Our sense of “normal” is skewed
What passes for normal can include fear, instability and psychological and/or emotional abuse. Normal might be a parent passed out in front of the television with a case of empty beer bottles strewn about the living room. Normal might be assuming your parents’ responsibilities for taking care of your siblings and the household chores. If you fall short of fulfilling your responsibilities, your punishment is typically severe. Then it is normal to have to hide the bruises or make an excuse as to why you couldn’t go to school or out with your friends.
Fear is Ingrained in Us
We have known fear since the day we were born. We’ve learned to bury it so that others won’t see and add to our misery. The future is our enemy because we don’t know what it holds for us. Our parent may walk out the front door and never return. Deep down, we wish that he wouldn’t, but fear of what might happen to us if he doesn’t return is always present. We are afraid to bring our friends over to the house because of what they might see. Our fear can manifest itself in several ways that we might not even be aware of. This can include inappropriate anger over a trivial matter, crying jags, overeating, etc.
Our Fears Often Overshadow Our Lives
We all have our phobias, regardless of how we were raised. For us, social interaction (especially in large groups) can be a daunting, if not impossible, task. This fear is so great that it can cripple us to the point where we’re too afraid to communicate with others. Or, we may behave inappropriately and alienate those around us. We are often too afraid to ask someone out on a date because we are too worried about rejection. Likewise, we are often hesitant to ask for a promotion for fear of being told that we aren’t good enough to work in that position. We have a very low opinion of ourselves and often don’t see what others see in us.
We Overcompensate for Our Fears
Many of us are hesitant to have children because we’re afraid that we will pass down our parents’ mistakes. We had parents in the physical sense, but not in the emotional sense. Therefore, we have to learn how to be a good parent. We often second-guess everything we do and overcompensate for fear of damaging our children the same way we were damaged. We either take on an all-or-nothing attitude with our kids, expecting them to be perfect little darlings and A+ students. Or, we are lackadaisical because we had overly high expectations dropped on us when we were growing up.
We Are Extremely Loyal to the Wrong People
We are extremely loyal to people who provide plenty of reasons of why they don’t deserve our loyalty. For instance, many of us find ourselves drawn to drug addicts and/or alcoholics because that is who we are used to dealing with. Anyone else seems foreign and intimidating. We may view them as elite and see ourselves as gutter trash. Again, this stems from a poor self-esteem. So, we stay in relationships that aren’t good for us mentally, physically or financially. We follow this tendency outside the home, as well. For example, we often choose to remain working at jobs which make us miserable. We put up with a boss who berates us in front of our colleagues or in private. We take on more responsibilities with the hopes that we can earn the respect of people who truly don’t care about us. We accept our situation as normal, even when we see our friends involved in healthy relationships and enjoying successful careers.
We Weren’t Taught Boundaries
We don’t understand what is is to take care of our own well-being. Neither were we taught to have self-respect. We weren’t taught to have clear-cut boundaries so that we can have healthy relationships. Oftentimes, we won’t stand up for ourselves out of fear of retribution. We take full responsibility for the pain of others, even when we had nothing to do with their situation. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we can become domineering and controlling to others in an effort to prove to ourselves that we are worthy human beings. We often don’t understand why people get upset with us because we see this trait as a strength instead of a weakness.
We Are Approval Addicts
Since our parents were unable to provide the love and nurturing that we required, we seek that in every relationship throughout our lives. We constantly seek approval through self-sacrificing and clingy behavior.
We Don’t Know Peace
Since we had no peace while we were growing up, we have no idea what it feels like. If we’re lucky, we may have fleeting moments, but the rest of the time we’ll create chaos for ourselves and others because that is familiar to us
Conflict is Our Normal
We desperately seek self-assurance, yet we want someone to take care of us and provide the love and nurturing we never received while we were growing up. We choose friends and partners whom we think we can fix or who will fix us. Neither situation is healthy, but that is what we choose because it feels normal. Until we make the choice to go to Al-Anon or a good therapist, we may never know what it is to feel peace or have happy, fulfilling relationships.