ACoAs & PLAYING (Part 6)

for all that silly stuff! 

PREVIOUS : ACoAs & Play (#5)

SITE:: 7 Secrets of Dysfunctional Families (ironic)

QUOTE: “There is nothing that human beings do, know, think, hope & fear that has not been attempted, experienced, practiced or at least anticipated in children’s play” Heidi Britz-Crecelius (‘Children at Play’)

💠 ACoAs NOT KNOWINGwhat we like, or How to Play (Part 5)

💠 PLAY & the Wounded Inner Child (WIC)
ACoAs: Not taking time out to play is a lot like our great resistance to developing the daily habit of talking with our Inner Child. The same attitude applies to not building in down-time (just vegging) & play-time (doing something relaxing & fun).
We think: ‘Why do we even have play? Isn’t it an indulgence, a waste of time? Aren’t we always supposed to be busy DOING something productive?’ NO.

Adult play is not a waste of time. It’s actually a necessary component of being healthy. In a busy & competitive world ‘normal’ adults have forgottenhealthy vs not to play the way they did as kids, & need to be reminded of the freedom & benefits of spontaneous enjoyment.
But most ACoAs don’t have those ‘good times’ to look back on. WE didn’t have much of a chance to play – too busy care-taking, while being terrified, isolated & hiding from real danger!
• were programmed to live un-healthily, & play was not in it
• say we can’t decide what to do (but our Healthy kid knows!)
• are afraid to break any of the Toxic Rules
• can’t allow ourselves to have fun if our family members, or other loved ones, are in pain. We would feel guilty to not co-dependently suffer with them!

🦠 But it’s also understandable that some of us can’t find the fun in anything  – if we’re severely depressed or ill, still live in an abusive environment &/or are always worried about something serious ($$, lack of work, an ill child or parent, an angry spouse…. )

Just like we can’t let love in when we feel unsafe, we can’t feel free to play with too much anxiety.  Even the idea of Play doesn’t make sense to us – at first. John Bradshaw reminds us that ACoAs were forced to become Human Do-ings instead of Human Be-ings. So as adults it scares us to just BE, either doing something we like – or nothing, once in a while.

BTW, this is not the ‘nothing’ of depression or laziness, which is actually fear & hopelessness. Rather it’s the Be-ing of pleasure! It comes from feeling relief, being in our own skin instead of in someone else’s head.
It’s being good to ourselves, knowing we are safe.
And that safety comes FROM :
a. finding the right person & style of therapy, 12 Step meetings & books, mentors & friends – to set an example & give us the correct info about our past and what Mental Health is
b. our own persistent efforts to use all the tools at our disposal, including ‘constant contact’ with the IC
c. having a daily, deep connection to a safe, loving Higher Power Who supports us in the healing process

REQUIREMENTS for being able to Play
As we heal we can add recreation into our schedule. It may be uncomfortable for a while, but as with so many things, repetition makes it easier, & then becomes the new norm. For healthy play & ‘good, clean fun’ we need TO:
• carve out or use available free time to ‘waste’ on fun
• not be under pressure to produce anything in particular
• have a measure of control & autonomy over our choices – not compulsively obeying our self-destructive Family Rules nor follow someone else’s lead
• practice using our native imagination &/or skills for play

Ultimately, we need a decent amount of self-esteem (for internal permission), a relatively low-level of anxiety (at least at play-time).
💓 Don’t wait for some magical future time when you’re ‘well enough‘ – to have some fun & relax. Start slowly, but start now.

NEXT: Childhood PLAY (Intro)

EGO STATES – Basics (Part 1)

inner child
& I feel best when they get along!

PREVIOUS: Process, Recovery #2b

REVIEW: S & I – Healthy Individuation

• We’re all born with the potential for 3 basic personality components – Parent / Adult / Child (P.A.C.) which vary in size & importance. They show up early in life in immature form, & are supposed to keep developing throughout life.
They’re called ‘ego states’ – because whichever one we’re in at the moment we think of as ‘me’, our sense of identity (ego = Self). Each is internally ESs-Basic part 1consistent, having its own Thoughts, Emotions & Actions (TEA).

