A blameless recovery for adult children is a healing process whereby we gradually learn to stop reacting to our challenges in life through the practice of blaming our parents, others and ourselves for our situation and condition today. Our goal is to achieve increasing acceptance of our own condition and to additionally accept our own lives as we live them without shaming ourselves or blaming people, places and things for our problems.
This blameless approach to managing our adult lives allows us to slowly begin to take responsibility for our own life. We understand our condition is the direct effect of the programming we received in our dysfunctional family system, resulting in our living our lives as adult children. In our recovery we are able to progress toward developing the ability to focus our effort and attention on our own healing process with the help of our own higher power, the support of the ACA fellowship and our own willingness to heal. Rather than incessantly blaming others for our problems and our emotional pain we can learn to live a life beyond merely surviving by truly accepting life as it happens and living in solutions.
When we react to our problems in the present by focusing on and blaming whomever we believe is at fault for our condition today, we are not in a blameless process. Unfortunately looking to assign blame for our problems may be a an excuse to avoid our own painful feelings and a way to avoid taking personal responsibility to address our own condition; blaming is forever backward-looking and stagnating with the frequent result of little to no progress in our healing; consequently we may not move beyond the stage of blaming and fault finding…whereas taking responsibility for improving our condition is forward-looking and self-empowering.
This movement toward healing and more functional living may accelerate with the practice of a blameless recovery. Fixating primarily on blame can delay our own recovery; blaming can take the focus off of ourselves, blaming can restrict the feeling our own feelings, and may delay any necessary corrective action. Constant blaming may inhibit implementing solutions that could help us progress in our healing process.
We are born as innocent children. As innocent children born into a dysfunctional family system we did not receive the love, safety, validation, sense of well-being, emotional security and acceptance which are necessary for a healthy emotional childhood developmental process. A healthy emotional childhood development process can occur in functional families. Our experience of living in a dysfunctional family system was that of an arrested childhood emotional developmental process.
We experience this arrested childhood developmental process resulting in a condition within ourselves as manifesting an inability to feel loved, lovable, acceptable, competent, confident, validated, safe, secure, heard and understood. As a result of the childhood traumas and the repetitive negative conditioning processes which occur in dysfunctional families we are often unable to live life without ever present unreasonable fears we learned in our family of origin.
Emotionally abandoned, neglected and abused by parents, family members and others was our own direct experience. As adult-children we can get stuck in our childhood pain by blaming ourselves for our condition through the process of self-shaming, self-criticism, and self-loathing. This self-incrimination is not innate but rather is a learned habit developed within the dysfunctional family system.
Noted Psychologist Dr. Lisa Firestone states: “The causes of self-loathing lie in the past, when, as children, we were trying to cope with our lives in the best way possible. The nature and degree of this division within ourselves depends on the parenting we received and the early environment we experienced. Parents, like all of us, have mixed feelings toward themselves; they have things they like about themselves and they have self-critical thoughts and feelings.
The same negative feelings that parents have toward themselves are unfortunately often directed toward their children as well… In addition… if a parent has unresolved feelings from either trauma or loss in his or her past, this will impact his or her reactions to his or her children. …Because of their acute sensitivity to pain and negative circumstances, children of all ages pay particular attention to, and are more affected by, even small incidences of parental anger. They may experience a parent’s anger, whether acted out or not, as being life-threatening. (Under extreme circumstances, they may be accurate in their perceptions.) In any case, children in stressful situations often feel threatened to the core of their being and frightened for their lives.
During times of stress, when children are afraid, they stop identifying with themselves as the helpless child and instead identify with the verbally or physically punishing parent. The parent is assimilated or taken in as he or she is at that moment, when he or she is at his or her worst, not as he or she is every day. The child tends to take on the anger, fear, self-hatred, in fact, the whole complex of emotions the parent is experiencing at that time.” We have lived our adult lives as adult children. Tony A. defined an adult child as “one who as an adult responds from the fears and low self-esteem learned in childhood.”
When we begin our healing in ACOA we start to come out of denial about our true feelings and condition. Clarity about our family history and our true condition living as adult children appears with the help of our higher power; we gain this clarity concerning our real condition of living as an adult child. Buried memories and feelings from our formative years do begin to return.
Coming out of denial we have a choice to accept without doubt that we were in fact victimized and abandoned by our parents and others; and our survival in the dysfunctional family system necessitated that we instinctively adapt by way of our survival instinct; thus replicating and internalizing our family of origin’s dysfunctional lives and adopting the laundry list traits into our personality. In essence, we became our parents.
This maladaptive behavior of adult children developed through the dysfunctional programming of the family system or origin is predictable. As children we felt victimized, unsupported, neglected abandoned and alone…yet we persisted in believing our family origin’s false messages were true for us. Our family’s beliefs became our beliefs; their critical messages to us became our own self talk. All the while we continued to seek out for love and approval within a dysfunctional family system where mature love did not exist.
When we were shamed, criticized, and victimized by verbal and emotional abuse and neglect, we developed a belief that we were inherently defective by our own nature and undeserving of love and acceptance. Our family system was the authority figure in our lives, and as children we accepted their negative view of us without question as being true for us. Dysfunction is ingrained in a child through the repetitive programming of the dysfunctional family system.
Simultaneously we felt to be powerless over the abuse and at the same time we experienced the shame and blame heaped on us by the family of origin. We were shamed by parents and others for being imperfect little human beings. We believed their dysfunction story as true for us, and we accepted their assigned role for us. In turn, we adapted and survived by shaming ourselves in the same manner as we were shamed by our dysfunctional family system…and we continue this destructive habit of self-shaming as adult children before recovery and healing.
