Man is a multiple amphibian who lives in about twenty different worlds at once. If anything is to be done to improve his enjoyment of life, to improve the way he can realize his desirable potentialities, to improve his health, to improve the quality of his relations with other people, to improve his morality, we have to attack on all fronts at once. And the greatest, and what may be called the original sin of the human mind is sloth, it's over-simplification. We want to think that there is only one cause for every given phenomenon, therefore there is only one cure--there is not! This is the trouble: no phenomenon on the human level, which is a level of immense complexity, can ever have a single cause-- we must always take at least a half a dozen conspiring factors into consideration . . . -- Aldous Huxley, 1960

The Essence of This Book
Taming Your Turbulent Past is a guidebook for adult children of alcoholics, grown men and women whose lives have been indelibly marked by parental alcoholism and co-dependency. Its purpose is to help you heal the old wounds from your childhood in order to restore your full capacity for loving and living and enjoying life as an adult. Many adult children have experienced great anguish. The anguish of indirection and indecision, the anguish of feeling "lonely and afraid, in a world we never made." The anguish of feeling like an absurd little child trapped in an ungainly body and clothed and made up like an adult -- but always wondering, "What will I be when I really grow up." Or: "Is this all that life offers?" There are other anxieties and a nameless uneasiness, a vague sense of doom as palpable as the far-off rumble of thunder before a storm. Mary, a 33 year-old adult child who works as a loan officer, describes a feeling known to many other adult children. "It's like I'm always waiting for something

dreadful to happen, that I've done something wrong, that I've made a terrible mistake and the roof's going to fall in. I feel like I'm on hold, waiting. Waiting for the school principal to punish me, waiting for the boss to find a mistake in my work. Waiting, always waiting." And like countless other adult children, Mary wonders, "Is there a purpose to my life? Where am I going? What's it all mean? Will I ever find the serenity that other people talk about?" What is the meaning of this life? This is the anguish, the agony of the adult child. This book is for you if you've grappled with these feelings, these questions. This book is for you if your life often seems futile or utterly meaningless. This book is for you if your life is a mechanical repetition of loneliness, hurt, guilt, fear, confusion, and conflict. My aim is to offer strategies for self-change that can help you, an adult child of an alcoholic, free yourself from the turbulence of your childhood so that your can better cope with the challenges of today. By taming your past, you can finally experience the full joys of adult living and loving and sharing. Is this a promise for a magic method of finding a permanent state of bliss. A quick cure for life-long conflict? Sorry. No miraculous key to total happiness exists. There is no effortless self-help guide to inner harmony in thirty days, guaranteed, without tears. But I do believe the strategies and exercises in this book can help ease the burden of your anguish by giving you a far more extensive understanding of the relationship you had with your alcoholic family during your childhood and adolescence, and how that relationship is still affecting your day-to-day life. This new understanding, in and of itself, is not enough to help you master the powerful and complex emotions that may be preventing you from creating an adult life that is as productive, fulfilling and loving as you desire. Understanding, awareness and insight are important first steps in the process of personal growth. But they are just that: First steps.

The key to rediscovering and mastering your personal power is behavior change. And behavior change takes practice, rehearsal, stick-to-itiveness, and above all -ACTION. The exercises and personal accounts in this book will serve as examples of how techniques of behavior change can be put into effect in your own life, right now, starting today. Taming a turbulent past takes persistence and a creative willingness to change. It may seem like hard work at first. As Carolyn Rogers recalls, "I waited for a long time for things to change, for my life to get better. It was sort of like waiting for my Fairy Godmother to come along and plink me on the head with her magic wand and make my life fall into place. When I realized that it would be my responsibility to make changes in my life, I can tell you I was scared." She was scared, but not too scared to begin learning. Carolyn's first step was getting past the fear of change, the fear of taking risks. Undaunted by her anxiety, she began the process of discovering and mastering her personal power. And she succeeded. I believe that you, as an adult child, can also discover and master your personal power. In the coming chapters we will explore methods that can help you . . . Uncover and examine some of your most cherished and protected beliefs about the causes of your unhappiness. Relinquish your hidden resentments and heal your emotional hurts. Forgive your parents and accept them exactly as they are. Accept yourself as an imperfect being with complex and ambivalent emotions living in a complex and ambivalent world. Stop blaming things outside yourself for your problems and accept the responsibility for your own happiness, health, and well-being. Change your behavior as well as your thoughts and feelings. Is Change Really Possible After All These Years? Yes, you can tame your turburlent past, you can put meaning into your life, if . . . . . . if you are willing to give up as much as you gain. But wait a minute, you protest. I've given up too much of my life already. I can't give up more. I just can't! I owe myself something! Right. You do owe yourself something. You owe it to yourself to become unstuck from the crazy glue of the past. You owe it to yourself to learn how to be more fully alive in the present, to gain meaning and purpose in your life.

You owe it to yourself to make real, concrete and lasting behavioral changes instead of bouncing from one illusory panacea to the next. Lasting change means you must give up a lot. You must give up your resentment and bitterness and petty annoyance about the way your parents treated you. You must discard your desire to punish and blame. You must abandon your need to always win and to always be right. You must cast away your defenses and the emotional armor of contempt and hate. You must lay aside your compulsion to control your world by feeling responsible for everybody else's happiness or by making other people "act right."

Positive Self-Change Takes Effort
Why bother, you might ask. I'm an adult now, I don't want to rehash all that old garbage, and I won't forgive my parents until they change. This book isn't for your parents, but for you. Your well-being, your health, your relationships, your day- to-day happiness. Your life. That's what is at stake here. Adult children of alcoholics are, after all, adults. And adults take responsibility for their own lives. Isn't it about time you started living your life instead of sloshing around helplessly in the backwash of your parent's turbulence, expectantly waiting and hoping for someone to toss you the magic lifeline of happiness? Aren't you tired of waiting? Let's begin now. Let's take a look at how a new understanding, a new perspective and a willingness to practice new behaviors can become your lifeline to a more satisfying life.

The Pursuit of Happiness
The trouble is not that we are never happy -- it is that our happiness is so episodical. --Ruth Benedict "I vividly remember a time in my childhood when I would lie in bed at night yearning silently for happiness. I knew happiness was my basic unalienable right." Carmen, a 32-year-old mother of two, smiled nervously, self-consciously as she sifted through her memories and keyed on her happiness-hunger. "I knew it absolutely because beginning in kindergarten I dressed up like a Pilgrim in November, and pretended to chop down cherry trees in February, and exploded firecrackers in July, all of this in celebration of our brave Founding Fathers who gave their all to guarantee us 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.' "I mean, my God, being unhappy was positively un-American. I not only had a right to be happy, but a duty as well. Wasn't this country founded on the very idea that personal happiness was the highest and loftiest goal we could seek in this life? "Shouldn't that be my goal, too? "But there I was, odd-kid out, unhappy and ashamed to admit it. It seemed everybody else in the world was happy and laughing and having a good time except for me, the forlorn little girl hiding her fear and pain and loneliness behind a shy smile." Carmen was six years old and already a failure . . . but not a total failure. Even at the age of six she could envision a sense of hope, a tiny, timid glimmering that maybe, just maybe, happiness would happen to her the same way it seemed to happen to others. Her memories continued to unfold. "I believed that as I grew-up and got out on my own, away from family turmoil, away from the demands of teachers and parents and siblings, that I would achieve an emotional pinnacle of permanent peace and happiness where my problems would melt away and my life would run smoothly, without conflict or fear." Carmen had a familiar yearning, a longing for a magical state of well-being which, once found, she would never lose.

She believed happiness was a concrete thing, something she could search for and find like a lost toy. She also believed, as most children do, that the responsibility for her happiness and health and satisfaction rested outside of herself. If she was angry, it was because someone made her that way. If she was lonely, it was because someone neglected her. If she felt alienated, it was because someone had hurt her, lied to her, disappointed her, and failed to meet her most basic needs to be nurtured and encouraged and loved. This is the way she felt: "They made me unhappy. Me. Me! ME! How could they do this to sweet, precious me?" And who was responsible for making Carmen so miserable and unhappy and depressed? "Well, of course. That's easy," Carmen says. "It was my parents." She says it easily. There's no bitterness in her voice, no tremulous quaver of thinly concealed sarcasm or hostility. Carmen has moved beyond the blame game, moved beyond the victim stance. And as she learned more about her happiness hunger, she also learned about the universal experience of childhood.

The Universal Experience
When you were a young child, the responsibility for your safety and health and well-being rested with your parents. You were totally dependent on them for your survival, both physical and emotional. You couldn't feed yourself, clothe yourself, keep yourself warm. Without the help of others, you would have died. So you were totally dependent. But not totally helpless. You learned quickly how to behave in order to get other people to do what you couldn't do for yourself. How did you do this? How did a small baby control other people? How did you get big people to meet your needs?

You cried. When you were wet, when you were hungry, when your were frightened, when you were cold, you cried. And then, in response to your cries, a big person cleaned you and fed you and comforted you and kept you warm. Maybe. Sometimes. Not always. As you grew older, you learned to control your environment -- and the big people in it -- in ways other than crying. You learned to smile and act cute when you wanted approval and attention. You learned to sulk when you felt upset and to act stubborn when you didn't get your own way. You discovered when tears worked and when they didn't, when anger was safe and when it was dangerous. You learned to express your feelings and to hide them, to be honest and to lie, to love and to hate, to accept and reject. This learning process is normal and natural. It is the universal experience of childhood, and each of us carries inside the emotional memories of that childhood dependence. If you grew up in a family conflicted by parental alcoholism and co-dependency, you are undoubtedly carrying with you emotional memories of powerlessness and pain, fear and rage, confusion and the desire to control your unpredictable parents. These feelings are not odd or unique or mysterious. They are the normal reactions of a normal child in a dysfunctional family. Unhappiness in reaction to discomfort, conflict, and uncertainty is the universal experience of all humankind. This is part of what Carmen experienced. Why should you or I be different? These unhappy emotional memories may be buried, half- forgotten, unconsciously repressed, or consciously suppressed through an agonizing act of self-will. But they exist.

Countless men and women continue to suffer emotional and physical problems -career, financial, health, relationship, and family problems -- in their day to day lives because they are re- enacting the unresolved conflicts of their earliest years in an alcoholic family. The same difficulties we had as children in our families seem always to re-emerge to damage our adult relationships. In effect, we re-create the personal hell of our childhood unhappiness.