Experiences & activities from childhood become grouped into these ‘clusters’, also called the “Family of the Self” (NOT schizophrenia), which are neural pathways in the brain forged by chemical connections as a result of thinking, feeling or doing (TEA) the same thing over & over, year after year.
How well these internal parts get along among themselves – in order for the individual to function effectively – can vary greatly from person to person

These clusters contain our conscious beliefs, opinions, inner ‘voices’, attitudes… & include memories, roles, physical feelings & postures, mental rules….
They become our habitual way of responding toward ourself & the world, each cluster formed around some point of view or common ‘truth’, either healthy or not – depending on upbringing & native personality
Healthy =  P : “I protect” / A : “I get things done”/ C : “I play”

Unhealthy (P) may organize around rigid rules
“I have to rid the world of all wrong-doing / It’s my way or the highway”
Wounded (C) may base it’s sense of identity on —
“I have to be perfect to be loved / I have to hide all my needs”
Limited (A) may focus on self-importance
“I want everyone to be impressed // I have to do___ no matter what”

E.S. are conscious aspects of our psyche which we can shift in & out of – one minute acting like a kid, the next handling a problem in Adult mode…. Unlike 2 of Freud’s 3 states (superego & id), ego states are visible, making it possible to notice, value, work with & modify aspects of them, if desired. Even so, most people are not aware of having different states, much less which one they’re expressing at any given moment.

However, they can be noticed by others, just by listening to or watching how someone acts, even if they don’t know the terminology. Whichever E.S. is ‘on’ has its own reactions to events : “Boy, is he being a brat!”(C),  “You’re not the boss of me! “(PigP), “Yes, your suggestion is workable” (A)

🔴 General rule: Most people you deal with are either coming from their Wounded Child (WIC) or Negative Parent (PP) ego state

NORMAL – Childhood parts become integrated into a larger whole, with the Healthy Adult in charge. They work well together internally, partly because they include Adaptive Introjects of caring, supportive caretakers & teachers, as healthy role models.

This allows such people to function successfully in the world because they :
• act in appropriate, productive ways
• experience & manage a full range of Es
• have flexible rather than rigid thinking
• hold positive beliefs about Self & the world
• live in the present (instead of all in the past or all in the future)

HEALTHY ego states form in childhood in response to positive, affirming relationships within a family that’s loving & able to connect to the child in all 4 PMES ways (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual)

EXP of a mature internal dialogue
Healthy ADULT: “Hmmm, it’s Saturday. I want my place to look, feel & smell nice, so I’m going to clean today”
Playful younger CHILD: “NOOO, I want to play. I want to go to a movie with my friends & have fun!”

Loving PARENT: “I know little one, but the place is not in good shape right now, & you know how much better you feel here when it’s all clean & fresh.
We can do something you like tomorrow, & then we’ll have even more fun knowing we’re coming back to a nice clean home”
Older CHILD : “Ugh! I know you’re right & I won’t stop you, but you’d better keep your promise!”

NEXT: Ego States – basics (Part 2)


without being in danger

PREVIOUS: Visibility (#3)

ARTICLES: “Psychological Visibility
and “Psychological Visibility as a Source of Value in Friendship”, by Shailushi Baxi

To understand being truly visible we have to be clear about the differences between our misunderstanding of reality & what IS real.
Much confusion about it comes from distorted definitions & beliefs re. Arrogance vs. Having Rights, & Confrontation vs. Self-Assertiveness, Humility vs. Humiliation.

ACoAs often have the mistaken notion that being visible is arrogant, showing off, expressing hubris. NOT SO.
We’re so trained to not speak up, that we think any form of assertiveness is a confrontation. Not true.
Instead, when we speak from our Adult Ego State, use ‘I’ statements & don’t attack – we are in the right
1a. Arrogance
• Having (& showing) an exaggerated opinion of one’s own importance, value & ability, from an assumption of ones superiority over others
• Not being able to take correction, criticism or guidance. These are the WIC’s or PP’s narcissism & grandiosity

