The “Other” Laundry List
- To cover our fear of people and our dread of isolation we tragically become the very authority figures who frighten others and cause them to withdraw.
- To avoid becoming enmeshed and entangled with other people and losing ourselves in the process, we become rigidly self-sufficient. We disdain the approval of others.
- We frighten people with our anger and threat of belittling criticism.
- We dominate others and abandon them before they can abandon us or we avoid relationships with dependent people altogether. To avoid being hurt, we isolate and dissociate and thereby abandon ourselves.
- We live life from the standpoint of a victimizer, and are attracted to people we can manipulate and control in our important relationships.
- We are irresponsible and self-centered. Our inflated sense of self-worth and self-importance prevents us from seeing our deficiencies and shortcomings.
- We make others feel guilty when they attempt to assert themselves.
- We inhibit our fear by staying deadened and numb.
- We hate people who “play” the victim and beg to be rescued.
- We deny that we’ve been hurt and are suppressing our emotions by the dramatic expression of “pseudo” feelings.
- To protect ourselves from self punishment for failing to “save” the family we project our self-hate onto others and punish them instead.
- We “manage” the massive amount of deprivation we feel, coming from abandonment within the home, by quickly letting go of relationships that threaten our “independence” (not too close).
- We refuse to admit we’ve been affected by family dysfunction or that there was dysfunction in the home or that we have internalized any of the family’s destructive attitudes and behaviors.
- We act as if we are nothing like the dependent people who raised us.
Before we write in greater detail about the original Laundry List, we must note that most of the 14 Traits have an opposite. Our experience shows that the opposites are just as damaging as the counterpart. For example, if we feared authority figures, as the first trait suggests, we also became authority figures to our children, spouses, or others. When we stop and think about it, we realized we were feared as authority figures. If we lived our life from the viewpoint of a victim (Trait 5), then many of us have become persecutors or perpetrators who created victims. If we got guilt feelings for standing up for ourselves (Trait 7), we could also feel guiltless by shaming someone verbally. We could take from others what was not ours without feeling guilty.
These examples represent the reverse side of the Laundry List. Many of us would like to deny that we have been a dominating authority figure, but we have. We don’t like to think about victimizing others or projecting blame onto them, but we have. Many of us have reenacted what was done to us, thinking we were justified. Some of us have engaged in fights that go beyond mere words. We have slapped and slugged others in a fit of rage. Some of us have used a violent cursing with threats of physical harm to intimidate others. A few adult children have willingly committed crimes. We have stolen merchandise, written bogus checks, or embezzled money for various reasons that don’t hold weight in the light of our explanations. We can feel shame or disgust when we think about our actions. This is healthy guilt, which is different from the toxic guilt that we were raised under.
Our behaviors, whether we are a victim or creating victims, highlight an ACA truism: “ACA is not an easy program to work.” Yet, the effort it takes to work ACA is far less than the effort it takes to live in codependence or trying to control others or circumstances out of our control. If we apply half the effort to ACA that we apply to living codependently, we will see amazing results. We will find clarity and self-worth.
We will need help. We will need acceptance from others when we cannot accept ourselves. We do not need to shame ourselves or dive into self-condemnation, but we must be honest about our behavior. We sometimes need a reminder that we are acting destructively and should consider rethinking our behavior.
ACA allows us to admit our behavior in a safe place without judgment from others. By working the ACA program, we learn to recognize when we are thinking like a victim or persecutor and to talk about it. We reparent ourselves with gentleness and self-love. We become open minded to the idea that we can change with time and with help.
The above quote is from the ACA Big Red Book, pgs 8-9