The Inevitability of Unhappiness

Personal problems and unhappiness are inevitable because human beings are born with a nervous system that makes us sensitive to physical and emotional pain. Emerson wrote: "He has seen but half the universe who never has been shown the house of Pain." We inhabit the house of Pain-- or perhaps more accurately, Pain is one of the rooms in our house. For some of us it is a small room, a closet or a crawlspace. For others it is the living-room, a space we enter daily. We learn from pain. We learn not to stick our hands in the fire and we learn not to call a big guy with a bad temper a dirty name, at least not so as he can hear us. (Or as singer Jim Croce put it: We don't step on Superman's cape, don't spit into the wind ... .) In other words, the ability to feel pain is adaptive. It helps us survive in a world that can be dangerous and demanding and full of threats. It helps us adjust to the reality that fire burns and people retaliate. But many adult children of alcoholics have become over-sensitized to the threat of pain -- that is, because of our childhood memories we have a tendency to overestimate the likelihood and intensity of a threat to our present well-being. We've been hurt in the past and we expect to be hurt again.

After breaking up with his girlfriend, Carlos said, "No more. I can't handle this stuff-- this tearing away at my insides. Never again." Never again what? "I'm never going to let myself get in a position to be hurt. I don't like the feeling of being so vulnerable." And how do we avoid being vulnerable? By armoring ourselves, by taking elaborate precautions, by defensiveness. We not only guard against vulnerability, we protect and overprotect. We erect walls, walls to protect us from psychological barbs. Barriers to keep our own emotions in and to make sure outside emotions cannot get in. We adopt a stoic stance, a poker face, never risking to show what we really think or feel. As Paul Simon put it in the lyrics of one of his hit tunes: "I am a rock, I am an island." Our extreme sensitivity makes us anticipate pain. Our memories make us relive our past suffering over and over again until our natural capacity to anticipate and experience suffering becomes over-developed. Living under a ubiquitous cloud of doom, we may sense threats where none exist, a feeling Shakespeare aptly described: Or in the night, imagining some fear, How easily is a bush supposed a bear. We may also exaggerate the dangers that do confront us, magnify small incidents all out of proportion, and in so doing, create a real crisis where none existed before. These two patterns can make us extremely unhappy and they can damage our present relationships. Amy, a 37 year-old grocery checker, sought counseling because her second marriage was in trouble. She complained, "You can't ever trust a man. They'll always run out on you when you need them most." When asked about her family of origin, Amy described a tumultuous childhood in a family preoccupied by her father's drinking and her mother's frantic efforts to hide his bottles. After years of broken promises, fights, and financial hardship, Amy's parents separated. "They tried to hide it from me," Amy said, her voice breaking. "One day my father packed his bags and said he had to go away on a business trip. He never returned. At first, I suffered the horrible fear that he'd been killed. Why else would he stay

away? When I discovered he was still alive, I was overwhelmed with fury. I felt betrayed. He'd abandoned me, lied to me, hurt me. I'd never forgive him for that." And her mother! "Nag and complain, that's all she ever did," said Amy. "No wonder my father left. I vowed I'd never act like my mother, I'd never chase away someone I loved." Fifteen years later, Amy found herself reliving her childhood fears. If her husband was thirty minutes late coming home from work, she became anxious and jealous. Her black moods lasted for days. She questioned his every move, suspecting him of lying, and accusing him of not caring about her feelings. Naturally her own panic and moodiness had an impact on their relationship. The more she nagged, the more her husband withdrew, and the more she feared he would leave her. And he did. That was five years ago. Amy remarried, but once again she was swept along, out of control, besieged by worry and mired in childhood memories of abandonment by her alcoholic father. And she felt a more intense panic because she could see her second marriage slipping away. History was not only repeating itself, Amy felt, but it was also using her as a doormat. In her anxiety, Amy found herself looking and acting and sounding like the mother she held in contempt. "I don't know how to change," Amy said. "I don't understand it. I'm educated, I'm intelligent. But I need help." Regardless of how smart we are or how much money we make, none of us is immune from the harmful effects of the unresolved conflicts of growing up in an alcoholic family. Steve, a successful forty-five year old psychologist with a happy marriage and two teenage children, came to me for a refresher session in stress management. A vital, hard-working person, Steve is a man who has always impressed me with his stamina and his caring nature. I also consider him to be one hell of a good therapist.

We were all shocked when Steve ended up in the hospital emergency room with chest pains. Fortunately, his heart proved sound. The doctor diagnosed Steve's problem as esophageal spasms. The cause: Stress. I asked Steve, "Has anything unusual happened lately?" Somewhat embarrassed, Steve said, "I guess you could say that. My mother just left after a two week visit. I get these spasms whenever I'm around her for more than a few hours at a time." "Was she drinking again?" I asked, knowing she had a history of alcoholism. Steve shook his head. "She's been sober two years now. I'm very proud of her." At that point Steve swallowed hard and pressed his hand against his chest. "Hell, I thought we'd worked out all our problems when she quit drinking, but look at me. She still gets to me." Does that sound familiar? Do your parents still get to you? Are you still emotionally trapped by family alcoholism?

Getting Free
Taming Your Turbulent Past is about getting free from the resentments and anxiety and painful emotional memories adult children continue to carry from childhood into adulthood. To get free, you don't need the permission or help of your parents. This is something you can do on your own, without their knowledge or any change in their behavior or lifestyle. This book is not about confronting and changing your parents. It's about confronting and changing yourself. After counseling hundreds of alcoholics and their families, after surveying the turbulence and wreckage within these troubled families, I have come to a startling conclusion, one which is often hard for adult children to accept. A startling conclusion and a starting point: No matter how horrid the behavior, No matter how neglectful, spiteful, or cruel the conduct, Alcoholic and co-dependent parents Did the best they knew how Under difficult circumstances.

There's an angry voice inside that says "No! No they didn't. They should have done better!" Our parents did indeed make mistakes-- at times dreadful mistakes. And one way or another, some parents continue to do so. But I have seldom found an alcoholic or co-dependent parent who purposely wanted to inflict the kind of pain that children in alcoholic homes endure. In every instance, under all the resentment and anger and pain, one truth rings clear. All parents have a deep desire to love and be loved by their children. All children have a deep desire to love and be loved by their parents. Your mother did the best she could. Your father did the best he could. They made mistakes. So did you. Are you willing to let the healing begin?

The Paradoxical Personality
It is human nature to think wisely and act foolishly. --Anatole France I have talked to hundreds of adult children of alcoholics and I've heard thousands of stories of bitterness, rage, guilt, pain and loneliness. Amazingly, underneath the uniqueness and individuality of each situation, I have seen a likeness, a commonality of attitude and world-view that is shared by every adult-child who is conflicted, angry, resentful and unhappy. I say amazingly because adult children invariably believe the awful anxiety, fear and confusion haunting their lives is peculiar to them alone. They feel singular in their agony, fearful and ashamed of . . . . . . of what? It's hard to put into words, but the feeling is real. It's like a slow burning ember, a smoldering sensation of dread, an inkling or intuition of trouble. From time to time it fades away, then it flares again, a feeling of sick tension, an actual physical

pressure somewhere between the belly and the throat telling you something bad is about to happen. And you can't control it. It's just there. Have you experienced this emotional and physical state? It's common among adult children. Does that surprise you? Most adult children are relieved to find they are not alone, that many, many other people have experienced and survived these feelings, and have gone on to lead healthy and happy lives. There's a little chagrin, too. A touch of unexpected embarrassment. I mean, it's kind of shocking to discover you've been suffering in secret shame, hiding the fact that you practically feel like an alien from outer space, only to discover there are thousands -- hundreds of thousands -- of other men and woman who are going through very similar emotions. Is nothing sacred? Are we not unique in our misery? Isn't our own personal brand of suffering so extraordinary and unusual that it's almost beyond the reach of puny human understanding? Perhaps. And perhaps not.

Looking For Explanations
I've actually had people look at me in awe when I describe the feeling of dread -of badness -- that is so common in adult children. "How did you know?" Deanna whispered. "How could you know? I've never told anyone. Are you . . . are you psychic?" Deanna was almost insulted when she discovered I possessed no supernatural powers, no special ectoplasmic connectedness with the Spiritual Force. You see, she felt her pain was so unique and incomprehensible that it was beyond the understanding of another ordinary person. A person like me. Because our feelings and behavior baffle us, we have a tendency to lean toward the exotic or the unorthodox to explain why we are the way we are. "Mars is retrograde right now and that's very bad for a Virgo and a Capricorn," Carla explains. "That's why Tom and I are fighting so much lately." "During the French Revolution, in one of my past incarnations, I was guillotined for stealing a loaf of bread," Leslie says, rubbing the back of her neck. "That's why I get these terrible pains." "I'm not feeling well because my aura is muddy." Statements like these indicate we are looking outside ourselves for explanations and solutions to our problems. This is called externalizing, and I've found it to be a common trait among adult children.

We have no control over the planets or what happened two hundred years ago or the color of our aura. (I'm told mine is yellow and I'm not sure if that's a compliment to my character or an insult.) We can change nothing but ourselves. This is important for us to keep in mind because in our search for explanations and solutions, we must focus our attention on those things over which we can exercise some power. And we must be prepared to face some discomforting facts about the world and some unpleasant truths about ourselves. One of the most important things we can learn is that there are many things in the world that we can neither control nor change. We can't change the past. We can't control the behavior of our parents or other loved ones. We can't always get our own way. All uncomfortable facts. But useful, fundamental to any serious efforts to change. If you want to, you can keep butting your head up against the wall trying to control and change things over which you have no power, but you are going to end up being one miserable and frustrated individual. A sorehead -- in more ways than one. But there are alternatives-- alternatives to frustration and facile explanations. We can look closely at our paradoxical behavior, keeping in mind Karen Horney's warning that we should "not be too easily satisfied with ready-at-hand explanations for a disturbance."