It stems from insecurity & a need to be validated – often trying to take credit for more than the person really did, in order to boost themselves. It tends to be expressed by not listening, dismissing others’ opinions, with ‘loud‘ energy, craving attention online, being pushy with coworkers, or just never letting someone else speak
1b.Having Rights” – review it, along with My Rights
When we know our needs & rights, we value ourselves. So acknowledging our beliefs, assets & accomplishments is HEALTHY!
1. Basic PMES requirements – same for all humans across the planet, listed on the Maslow Pyramid
2. Personality needs, based on our specific configuration – learning style, MBTI & Enneagram Type…..
3. Wound needs, from the repeated ways we were abused & neglected.
In the present it’s about finding the best ways to compensate for past trauma that may always be with us to some degree, but becomes much milder with Recovery
2a. Confrontation (aggressive): ALWAYS comes from anger.
It means approaching someone (in person or not) in a threatening way, assertiveness....being argumentative, wanting to unsettle them – especially with abuse, accusations, arrogance & defiance.
A hostile clash of opinions, ideas & power
2b. Assertiveness: being confident & direct in claiming one’s rights or putting forward one’s views, clearly & without anger, in an honest & respectful way, especially about difficult issues

It’s based on present-day reality. At work, such a person is confident about their identity & competence, so their energy level is quiet‘, whether they’re getting attention & recognition or not. They can also safely acknowledge the contribution of others & are able to share credit. Site: “How to manage conflict & confrontation
3a. Humiliation:  (not including degrading sexual interactions)
MUST involve 2 or more people – one who bullies, intimidates or socially embarrasses, although not always directly, AND the other as victim, usually not a willing recipient. It means TO:
• be reduced to a lower position in one’s own eyes &/or others, losing prestige or self-respect
• cause someone a painful loss of pride, self-respect, or dignity
• degrade, dishonor, disgraced, mortify, shame
3b. Humility / Humble : the quality of being courteously respectful, & modest, with a realistic opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, abilities, rank….
• Free from : boastfulness, egotism, great pretensions or vanity
• For some : retiring, unassuming, unobtrusive. May need to  be alone, to de-emphasizing & heal the wounded ego. (More…)

NOTE: Damaging parents, bad bosses & some religions use humiliation to control & make others submissive to their power.
HEALTHY people & institutions teach how to function well (actions), and encourage, or at least allow, others to develop their own natural way of thinking & feeling

IRONY: The more self-esteem we gain the more humble we become, comfortably! It’s what John Bradshaw called “healthy shame” – knowing what our actual human limitations are, without S-H, shame, guilt or toxic beliefs

🚴🏻‍♂️ Then we’re not afraid of making mistakes, of not know everything, of being imperfect. At the same time, we’re comfortable owning our God-given attributes – talents, knowledge & accomplishments.  Visibility is not dangerous to our welfare or identity!
REPEAT every day : “I know what I know, & I can’t know / don’t have to know – everything!”

NEXT : Being visible #5

ACoAs: OVER-Controlling Ourselves (Part 6)

frustration I WORK SO HARD TO BE GOOD – why isn’t my life any better?

PREVIOUS: Over-controlling Ourselves #5

SITE: The Truth about Power

1. Unsupported
2. Illusions

3. Always the Outsider – it’s ironic that even when attending 12-step meeting of ‘like-minded’ people, we still feel like we don’t belong!  When we’re emotionally over-controlled (O-C) :
• it keeps a wall up between us & others, especially against those who already have a genuine capacity to ‘see’ & accept us

• we gravitate toward ‘people, places & things’ (PPT) which simply don’t suit our needs, goals, or personality. We stay even when we’re angry & unhappy there – insuring that we don’t fit in or feel a part of things

• we don’t stay long enough or go deep enough with others so they can get to know us & show us the good things they’re able to provide
• we do & say inappropriate or obnoxious things that are likely to put people off & make them withdraw, especially if things are going too well with them, for too long (even a week or month!)

4. Envy & Jealousy – emotions considered ‘negative’ that have to be O-C :
Envy is about 2 people : “I envy you for having such great hair, an advanced degree….”, ie. wanting something we don’t have
Jealousy involves 3 or more : “I’m jealous that he has so many friends”, ie. wanting a relationship someone else has
“She pays more attention to her friends than to me”, ie. trying to hang on to someone or something we don’t want to lose.
BOTH emotions come from believing we are powerless to get what we want & need in life, not necessarily the thing others have, exactly – just that they have the right to get their need me, like good things, & we don’t

• We may deny being O-C, yet often covet what others are or have. What gives it away is the rage we feel at certain kinds of people or situations! We say ‘those people’ are ‘entitled’, with a sneer in our voice because:
— we think they’re unfairly lucky – having a family, a decent relationship, a good job, lots of friends… & hate them for what we don’t have permission to get for ourselves

— OR we call them brats, selfish, arrogant …. because they don’t hold back the way we do. Perhaps they are, and/or we just wish we had some of that confidence to do & say what we’ve always wanted to, but aren’t allowed!

