Decoding 3: I feel different

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(Decoding the laundry list, concluded.)

If I’m an adult child,

(10) I feel different from other people.

This comes mainly from how I overcontrol my emotional life.  I don’t trust or listen to feelings so much as judge them. Since I judge them, I don’t share them with anyone else.  Since I don’t share them, others don’t share their feelings with me, so I never discover that we feel essentially the same way.  Trapped in this closed loop of feeling > judgment > more feeling > more judgment,  I’m forced to the inaccurate conclusion that I’m different from everyone else.

(11) I’m either super responsible or super irresponsible.

This comes from how I manage my anxiety.  Since I don’t understand that my anxiety comes from emotional constipation (i.e., holding feelings in), I blame it on external stressors, like the stuff I have to do in my life.  Sometimes I try to be all over that stuff (super responsible), and sometimes I try to try to forget or ignore it (super irresponsible).  Unfortunately neither approach works for long.  Hyper-responsibility leaves me anxious and exhausted, while hyper-irresponsibility leaves me anxious and guilty.  So I swing like a pendulum between these two unhealthy extremes, confusing the hell out of myself and the people around me. 

(12) I’m extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that my loyalty is undeserved.

This comes from doubting myself and the evidence of my feelings.  Childhood left me convinced I was permanently flawed, so when things go wrong between us I blame myself.  (If you hurt my feelings I decide I’m oversensitive.  If you ignore or neglect me I tell myself Stop being so needy.  And after I lose my temper with you I may worry Am I crazy?)  My sense of self-worth is so low that I figure I’m lucky to have any relationships at all, and so must work extra hard to preserve them.  This damaged view of myself that keeps me in relationships long after a healthier person would have escaped.   

(13) I’m impulsive — i.e., tend to lock myself into a course of action without thinking through alternatives or consequences.

This, too, comes from how I manage anxiety.  I’m impulsive because I lack self-awareness (for example, that I’m constipated) and the ability to defer gratification.  Instead I grab for the first choice I think will bring relief.  (Boss yelled at me?  Quit the job.  Boyfriend didn’t call?  Drive by his house.  Girlfriend forgot my birthday?  End the relationship.)  In recovery I’m learning, though, to take a breath, consider my options, process my choices with a safe person, and that there are better ways to reduce anxiety than leaping without looking. 

 Part 14 of a series on

monkeytraps and adult children.

Read part 1 here.

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