Mental Health DON’Ts – Emotional (Part 1a)

live wellLIVING WELL
is the best revenge!

PREVIOUS: Psych Disorders #6

SITE: 10 Things (physically) Healthy People do differently

SOURCE: Composite of many lists, including Amy Morin’s “13 things Mentally Strong people Don’t Do.” – about being in charge of our thoughts, emotions & actions (T.E.A.)


EHP Don’t Avoid Alone-Time
Many ACoAs are addicted to relationships & to staying busy, no matter how unsatisfying or damaging. They always need to be with or around someone, rescuing others or creating chaos, running away from themselves or desperate to hang on. They never seem to slow down enough to feel emotions, evaluate their motives or stop self-defeating behaviors.

ACoAs in Recovery often say they don’t know what to do with unstructured hours – because it’s for just themselves. They feel depressed, too lonely, can’t decide what to do, aren’t allowed to have fun or relax….. wasting precious weekends or holidays, & then go back to their rat-race. Even those of us who are highly accomplished & talented are motivated by fear, rather than self-esteem.

But EHP treasure time by themselves – to reflect, plan ahead, have alone timefun, be creative, do something not related to their work-life, OR just rest! And there are times when it’s truly necessary to pull back in order to allow internal healing, but it’s not endless.

They don’t need others to give them a direction or make them feel OK. They can be happy with others, but also happy alone. Strong people are comfortable with their thoughts & emotions, & when stressed they know how to comfort themselves. They know that changing their routine or ‘vegging’ is crucial to mental & physical health. They know that play is part of a well-balanced life, so don’t need to be constantly ‘producing’ something to validate their existence.

EHP Don’t Feel Pessimistic
ACoAs are more likely to see themselves (S-H), others & the world from a negative point of view (paranoia & hopelessness). The adults we grew up with either ignored us or were judgmental of everyone & everything, so we took on the same perspective. This meant ignoring all the positive things available in life, including the good things that we have experienced.feel positive

EHP generally feel optimistic about their lives & their futures, without ignoring stresses or hoping for magic outcomes. They don’t let temporary difficulties or unimportant annoyances get them down – at least not for long. They know that obstacles are part of life, making an effort to solve whatever they can & accepting what they can’t change (Serenity  Prayer – backwards??).
They don’t focus on their weaknesses – while still acknowledging them. No one can be perfect, so they don’t waste time trying. Instead they continue working on improving themselves rather than feeling defeated.

EHP Don’t Feel Sorry for Themselves
There’s a difference between feeling sorry for ourselves & healthy compassion for all we’ve been thru. The Victim’s outlook on life is that they can’t function because of being abused. While their childhood trauma was real, as adults they refuse to work on healing those wounds, which would improve their present & future. Their ‘position’ is that as long as they’re ‘incapacitated’ someone else will have to take care of them. If no one does, they stay helpless.

EHP compassionately acknowledge past distress, while fully accepting the unfair & painful truth that they’re responsible for cleaning up the PMES mess their unhealthy family created.  compassionThey’re able to emerge from trying circumstances with self-awareness & self-respect, even appreciating lessons learned. When things don’t go well In the present, they find realistic ways to manage, get the support they need, & believe in their worth – no matter what.

They ALSO know OK to feel sorry for one’s self briefly from time to time, especially after an event that’s out of their control. It’s important to lick their wounds & regroup & regain strength, before moving on. EHP have gratitude for their positive qualities & the good thing they already have.

NEXT: EHP – Part 1b

Psychological DISORDERS – Intro (Part 1)

just a little ‘off’!

PREVIOUS: Communication (#1)

POSTs: Principles of Character 1 & 2

SITEs: STARLING: online educational videos, community support, and evidence based tools – to help improve mental health


PERSONALITY: A pattern of relatively permanent traits & unique characteristics that give both consistency & individuality to a person’s behavior.
TRAITS contribute to individual differences in behavior, consistently over time, & across a variety of situations.
CHARACTERISTICS are unique qualities of a person that include temperament, physique & intelligence.

SOCIAL INTERACTIONS are based on a person’s level of healthy character or disorder, & can be looked at from 3 points of view:
• Inward-facing perspective – the Self judging itself (self-concept)
• Outward-facing perspective – the Self judging other people
• Inner-outer: Introject judgments about the Self, but from the perspective of others

BEFORE looking at the various degrees of psychological disorders, we need a look at what mental health is – to use as a comparison.

