, but some of us also had:
• an especially difficult birth, causing us injury in some form, almost dying (breach, cord around the neck, not enough oxygen….)
• and/or our mother was given birthing drugs, which got passed on to the us directly, made us sluggish, prone to illness, chemically depressed, immune deficient …..

A possible result: If a temporarily drugged infant is at first unable to respond to the mother in its first few hours or days of life, an unhealthy parent will take it personally & reject her child at the crucial time they should be bonding. She will consciously or unconsciously blame the baby for the lack of connection & love she wants, which will create a life-long wound between them & often results in ongoing child abuse

NEXT: Inventories – Beginning #2

Family INVENTORIES – Purpose (Part 2)

fam inventory 

ignorance is NOT bliss

PREVIOUS: Family Inventory (Part 1)

See ACRONYM page for abbrev.


• Being trapped in unhealthy emotional/mental states (listed in 2b.) keeps us choosing or being chosen by people who are abusive or unavailable, and then staying with them because we compulsively blame ourselves for any pain they cause by their damage.

This happens because we keep using Self-Hate (S-H) to explain away someone else’s bad behavior (“It’s my fault / I should have / If only I had”… ), no matter how obvious it may be to others that we’re allowing ourselves to be victimized.

It’s useful to remember that all S-H is a defense mechanism. Its purpose is to ‘protect’ us from being fully aware of our childhood traumas & other abandoning experiences, but all it really does is add more pain to the original pile, by believing we caused our suffering

Of course it’s very important to do our own personal inventories (next post), but without a clear picture of our early life, much of what we end up writing is steeped in S-H & hopelessness. Therefore it’s imperative to first have an accurate understanding of all the relevant people we s-h alonegrew up with, because we absorbed their words, actions & emotions into ourselves. This absorption became our Introject.

Every person has one, but not everyone’s Introject is a PP (pig parent / accusatory voice) – only those of us who come from damaging families. Without enough healing (deep FoO work), this Harsh Voice is the only one the WIC takes as absolute gospel, the cruel guide we use to identify who we are, even tho’ it’s not our original voice AND is a complete liar!

• Proverbs 22:6 says: “Train up a child in the way he should go, & even when he is old he will not depart from it”.
Unfortunately, those of us from unhealthy backgrounds have absorbed a distorted, self-defeating programming – most obvious in our CDs, which include S-H.

This brain-wiring is so strong that it takes much effort & repetition to change – mainly because it’s kept locked in place by a great deal of emotional pain, which needs to be cleaned out. Most people don’t have the guts & patience to revisit & process old beliefs & emotions, even if that refusal causes havoc to themself & others.

• But for those of us with the willingness & proper support – we greatly benefit form carefully identifying what originally happened to us & around us. It allows us to understand – & accept – that our childhood suffering was caused by the damage already present in our caretakers, and therefore could not have possibly been our responsibility, nor our fault!

It bears repeating: This awareness (The 3 C’s: “I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, I can’t cure it” – re. problems in OTHERS) will gradually lessen our need for S-H, as we stop denying the width & breadth of our own original loss in all 4 layers of PMES. This becomes a great victory over our dis-ease!

• All of our struggles to heal & flourish are contingent on outgrowing the toxic family training (via S & I), but before we can do it thoroughly we have to SEE what that training entails. We have to know which city we’re traveling from -and to- before we can book a ticket, yet ACoAs have a built-in denial system that makes it hard to know what state we’re in much less what city! We need a map & some guide books to our destination. Inventories help.

• Psychologists, Sociologists & Spiritual teachers tell us how important it to know ‘where we come from’, what our cultural & spiritual history is & how all of humanity is ONE.
Yet ACoAs have a painful sense of not belonging anywhere – no matter what environment we’re in. This is because our parents’ narcissism made it very hard to feel wanted & loved, only getting judgement & impossible demands. And we figure that if they didn’t take care of us properly nor want us exactly the way we were – then why would anyone else?


Family INVENTORIES – Purpose (Part 1)

LOOKING AT HOW IT ALL STARTED is not always easy!

PREVIOUS: Personal Responsibility-#1

See ACRONYM page for abbrev.

QUOTE re. the need for S & I
“It is not possible to live too long amid infantile surroundings, or in the bosom of the family = without endangering one’s psychic health. Life calls us forth to independence, & anyone who does not heed this call because of childish laziness or timidity is threatened with neurosis.” Carl Jung
DEF: INVENTORY – To evaluate & make an itemized report of abilities, assets, or resources. To take stock of one’s life and accomplishments.

1. IN 12-Step TERMS
a. Doing our 4th Step – to write out as many of our qualities as we can – both positive (gifts) & negative (defects), as well as a list of all actions throughout life (to identify our Being and our Doing)

b. Taking someone else’s inventorya big no-no, & for good reason, when understood correctly, is an unhealthy defense mechanism. This can mean recounting someone’s faults to all who will listen, or using a sharp tongue to tell someone off who we’re angry at.

NOT doing this is a valid rule in general for everyone, & specifically – geared toward addicts & co-dependents, because:
• we copy our parents’ habit of always finding fault with everyone & everything else, instead of owning our own thought & emotions (likes & dislikes….)
• of the compulsion to blame others for all our woes, instead of taking responsibility for our part in any situation (but not in the form of S-H)
•  our character defect of using any upset as an excuse to gossip
•  our fearful avoidance of dealing clearly & honestly with anyone we’re currently having a problem with, using the Adult ego state
• the fear-driven habit of avoiding very hard decisions, making small or major changes, leaving toxic people, standing up for ourselves …..

a. Re. Safe People: To identify the healthy characteristics we find in positive role models, which we then can look for in everyone we associate with, so we can ‘Go where it’s warm’ – toward people who are reasonable (T), kind (E) & functional (A)

b. Re. Unsafe People: to break thru our denial.
ignoringACoAs deal with abusers – either :
• by having thick blinders on, denying the character defects & emotional damage of unhealthy people, while only see our own flaws – even where they don’t exist. OR
• by being terribly judgmental & critical of everyone – including ourselves (S-H), while not trusting anyone with genuinely good qualities. BOTH types tend to shy away from healthy people!

That way we can be angry at anyone for not giving us what we want & need, just like our parents, but stay with them so we don’t have to notice of the many ways they abandon us, & then face having to do something about it (leave?)
AND we can stay loyal to the dysfunction, continuing to long for but never receive the love & acceptance we believe we’re not allowed.

✳️ As we know, people tell us something about themselves all the time – their pluses & minuses – which we miss all together & could see if we paid attention, knew what to look for, & be willing to respond appropriately
OR we do notice but ignore or excuse. Then it bites us in the butt later!

Sadly, as kids ACoAs were brainwashed to deny much or all of our experiences, intuition & perceptions, so it’s particularly necessary to do this type of inventory for all of us who:
• are genuinely ignorant of, or in deep denial about, the harmful effects that addicts & other damaging people we spend time with (family, lovers, bosses, friends…) have / have had on us

• are surrounded by unhealthy communities (family, religious, social, work….) where everyone is continually bombarding us with a distorted reality about us, themselves & the ‘right way’ to do things

• are by nature so idealistic that we only want to see the good in others, as a defense against the dangers of life, to our great detriment
• know there’s something wrong with certain people & situations in our life, but are not allowed to believe our intuition & knowledge.

NEXT:  Family Inventory – Purpose