Reader Comment – “I deserve the love and affection of a loving spouse…”

This comment speaks for many of us, and should be heard. The comment was made in response to my post, “Hacking the Phrase ‘They Did the Best they Could – further reading.”

Even if we don’t understand the work our loved one must do, we can and must respect their journey. They, in turn, must not make the mistake of using the journey as a shield, and include their loved one or at least invite them along. These are but two forms of respect and also love.

Amy -
My wife is an ACOA. She told me about her realization last May. I have always known her father was an alcoholic and Valium addict. We have been married 23 years. She is the love of my life. She has told me how unhappy and unloved she feels and is now focusing on herself and finding her true feelings. She has been in therapy since June and I have been seeing a therapist since January. I feel so alone. All the blogs I read about people who love ACOAs are horrible. Are there any happy stories? I feel like I am being tested and failing. I am prepared to wait 23 years if that’s the punishment I am due, but I am so lonely. She says she is lonely too, but that she is focusing on herself and not us or me. Please tell me ACOAs can move past this and heal the hurt. I acknowledge my part in letter her down and not fulfilling my vows to Love Honor and Cherish her all the days of my life, but I am a good man and don’t deserve this. She doesn’t deserve it either, obviously. I deserve the love and affection of a loving spouse but don’t know if it will ever come again.

What do You Get When You Cross a Narcissist?

I’ve been posting more and more on my Facebook Page for GWNI and wanted to share this morning’s post:

Last night I was trying to come up with a riddle about dealing with personality disorders – like,

If you cross a martyr by asserting your needs, you get a crying lump of self-pity…

And:

If you cross a narcissist, you get retaliation and personal criticism that’s so sharp you regret ever having a need at all.

All inspired by Tina Fuller, who did a Blog Talk Radio show about having a narcissistic parent recently. I listened to in its entirety on my phone. The show does a good job of outlining what having a narcissistic parent feels like and how to recognize it. The solution to dealing with one? Not so easy because it’s not a condition that can change (only the people in a narcissists orbit can change…or move away.)

I’ve got one more:

What do you get when you cross an alcoholic and your needs?

A convincing argument about why you feel exactly the opposite.

Be kind to yourself.

The Stinking Wound – Compassion for Our Wounds, and Theirs

The wounds of others are distasteful to us. We recoil from the lame, the weak, the crazy. But what happens when we lean in, touch, and gaze upon the wounds?

Healing happens. It happens for the wounded, and it happens for the witness of the wound as well.

We fear that we’ll absorb and take on the wound. We fear that; however, it cannot happen. Emotional wounds aren’t contagious like some kind of airborne virus. I just re-read a bit of a book that’s been around for a while, and is rather remarkable — a best-seller: Women Who Run with the Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. In the section that examines the tale of Skeleton Woman, Estés summarizes the story of Philoctetes and his wound. Philoctetes was stuck, wounded, on the island of Lemnos (left to die). His wound festered and became so odorous that those who came near the island would steer their vessels away, due to the horrible smell from his stinking wound. That is, until a young man came and was a witness to his suffering and was so touched by it that he cried. He cried in the face of Philoctetes wound and dignity, both. He then bandaged his wound, (helping him rather than stealing from him as planned).

Estés writes:

The tear of compassion is wept in response to realizing the stinking wound. The stinking wound has different configurations and sources for each person. For some it means spending a lifetime pulling oneself up the mountain hand over hand — belatedly to find we’ve been working our way up the wrong mountain. For some it is unresolved and unmedicated issues of abuse in childhood.

This reminds me, for it is compassion-forward, of the tonglen practice of breathing hope into the suffering of another person. I wrote about my understanding of tonglen here in this previous post.

If you read the Skeleton Woman story, you really can’t help but be moved. Each time I return to it, the story tells me something new. Once the lesson was to allow myself to be vulnerable in view of another. More recently it was about holding the sight of the wound of another and while regarding it in full view, to see that the wound and the person were two entities, separate.

It’s simple — or, rather, simplistic — to view a person and think they are their wound. Are we our wounds? Or are we people who carry wounds? (We carry them but for how long?) And then, of course, we see our own reflection in that simplistic view of the other, and even think we’re part of the wounded person, too. We’re as much as part of their wound as they are — imagining it makes it so; wearing the cloak of the wound makes it so.

What stinking wound are you not looking directly at? Can you have compassion for that wound?

In a moment of compassion, we can view horrible, stinking, and debilitating wounds. We can see the two as separate — the wound and the wounded. Within our compassionate regard, we experience a bit of spontaneous healing as well as gain new, deeper access to our humanity.

That’s grace.