O.C.E.A.N. traits:
Openness to experience, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, & Neuroticism
These BIG FIVE are dimensions of character (CHART) which represent the most important qualities shaping our social interactions. Extensive research shows these qualities have biological origins & are remarkably universal. One study that looked at people from more than 50 different countries found that these 5 traits accurately described personality from Germany to China. (Descriptions). Traits are rated on a scale from most to least. (People at the extremes)

ACoA reminder: Most of us think that our usual way of being is our actual personality (who we were born as) because it’s how we’ve been since childhood. However – anyone growing up in a very damaging environment forms a False Self as protection, in response to their environment. It’s the FS, a combination of the PP & the WIC, which houses the different disorders. With a lot of FoO work, most can be improved if not totally healed, but not all wounded people are willing to go thru the process needed to Recover.

HEALTHY – According to Otto Kernberg, someone is mentally healthy if they have a well-organized personality, which functions reasonably well because their reality testing is mostly intact. Such people have an integrated sense of Self, with an accurate Self-to-Other concept, allowing them to hold opposite feelings about any person (& themselves) – at the same time – without changing their realistic opinion of them. Everyone is experienced as a consistent ‘whole’, even tho they have both positive & negative qualities. NOTE: This does not mean they like everyone!

Thomas Fuchs (U. of Heidelberg) states: “Narrative Identity* implies a continuity of the personal past, present & future – essentially based on the capacity of a person to integrate contradictory aspects & tendencies into a coherent, overarching sense & view of themselves.”
*Narrative Identity = forming an identity by combining life experiences into an internalized, evolving story of the Self that provides them with a sense of unity & purpose in life.

UNHEALTHY –  However, people with a fragmented sense of Self cannot easily do this.  (This is not about multiple personality or schizophrenic dissociation).

Instead, their minds store separate split-off images of others as being either all bad or all good at any given moment, rather than as a single cohesive personality who has many different aspects.
So they don’t understand that their own experience of someone has changed – depending on the circumstance of their interactions, but actually believe the person has somehow changed. This prevents them from holding a consistent sense of Self & others across time & situations.(Object Relations Theory)
EXP: If you smile & are friendly to me, you are a totally good person – in that moment – who I like & feel safe with. If at some other time you hurt my feelings or ignore me, you are then a totally bad person – in that moment – & so I absolutely don’t feel safe with you.

😟 As a way of coping, the brain compartmentalizes traumatic experiences to keep us from feeling too much pain (physical &/or emotional) – creating dissociation. It can show up as a detachment or spacing out. A part of our attention is missing, so we don’t recognize what we’re thinking or need, & often don’t notice or hear things in our surroundings, or right in front of us all the time. But fundamentally – what’s missing is a connection to some or all our emotions.
SITE: Help for Organizing your mind

NEXT: Personality Disorders (Part 2)

Being CONFIDENT (Part 1)

makes me happy, not arrogant

PREVIOUS: Double Messages (#9)

QUOTE: Don’t let what you can’t do stop you from doing what you can do.” John Wooden, sports coach & motivational writer


DEF: Confidence comes from a positive & realistic assessment of one’s
abilities, creativity, knowledge, personal judgment, power, talents, & worth.

CONFIDENT people are usually HAPPY PEOPLE
ACoAs: Remember that we were not allowed to be ourselves from the get-go, so we have to work hard at uncovering our True Self, fighting the PP voice which doesn’t want us to find this out.
Contrary to what many of us have been taught, self-confidence is not arrogance, which is an over-evaluation of one’s worth, often displayed in offensive expressions of superiority & false prideWellness aspects

➼ The following are some basic characteristics of mentally healthy people – GOALs which everyone can strive for. No one is confident all the time, so we are NOT looking for perfection in anything – only progress!

• have a clear sense of self – they know who they are, fundamentally – their basic inborn qualities, special abilities & gifts, their hard-earned accumulated knowledge, likes & dislikes, dreams & hopes.
They’re not afraid to admit their flaws & limitations, but don’t dwell on them

• don‘t beat themselves up. Being human is to not be perfect, which they accept, & so aren’t ashamed of being limited or of having shortcoming. When they don’t know something or have a ‘weak’ moment, they identify the issue, try to find a solution, dust themselves off & keep going. There’s never a legitimate reason for self-abuse

follow their goals and dreams. They’re comfortable owning their talents & desires, knowing those are part of their True Self. They don’t let fear, doubt or other people’s negativity prevent them from going for their plans & visions. They want to have a purposeful life – to fulfill as much of their destiny as possible, & contribute to improving society