A Pattern Of Paradox
Adult children seem to move from one crisis to the next, rarely pausing to notice the process going on underneath. Yet only by understanding the larger patterns in our behavior do the individual incidents and events begin to make sense. A prominent pattern for many adult children is paradox. A paradox is something that is seemingly absurd and self-contradictory, yet is in fact true. The term adult-child is a paradox, yet we understand its meaning without explanation. Rhonda provides a good example of paradoxical behavior: For years she suffered from the paradox of love-hate. As a young girl, Rhonda had developed a very close and loving relationship with her mother, a woman who seemed like a rock of stability in a homelife made stormy and chaotic by the father's drinking. "Mother and I shared many secrets and confidences," Rhonda recalls, "and together we protected the younger children from some of the worst aspects of dad's alcoholism."

While Rhonda was away at college, her father entered treatment and sobered up. "It seemed like an answer to a dream. Finally, my mother and younger brothers could have some peace and happiness at home, a blessing I had never known." Throughout the next few years, Rhonda developed a new and satisfying relationship with her father. Sober, he was witty, charming, responsible, and caring. But a new problem arose . . . her mother. "I began to notice that during my visits home, my mother sulked and made cutting comments whenever I spent more than a few minutes conversing with dad. Alone in the kitchen with her, I had to listen to a long list of complaints and if I refused to sympathize, my mom retreated into a hurt silence." The visits home became a nightmare. Rhonda dreaded them, yet she felt compelled to return. It was her duty, she felt, to bring a little light and joy into the house, for the sake of her younger brothers, if for no other reason. She also felt a need to help her mother, to make her stop being so negative and unhappy. "I still love her dearly," Rhonda told me, "but she's driving me crazy. All she wants to do is talk about the past. She just can't accept that things are different now. I try to talk to her, but she's so set in her ways, it's no use. I hate myself for feeling this way, but I can't help it. She makes me so mad!" Rhonda started to cry. "Sometimes," she sobbed. "I wish she'd just die and leave the rest of us in peace." Notice that Rhonda's statements imply that her unhappiness and conflict are her mother's fault. If only her mother would change, Rhonda thinks, everything would be all right. But the resentment and guilt and self-hate that Rhonda feels are not her mother's problem. They belong to Rhonda. And if her mother dies? No matter how much you'd like to believe that death or distance means you no longer have to deal with your feelings about your parents, you are wrong. The feelings you have for your parents -- both good and bad feelings -- remain alive in your mind and close to your heart. Love-hate is only one characteristic of the patterns of paradox common in adult children.

TEST YOUR PARADOX POTENTIAL Answer 'Yes' or 'No' to the following questions: 1. Do you feel an inner rage that you don't dare show to other people because it is too powerful to unleash? 2. Do you hide frequent fears behind a facade of bravado, keen wit, or chronic pain? 3. Do you frequently feel like your parents or spouse is always trying to control you when they can hardly run their own lives?

4. Do you long for warm and caring relationships, yet feel left out or overwhelmed by other people? 5. Do you suffer from feelings of low self-esteem because other people fail to appreciate all that you have to offer? 6. Do you resent your parents' alcoholism and co- dependency while suffering from compulsive behavior yourself, such as eating binges and fad dieting; reliance on marijuana, tranquilizers, or alcohol; compulsive spending or gambling? If you answered 'YES' to any of these questions, you can safely assume that you are plagued by paradoxes.

Paradox and Self-Esteem
The adult-child's life is filled with contradiction and ambivalence, by love-hate, pride-shame, greedy-giving. The experience of feeling these intense paradoxical emotions perpetuates your confusion and sense of alienation. Pride prevents you from stepping back and making an honest and self-critical analysis of your own negative behavior. You remain blind to the process going on underneath, to the larger pattern that clearly shows you are the perpetrator of your current unhappiness. But can you really fool yourself? The subtle knowledge that you are daily violating your higher values with your inexplicable feelings of hate and greed fill you with shame and self-contempt. How can you like yourself? How can you have high self- esteem when deep inside your heart you are concealing so much anger, resentment, and pettiness? Now, think about this for a moment. What I'm telling you may shock and offend you, but it's something you already know intuitively. You know your inner self better than anyone else does. Your feelings of low self-esteem are an accurate reflection of your inner reality. You don't like yourself because no matter what kind of bright and shiny face you show to the world, you know your heart is full of negativity, bitterness and anger. No amount of success or money or recognition can make you feel good about yourself if your inner reality is a dark mass of justification, blame, denial and paradox. Examining the complex nature of the adult-child's paradoxical personality is not an easy task. Nevertheless, that is one of the main purposes of this book. It seems vital and necessary, since self-critical analysis is an indispensable part in the process of self-change. Without the knowledge that comes from fearlessly inspecting our most negative characteristics, we end up dooming ourselves to repeat in ignorance the patterns of the past that have brought us only hate, fear, loneliness, and pain.

Isn't it time to give up our petty egos, to forget the fear of appearing vulnerable, weak, and less than perfect? We are, after all, only human. And happily, humans possess the wonderful capacity to make changes. In fact, as Aldous Huxley put it: "There's only one corner of the universe you can be sure of improving, and that's your own self."

Paradox #1:: Anger and the Smiley Face
There's daggers in men's smiles. --Shakespear During your childhood your parents did things that made you feel angry. They criticized you, punished you, ignored you. They embarrassed you, manipulated you, spanked you. They made you do things their way when you wanted to do it your way. Each time this happened, you felt something unpleasant -- anger, frustration, hurt. This is completely normal and natural, the universal experience of childhood we talked about earlier. If your parents were knowledgeable and healthy and well- adjusted, they probably went out of their way to offset each of your negative experiences with a positive one. If your parents were knowledgeable and healthy and well- adjusted, they probably encouraged you, rewarded you, approved of you. They protected you, trusted you, cuddled you. They gave you the opportunity to experiment and learn, and when you fell flat on your face, they picked you up and kissed your hurts and let you cry until you felt better. In families where each member is nurtured and allowed to express his or her feelings openly and honestly, children have the opportunity to deal with their angry, hurt feelings before deep resentments develop and fester. They learn the art of give and take. They learn to think of anger as a temporary condition, something they can experience, then let go. They become free to experience more positive emotions -- joy and love and laughter. In the real world, these nurturing, healthy families are as rare as fifty carat diamonds. In the world of alcoholism and co-dependency, they are non-existent. The nature of the alcoholic family guarantees that you grew up with unresolved feelings of deep hurt.

Your parents, overwhelmed by their own problems, were unable to nurture you, cushion your falls, or kiss away your tears. They may have tried, really tried to be good parents, yet resentments developed and grew. You remember the things your parents did that frightened you, made you feel vulnerable, abandoned or unloved. You remember the fights, the unreasonable demands, the emotional distance, the pain. At times you probably felt your very existence, both physical and emotional, was threatened. Perhaps you even wanted to die. As a child, you had no effective way of coping with your fear and anger and deeply-felt resentments. You were unable to speak up for yourself, you were powerless, a victim of your small size and your limited years. When your parents knowingly or unknowingly did things that made you angry, you stashed your pain away and did your best to pretend that everything was all right. You put on your smiley face and hoped and hoped and hoped things would get better. Maybe they did. For a while. You moved away and started your own life. You got a good job or fell in love or started a family of your own. Perhaps your parents even recovered. From all outward appearances, you are a success. You should feel happy-- not continuously ecstatic or euphoric, but relatively satisfied. So, if life is going so well, why do you feel so bad. Still Pretending After All These Years Over the years, I have been impressed by how good adult children seem to be. Logic dictates that men and woman who grew up in the frightening and abusive environment so common in alcoholic homes would turn out bad -- criminals, deviants, sociopaths, jobless down-and-outers and no-goodniks. On the contrary. Alcoholic homes often seem to produce more super-achievers than bums. But scratch the shiny surface and the picture isn't so pretty. All these adult children hide their problems behind a smiley face and a facade of success. o Shana was a cheerleader and home-coming queen in high school and she won a full tuition scholarship to college. Attractive and intelligent, she managed to combine marriage, children and a career. Her friends and family admired her and looked to her as a role-model. She seemed to have everything in her life under control. Why did she have a nervous breakdown at age 29? o Ted is thirty, fun-loving, handsome, and bright. His law practice is thriving and he's considered one of the most eligible bachelors in town. He says he wants to settle down and start a family. He certainly has no trouble getting dates. Why can't Ted maintain a relationship for more than a few months? Why is he so lonely?

o Alisha is generous to a fault. She's always the first one to volunteer to help in an emergency, she gives thoughtful gifts for no reason, and her smile is ever present. Why do her sweet compliments contain little hooked barbs? Why can't she keep friends? o Francine pulled herself up by her own bootstraps, working her way through college, finding an excellent job and, finally, marrying the boss. Her car is new, her clothes gorgeous, her home a dream. Her husband adores her and her son is the best dressed kid in the first grade. She's achieved everything she ever hoped for. Why does she fall into periods of black despair? Why does she binge on junk food, then fast for days to take the weight off? Why does she drink too much?

Facing Your Inner Child
Are you like Shana, Ted, Alisha, or Francine? Are you still hiding your anger and resentments behind a smiley-face, pretending nothing is wrong. It was a strategy that worked for you when you were a child, but if you continue this pattern as an adult, it will prevent you from enjoying the freedoms that adulthood brings. Hidden resentments have the power to control your life, making you miserable. And they don't go away on their own. In order to lead a happy adult life, you must first make peace with your angry, frightened inner child. Until you begin to work through your stockpile of buried childhood resentments, you will be restricted in your ability to enjoy the pleasures of adulthood. You can assume you are suffering from buried resentments and anger if -- you are extra sensitive to criticism and personal slights and your feelings are easily hurt.-- injustices done you in the past occupy your mind to such an extent you can get in a black mood just by thinking about them. -- you poke fun or make cutting comments about those you love. -- you frequently feel a pressure or tightening in your throat and chest which makes it feel like it's hard for you to breathe. -- you suffer from frequent headaches, backaches, neck aches, stomach aches, jaw aches, or other aches and pains which don't respond to standard medical care. -- you frequently feel left out, unappreciated, or taken for granted by the people you care about. -- you feel life is plain unfair. -- you have a weight problem or go on eating binges when you're upset. -- you are in a frequent state of irritation, primed to blow, and that scares you because you have a deep suspicion that way down inside you lurks a monster, an ax murderer, a fiend capable of God knows what kind of destruction. If you ever let go, God help the world.

