ACoAs & LISTENING (Part 3)

listening to herYOU MEAN I HAVE TO
be happy for someone else?

PREVIOUS:  ACoAs & Listening (#2)

SITE: The SKILL of LISTENING  ** w/ EXP (Center for Parenting Education)

REVIEW posts : “Healthy Helping

See ACRONYM page for abbrev.

QUOTE: “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen”~ Epictetus 

REMINDER: Accurate & compassionate listening means we don’t try to make the other person a carbon copy of us. Even if we strongly identify, listening is about THEM – where they’re at, what they’re feeling & thinking. Don’t talk about yourself too much. You are the listen-er, they are the listen-ee.

3. (AWhen someone wants you to listen to them AND it’s a practical issue (lack of funds, health or relationship problems…..) (in Part 2)

#3 VARIATION (re. actions)
(A) When someone wants you to listen to them AND asks you directly to tell them what to do
a. Naturally if you are sought out as a professional (doctor, decorator, coach, teacher, lawyer…) you’re paid to give your expert opinion & advice.
— However, for psychologists, psychotherapists…  the rules are different. The goal is more about mirroring, giving feedback (true listening), providing the client with options & helping them find what’s right for themselves.

For the rest of us who are not being paid, teach or heal, there are options.
• ASK if they want ‘advice’ OR information – not the same thing!

Advice is telling someone what you think they should do, be, feel, think based on yourself, not who they are! No matter how right or helpful the info is, it’s not listening.

Information is giving knowledge they may not have, including options, without an emotional valence attached. They can use it or not, as they wish We often tell people to DO things they’re already tried. Don’t waste their time or yours! Good listening is hard for ACoAs, but worth the effort!

i. When you know the listen-ee well, you probably know —
if they already know what to do – but in this case refuse. Don’t push
that they may know, but really do need some help implementing a solution.
Suggest someone else who is qualifies & willing, or if it doesn’t harm you, you can offer, but think twice before you do

— that they really don’t know. Then you can decide IF you want to give them info, or suggest where they can get it (on Google, from Al-Anon or AA,  some books you recommend….)

ii. If it’s someone you just met or don’t know well, start by asking some pertinent questions —
— What do they WANT from you? What are they really asking for & how much? See posts “Healthy Helping”. If you can get that far with them, the conversation may take a different turn than how it started

— What have they done about their problem / situation so far? & how have those things turned out? This saves time & energy suggesting things they’ve already covered.
• If they’ve tried a number of things which have all been disappointing, there may be absolutely nothing you can contribute. OR they didn’t try something useful because they didn’t know about it – so you can offer it

• IF their response to any suggestions is always a version of “Yes but… that won’t work / I can’t because….” then either you’re asking the wrong questions or they’re playing the “Yes, But” game from Games People Play, by Eric Berne.

In the latter case they don’t actually want an answer, they want to be parented AND be contrary, which is a child’s way of saying “You can’t control me.” It may be a version of “Come here-Go away“(posts).

With such a person, only try 2-3 times, then shut up. 😑

NEXT: What just Happened? – #1


being blamed
No matter what I do, it’s wrong!

PREVIOUS: Rebellion vs Compliance #2

SEE posts : What is Guilt?
What is Shame?
• ACoAs’ Need for Revenge


There is a lot of talk in the ‘spiritual’ community about forgiveness, ie – that we should not be blamers.
Not blaming ourselves (S-H) or others (attacks) is a good rule for us in the present – now that we’re adults. And that’s a discussion for another post.

However, those same teachers & preachers never talk about what was done to us as kids – that among many other types of harm, our parents unfairly, inappropriately blamed us for all kinds of things – and what that did to our tender & vulnerable developing sense of identity!

This post is about what happened TO US as children. A hallmark of alcoholic (& other emotionally unhealthy) families is the mistreatment of their children in all 4 of life’s aspects: Spiritual, Emotional, Mental, Physical (PMES).

😿 Parents blaming their children for ANYTHING is ABUSIVE. Blaming us is the same as holding us responsible for their deficiencies & unhappiness.
Remember – abuse is not just physical, in all its forms.

It encompasses all the ways people harm others – especially their children – by injuring another’s rights, self-esteem, mental clarity, sense of safety, emotional equilibrium & boundaries. So Blame fits into 3 categories – S, M & E.