• show confidence in how they carry themselves. Unless they’re ill or disabled (which does not diminish them), they have a self-assured walk, stand or sit with head straight, shoulders back, give eye contact when engaged in conversation…. In any case, they’re comfortable in their skin

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 1.58.05 PM pay attention to their health. GIGO (Garbage in, Garbage out) applies to the body as well as the mind, both of which they treat with respect.
As much as their circumstances will allow – they give themselves quality nourishment :  healthy food, fresh air, relaxation & activity, regular medical attention, appropriate vitamins & medication…. as needed

learn from their past without dwelling on it. They’re willing to acknowledge & deal with old trauma, so they can heal. They recognize when old thinking & behavior patterns limit their progress, & are determined to improve whatever they can. They keep moving forward, but accept & learn from the past, knowing wounds are part of their identity

don’t absorb criticism. Because they regard themselves positively, they don’t feel judged or belittled, even if someone is trying to do that, especially people who know very little or nothing about them. They’re not shaken by others’ opinions, & in many cases don’t even bother defending themselves

refuse to be victims. Not everyone had a painful or traumatic childhood, but everyone has had difficulties & challenges sometime in their life. The confident person refuses to let stressors get them down for too long – even if they truly were victims as children.

Feeling compassion for oneself in not the same as self-pity, which is more about believing one is powerless & hopeless than feeling sad about experiencing painful events.boundaries
— AND they refuse to be victimized – won’t let others abuse or take advantage of them, because they know their own worth, without arrogance

have strong personal boundaries. They know their needs & rights, so can ask for what they want, or stop others from inappropriately imposing their needs or desires.
They don’t try to please others just for the sake of making others happy, to prevent feeling abandoned. They know when to say Yes or No, but not as a way to be controlling or boost their ego.

NEXT: Being Confident (Part 2)

Unrealistic Expectations – UNDER


I can really ask for what I need AND get it?

PREVIOUS: Unrealistic Expectations – OVER #2

See ACRONYM page for abbrev.

IRONY (see last 2 posts)
There are many things ACoAs do not expect WHICH WE SHOULD!  In reality…
… we all need images (dreams, goals) of that is possible for us, which are supposed to be formed in childhood, by watching our family accomplish their goals, & thru school, friends, books, TV…
… without those images (possibilities) – we don’t have something ‘concrete’ to work towards, using process.  Goals have to start with a mental picture of what we want to accomplish or receive, in order for us to pursue them.

But for ACoAs – Some have dreams, but they’re not allowed
We know what we’d like to do, when we “grow up” – but are just too scared to go for it.  What IF : I’m not good enough, I fall flat on my face, I don’t have the talent, I can’t follow thru, or mess it up some other way… AND the PP is saying “Who do you think you are, anyway?

OR, we don’t think we have any dreams

We’re so beaten down by the traumas of childhood we don’t even dare picture what we might try for. We can’t go after anything that would be important to us – we just drift & do whatever we fall into. We can’t imagine having our dreams come true.

➼ ACoAs UNDER-EXPECT basic human rights, which were denied us as kids. NOW we can look for appropriate treatment from everyone. We know that not everyone is capable, so it’s important to “Stick with the winners”!  We need to keep away from, or severely limit, our contact with people who are too damaged to treat us with at least a minimum of courtesy. Not everyone will like or love us. That’s normal. But we can gravitate towards those who will!

So, we have a RIGHT to EXPECTbe safe
a. The right to BE here
• to heal from our childhood damage
• to get the help we need in any situation
• to have as full a life as possible
• to be safe in the world & to be comfortable in our skin
• to have our own dreams, to follow them & be successful
• to get to know ourselves, thoroughly & like who we are

b. The right to be WHO we are
• to be happy, feel pleasure, be drama-freehave fun
• to express our creativity, in whatever form
• to have a safe, loving Higher Power
• to have a full support system, for healing and for fun
• to be part of a community of our peers
• to be acknowledged for our innate abilities, our learned skills & our actual achievements

We have a RIGHT to EXPECT –

2. FROM OTHER PEOPLE, that they:comforting
a. treat us with respect  (not use us!)
• able to listen to us, be present, be thoughtful
• are ok with all our emotions (crying, anger, joy…)
• take us seriously – not make fun of us, dismiss us in any way
• tell the truth (not lie), be forthcoming
• talk to us as adults, at the very least with civility

b. have (some) mental health
• sobriety: chemical, mental & emotional (but not perfect)
• not be physically & menchurch-familytally abusive
• have their own money, living space, career/ work they like…
• capable of intimacy, honesty, enjoyment
• have a spiritual belief (if it’s important to us)
• know how to act in public, be sociable (not withdrawn)
• have decent boundaries, know how to communicate

c. have the capacity to love (already)be accepted
• be supportive, encouraging, helpful
see the real us, value who we are
• able to commit to us, but not be symbiotic
• be loyal, sexually faithful
• admire us without being jealous
• want the best for us, even if they don’t agree or understand

These are only SOME of the things we SHOULD EXPECT!