Why Not Let A Sleeping Dog Lie? "Listen," my friend Jaime said to me. "I have no desire to dwell on all that old pain. What's done is done, and there's nothing I can do to change the fact that my father, the great and wise Doctor respected by the entire medical profession, was a mean drunk. I'll never forgive him, so it's a waste of time even talking about it." "You talk about it a lot," I said. "Just forget I brought it up," she replied. "Let sleeping dogs lie. Most of the time I never even think about it." Unfortunately for Jaime, her resentment toward her father wasn't a sleeping dog. It was more like a clawed monster that refused to stay buried in the graveyard of her memory. Several doctors had told her that her recurring health problems were caused mainly by muscular and vascular tension brought on by chronic, unrecognized stress. Unrecognized. It's a key word. Most of the time our past resentments are in a state of limbo. Our conscious mind is oblivious to them. But if we believe we are totally free of resentments we are probably deluding ourselves. Every once in a while, our defenses break down, allowing the clawed monster to break free, ripping our serenity to shreds, starting the chain reaction of emotional and physiological stress which is so harmful to us. You might have insomnia or frightening dreams. Or physical symptoms of stress such as frequent headaches and backaches or stomach problems. You might have an argument with your spouse or lover that inflames old buried hurts, causing you to respond with an intensity of feeling way out of proportion to the present provocation. In a new situation, old fears and resentments may arise making you feel panicky and vulnerable for what appears to be no reason at all. But there is a reason. While the particular childhood incident with your parents may be hidden in the back alleys of your brain, the remembered feeling is imprinted on your nervous system. When a present situation arouses buried childhood memories, you may not consciously recall the past incident, but you re-experience the emotional pain. Stressful memories will be continually reactivated because people and situations in your current life will resemble people and situations from your past. This is no accident. We seek the familiar, the "normal". And no matter how dysfunctional your family of origin may have been, to you it represented the "norm." In an effort to maintain continuity, we often blindly pick new people and new situations which resemble our past (bad) ones. For example: o One of your parents was alcoholic and you marry an alcoholic. o One of your parents was dictatorial, the other passive; you and your mate follow the same pattern. o You find yourself starting to act just like the parent you hold in contempt. o You find yourself treating your children in the same hurtful manner your parents treated you.

o You find yourself "re-living" the same marriage, job, money, or health problems that one or both of your parents went through. o You find yourself treating your mate in the same hurtful way your parents treated each other. o You find yourself trying to maintain the same rigid control of your life and family that you felt your parents unfairly demanded of you when you were young.

The Victim Stance: A Self-Made Obstacle To Freedom
Adult children often think of themselves as victims of misfortune, of cruel fate, an unfair world, and their parents' mistakes. "Alas," wrote Emerson, "that one is born in blight, Victim of perpetual slight." A victim is a person who is truly not at fault; he or she has not knowingly contributed to the cause of their problems. When you were a young child living in a turbulent home, you were a victim. You're not a child any longer. As an adult you no longer have to play the role of the child-victim. You can take responsibility for your life and health and happiness. Yet, hidden resentments will force you to feel victimized by the people you care about, compelling you to repeatedly act out the old negative patterns of your unhappy childhood. The victim stance is a strange phenomenon. It's an almost invisible alignment of perspective and thought, invisible because it seems, well . . . so right. You feel wronged. Something bad has been done to you and somebody bad is to blame. You have divided the world into right and wrong and you stand on the side of right. You are innocent of any wrong-doing. You are justified, therefore, in feeling angry. You have a right to get even, to hurt the people who have caused you pain. You believe that by hurting, blaming, condemning, excluding or shaming those who have done you wrong, you will feel better. You forget that when you engage in such behaviors -- when you blame and hurt and condemn -- it is you who bears the burden of hate and anguish and unforgiving vengeance. The weight of your own pain crushes you rather than the wrong-doer. Remember Alisha of the sweet smile and barbed tongue? Her hidden resentments made her feel constantly undervalued and unappreciated. She felt like a victim. She tried so hard to make people happy, and still they hurt her. "Why?" she agonized, during our first meeting. "Why do people I trust betray me?" She tried to win affection with gifts and favors, and she couldn't understand why friends and lovers deserted her. She didn't know that affection cannot be realized in an atmosphere of veiled accusation, sarcasm, and guilt-inducing martyrdom.

Alisha had known for years that she carried a number of resentments towards her alcoholic father and co-dependent mother. Ever since she was young, Alisha always felt guilty and controlled and afraid of hurting her mother's feelings. Her mother was such a wonderful person. So kind, so thoughtful, so caring. And with all she had to put up with, too. The woman was a saint. Hating her father was something Alisha could understand and justify. After all, he was a drunk. But only a truly awful person, Alisha thought, could harbor the amount of anger and resentment she felt for her own mother. Alisha rated her self-esteem at zero. "All I've ever really wanted," she said, "was for people to like me and admire me. I wanted to be loved. Fat chance!" Following her mother's lead, Alisha became a gift-giver and favor-granter. She tried to be kind, thoughtful, and caring. Just like Mom. But each gift had a long string with a hook on the end of it with a message that said: Love me. Realize my value. Pay attention to me. Don't criticize me. You owe me. If the recipient of Alisha's largesse failed to heed the unspoken message, Alisha felt justified in retaliating. Just like Mom. Alisha's mother had taught her to be a nice girl, and nice girls smile a lot, and they're passive, and they don't get angry and lose their temper. No, sir. Nice girls never openly criticize. They cut with one well-aimed slash of the tongue. They drown their victim with syrupy-sweet poison. They play the hurt victim. Nice girls can be real bitches. Sometimes Alisha would feel depressed and sad for weeks at a time. "I was so lonely. I'd make friends with a new person and everything would be fine for a while, then pretty soon they'd start treating me rotten. I always let people take me for granted. It really hurt my feelings whenever that happened." Today, Alisha is a lot less sweet. She doesn't give as many gifts. Or hooked barbs. She's developed and maintained several interesting relationships with both men and women and she no longer goes around feeling unappreciated all the time. The changes came after she practiced the exercises that follow to help her acknowledge and overcome her backlog of pent-up resentments. "I blamed everyone else for my unhappiness," Alisha now admits. "I felt betrayed and angry if people didn't treat me exactly how I wanted them to. I finally realized that I couldn't force people to like me by making them feel guilty if they didn't do what I wanted. All my gifts and favors were merely ways of trying to control the people around me. I never really gave of myself. All my giving was really a cover for my selfishness. Letting go of my resentments was hard because it made me accept the fact that I was responsible for my own unhappiness. But it gave me hope, too. Now, I am happy, no strings attached." For the first time in her life, Alisha learned how to give without demanding an immediate reward for her generosity.

Alisha's situation illustrates an important principle: As long as you maintain a victim stance, you will never find a lasting solution to your inner misery. As long as you cling to your hidden resentments, you will feel like a victim. We must let go of our resentment and anger and pain, for the price we pay for not letting go is too high. Let go. Why do you cling to resentment? There is nothing you can do about the wrongs of your childhood. Why hold on to the past when it keeps you from hope and love and peace in the present? Let go.

Now What?
None of the psychotherapists I knew raised the possibility of forgiveness with their patients. It was no wonder that people's hurts have to be studied, analyzed, emoted about, desensitized, pored over, and rarely cured. For in the end, there is no answer to profound hurt except: Yes, that must have hurt a great deal. Now what? --Arthur Egendorf "I wish it didn't hurt so much," Nadine choked out, the tears streaming down her face. "I can't stand feeling this way. I try not to think about it, but it won't go away. Sometimes I get so angry! Why me? Why did this happen to me? I want to kill myself sometimes-- just put an end to my suffering-- but I'm too chicken, too afraid of not doing the job right and hurting myself. God, I wish I could just disappear!" What makes Nadine hurt so badly that she'd rather die then endure another day of suffering. A broken back? Cancer? Infected third degree burns? No. Nothing so visible, nothing so tangible. Not an injury or disease to be cured with an antibiotic, chemotherapy, or a skin graft. A hospital's arsenal of potent pain-killers holds no power to relieve Nadine's agony. Nadine suffers emotional pain, the spiritual anguish of anger, hate, bitterness, and resentment. She wants to free herself from her pain, but doesn't know how. Emotional pain hurts every bit as much as physical pain. And in this life, none of us can escape the misfortunes and tragedies that bring emotional pain. We will all suffer. Those we love will disappoint us, desert us, die on us. We will be subjected to thoughtlessness, small acts of cruelty, and devastating calamities. Emotional pain cannot be avoided. It can only be dealt with. This is an enduring reality beyond our mortal ability to alter. We can only accept its inevitability. As

Arthur Egendorf notes, after we acknowledge the hurt, the question remains: Now what? Ordinarily, pain is a temporary part of life. But for a child growing up in an alcoholic home the pain can become constant. How does the child survive in these conditions? How did you do it? For you did survive! You did make it to adulthood with at least a semblance of sanity. How does an inexperienced child manage this remarkable conquest over indescribable emotional anguish? Some children have the help of an understanding adult -- a grandparent or aunt, a teacher, a minister -- a person who makes the child feel safe and valued, who models healthy ways of coping with the pains of life. With caring adult intervention, children in alcoholic homes needn't become emotional wrecks. But how many children are fortunate enough to receive such help? Nadine certainly wasn't. Her mother's addiction to alcohol and pills made every single day of Nadine's childhood a roller coaster ride of uncertainty and fear. Her father, a successful businessman, paid the bills and kept the house in repair and worked . . . and worked . . . and worked. He didn't abuse Nadine; he ignored her. When she tried to talk to him about her mother's addiction, he closed his ears. When she begged her father to help her, understand her, love her, he picked up his briefcase and went back to the office, leaving her home alone to cope with her mother's increasingly bizarre behavior. If Nadine cried, her father turned away in stony silence. But if Nadine had dinner on the table at six o'clock and if she had her mother in a clean dress and lipstick when daddy came home, it was a different story. He smiled at his little girl, told her jokes, called her his sweet princess, gave her money. So Nadine did what she had to do. She did what most children in alcoholic homes do. She played the role that made her difficult life a little easier to bear. And she hid her pain. She buried it. It's just as if she dug a whole in the ground and dumped her pain and fear and worry under layers of earth and stone and mud. Out of sight, out of mind. Or so the saying goes.