👥 A variation on Blame is a constant negative COMPARISON with a dead or living sibling, another relative, a famous person….
“Why can’t you be more like ____”

✅ Damaged parents BLAMED YOU or things which :
a. were NOT your fault
• difficulties because of a learning disability, like dyslexia or ADD
• the illness or death of a parent; a parent being left by a lover or spouse…

b. was a projection
of what the parents were guilty of being (fearful, irresponsible, lazy, feeling unlovable, risk-averse….)

c. you were not doing
what you were accused of
• being a ‘whore’ when you were too young to have had sex at all OR
• of seducing a parent’s lover/ spouse, when that adult was actually sexually abusing the child
• of using drugs when you never did – at least not at the point…)
Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 5.07.37 AM
d. you couldn’t do, especially without any instruction, & then accused of being stupid
• when you legitimately couldn’t know something (fixing a car or other machinery, shopping by themselves, ‘getting
• a hard school subject
• expected to know how to fix a parent’s personal, sexual & financial problems or forced to take care of a drunk or crazy parent, alone…
e. were actually no one’s fault such as • an act of God
• being born with a physical or mental limitation
•  getting severely ill or having an accident…

 something one of your siblings or other child did, but we were held responsible for, especially if you were the Hero or Scapegoat (start a fight; steal or break something; get into trouble at school…)

g. your parents were jealous of, because they couldn’t do something you could (a natural skill or gift) & so they made that ability a bad thing

h. was mostly not true
• always lying (“Kids always lie so we can’t believe anything they say”)
Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 5.06.44 AM• always being stubborn, selfish, too sensitive, difficult, disobedient, stupid….

➼ This last category are a group of normal childhood characteristics which:
√ sick parent cannot tolerate because of their own issues
√ occur sometimes as a defense in the child because of family abuse & neglect…
√ happens occasionally because kids are human ie. imperfect.
Those behaviors & attitudes then get demonized – which make them both a ‘sin’ and more likely to continue, while we try to be perfect. We CAN’T WIN in a sick environment.

NEXT: ACoAs’ need for revenge

Anger – CATEGORIES : Disappointed, Displaced (#7)

reddish a.b. 

that I can’t do whatever I want!

PREVIOUS: Anger Categories (Part 5)

REALISTIC: This comes up when things are out of our control, such as when:disappointed girl
• a promise made to us is broken (we don’t get the raise)
• a hope is dashed (rain on the day we plan a picnic)
• there’s endless delay in reaching an important goal or need
• when something we looked forward to turns out not to be as good, attractive or satisfactory as expected…..

If things like these happen too often, from people or situations we depend on, we can become very depressed &/or angry. As children – many of us were stuck with continually disappointing parents, so we’re more sensitive to even slight losses now. Unfortunately, ACoAs with this background tend to find & stay with PPT which repeat this patterns, instead of walking away & looking for more reliable options

UNREALISTIC: This anger comes from an unmet expectation or wish:
which was verbalized but not agreed to (person A says WE are going to DO or not do something, but person/group B is silent, which leads A to assume they agree, when B actually doesn’t. So they don’t do what A expected or it’s sabotaged in some way

which was never verbalized & therefore not agreed to (Maria pictures & plans for a romantic event, assuming that Juan will fulfill the fantasy – without having any idea what she’s hoping for! So he doesn’t do anything, because he’s not normally romantic, & legitimately not a mind-reader. That makes her very angry – at him – instead of taking responsibility for not asking

PRESUMING : Unrealistic disappointment-anger can come from making judgments or assuming rules about how things should be done or not done, that are not met by a specific person or group we’re involved in. Judgments come —Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 7.59.49 PM
from a sense of moral superiority, as if we know what’s best for someone else (“No daughter of mine will even marry a ___ / Of course you’ll be better off going to that ___ / Our family only votes ____”)

from a need follow “the Rules”, by controlling our environment to feel safer (“Al-Anon meetings should always be helpful / the speaker should stick to the topic / the chairs should be in a circle ….”).
Either way, it causes trouble for everyone.

UNHEALTHY: In the classic victimizer-victim “kick-the-dog” cycle, we take out anger we have toward one person/situation ON TO a weaker or easier target that happens to be available, so that an innocent person or animal gets hurt.
The substitute-target will have no idea why they’re being picked on / yelled at / punished….. just left dazed, confused & hurt. They bear the brunt of displaced anger, as a scapegoat, & their relationship with the perpetrator will be damaged, specially if it’s often repeated

This type of anger may not always be overtly aimed at a specific PPT, but can show up as anxiety, being uncooperative, crankiness, depression, isolation, prejudice…… We react this way when we don’t admit we’re actually angry, since :
√ we’re not internally allowed to recognize what hurts us (whatever made us angry)
√ we feel powerless to change a bad situation
√ we’re too afraid to assert ourselves to the person we’re angry at
√ the object of our anger is realistically too dangerous to confront

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 8.07.07 PMHEALTHIER: When we genuinely can not change a situation we’re involved in which leaves us frustrated, drained & angry – but we choose to stay in it or can not change (caring for a sick & dying parent, needing the survival job, a chronic injury or illness…..). ‘Blocked” anger-energy can be redirected.

