I’ve come to know something about myself and many other people who are, in the 12 Step parlance, “ACA”,( Adult Children of Alcoholics) or raised in a dysfunctional family. I have yet to meet anyone who wasn’t. We all want to be happy, healthy, wealthy enough, loved, you know, the usual stuff ,along with those who aspire for larger things like fame and fortune.
YET there is this HUGE Catch 22: What we want and what we are patterned to create over and over again are two DIFFERENT things. Lately I’ve been eying the ACA red book on how “We” don’t ask for help, because our cries for help when we were young were mocked, ignored, or even punished. That’s the gist of it, not a direct quote, and it makes sense that “We” continue on in our lives not trusting that “We can actually get any help or are worthy of it, though oh the surface we got through the motions of it and other seemingly “normal” behaviors.
But there is another ironic thing that I see happening in my own life and others which is hard to wrap the mind around. It hides right out there in the open, evades detection and awareness. When things go good for us, when they seem to be going the way we desperately need and want, that is the very time we get the most afraid and often go to great lengths to sabotage and stop whatever is happening.
When we were young there was a lot going on that we could not control. Much of our hopes, our dreams, our needs and our wants were just not on the table of family doings, even if our parents worked hard to try and create a future for and with us. Mine did, and they succeeded in many ways which are still sustaining me today. What we learned early on was that our desire to be truly accepted and loved, so strong and unrelenting along the winding path to adulthood, did not much matter to our family and culture.
This was, most certainly, not intended, but it was the message we got. We learned to suppress our desire for love, truth, and a fully feeling life. We learned to put it off, to escape, and adjust as best we could short term in order to get along, get by and through with our deficiency. We lost ourselves long before we really knew much about who we were and felt. Besides, other people were suffering around us, so why should we expect to be happy? Our lack of importance was the price we paid to belong to our family and gender.
And in that loss, we became dependent on what was a fragmented, default pattern of continuing to continue, to try and get something of what we were continually missing. And then there is the biggest BUTT in the world: We learned to never trust feeling good, or receive for long any kind of good coming our way, earned or unearned. We learned to fear feeling good, knowing from our early experiences on some level that it could and probably would end, stop, be taken away. And then we would feel that devastation of a Life Sentence of failure and inferiority, a feeling we never wanted to feel again: THAT SOMEHOW WE JUST WEREN’T WORTHY OF HAVING A SUCCESSFUL AND HAPPY LIFE.