Anger as a Protection Against Pain
When you suppress your emotional and psychological pain, it doesn't simply vanish underground and decompose like so much compost. It grows. And it undergoes a metamorphosis. You see, showing your emotional pain to others, especially to those you care about, makes you feel vulnerable. It makes you open to disappointment and hurt and embarrassment. The shadow of past failures and rejections color your

expectations with fear. You don't want to be hurt again. You've been hurt enough already! So, a natural defense mechanism takes over to protect you from experiencing your pain. Your hurt changes to anger. Anger and resentment arise as a protection against pain. When someone hurts you, you become angry in order to protect your inner being from the pain you've learned to hide. Anger become your shield. Anger, itself, is not bad. It is a part of natural life; an emotion that comes and goes in every human being. But when you unconsciously use anger as an armor plate against suppressed emotional pain, it becomes a major problem. You accumulate resentments. Deep resentments that control your life, hindering your ability to experience joy. It's no longer a question of a natural emotion coming and going. Anger becomes your very being. You are not sometimes angry, you are always angry. It is as natural to you as breathing, and like breathing, you don't even notice it most of the time. Suppression of emotional pain works as a childhood survival skill. Unable to deal with your anguish in any other way, you buried it in order to survive. Not on purpose, but as a defense mechanism against problems you were unprepared to deal with. Occasionally, the clawed monster of your hidden pain roared out of the grave you buried it in, but, overall, you survived. Which is good. But isn't there more to life than mere survival? Survival means you go on day after day, doing the same things again and again. For what? If you are merely surviving, your life has no significance. You feel accidental, meaningless, unfulfilled. You remain dull, your vitality drained, your creativity blocked by your ever-present fear and defensiveness. Is this what you want? As a child, burying your pain was not a bad thing. It was a necessary survival mechanism. No more. Now that you are an adult, all that buried pain is like a weight anchoring your feet to the ground. You cannot be free until you dig into the deep hole of your suppressed anguish, until you open your pain to the healing light of acceptance and forgiveness. Because, you see, for adult children forgiveness is the major path to freedom and growth. For too many of us, it has been the road not taken.

The Power of Forgiveness
Your pain is buried by anger -- layers and layers of anger on pain. To heal your pain, you must first let go of your anger and resentments.

You must forgive. Forgiveness is the only way out. Forgiveness is the path to healing and freedom. Forgiveness if freeing yourself from the past, so that you can face the future unencumbered by resentments and bitterness. But forgiveness is not an easy notion to grasp. "How," we ask, "can forgiveness be the only way out?" Arthur Egendorf, a Vietnam veteran who became a therapist specializing in work with other Vietnam vets came to understand the power of forgiveness, but only after a struggle: "Forgiveness?" he asked himself. "How's that possible? Forgiveness didn't fit in with any psychology I had ever studied. It was a concept that was foreign to me, and certainly not something I had ever imagined doing. I had always associated forgiveness either with weak people or with saints, but I was struck with the boldness of the possibility. Could it be that someone could simply say 'I forgive you,' and the wrongs of the most hideous kind could cease to weigh upon either party? As a rational thinker I objected. How's that possible? What's to keep you from forgiving the wrong kinds of things?" Like many others, Egendorf discovered that forgiveness does not mean you have to like what happened to you. It doesn't mean the people who hurt you were right and you were wrong. You don't have to agree with the people who hurt you in order to forgive them. But you do have to let go of your anger. Anger is a bondage to the past, and when you forgive, you are choosing freedom over bondage. Forgiveness is a gift of love to yourself. The choice is yours. Do you want to expend your energy in getting even? Or do you want to be free?

Moving Toward Forgiveness
Truly letting go of your resentments is not just saying, "You're forgiven," then walking away. The complex web of emotions that traps us when we feel wronged is not easily untangled by logic and noble intentions. Forgiveness is a process that can be broken down into three distinct steps: Step 1: Acknowledging your resentment and pain Step 2: Desensitizing yourself to the pain Step 3: Releasing yourself from the pain In the rest of Chapter Four and in Chapter Five, I will describe a number of exercises that other adult children have found helpful in moving toward

forgiveness by letting go of their anger and resentments. These exercises are most effective if you follow steps one, two, and three in order. Some adult children feel a tremendous feeling of freedom after practicing just one or two of the exercises. Those with deep burdens of pain and strong defenses often must practice regularly over a span of many weeks before they can experience the relief of letting go. Because a child's first resentments are aimed at the most important people in his or her young life, our first exercises will deal with accumulated resentments against your parents. Although these exercises deal with painful childhood resentments, their purpose is not for you to wallow in a pit of old despair. Their purpose is to heal old childhood wounds so you can be free to enjoy your adulthood. You don't need the help or permission of your family to heal your resentment wounds. These exercises are for you. A cautionary note: Under no circumstances should the resentments and painful emotions uncovered in these exercises be discussed with your parents at this time. In later chapters in this book, we'll talk about healthy ways to express your feelings.

Two Acknowledging Exercises
You cannot heal your pain unless you first acknowledge its existence. Many adult children find it extremely difficult to admit the true nature of their resentments toward their parents because to do so seems almost like a form of betrayal. One of the hallmarks of alcoholic families is the conspiracy of silence. The first rule children learn is, "Don't talk about family problems to outsiders!" It's not uncommon for that rule to be generalized into, "Don't talk about problems." So it may be hard for you to admit the details of your deep hurt, even to yourself. But the first step of recovery is acknowledge that a problem exists. Take that step now.

Acknowledging Exercise # 1: Your Resentment List
Set aside some private time when you won't be disturbed. Using paper and pencil, prepare a list of your resentments toward each of your parents. Be specific. Describe each painful incident in detail. A general statement like, "My mother is a bitch," isn't very helpful because it's not specific enough. After writing out each conflict that hurt you, write down how the incident made you feel at the time. For example, part of one adult child's resentment list looked like this:

Resentments Against My Mother I resent that you made me go into bars looking for dad when I was only eight years old. I felt frightened and embarrassed. I resent the way your moods were so unpredictable. One day you'd smother me with attention and the next day you'd be cold and sarcastic. I felt inadequate and confused. I resent that you give me the silent treatment if I don't do exactly what you want me to do. I feel guilty and unloved. I resent that when I was in grade school, you kept making me go to the little store on the corner with a note asking for more credit when you didn't have enough money for food. They knew dad had spent all the money on beer and they made snide comments to me. I felt ashamed and guilty. Resentments Against My Father I resent that you came to parent's night at school and you were loud and drunk and told a dirty joke. I felt mortified with shame. I resent that you slapped me around for no good reason. I felt unloved and vengeful. I resent that you'd get drunk and call mom a "slut" and a "whore" and a "pig." I felt hatred and fear. I resent that since you got sober you act like we should all fall to our knees and kiss your feet in gratitude. I feel bitter and hypocritical. ***** After filling up a page or two, you will reach a plateau of feeling. It's not necessary to record every last hurt and resentment, although you may still have a few major ones remaining. Stop and rest for a moment. Take a few deep breaths. Relax. Let any remaining deep hurts come to the surface and add them to your list. Don't be afraid to cry. You may find yourself re-experiencing your childhood pain right now. Don't be afraid. You are taking a very important step. Read your list again, allowing yourself to experience whatever emotions that come up. Now, shift your body into a comfortable position. Take a few deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply. Allow your body to relax as you focus your attention on your deep breathing. Feel your body becoming heavy with relaxation. Release the tension from your forehead and neck and shoulders and back. Feel the relaxation spread down through your stomach and hips and legs. Spend a few minutes allowing the tension to flow out of your body and away. Now, inhale and exhale deeply and repeat these words silently to yourself several times: I have been hurt and I have a right to feel angry. Admitting my anger to myself will not hurt me. My pain and anger can be healed through acceptance and forgiveness. I am ready to accept and forgive.

Now, close your eyes and sit back comfortably. While focusing attention on your deep, slow breathing, silently repeat these words: I am ready to accept and forgive. I am ready to accept and forgive. After several minutes you will want to open your eyes. Sit quietly for a moment before you stretch and move around. You have taken the first important step in healing the deep hurts of growing up in an alcoholic home. And you are preparing yourself to experience the joys of a full adulthood. Congratulations.

Acknowledging Exercise # 2: The Journal
This exercise calls for you to write about your childhood hurts in what is called a stream-of-consciousness style. Write whatever comes into you mind, ignoring grammar, spelling and logic. Logic can sometimes prevent you from acknowledging your anger and pain. For, you see, some of our most deeply felt hurts are clearly irrational. And we know it. Because we recognize that our anguish is based on unreasonable premises, we only succeed in adding guilt to our stockpile of bad feelings. For example, it bothered Peter that his German-born father spoke with a thick accent and wore embroidered suspenders instead of a belt. "It's stupid," Peter chastised himself, "but I get furious with him for being so damn foreign. He embarrasses me in front of my friends. It's not his fault, but it drives me crazy." Marie resented her mother for working when all of Marie's girlfriends had mothers who stayed home. "I felt so neglected," Marie explains. "After dad left, she had to work to put food on the table. I know that, but I still feel like she cheated me out of an important part of my childhood." Don held a grudge against both of his parents because they refused to help pay his college expenses unless he went to a lower cost State college rather than the expensive private university where his best friend was going. "Hey," Don says. "I wasn't even that good of a student, but I really wanted to go to the other school." Peter, Marie, and Don all realize that their anger and resentments are illogical, unfounded, and irrational. And they still feel wronged. Because, you see, when it comes to our feelings, it doesn't matter what actually happened. What matters is what we think happened. In other words, if we think we've been wronged, we feel as if we've been wronged. Even if the person who hurt you had totally noble motives, even if your facts are completely inaccurate, even if events were out of human control, even if you instigated the trouble yourself, you can end up harboring deep feelings of being wronged. And these feelings, which are based on false thinking, are just as real, hurtful, and damaging to you and your relationships as feelings based on truth.