ACoA deprivation is always about the BIG A – abandonment. Family taught us we couldn’t have our needs, so we won’t let ourselves either. The WIC says it’s so-o unfair, but we keep on ‘following the rules” & depriving ourself!

5. Isolation – Without boundaries our WIC uses isolation to protect itself. Being O-C can cut us off :
— from various emotions (anger, sorrow, sexuality, competitiveness… )
— from many of our good qualities or potential talents (artistic abilities, generosity, patience….)
— prevents others from benefiting from these valuable parts of ourselves, because:
• we’re afraid of getting stepped on, manipulated, used, boundary invaded, left…. if we’re open & available
• we’re afraid of getting sucked into taking care of others, or not being able to get away from someone we don’t like because of our co-dependence or passivity, so we’d rather not engage at all

• we don’t want anyone to find out how weak, damaged, vulnerable, dumb, needy … we really are (everything S-H tells us) — AND
• we’re sure we’re doing the world a service by withdrawing, to protect them from our rage! We may not admit to that feeling, but isolation is a sure sign we’re worried about it at some deep level & are trying to keep the lid on.

BOOK:  “BARGAINS with FATE”, taken from Shakespeare’s plays. Dr. Bernard I. Paris describes the Detached / Resigned character, whose only goal is safety via total ‘freedom’.
BARGIN: “If I ask nothing of others, try for nothing, expect nothing …. then no one will bother me & I won’t fail or get disappointed” – their Reward. What’s suppressed is their aggressive side.   (SEE all 5 on the ACoA website)

NEXT:  Price for ever-control #1

BOUNDARIES – Healthy Source (Part 1)


I feel safe & loved

PREVIOUS: Bs Defined (#2)

See ACRONYM page for abbrev.

• Having boundaries (Bs) is the opposite of being enmeshed (symbiotic)**. Humans are not born with Bs, & have to develop them with the guidance of healthy nurturing, so the main caregiver (usually the mother) needs to be a secure base from which the infant can safely explore its environment.

A well-grounded mother experiences the child as separate from herself, although from her body, so even if she’s anxious or sick, is able to be nurturing because she finds the helplessness & needs of the baby irresistibly appealing. She is not overwhelmed or put off by them, like in alcoholic / dysfunctional homes

• With the proper care, gradually the all-consuming ME of the child will separate from the NON-ME (all others), & personal boundaries are formed.  Being given a solid foundation is crucial before the age of 9 or 10, as by then our defense mechanisms are SET, & a bad beginning will generate a harmful crop of ‘negative protections” that are hard to change

**Symbiosis: At birth: “….is experienced by both the mother & child as a temporary merging or sharing of their needs”, an important early phase of omnipotent fusion (very deep) between the two, In a safe environment, this merging is gradually given up by the child over a long process of S & I. 

This infant’s experience is: I cried, I got fed, aren’t I great! This sense of invincibility is alternately —
— ascribed by the baby to the grandiose Self –> “I’m all-powerful”
— & about the idealized mother/caretaker –> “She’s all-powerful”
As the child separates & internalizes the parent, IF it’s a loving, healthy experience, he or she can safely become their own person, with a sturdy sense of self-hood, along with a Positive Introject

•  When this satisfying connection is not available or not adequate for the child, it spills over into adulthood, so that in unhealthy relationships: “…. symbiosis is still going on, occurring when two or more individuals behave as though between them they only have one complete personality….”, rather than being 2 separate people.

Neither have a full complement of ego states, so that one person acts from their Adult & Parent while the other only from their Child part – forming one false ‘whole’ ‘between them.
This is why it’s so hard for co-dependents to leave what others may see as destructive attachments – they would be cutting off a ‘part of themselves‘ since they haven’t yet grown their own complete identity.

