Decoding the laundry list

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Three decades of knowing and working with adult children (not to mention six decades of living as one) have made it impossible for me to read the thirteen laundry list items as anything but iterations of control addiction. 

For example, as an adult child

(1) I guess what normal is, then try to imitate it. 

I don’t feel normal (whatever that is).  I feel different, inadequate, anxious.  I assume these feelings are unique to me, and that if you knew about them you’d judge me.  So I hide my feelings and fake normalcy.  (I won’t let on how much a change in plans disturbs me, for example, or how nervous I am in social situations.)   I do this to control how you perceive and react to me.

(2) I have trouble following projects through from beginning to end.

This is mainly because of how I handle discomfort.  All projects turn uncomfortable at some point, demanding we do things we’d rather not do.  I don’t know what to do with such feelings — that it helps to vent, for example, or ask for encouragement or advice.  Instead I try to make them go away by interrupting what I’m doing.  (I call this “taking a break.”)   Thus my bedroom remains unpainted, my graduate degree unearned, my book unwritten, and I may never lose those last ten pounds.   

(3) I lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth. 

Since the truth (like how I really feel about myself or about you) makes me terribly uneasy, honesty feels dangerous.  It feels much safer to conceal and manipulate the truth.  I’ve been doing that for so long that now it’s a habit.  I overcontrol the truth because it gives me the sense that of being able to control you and how you see me.   

(4) I judge myself without mercy. 

Childhood taught me to expect others to criticize or reject me.  This was so painful that now I anticipate it and do it to myself before you can.  I’d rather abuse myself than feel victimized.  (Kind of like quitting a job before they can fire you.)  And judging myself without mercy saves me from being surprised or disappointed should you ever do it.  In this way I manage both my expectations of you and my own chronic anxiety.

(To be continued.)

Part 12 of a series on

monkeytraps and adult children. 

Read part 1 here.

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