The purpose of this exercise is to uncover long-buried, illogical resentments. Use paper and pencil or a typewriter, which ever you prefer. Write as though you were talking directly to your mother or father. Remember, this isn't an assignment for English Comp. Let your writing flow, don't fret about neatness, reach inside for the deepest hurts, wounds, humiliations, insults, and nightmares of you childhood. If you find yourself blocked, don't worry. It's perfectly okay to start your Journal one day, put it down for a while, then pick up where you left off. An important note: The purpose of the journal is to uncover the deep layers of your hurt without holding anything back. You may end up writing thirty pages of intensely private and painful narrative. Under no circumstances should you show your journal to your parents. This exercise is for you. The following excerpt is from a journal written by Helen, a successful registered nurse. It powerfully illustrates the anger and suppressed love she feels toward her father. Dear Dad, Today is my birthday, January 12. You forgot it again, on purpose this time, I'm sure. On this cold day I have decided to begin a journey of forgiveness even though the depths of my anger toward you make even the smallest step in that direction seem impossible. Exactly fifteen years ago today, you stood in the front yard and handed me a present as the sun peeped out from behind the gray clouds to shine on us, and we both laughed and said it was a good omen. I loved you so much that day. I had on the new dress I'd made and I'd fixed my hair the way you liked it best and I really believed you'd stay this time instead of getting in your car and driving away like you always did. Then you said, "A man's got to earn a living," and you got in your car and drove away. Just like always. You didn't even look back at me. You didn't care. Mom got drunk that day and ruined my birthday. But you weren't there to see it. You were never there. It was always that damn job of yours. "A salesman has to be on the road," you'd say. I think you got that job purposely because you couldn't deal with mom's drinking anymore. What about me? What made you think I could deal with her if you couldn't? I wanted to believe you cared, really cared about me. When I looked at you, I saw a laughing man with wide, brown eyes and I thought I saw love in those eyes. I kept hoping you'd rescue me somehow, but you never did. I don't think you ever really cared what I was going through. I remember the time I asked you to come to the school awards banquet when I got my honor roll pin, and you said you didn't have the time. You didn't have the time to come to any of my plays, either. But two weeks later I saw you in the bleachers in the gym cheering like mad for the basketball team. I guess you cared about basketball more than you ever cared about me.

How do you think that made me feel? I wish somehow I could make you see that I needed a father more than the team needed a cheering section. You had time for everyone but me, and now you have the nerve to call me up and whine that I don't have any time to spend with my poor old sick dad. I hate that! The way you try to manipulate me to do what you want. You never bother to find out what I want and need from you. It's always what I'm supposed to do for you. I think the reason I refuse to see you is because I want you to know what it's like to feel abandoned and unloved. I want you to suffer the way you made me suffer. I want you to feel the same aching loneliness of being ignored by your own family. No wonder you're lonely now. All you ever cared about is yourself and now no one gives a damn about you. Except me. Damn it! I don't want you to be sick. I don't want you to die. After all these terrible years of hating you, suddenly I realize you might die and nothing will ever be the same again. Even after all you've done, I still love you and I want you to love me, too. Sometimes I think you'd die just to hurt me, just to prove you still have the power to make me cry. I don't trust you, dad. I may never trust you. But I wonder if my desire to punish you isn't depriving me of something very special by keeping us apart. I wonder if hurting you is worth the hurt it causes me. I wonder if I can ever forgive you . . . ***** Writing in her Journal was a gut-wrenching experience for Helen, yet with each page she felt a layer of the heavy burden of her resentment lift. After each writing session, she spent about ten minutes relaxing and breathing deeply. When she felt totally calm, she silently repeated the following words several times: The past is a burden of pain. The present is a gift of forgiveness. I choose forgiveness. In these first few exercises, Helen began moving toward forgiveness. After a while, with practice, she would discover the wisdom in Catherine Marshall's words: "I learned that true forgiveness includes total acceptance, and out of acceptance, wounds are healed and happiness is possible again."

Defusing the Past :: That Was Then, This Is Now
My family sent a thin filament far into my psyche, like the webbed roots of grass spreading under a sidewalk. Years after I thought they could affect me so deeply,

the roots of their beliefs pushed upward and cracked my life apart. --Blanche McCrary Boyd In the last chapter, we saw how Helen took the first halting steps on her journey to forgiveness. After recognizing her resentments and suppressed love for her father, Helen had to make a choice between perpetuating the distance and anger between her father and herself or to let go of her childhood pain and perhaps gain a reconciliation with her father. She wanted to accept her father's invitation for a meeting, yet she was afraid to do so. "I get too upset," she said. "I can't relax around him. I keep expecting the old bitterness to flare up and I'm a nervous wreck by the time the evening's over." Helen was so worried over what had already happened and what might happen, that she was unable to experience any joy in what was actually happening at the moment. She needed help in overcoming her memories of past pain and her expectations of future pain. After practicing the following two exercises for several weeks, Helen called her father and they set a dinner date. Much to Helen's surprise, the evening went smoothly. "Guess what?" she said. "I actually enjoyed myself."

Two Desensitizing Exercises
Acknowledging your buried resentments can stir up all sorts of old childhood memories. Painful memories. The feelings you experience as you sort out your suppressed hurts can be so troubling that your most immediate and spontaneous emotional response is to push them back down again. Down, away, gone, out of sight, buried . . . . . . but not forgotten. The next two exercises can help you get past the pain of your emotional memories by bringing them into the healing light of forgiveness. Desensitizing Exercise # 1: Relax and Imagine First, read through the instructions for this exercise several times before you try it. Decide which resentments to work with on this occasion. You may want to read through your Resentment List and Journal. Select a quiet room where you can have around thirty minutes of uninterrupted privacy. Sit in a comfortable chair and adjust yourself so that you are as relaxed as possible. Close your eyes. Now, consciously relax all your muscles, beginning with your feet. Feel the relaxation move slowly up through your legs, your hips and stomach, your chest, your shoulders and arms, your neck, your face and jaws, your forehead and eyes and scalp. Relax your entire body. Take your time and relax.

Breathe through your nose, and draw the breath into your belly, which will be rising and falling with each breath. Become aware of your breathing. Breathe normally and naturally, a slow and steady pace. ]Now, as you breathe out, silently and slowly say the word "CALM." Inhale slowly and with full awareness. Now, exhale, let your breath out slowly and again repeat the word "CALM". Keep the muscles of your body relaxed and continue breathing rhythmically and easily, repeating the word "CALM" with every exhalation. Continue for around five minutes. Stray thoughts may pop into your head as you relax. Don't worry about them. Let them drift through your mind and gently discard them. Just keep repeating the word "CALM," breathing easily and rhythmically, and keeping your muscles relaxed. Now, as you're feeling very relaxed, mentally picture yourself and your parent together in a familiar setting. It may be your childhood home, or a family outing, or in a car. However it seems to you is perfectly fine, but force yourself to create this mental picture of you and your parent together. Now, mentally tell your parent about your inner feelings and your resentment and pain. Deal with whatever resentment comes to mind. Say all the things you always wanted to say to your parent, but couldn't. Regardless of how your real parent would react, picture your imagined parent as listening to you attentively, nodding, and saying, "I understand." Release your anger and pain and humiliation. Feel free to rid yourself of all negative and violent feelings, remembering this is only a visualization exercise and not real life. If you start to feel frightened or tense, take a deep breath and exhale, again repeating the word "CALM" until your body again feels relaxed. After around ten minutes of visualizing your parent listening as you release your anger, take a deep breath and pull your mind back to the present. Inhale and exhale slowly. Now, do a body check. Does any part feel tense or tied in knots. Your jaw? Your neck? Your shoulders? Your stomach? Become aware of your body feelings, consciously relaxing any muscle that feels tense. Let a warm feeling of relaxation flow through your body. Take as long as you need to feel calm. Now, again form a mental picture of you and your parent together in a warm and lovely meadow. Everything is fresh and clean and warm. You feel very safe, very confident. You and your parent stand facing each other, both of you relaxed and emotionally calm. As you smile at each other, the clouds overhead part and a golden ray of sunlight sweeps over the two of you, warming and healing and cleansing. Neither of you speak, instead you bask in the warmth and freshness of the moment.

Bask in the healing sunlight for several minutes, enjoying each moment as you experience it. You feel very safe, very confident as you and your parent silently share this moment. After five or ten minutes you will want to gradually open your eyes. Sit quietly for a while before you resume normal activities. Remember, this is an exercise of mental imagery and not real life. Be careful not to act out your negative or violent feelings with your real life loved ones. Our purpose is to heal old hurts, not create new ones. Desensitizing Exercise # 2: Advantages & Disadvantages This exercise asks you to use a rational and cognitive approach in dealing with your anger. Step 1: Use a double column to list the advantages and disadvantages of clinging to your anger and acting in a retaliatory manner toward your parents. Consider both the short- and long-term consequences of feeling angry. This is what Perry's list for his father looked like: Advantages of my Resentments Disadvantages of my Resentments

1. It feels good to have someone to 1. Blaming someone else keeps me blame for my problems. from helping myself. 2. My angry thoughts and feelings 2. I have the right to be angry after often make me feel guilty and what he did to me. depressed. 3. He'll probably just be cold back 3. If I'm cold to him, he'll feel guilty because he doesn't like to be and try to make it up to me. rejected. 4. My disapproval hasn't ever 4. He'll know I disapprove of him made him change before. What and maybe he'll change. makes me think it will now? 5. They also prevent me from 5. My resentments protect me from having any kind of decent being hurt again. They keep me relationship with him. I'm sad that from giving him another chance to there's so much distance between disappoint me. us. 6. My anger makes him feel bad 6. When I spend my time trying to and I want him to suffer for what he hurt him, I can't concentrate on the positive things in my life. did to me. Step 2: Now review your list and ask yourself these questions: a. Which is greater, the costs of your resentments or the benefits? b. Is it really in your own best selfinterest to cling to your resentments? c. Does clinging to your resentments positively enhance your life in any way? d. Are your resentments useful? Do they help you achieve a desired goal or do they simply defeat you? Since most of us want what is ultimately best for us, honestly answering these questions can put

you in the proper frame of mind for the final stage of forgiveness -- letting go. Here's how it works:

Three Releasing Exercises
Forgiveness is releasing yourself from the past and facing the future with a renewed sense of freedom. Put more bluntly, forgiveness is freedom. The words "I forgive you" have the power to lift the heavy burden of pain from your shoulders, the power to end years of bitterness and recriminations. But if it is so simple, why do we resist it? Why is it easier for us to hate than it is to forgive. Why? Because we humans are strange creatures. We'd rather be resentful and right, than forgiving and free. Anger is a moral emotion. You don't want to let go of your resentments because you are consumed with a desire for justice. What if the person you forgive goes out and does something wrong all over again? What if you forgive something truly horrible? Aren't guilt and blame one of the few ways you have of restraining the wrong-doer? Don't wrong-doers deserve to be punished? To ask these question is proof that the meaning of forgiveness is not understood. Forgiveness is not granted as a response to a promise that bad will never happen to you again. Forgiveness simply means you accept the other person as he is, and you love him the way he is. Forgiveness means that you do not judge him. Forgiveness means you are again able to see the other person as worthy. It means you accept the person even when you do not accept the behavior. Forgiveness means you no longer hold yourself in bondage to the pain you knew as a child. Forgiveness is a gift to yourself. It is a gift of healing.