REMINDER: In order to believe this & go for it, ACoAs need to imperfectly have:  • greatly reduced self-hate  • developed a rapport with our wounded AND healthy child aspects  •  decent boundaries • a good support system • major detachment from the bad parent voice in our head!

NEXT: ACoAs & RISK – Intro #1

ABANDONMENT Pain, Now (Part 3)


PREVIOUS: Abandonment pain, NOW (#2)

STYLES of reacting to old abandonment (Ab)

1. UNDER – aware (Part 2)
2. OVER-aware
On the other hand, ACoAs can be hyper-attuned to the slightest slight, even when it’s completely unintentional or accidental. Everything that hurts them is taken as a personal affront, meant to humiliate & punish. This is the Victim position of the WIC (co-dep triangle), who believes everything is about itself – the narcissism of not even imagining that others are concerned mainly with themselves, not us!

Fear of Abandonment (FoA) rules our life:
• For all ACoAs, our default position is that we will always be abandoned, sooner or later – it’s just a matter of time
• We look for (Ab) everywhere, real or imagined. There’s an element over-awareof paranoia, which is always based on genuine childhood danger & trauma  (Post: ACoAs – Projecting)
As a result:
• we may deliberately make ourselves un-available OR un-likable, so we won’t become attached, & then have to re-experience being disappointed
• OR we desperately cling to people (even if it doesn’t show) & we watch them like a hawk for any hint of disapproval, anger, lack of attention… which might signal imminent abandonment

EXP: As Cicilia was walking downtown she noticed her friend Joe across the street, who didn’t even acknowledge her, much less smile or stop to talk. The ‘sensitive soul’ became enraged, & feeling invisible, obsessed about the slight for a few days & eventually fired off a nasty note, breaking up the friendship! (Sensitive souls can be very harsh when hurt!)

It turned out that Joe was so preoccupied in his own head he never saw Cici, but she didn’t bother checking it out first – just assumed that it was deliberate & disrespectful. Looking at her scathing email, Joe knew this was not the first time she had over-reacted. He decided it wasn’t worth arguing about it or justifying himself, again. If she couldn’t communicate more reasonably – then so be it.
Healthy: an appropriate reaction from her would have been: “I saw you on the street today & you didn’t say hi. What’s up?”

ACoA IRONY: We’re desperately afraid of being abandoned &Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 10.26.56 PM yet tend to only focus on things in our environment that are potentially abandoning, while ignoring all the positive strokes being provided by:
— people giving us complements, anywhere
— kudos & rewards at work
— friends, mates, children… who do love us

• Whenever we feel devastated, self-hating, hysterical, paralyzed … but can’t figure out what’s bothering us – we need to remember that: “ALL roads lead to (Rome) old abandonment pain”. No matter how real-life, practical or serious the current event (rational), we can definitely say the situation is pushing a very big AB button.
This triggers Self-Hate.
Realizing that, we can then look for what has recently happened to open our old wounds. This can lead us to the source of the pain, with the opportunity to do some loving repair work with the WIC.

• It’s always helpful to remind ourselves that ‘If it’s hysterical, it’s historical’, because the intensity of our feelings is usually not in proportion** ⬇️ to the present situation which was somehow similar
to repeated childhood abuse or neglect. We can react with tears or rage. Either way it’s a window into what happened to us as kids – so it’s very useful info.

• The pain we feel at the moment can be from a real event (a job loss, a breakup, being in a fire) – any one of which of is stressful. BUT ACoAs react much more intensely than less-wounded others – who may be hurt, upset, have some sleepless nights… while the ACoA will be depressed for a long time, beat themselves up cruelly, become suicidal….

** ACoAs have a hard time accepting that extreme emotions are ‘out-of-proportion’, because in that moment they FEEL so real, we can’t see the bigger picture. We don’t want to hear we’re over-reacting!
IMP: That makes us so angry because we think we’re being told that our feelings aren’t real or legitimate. NOT SO. It is NOT a negation of our emotions – only being realistic about the origin of the intensity.