1. Normal Development
• Children are highly intuitive, intelligent & curious. But at first they experience little difference between Self & others, between inner & outer, fantasy & reality.  The work of Mahler, Kernberg, Hartmann, Spitz identified 3-4 important developmental stages – not in a straight line but more like a fluctuating helix:

i. Autistic or Undifferentiated = in the first month of life, during which the infant is in its own inner world, with a minimum awareness of ‘others’, focused on reducing physical (hunger, wet diaper…. & emotional tension (fear, uncertainty, loss….)

ii. Symbiotic = for the next 4 months, the infant becomes more aware of the mother / caretaker as the source of fullness & warmth, but not as a separate person

iii. Separation-Individuation (S & I)  = made up of a series of sub-phases, thru the 3rd or 4th early developmentyears of life, when the child begins to investigate the world beyond its own body through sight, locomotion, language…. & later, conflicts with mother about needing her vs. needing some independence, which requires much help in balancing

iv. Object Constancy, developed during the S & I period (if allowed!) around age 2 1/2 to 3, when the child is capable of experience both the good /providing & bad /withholding sides of the mother as one whole, as basically dependable & trustworthy, not perfect but not dangerous — assuming she’s mentally & emotionally sound! (MORE….)

NEXT: Bs – Healthy Source (Part 2)

Loneliness in RECOVERY (Part 1)

of loneliness because it’s not forever

PREVIOUS: Adult Loneliness  (#3

SITE: Will I go crazy?”  re. loneliness

While all Recovery progress is positive, it’s never in a straight line & doesn’t always feel good – as much as we’d all like it to.  Instead, we move forward at a slow pace, often falling back into old ways & sometimes feeling discouraged, like we’re never going to ‘get it’.

John Bradshaw’s statement that a therapist’s job is to take a client “from their misery into their pain” (from Self-Hate into Abandonment pain) also applies to us individually on our journey thru Recovery.  We need to feel old wounds – a little at a time, & that includes Loneliness.
Is takes courage & perseverance. Recovery (Rec.) creates ‘opportunities’ for feeling lonely, which is a sign of growth as we leave old ways behind!

The middle A : ACCEPTANCE  (PART 2)
The following sources of Rec. Loneliness are part of the process, so they’re normal & to be expected:

1. Accept temporary Rec. loneliness of……
….. separating from childhood damage (our ‘story’). Any form of ‘letting go’ leaves a temporary feeling of depression & emptiness – as it taps into our childhood sorrow & rage, intense fear & emptiness.
It means:S & I
separation & Individuation (S & I) from the PP voice & our resulting S-H, the Toxic Rules & Toxic Roles. These interlopers clogging our Inner Space have to be replaced with the UNIT (Loving Parent + Healthy Adult).

• gradually letting go of a variety of addictions. When we stop numbing the “hole in the soul”, the emptiness (lack of True Self) lets us feel how alone we’ve been

• outgrowing the compulsion to be symbiotically attached to someone, anyone, which then lets us feel how lonely it is to be with people who are wrong for us. It’s accepting that we all have to live in our own skin (‘existential aloneness’), which is healthy & normal. We do need others & especially out H.P., but not in a desperate, needy-child way.

2. Accept temporary Rec. Loneliness of…..
….. getting to know our IC (especially the Healthy one) – & building the UNIT. We gradually become aware that we do notinner child have a monster inside, but a deeply, desperately HURT CHILD (WIC).

The WIC may always want to be taken care of by someone else, so there’s a loneliness in letting go of other people as potential parents.
Guides, mentors,  teachers, friends…. are appropriate & needed, BUT not in a caretaker role. That’s for us to do, to become compassionate & dependable (trustworthy).
• Any form of dialogue with our younger self will gradually fill the emptiness. Book-ending with the WIC helps shift its focus from past to present-day reality.

3. Accept temporary Rec. loneliness of..
….. doing fewer & fewer self-defeating things. This can be very scary for a while, so we need patience & faith in the process because:
• it’s disorienting to function in a new pattern, until we get used to it
disobeying the Toxic Rules can bring with it varying degrees of internal backlash, & sometimes very real disapproval or punishment from disobey rulesothers – mainly the narcissists

• it leaves us wondering who we are. We won’t completely prevent the PP voice from whispering in our ear, but at first, as we stop obeying it, we can feel confused & alone. We think: “Who am I without ‘them’?” if we’re not that Role or Persona we developed in childhood.
The WIC is afraid we’ll have no identity without the old familiar ‘self’, which is mainly made up of defenses.
In reality we were born with a personality all our own & need to strip away the False Identity to find that out.

NEXT: Recovery Loneliness (Part 2)