Releasing Exercise # 1: What if . . .
This is an exercise of visual imagery. Its purpose is to reduce your resistance to the idea of forgiving the people who have hurt you. Read the instructions all the way through several times before you try it. Decide in advance which parent you want to work with on this occasion. For our example, we'll use your mother. You'll need around fifteen minutes of uninterrupted privacy. Select a comfortable chair and relax you body and mind as you learned to do in the Relax and Imagine exercise. When you are completely relaxed, close your eyes and silently ask yourself questions like these:

What if I forgive my mother for humiliating me by being drunk at the reception after the senior play? What if I forgive my mother for not meeting my needs and understanding me better when I was growing up? What if I forgive my mother for making mistakes? What if I no longer blame her for being an alcoholic? What if I forgive her? Now, create a mental picture of you and your mother. Imagine a conversation where you look at her and say: I forgive you. You are my mother and I forgive you. Now, imagine your mother accepting your forgiveness. Experience each emotion as it surfaces. Allow yourself to feel each sensation forgiveness brings. Now, picture you and your mother in the golden sunlight of a green meadow. Bask in the healing light for a few minutes before you gradually open your eyes. Sit quietly for a few moments and relax.

Releasing Exercise # 2: Re-Creating History
Sometimes it is easier to forgive our parents for the way they behaved toward us if we develop an understanding of their historical background. After all, our parents didn't spring fully formed into adulthood any more than we did. Your parents possess their own history of painful childhood memories. Angela's Resentment List and Journal showed that she felt "controlled," "manipulated," and "pressured" by her mother: "I always felt like she was trying to live her life through me," Angela claimed. "Why didn't she live her own life, for God's sake, instead of always pushing me to do the things she never did? She acted like I'd break her heart if I didn't finish college and land some sort of fantastic job so she could be proud of my accomplishments. She was content to be a housewife, but she pushed and pushed and pushed at me to find a career until I wanted to scream." As part of releasing her resentments, I asked Angela to research her mother's family background to see if she could better understand her mother's motivation. During a long conversation with her Uncle Sid, a mathematics professor, Angela discovered that in her mother's family, females were considered second-class citizens whose sole function was to meet the needs of the menfolk. Angela learned that her grandfather had taken her mother out of school when she was sixteen and put her to work in the family business. "It was a shame, really," Uncle Sid told her. "Your mother was a brilliant student, much better than I ever was, but in those days it was considered a waste of money to send a girl to college. She had such drive, too. After she married your father, she put all that energy into her family, but I know she was terribly frustrated. She was born forty years ahead of her time. Today a woman with her intelligence would be running a major corporation instead of one small household. I think what she wants, Angie, is for you to be not limited in the way she was. She wants

you to have the chance to be your own person, not just an extension of the men in your life." Understanding the old family value system helped Angela recognize that her mother's personal ambitions had been thwarted by societal forces beyond her control, and not by laziness and lack of interest as Angela had frequently accused. This insight made Angela see her mother's 'pushiness' in a new light. Where Angela had always taken her freedoms and opportunities as normal and natural, she could now appreciate that it was only through her mother's courage and determination that Angela had been treated as an equal to the male members of the family. "I had to ask myself," Angela told me, "whether my mother's expectations for my success were more burdensome than my father and grandfather's total lack of expectations for me." To still better understand her mother's psychology, Angela went to the public library and pored over stacks of old magazines from the l950's. This helped Angela understand why her mother had covered up for her father's drinking for so many years. Angela learned that in the 1950s, treatment for alcoholism was almost non-existent. In those days, a woman's job was to take care of her husband, comfort him, be submissive to his will. After leafing through half a dozen old issues of magazines like The Ladies Home Journal, Angela began to comprehend that her mother had enjoyed none of the freedoms women today take for granted. No equal pay for equal work. No equal opportunity employment. No credit apart from her husband's. No reliable birth control. Few rights as a thinking, feeling, competent member of society apart from the rights conferred on her for being Mrs. Somebody. And how many options did a woman in those days have if Mr. Somebody turned out to be an alcoholic? Slowly, Angela's resentment began to fade. Her mother, she realized, had suffered, too.

Releasing Exercise # 3: The Most Difficult Person To Forgive
Relax your body and close your eyes. Picture yourself standing in the center of your childhood home. Now, say: "I forgive you," to everyone and everything that hurt you as a child. Picture yourself as a young adult attempting to assert your independence from your family and say: "I forgive you," to all those who tried to hold you back and put barriers in your path. Now, picture yourself as you are now and say: "I forgive you," to every single person who is dragging you down or pushing you away. Now, let your mind wander over an instant replay of your life. See yourself as a child hungering for attention, craving a sense of importance and power. See

yourself cringe in self-contempt at the memory of your teenage selfishness and moral failures. Picture yourself as an adult, impatient, critical, and self-righteous. With your body relaxed and your eyes closed, talk to yourself now. Forgive yourself for being powerless and foolish and frightened. Grant yourself forgiveness for not being able to change your parents' alcoholism and co-dependence. Forgive yourself for your anger, for your pain, for the deep blackness hidden inside your heart. Accept yourself for the person you are, a new person born this day in forgiveness and freedom and light. You are forgiven. Accept your freedom now.

Getting Beyond Denial
We so often respond inappropriately to a situation or to a person because the defense mechanisms of denial, repression, substitution , or projection are operating to skew our own reactions and to cause us to misjudge others. Unhappily, we do not expand into adulthood; we narrow into it. We do not increase and refine our range of responses; we limit them. Our defenses form a carapace around us, as the shell encases the crab, and we end by becoming constricted as the crab. --Joy Coudert, Confessions of a Failure Denial is a prime trait of alcoholic families. Without denial, alcoholism and all the problems it creates could not exist except as a rare curiosities listed in thick books on abnormal psychology. Yet, as we know, alcoholism flourishes. As does denial, in many forms and for many reasons. Denial is a protective mechanism that allows us to avoid looking at realities that seem too painful for us to handle. German philospher Friedrich Nietzsche captured the essence of denial when he wrote: "'I have done that,' says my memory. 'I have not done that,' says my pride, and remains inexorable. Eventually memory yields." Denial allows us to defend against a whole barrage of unpleasant thoughts, feelings and perceptions. Thoughts such as . . . My father-- my strong and wonderful father-- is a mean drunk and I wish he was dead. Feelings like . . . My mother -- my perfect and loving mother-- is selfish and crazy and I hate her. Perceptions that . . . Other people have great families and my family life is unspeakably horrid.

And perhaps worst of all is the idea that . . . All of these bad things happen because I am a flawed and terrible person. Denial allows us to cope with fear and disappointment and loneliness. It allows us to survive in situations in which we are powerless and impotent. It allows us to keep on loving people who behave hatefully, to stay in destructive relationships, to work harder and longer, to smoke too much, to drink too much, to eat too much, to blot out anxiety and stress with marijuana and tranquilizers, to medicate fatigue and depression with cocaine and amphetamines, and to obliterate loneliness with brief, meaningless sexual encounters. If you grew up in an alcoholic family, you can safely assume that the habit of denial is a basic aspect of your personality. Wait! Before you indignantly shunt this idea aside, stop and think about what you've already learned. Isn't the paradox of anger and a smiley face a form of denial? Didn't you grow up in a family where negating your real feelings of frustration, fear, isolation, aloneness, stress or anger was a daily imperative? Weren't you raised in the alcoholic family's co-conspiracy of silence, shame and despair? Listen carefully to yourself. Are you speaking the language of denial without even knowing it? Do any of these phrases ring a bell in your head? -- If I can just get through the next month (six months, year, five years) I'll be okay. -- I'll never end up like my mother (or father). -- I don't have negative feelings. -- I can't start taking care of myself until I start feeling better. -- All I need to do is lose ten pounds. -- I know it didn't work before, but this time is different. -- All I need is a little time to myself. -- I thrive on this kind of pressure. -- Don't worry. I'm fine! -- There's nothing really wrong with me except I can't seem to shake this virus. -- I didn't do anything wrong. Perhaps the most common form of denial is the command: Don't think about it! (. . . And the problem will go away.) If your language and thoughts are peppered with these kinds of statements, you have surrounded yourself with a wall of denial. Habitual denial can create convenient areas of emotional, rational and intellectual color blindness. Habitual denial can thwart your every attempt to lead a fulfilled and creative life. If you consistently deny feelings of anger, fear, frustration, stress, worry, or inadequacy, you can be sure that the physical and emotional strain is taking its toll on your vitality and creativity.