NEXT: How ACoAs Abandon Others – #1

ABANDONMENT Pain, Now (Part 1)

abandonment -1 

I know you don’t love me,
but I’m desperate

: ‘Self-Hate’ posts


• Abandonment (Ab) is: “Not getting enough of our legitimate childhood NEEDS met, & some needs not at all”. This is child-abuse & applies to all 4 categories of PMES – Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual. (Ab) is not only about someone physically leaving, just like being “abused” is not necessarily about being hit or injured.

• As a child – being continually abandoned in PMES ways generates enormous amounts of terror, rage, hopelessness, loneliness, humiliation, sorrow…  MAINLY terror. And we carry that mountain of fear with us into adulthood. If not brought to the surface & safely re-experienced (OH JOY), it poisons our life – in ALL areas, no matter how functional a person may look on the outside.

• The original (Ab) did not have to be overt or deliberate. AND our parents may have been oblivious to the damage they were doing, BUT the results are the same  (see: They did the best they could”)
• Children always turn the original (Ab) into Self-Hate, in a desperate attempt to be in control of a bad situation (“I caused it so I can change it”)

➼ At the heart of Self-Hate is a FALSE** BELIEF: “It is MY fault that I’m in pain AND if it’s my fault, then I can & MUST fix it by changing the person or situation, to make everything better”
**Q: Why is it FALSE?
A: Because the severe pain we experienced as kids came FROM the unhealthy & abusive adults, & is their responsibility.  Our pain is NOT just our ‘perception”! It really happened

Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 5.28.37 AM• Without an outlet for the intense, daily, unrelenting fear we lived thru during childhood, the accumulated pain gets buried & crusted over with defense mechanisms
• Technically, you can not abandon another adult – only a child (there are some exceptions). So now when we FEEL abandoned, it’s left-over pain from the past.
(PS. There are of course situations which will hurt any healthy adult, but not to the degree that ACoAs experience)

Mental Health is about many things, one of which is BALANCE. Living in a healthy middle ground (most of the time) is not only a foreign concept to ACoAs, but IF experienced, even briefly, is considered BORING & undesirable!
Each of us blends our own personality with our childhood experiences, creating the ‘sensitivities’ (buttons / triggers) which identify our damage.

EXTREMES – Unhealed ACoAs (& some in Recovery) have only 2 speeds about most things: Too Much or Too Little, very high or very low. ‘Gray’ is NOT even thought of, or is seen as a cop-out!

Using T.E.A, this refers both to:
how we think (T), in the form of the Cognitive Distortion: ‘Black & White Thinking’.  (“I’m all bad & they’re all good /  I’ll only try if I can do it perfectly / No-one loves me / All men are dangerous”….)
• We were not taught to think correctly nor broadly, with nuances & from many different perspectives. So even very intelligent, educated ACoAs can not always come up with alternative ways of considering a problem, about ourselves or in relationships
how we feel emotionally (E). We torture ourselves with panic, depression, rage, shame, hopelessness, guilt, & self-hate,
OR swing to unrealistic, sometimes delusional hope & excitement – both based on incorrect thinking.

• We were not given permission to actually have emotions – not taught to identify them, how to express them correctly, how to self-sooth, or to put them in perspective re. a given situation.
EXP : As a child: Getting very upset when I’m injured or someone terrifies me – is appropriate.
NOW: Getting hysterical because I can’t get or do something I want – is not!
ALSO, we were not taught to consider other people’s feelings – since no one considered ours!

• All ACoAs are capable of responding to life from either extreme – sometimes over-responding, based on specific ways we were repeatedly wounded, sometimes underresponding, to current people or situations. This is based on the kind of abuses we were trained to ignore, but each of us unconsciously lives more often at one end than the other.
NOTE: this is not a description of Manic-Depression, which is chemical rather than emotional.

NEXT: Abandonment pain now – #2

Welcome to ALL

ACoAs know a lot, but often feel confused.

We have a ”committee of voices” with  conflicting points of view, often making it hard to function.   Who should we listen to:  the Inner Child, the Harsh Parent, the Healthy Adult,  our religion, our intuition ???

Here, in these blogs,  I try to make complex issues easier to think about & understand.Tell me if you agree, disagree, or if I’ve left something out!

CLARITY is a hallmark of mental health.     Keep repeating: “I KNOW WHAT I KNOW” !!