A double bind developed where we knew inside we were doing our best and the mistakes we may have made were not our fault because we were little children doing the very best we could as innocent children…yet we took on the role of self-blaming and self-shaming through the self-abandonment process none the less. We were in a state of internal conflict between the powerlessness of our condition and conditioning, and the constant messages of being shameful or defective for simply being children, consistently falling short of the unreasonable perfectionist expectations of the dysfunctional family system of our origin.
We did the very best we could but our best was never good enough for the dysfunctional family system. Locked into a denial mechanism that holds dysfunctional family systems together, we were truly brainwashed in a negative manner and went into hiding by reacting to the constant dysfunction by practicing the laundry list survival traits. As our inner clarity increases and upon completely accepting that we were truly victimized, abandoned and traumatized we begin to feel the searing pain of our lost childhood as we move toward recovery and the healing of our childhood trauma.
We experience the deep feelings of rage and anger we have held toward our parents, others and ourselves. These are the feelings that we had stuffed and suppressed for many years, and even in recovery these feelings can rise up within us as triggers from the past; as the trauma is stored in our mind as well as in physical body. On page 100 of “The Laundry List Book” written by Tony A. he states “Year after year I was forced to stuff my feelings until somewhere deep inside me I had developed this molten ball of rage at all the times I had been abused and invalidated.” All of this rage and pain needs to be felt in order to be healed.
We were programmed for dysfunctional living. Our parents were the instruments of our victimization and emotional abandonment, and we eventually accept this to be a fact and part of our history. One of a blameless recovery’s goal is free from the self-shaming and self-blaming we have punished ourselves with by internalizing the blaming and dysfunctional messages we received from our dysfunctional family of origin. Coming out of denial it is a natural reaction initially to place all the blame and responsibility for our present condition on our parents, others and even ourselves. This is an unavoidable stage coming out of denial.
Our family of origin’s parenting of us was in fact the instrument of our victimization. Our family of origin unconsciously passed onto us the generational condition of family dysfunction. While our parents are responsible for what they did it, may be impossible to hold them accountable as they may choose to abdicate personal responsibility for their poor parenting performance. We may make little progress if we are waiting for our family to take responsibility for what they did to us. We have a choice to take responsibility for putting ourselves in a position to receive healing and recovery. In recovery we gradually heal over time and outgrow the need for constant blaming and self-shaming by working our recovery program and focusing on the solution, rather than compulsively living in the problem.
We come to understand that it was not our parent’s fault for our condition today, as they too were equally victimized as innocent children by the dysfunction of their own family of origin. Our parents gave us the generational condition they were given, they too were victims as children…who in turn victimized their own children by force of habit of the generational condition. It was not their fault, but rather the direct effect of their own childhood conditioning leaving them with little choice but to treat us in the same way they were treated as innocent children. We discover and accept that it is not our fault for living with the condition of being adult child. Our condition was the natural consequence of the arrested emotional childhood developmental process.
We were not born adult children. We are not adult children due to having a defective moral character as children. All we did was survive life by developing the laundry list survival traits while living with frozen feelings and trauma. There is no fault to be found in an innocent child who did only what was needed to survive, no amends need to be made by adult children to themselves for their lost childhood. Certainly no amends need ever to be made to parents for our childhood.
Coming out of denial into a blameless recovery is analogous to the 5 stages of the grief process. The grief recovery process includes the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and deep grieving culminating finally into a stage of acceptance. It is doubtful we can achieve a blameless recovery if we attempt an “emotional bypass” by intentionally avoiding the painful feelings we experienced in childhood. Our painful feelings are to be felt and the trauma we hold must be released and healed for us to rekindle our original nature.
It is also unlikely we can heal on our own alone, remaining in isolation and separate from our higher power, our true self, and our fellows. If choose not process the childhood feelings of rage, grief, trauma and losses from our childhood effectively, we may not be able to move toward a life beyond survival…we can stay stuck in blaming others and ourselves. We will not experience the promises of ACOA we seek. People may ask how do we work through our rage and blame within a blameless recovery process?
We do so by feeling our feelings without shaming ourselves for the feeling we have of rage and blame that were generated in the dysfunctional family system of origin. The real danger in getting stuck in blaming our parents is that can we justify and rationalize that we shouldn’t have to do the hard work of recovery and healing because it is “not my fault, therefore not my responsibility” yet holding this belief does not liberate us from the constant self-condemnation or merciless criticism for our condition of being an adult child.
Moving gradually toward acceptance that we now have the choice to manage our condition as something that was not the consequence of having a defective character; but rather a learned condition that developed within us by being raised in an alcoholic or dysfunctional family…we can actually experience healing from the effects of our condition if we are willing to work a blameless recovery program in ACOA.
We can understand the progress of our recovery goes through sequential and progressive stages. The stages of rediscovering the innocent child we were. Accepting that we as innocent children were victimized by our parents, to understanding the mechanics by which we developed the survival tools of the laundry list traits where we abandoned our true selves, to then feeling and healing the pain of our lost childhood and victimization. This process allows us to eventually reach a blameless view of our parents thus releasing them from responsibility to change our lives today.
We accept that in fact our own condition of being an adult child is not our fault so self-shaming gradually diminishes. We learn that we do not have a permanent condition that is our fault, and we are not to blame for being an adult child…that our condition of living life as adult children is truly a blameless condition. We can now begin to implement all the tools of recovery to achieve the promises of ACOA. We take responsibility for our own lives. This is the goal of a blameless recovery in ACOA.