Possible ways to displace anger :
• vent it privately, in a safe way (pound, draw, write…..)
• break objects we don’t need (tin cans, old newspapers….)
• strenuous exercise / using a punching bag….
• re-channel the anger-energy into productive activity (something artistic, sports, helping the under-privileged….), where we can feel successful & effective.

NEXT: Anger Categories (Part 7)

ACoAs: OVER-Controlling Ourselves (Part 5)

never the bride!”

PREVIOUS: Over-Controlling Ourselves -#4

SITE: So What Is “Self Care”?


HOW we Over-Control (O-C) ourselves (cont)
a. DEFENSES (Part 4)

b. SELF-HATE – controls us, also as a defense mechanism, TO:
• keep ourself in line (harsh discipline), instead of taking charge of our thoughts & actions (healthy control) via a mature ego state

Young man: “I’m not supposed to look at or covet other women because I’m married – but I do anyway – which means I’m bad.
I figure that if I’m strict about beating myself up, I’ll stop being bad”.  It many work temporarily but doesn’t last, creating a vicious cycle

stave off (assumed) inevitable abandonment
Young woman: “I just met a potential partner / boss / friend… & I’m already thinking – I know I’m going to fuck it up”. So she won’t let symbiosisanyone get too close, depriving herself of new experiences & possible benefits

• stay symbiotically attached to the Introjects (no S & I)
Teen: “I don’t care about keeping my room neat, even though I’d like it, because Mom is horrified that I’m not compulsively clean like her.
She calls me a pig, saying: ‘You could lay down next to dirt and sleep!’- which to her is the greatest possible insult. So if I’m a pig, I might as well act like one!”

IRONY: As much as the teen (or Adult-Child) is rebellious or hates the family, we stubbornly hang on, because to let go would mean facing the world unprepared!

1. Unsupported
By O-C ourselves, we’re always suspicious of anyone wanting to be kind, encouraging & helpful, so WE:
• isolate from the mainstream of society, which keeps us from finding out what kind of support systems are available, OR refuse to make use of them when we do know

• unconsciously prevent ourselves from attracting people who have the capacity to be nurturing &/or nourishing. Instead we choose or let ourselves be chosen by narcissists & abusers, wolves that are sometimes disguised in sheep’s clothing
iso;ation• reject legitimate offers of nurturing or help, finding it painful when complemented or lauded. This is predictable as long as the WIC is allowed to make our relationship choices – which will inevitably duplicate our family

2. Illusions

We were greatly disappointment in our parents when we were too young to handle it. Being in constant emotional pain, as kid we create an inner world of fantasy – having an ideal life, with a loving family & never any frustrations!

• As adults this fantasy life can turn INTO various illusions, such as:
— looking for the ideal partner, friend, teacher, boss…. so we’ll finally feel safe & get our needs met. Anything less than that is unthinkable. When we are inevitably let down, we get very angry that they don’t live up to our expectations – which leaves us feeling hopeless!
— being convinced that everyone else is having the happy life we’re not, even strangers on the street, especially if we see them with a partner, children, clothes, cars…. that we wish we had.

We know how bad we feel inside, & assume everyone can actually see how worthless we are – & that’s why they ‘stay away from us’.
We look at the glossy surface & think that’s the whole story, O-C (repressing) our ability to see ourselves & others as having several dimensions.  BUT everyone has problems, no matter how their outsides look!

• ACoAs are encouraged to maintain illusions because:
— media & culture pushes surface images as reality, when they’re not
— emotionally we’re in child-mode, & little kids are very literal, concrete (what you see is what you get)
— our family taught us to deny & ignore what’s inside – the deeper truths of intuition, whether emotional, mental or Spiritual.

In many dysfunctional homes what mattered was how good everything looked on the outside.
👺So we created a facade too, a False Self, the only option we had at the time – BY rejecting or over-controlling our basic human needs!

NEXT: Over-controlling Ourselves (Part 5)