-Be kind to yourself.

further reading – Hacking the Phrase ‘They Did the Best They Could’

So you want to learn more about the Hero’s Journey and Transactional Analysis and a couple other ideas I mentioned? Don’t worry, I’m not telling you what to do (adult children hate being directed), but just saying it’s here, if you should decide to dive deeper (wink, wink).

Regarding the phrase “They Did the Best they Could”

Here’s the post that inspired my ignite talk: Who Says Our Dysfunctional Parents Did The Best They Could? So many people commented! (Maybe you will too.)

Children of Alcoholics

It may seem obvious but, one resource for more information is: this blog. (No way.) (Way.) You can navigate directly to my Surviving > Adult Child Issues section and read articles there (or take this shortcut.

To read about the connection between adult children of alcoholics and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), read this post: Yes, Adult Children of Alcoholics Can Suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Heal from PTSD.

I mentioned in my talk that I named this blog after a characteristic of children of alcoholics. Here’s the full list of characteristics: The Characteristics and Common Traits of People Who Grew up in Alcoholic Homes.

And this one is a forward-looking post about moving on from a childhood with alcoholic parents (or addict parents, or hyper-vigilant and controlling, or mentally ill, narcissistic, etc. Take your pick): Can You Grown up from Being the Child of an Alcoholic?

I’m just the new girl on the block, though. The woman who is the most important and influential when it comes to understanding adult children of alcoholics is Janet Woititz. Here is her list of the characteristics of children of alcoholics, 13 Characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics. She wrote many books about the issues of adult children of alcoholics. Here is a brief bio of Janet Woititz.

(Some of) Janet Woititz’s books:

Adult Children of Alcoholics

The Complete ACoA Sourcebook

Struggle for Intimacy

The Self-Sabotage Syndrome

Healthy Parenting

Eric Berne

Mr. Berne is the kind-looking gentleman who appears in my slide deck. I called him the Father of Transactional Analysis (parent-child-adult models for communication). Here’s the Wikipedia bio of Berne.

And here’s Berne’s book about transactional analysis: Games People Play: The Basic Handbook of Transactional Analysis

What’s Transactional Analysis? It’s a way of looking at communication styles — how adults can, and do, relate to one another in Child mode, Adult mode, and Parent mode. For a quick primer, here’s a post I wrote about transactional analysis, which contains a few scripts: Relating to Others, Adult to Adult.

The Hero’s Journey

This Wikipedia definition of the Hero’s Journey is great because it contains a list of the Stages of the Journey (such as The Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, an so on).

These stages are from Joseph Campbell’s book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

But it’s important to know that before Joseph Campbell studied the Hero’s journeythat C. G. Jung had begun the work. Be sure to read about what Jung wrote about the Hero’s Journey as Analysis, which beings with this quote:

“To develop one’s own personality is indeed an unpopular undertaking, a deviation that is highly uncongenial to the herd, an eccentricity smelling of the cenobite, as it seems to the outsider. Small wonder, then, that from earliest times only the chosen few have embarked upon this strange adventure.”

Carl Gustav Jung, 1932

If you’re a writer, a book that I cherish and has its own take on The Hero’s Journey is this one: The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers

-Amy

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This was, by far, the scariest thing I have ever done. I practiced my talk nearly twenty times. I had only 5 minutes to convey my story and the slides auto-advanced every 15 seconds (fifteen seconds!) It was scary not only because it was public speaking and it was being video taped, but because I wasn’t speaking to “my people” (ACoAs), I was speaking to the general public, because many of my colleagues were in the audience, and because it was the first time I was telling the story of my mother’s overdose and death.

What was remarkable was that after speaking, I got to talk to people in the audience (I got hugs!) and I got to see faces, hear voices, and hear the stories of others — after so many years of writing behind the screen of this blog, the human contact was just an incredible experience.

Feel free to share this. The talk is also on my Guess What Normal is Facebook page. This talk is dedicated to all of you. Thank you for your support!

My Ignite Talk! Hacking the Phrase ‘They Did the Best They Could’

This was, by far, the scariest thing I have ever done. I practiced my talk nearly twenty times. I had only 5 minutes to convey my story and the slides auto-advanced every 15 seconds (fifteen seconds!) It was scary not only because it was public speaking and it was being video taped, but because I wasn’t speaking to “my people” (ACoAs), I was speaking to the general public, because many of my colleagues were in the audience, and because it was the first time I was telling the story of my mother’s overdose and death.

What was remarkable was that after speaking, I got to talk to people in the audience (I got hugs!) and I got to see faces, hear voices, and hear the stories of others — after so many years of writing behind the screen of this blog, the human contact was just an incredible experience.

Feel free to share this. The talk is also on my Guess What Normal is Facebook page. This talk is dedicated to all of you. Thank you for your support!