Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hiding From Love

Is some part of you hidden, locked away in a "safe" place and never to be released?

In Dr. John Townsend's book, "Hiding From Love", he describes the hiding patterns that, as children, protected us. Patterns that now imprison us as adults, keeping us from finding the healing we need and enjoying the intimacy we deserve.

Townsend explains that, when people are damaged by overwhelming dysfunction and emotional trauma, they isolate the injured pieces of themselves in order to survive. The broken parts caused by the pain of withdrawal from love are covered over with a veneer of denial. This denial attempts to nullify the pain with the belief that the need for connection to this part of ourselves does not exist or isn't really important.

"When we hide, the time and energy that we need to spend in loving and being loved is diverted- it's channeled instead into maintaining our isolation."

But "forgetting the past" does not work. Continuing hiding and isolating feelings keeps people frozen in that moment of trauma. This can go on for years and even decades. We cannot heal, grow and progress as long as we continue to engage in avoidance and denial. Broken parts of ourselves remain unrepaired, immature and in limbo. For example, when a child's boundaries are violated, emotional hiding usually results. And when the hurt part is isolated (hidden), it's as if the child is now left in a locked room with her abuser- doomed to relive the experience and barred from healing.

One indicator that you are hiding in denial is feeling shame. Shame keeps us stuck because it encourages further isolation, convincing us that we are beyond redemption.

According to Dr. Townsend, you are not to be blamed for wanting to hide. And "demanding that you function on an adult level with capabilities that aren't developed yet" is not only fruitless, it is casting judgment on the innocent. You can't do anything about that which you do not have access to.

"Transference" then takes place. Transference happens when a part of us that is stuck in the past colors our current view of others. It is experiencing people through the eyes of your past injuries. For example, someone with unhealed attachment injuries tends to see others as more needy, intrusive and demanding than they actually are. Reality is distorted and we remain locked in our negative pattern.

Humility- the ability to experience our "badness" within the confines of a loving relationship, helps us to bring issues into the light where they can be healed. This is hard work. To display the ugliest most broken parts of ourselves to others is very difficult. It's like that terrible nightmare where you are naked in front of a large crowd.

Moving your injured parts into grace and truth is a risk that takes continued practice. In time the injured, formerly hidden parts mature and catch up to the rest of the functioning adult parts. I takes patience, time and work.

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Relationships Foster Resilience

We hear and see it all the time in ACA/ACOA meetings and literature: "The first step is coming out of isolation". This sentiment is now being echoed by those studying overcoming adversity and increasing "resilience".

A recent article from suggests that regardless of your past or your genetic ability to handle stress, anyone can cultivate resilience. Psychiatrist Steven Wolin, M.D., defines resilience as "the capacity to rise above adversity". His findings are based on 20 years of his own research on adult children of alcoholics. Most of them, he has found, do not repeat their parents' drinking patterns.

Those who overcame adversity yet lacked strong family support systems growing up, sought and received help from others—a teacher, a neighbor, the parents of peers or, eventually, a spouse. They were not afraid to talk about the hard times they were having to someone who cared for their well-being.

Resilient children often hang out with families of untroubled peers. As adults, the resilient children of alcoholics marry into stable, loving families with whom they spend a great deal of time.

Psychologist Edith Grotberg, Ph.D., urges people to propagate their own resilience by thinking along three lines:

1. I Have: strong relationships, structure, rules at home, role models; these are external supports that are provided

2. I Am: a person who has hope and faith, cares about others, is proud of myself; these are inner strengths that can be developed

3. I Can: communicate, solve problems, gauge the temperament of others, seek good relationships—all interpersonal and problem-solving skills that are acquired.

It's often been said that the path to healing and maintaining recovery involves being around healing, balanced people; a safe group, family, friend, recovery org., therapist, church group, etc. The biggest challenge to improving resilience may be to overcome the long standing isolation that once provided protection from trauma and dysfunction.

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