Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Don't Trust. Don't Talk. Don't Feel.

Don't Trust. Don't Talk. Don't Feel.

I have repeatedly read that this is a common dogma in dysfunctional families. I have only recently come to realize how this directly affected me in my own upbringing. Sometimes these three sentences are presented in a different order. For me It starts with trust.

Don't Trust.

Children by nature tend to naturally trust those around them. Not trusting is a behavior learned from the repeated experience of having that trust violated.

I learned through numerous demonstrations that my parents were emotionally untrustworthy. Their reactions were often belittling, critical, judgmental and shaming. Thinking that you are not good enough is a huge emotional burden for any child to carry.

Since emotional support was inconsistent, I learned not to depend on it being there. I stopped trusting it and this lack of trust lead me to stop sharing emotionally. Sharing feelings in my family was not always safe. I felt it better to never share than to continue taking risks that could yield painful results.

Don't Talk.

Keeping my feelings to myself was the only option. As a vulnerable child, I had no one safe to share them with. This ostracized me and made me very lonely but my survival depended on it. My parents probably had no clue how disconnected I was. They were too wrapped up in their own dysfunction to notice.

The pent up resentment this created in me only became apparent to them much later when it materialized as bad behavior and especially, teenage rebellion. They had no idea where it came from and chalked my acting out up to adolescent angst.

Don't Feel.

This is a Catch 22 situation. The pain of not being able to trust or share openly those closest to me caused me to shut down emotionally. This was my only protection. Shutting out the pain also means closing down to other emotions as well.

Learning to shut down early and often has lead to dire consequences later in my life; Difficulty connecting with others, social anxiety, lack of communication or a sudden inability to articulate feelings, not being able to trust, being suspicious of other's motives, self imposed isolation.

The catch is, because I shut out my own feelings and everything associated with the problems that precluded it, I became unaware that I had done it. This makes realizing there is even a problem difficult and tracing back the cause a challenge. If feelings don't exist, as I had convinced myself for so many years, how can there be a problem?

I am grateful to be able to see this as clearly as I do now. Just getting to this point has taken a bit of work. I am no longer just wallowing but have defined this problem and identified the cause. That has given me some serenity.

Thanks for listening.


Can you relate or would you like to share a reaction? Please post it by clicking on "Comments" below.

Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County Adult Children


D said...

Dear C.,

As the wind blows where it will so is the destruction of a family where a child is shamed or ignored. It is only the light of the truth that can change the darkness into a thing of smallness.

Keep shining the light brother and helping us all see the truth. We can learn to trust again because we know the truth now. We can be brave children again because we have been given a new start by GOD. We can rejoice because we are new.

Go Newbies!
Thanks C.!

Anonymous said...

Thanks C for this article. It especially means a lot to me as I watch you make these discoveries about yourself and use them to help others. Your encouragement helps me, and I find myself doing what you are doing when you share your growth. This extends to others at meetings as well. When someone shares how they were brave and stepped out in an area which challenges them, I often times find myself gaining needed courage and stepping out and doing something bold that week. I really need support. I am so grateful it is so readily available. I am truly blessed!


Anonymous said...

Dear C--I can totally relate to your experience. My way of coping with my parents' violent, irrational behavior was developing OCD, obsessed with violent thoughts of self-harm, though I didn't want to harm myself. My obsessing plagues to this day, off and on, and it is very frustrating and painful to deal with. The intense anger I felt towards my parents but couldn't express was turned inward. Its a struggle, but I'm determined to beat it and the ACA meetings help a great deal.

Thank you for sharing.


Anonymous said...

I was discussing this with someone last week--thanks for mentioning these three--is there also a third?

Dont' Trust "I stopped trusting it and this lack of trust lead me to stop sharing emotionally"

I can certainly identify with this. Fits with number three.

Don't Talk

Particular hard one. I don't talk because I think others are not really interested and I see reactions that may not be there--relates to don't trust again. Finding people to listen to us tell our story in a safe place is a key here. Hopefully we can find friends that love us enough to walk with us but if needed, we may need to pay someone!

Don't Feel "Shutting out the pain also means closing down to other emotions as well."

How true I know this to be! Shut down is comprehensive! But, as I have walked thru pains in my life, this does get better but it is a slow journey.

Thanks for your insight--I am an older ACOA and still learning!

Anonymous said...

I read this years ago, and added to the list, "Don't need." If I "need" something, then it will matter to me if I'm not able to have it. I needed the love and protection of my parents- my alcoholic mother and my non-present father- but could not rely on it. I realized early on that if I didn't need,I would have a lot less pain.