On June 4th I celebrated my birthday. As someone who’s admittedly insecure about her age, I’m not going to share how old I am. But, I will tell you that I’m in my 30’s.
Okay… maybe my late 30’s;)
Anyway, my husband and I spent the weekend in Munich and I treated myself to a box of the most adorable cat faced cupcakes.
My birthday got me thinking about my biological age versus the age that I sometimes feel I am.
One minute, I’m a 30 something year old woman and then the next minute, emotionally, I feel like I’m 8, 15 or even 5 years old.
The switch can happen at any time. And when it happens I feel out of control, overwhelmed, vulnerable and confused.
How can I feel like an adult one minute but then the next I’m practically folding in on myself like a dopey 5 year old?
What the hell is wrong with me??
Well, if you can relate, the good news is, there’s nothing wrong with us. If you’re an Adult Child Of An Alcoholic the feeling is not only normal but it’s ridiculously common.
Today, I’m sharing what I’ve learned and continue to learn about this quirky age issue thing. First, thorough the lens of my experience, I’m going to explain why this develops. And then I’m offering up 3 suggestions on how to deal with these emotional twists.
After you’ve read through, I have a favor to ask. In the comment section, tell me how you relate to today’s topic. Are there specific situations or are there certain people in your life that trigger that awkward age flip? Who or what makes you suddenly feel like an overwhelmed, abandoned or confused 8 or 10 year old?
Your voice, experiences and insights are vital to this community. And what you have to share is not only unique but it may be exactly what someone else needs to read. And that someone could be you.
As always thanks for reading, sharing and commenting.
You make Tuesday my favorite day of the week!
Here’s The Why
With both of my parents constantly drunk and beating on each other there was absolutely no room left over for a normal childhood.
And while I may have matured physically over time, my emotional and mental growth was stunted by the chaos at home.
Home wasn’t a safe place to explore the basics of life. It wasn’t safe to feel or trust. It wasn’t safe to invite friends over to watch a movie and it most certainly wasn’t safe for me to just be a kid.
Survival became an unconscious and necessary priority.
As a result, I became an adult who knew how to be an adult. I knew how to make it look good and polished on the outside. But on the inside, I was still this frightened 5 year old emptying my mom’s beer cans in the sink when she wasn’t looking and filling them back up with water.
I could get up in the morning and slap on a suit and feel like an adult. But as soon as someone criticized a report I handed in or a friend expressed disappointment in my direction, I’d crumble and cower like a kid.
For years, I struggled to understand why. When I couldn’t find answers I just assumed there was something horribly wrong with me.
But there never was anything wrong with me. Thanks to a chaotic childhood, I just had an extremely underdeveloped emotional inner world.
Being an adult was the easy part because I’d been playing that role my whole life. The hard part was the emotional stuff and mentally moving on from the twisted world of my childhood.
But moving on is possible. And here are 3 ways you can get started.
#1 Repeat This Mantra
Stop whatever you’re doing right now and repeat after me,
“Within the context of my life, I make complete and total sense.”
Repeat it in the shower, in the car and definitely bust it out whenever you start to feel like you’re crazy or there’s something wrong with you. Because I’m telling you right now, there’s nothing wrong with you.
You may have quirks. You may, like Superman, instantly transform from an adult into an emotionally fragile 12 year old but you are not wrong for it.
What you are is an Adult Child Of An Alcoholic. You’re the product of an environment that made normal an anomaly.
Are you broken in some places? Maybe. Do you have some serious work to do if you want to turn your life around? Absolutely.
But there has never been anything horribly wrong with you. Within the context of your life you, my friend, make complete and total sense.
#2 Make It Conscious
I totally agree with Carl Jung when he says,
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will control your life and you will call it fate.”
For ACOAs, I believe that the things we keep unconscious or don’t understand about ourselves are the things we make wrong about ourselves.
So, not understanding your childhood and not making the connections between you, your past and your life today, can keep you stuck and confused.
That’s why I want to encourage you to dig deep and think about the places in your life where you retreat to childhood emotionally.
Take Carl Jung’s advice and make the unconscious conscious. Ask yourself questions. Get curious about who knocks you off your game. Where, when and with who do you feel triggered? Ask yourself, either out loud in or in the privacy of your own head, “Why the hell did I just do that?”
This isn’t about shaming, blaming or beating yourself up, it’s about figuring yourself out.
And you can’t do that without #3.
#3 Get Curious
For an ACOA who loves to be in control, getting curious and living with the uncertainty that brings can be terrifying.
Believe me, I know the comfort of control. I know how uneasy the anxiety can make you feel when you just want an answer and you just want to be done with it.
But guess what? At least in my experience, if you want to understand and fix the quirks that are rooted in your childhood, you’ve got to get curious about your behavior.
You’ve got to get curious about your unconscious. You’ve got to get curious about what you’re holding onto today, from your past, that’s no longer working for you as an adult.
Remember we’re not looking for right or wrong answers here. We’re talking about your life. And no one knows your life and what you’ve been through better than you.