Of course, it's perfectly normal for a person to want to deny the existence of a situation that causes discomfort, pain or unpleasantness. Denial has its uses, no question about it. As nineteenth century humorist Josh Billings observed, "It is not only the most difficult thing to know oneself, but the most inconvenient one, too." Who among us really enjoys grappling with the worst parts of our lives? It's perfectly normal for us to valiantly protect our ragged and tender egos from the ugly truths that leave us feeling vulnerable, weak, and out of control. We don't want to hurt! Many of us grew up in homes where it was not all right to make mistakes. If you were clumsy or foolish or silly, if you were caught in a lie or a mistake or a prank, if you embarrassed your parents or failed a test or asked the wrong questions, the reaction was . . . "What's wrong with you? Are you stupid?" "Can't you do anything right?" "Get out of my sight!" "Shut that smart mouth!" "I'm going to really give you something to cry about (whack)!" These kinds of messages set up an Either/ Or thinking pattern. Either your behavior is perfect/ Or it is rotten. Either you are good/ Or you are bad. Either you are the best/ Or you are nothing. There is no middle ground, no room for mistakes or failure. Denial flourishes in this Either/ Or atmosphere. For how can you admit your weaknesses, your fears, your blunders, when doing so means bringing an avalanche of criticism, anger and rejection down around your head. Alcoholic families demand that each individual member play a game of Let's Pretend: "Let's pretend nothing is wrong in our family. For we are strong. Our wills are made of iron, our spines of steel. We are fine, thank you very much, and how are you?" To avoid the whimsical, unpredictable wrath of parents, the child in an alcoholic home becomes a co-conspirator in a fully orchestrated fantasy of lies, diversions, cover-ups, and repressions. To a child who has no other experience, this seems normal. For as a child, you had no other wish than to be happy, to make your parents love you and take care of you, to make them act right and stop fighting so much. So you learned the art and science of denial well. You did it to please your parents. Deidre Adams learned denial before she learned to write her name. She learned to please and appease. Deidre grew up in a respectable middle-class family in which her mother frequently got her way by intimidating her husband and children with her fierce temper and insults. Mrs. Adams led a bizarre double life: Publicly she was the epitome of success, but privately she was a frightened, and unpredictably violent alcoholic.

Deidre recalled, "Living with my mother was like being trapped in some crazy episode of the Twilight Zone. She never drank during the day, only at night. Here she was, this brilliant real estate broker, chairman of the Mayor's task force, president of the hospital auxiliary, president of the PTA, the volunteer of the year, the whole works. Other people used to tell me how lucky I was to have such a neat mother. I didn't know who was crazy, them or me!" At night, behind the closed doors and drawn curtains of the family home, Mrs. Adams dropped her public persona, her mask of good will and concern for others. With each martini she became a little nastier. At any moment she might explode. "More than anything," Deidre said, "I dreaded the vicious insults and accusations my mother hurled at me when she got drunk and lost her temper. 'You don't care about anyone but yourself,' she'd say. She accused me of lying, of cheating and stealing. And later . . . well, there were boys. . . and the usual accusations." Deidre did everything she could to avoid incurring the older woman's fury. She hid out when her mother was drinking. She became a stoic Little Stone Face around her mother because she never knew how her mother would react to a smile or a frown. Deidre found that the best way to keep her mother in line was by being a Perfect Daughter. Deidre learned that Perfect Daughters are nice, they don't make mistakes, ask uncomfortable questions, or have unpleasant emotions. Deidre played the role eagerly. As Deidre grew to adulthood she presented an image of strength, success and accomplishment to the world. Yet by the time she was thirty years old, she found herself chronically dissatisfied, physically depleted, and emotionally isolated. She had a vague sense that "something was off" in her life, but she didn't know what it was. Like most successful women, she considered herself to be an ardent believer in the benefits of self-improvement, yet the protective wall of denial she had built around the unpleasant realities of her life meant that her ability to grow and change and improve was seriously impaired. As Deidre described it, "I kept thinking one more class, one more group, one more book would give me the key I needed to start feeling good about myself and liking my life. I kept looking outside myself for an answer to my problems. I became an expert in stress management, dieting, aerobic conditioning, communication skills, consciousness expansion, and spiritual openness. Every time I thought I was on the threshold of total awareness, I'd either get physically sick or have some disaster that needed all my time and attention to resolve. There was always something in my way." The something was denial. Many adult children, like Deidre, come to believe that admitting mistakes or weakness or fear will bring automatic annihilation -- rejection, blame, anger, ridicule, criticism, or abandonment. You feel you must protect yourself at any cost! And though you want to have a happier life, the painful emotional memories of what happened when you were less than perfect as a child now prevent you

from engaging in the searingly honest self- examination which is a prerequisite to all significant personal change. You want to become emotionally free, but you find instead that you are trapped in the old roles and conflicts from childhood. Despite your intentions to "do it right this time," nothing changes. Denial is our way of heading off the anxiety, fear and dread that are the legacy of our buried and painful childhood memories. We don't want to re-experience those terrible feelings Yet we are faced with a simple truth. It is impossible to confront and resolve the continued pain in our turbulent lives without making old wounds bleed a little, without re-experiencing some of the anguish we seek to escape. For adult children, one of the standard cliches of the l980s rings hauntingly true: No pain, no gain. The question facing us now is this: Do we go for the gain, or hide from the pain? Do we dive behind our wall of denial, do we play it safe, do we continue in our constricted and fearful existence or do we summon the courage to fearlessly examine our lives and ourselves? Do we hide behind lies or do we leap beyond denial to face the realities of our lives with honesty? Denial has a purpose: It maintains the status quo by redefining reality. It also has a cost: It allows destructive individual behavior to continue unabated. It permits dysfunctional family systems to thrive from one generation to the next. When you find yourself redefining reality in order to avoid facing unpleasant truths, your sense of self is subtly eroded. You soon begin to experience a distortion of your higher values and an estrangement from your authentic self. Who are you really? The perfect strong person you pretend to be, or the frightened and confused person who lies crouched behind a wall of denial? Do you really know anymore? In time, as denial increases, you may sense a feeling of being alienated from your family, your work, your friends, and your mate. You are alone. Somewhere there is a missed connection and you don't know how to hook yourself back up to life. You feel you are not living a real life, you are playing a role, and you wonder how long the show can go on. When we are caught in the grips of denial -- and God knows it happens to all of us -- we are telling ourselves and the world, "There's nothing wrong with me. I'm all right., I don't want to change because I don't need to change. I'm stronger than other people, more resilient, more resistant, more capable. Now, get off my back and leave me alone." In essence, we are denying the negative and weak and dark side of our human nature. And let there be no mistake, each of us does indeed possess such qualities. Who among us is a faultless creature of innocence and perfection and strength. Denial keeps us imprisoned. Awareness and acceptance break the shackles of the past. If we refuse to acknowledge and confront our habit of denial we are dooming ourselves to a restricted and barricaded existence.

Refusal to accept our negative, dark side allows that side to run us. By accepting as real all of our human qualities -- both the light and the dark sides of our nature -- we are better able to admit our human frailties. We free ourselves to conquer our weaknesses and forgive ourselves for our failings. We free ourselves to be fully alive.

Constricted by Denial
Denial blocks, obstructs or diverts the flow of communication. In denial we adopt a closed stance, as if we mentally cross our arms as barriers to protect and defend against--against what? Unpleasant facts, unpleasant feelings. And denial takes its toll. We become emotionally crippled. The flow of ideas, thoughts and feelings are sifted through a distorting emotional filter which enables us to maintain our self-destructive behaviors. We hear only what we want to hear, see what we want to see, say only what we want others to believe. As Joy Coudert put it, ". . . we end by becoming constricted as a crab." Inevitably, we turn into liars and frauds, not only with other people, but with ourselves. We fear showing our true selves. We find ourselves defending indefensible actions, excusing ourselves and blaming others. Unfortunately, we seldom recognize these traits in ourselves. If we did, we would no longer be in denial. Now listen: Everybody, not just adult children, practices a little denial now and then. It's pure human nature. The size 16 lady squished into the size 12 pants doesn't know what she looks like because her denial prevents her from standing before a full-length mirror. And the guy with the long strings of hair pasted from his left ear to his right thinks he can hide his bald head when it's right there in plain view. Relatively harmless denial. We all fall victim. But adult children are trained experts in far more dangerous and destructive forms of denial . . . -- Adult children smoke at a high rate, even after they have developed lung and other diseases. -- An estimated 50% - 70% of adult children will develop chemical dependency problems of their own (compared to 10% -15% of the general population.) -- Adult children also have especially high rates of severe depression, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, sexual dissatisfaction, stress illnesses and job burnout. Any one of these problems can cause enormous unhappiness in a person's life. Many adult children suffer from two or three or four of these disorders in combination. One problem feeds off another, increasing misery exponentially until running away or disappearing or ending it all seem like the only ways out. Have you been to that dark place? Have you ever felt so lost and frightened and alone that you didn't think you could go on? Have you lain on your bed and felt the world close in on you . . . have you looked at your life and said it'll never, never, never be better.

If you have struggled with these agonizing feelings, please believe me when I say your life can be better and will be better if you can summon the courage to move beyond the constraints and constrictions of denial.

Opening Up
Think back to the atmosphere in your alcoholic family. What were discussions like? Were your parents open and receptive to questions and new ideas? Were they flexible and understanding? Or were they rigid, self-righteous, and condemning? When denial is a major family dynamic, communication styles feature -Displays of impatience with what the other person is saying. Secretiveness about feelings and activities. Diversion away from and distortion of the real issues. Interrupting at every opportunity. Clinging tenaciously to your own point of view regardless of its merits. Trying to make the other person feel stupid or guilty or out of touch. Being outwardly agreeable while feeling totally unreceptive on the inside. Being critical of others while rejecting criticism of yourself. Being self-righteous and blaming about other people's mistakes while ignoring your own wrong-doing. This style of communication is stultifying, frustrating and distancing. As Barry, a client of mine, said, "Talking to my parents was like talking to a brick wall. They were right and I was wrong. Period. End of conversation." Barry knew that something was wrong, but he failed to realize that the biggest influence on our own behavior is the behavior of the parents who raised us. Their communication style becomes our own, as do their habits, beliefs, and values. Even the behaviors we detest in our parents, we unconsciously take on as our own. Barry, an emergency room physician, originally came to me because of an increasing sense of loneliness, isolation and sense of inadequacy in both his personal and professional lives. Although he was recognized as a highly skilled medical specialist, he was an unpopular member of the hospital staff. The emptiness in his love life he blamed on the grueling demands of his work. After several months of counseling, Barry and I were making very little progress. He remained defensive and hostile to suggestions for change. My attempts at gentle confrontation were met with intellectual acrobatics and a torrent of twelve syllable words I could understand but not pronounce. At the end of our therapy sessions I frequently felt stupid and inadequate. I began to feel I was beating my head against a brick wall. Beating my head against a wall. That phrase rang a bell.

At our next session, I suggested we do some role- switching. He would play me and I would play him. When I looked away from him impatiently and when I imitated his rigid posture and stiff hand and mouth movements, he stopped me in shock. "You look just like my father!" he said, stunned. "I vowed I'd never be as closedminded and rejecting as he is. I don't act like that!" "Yes," I said, "you do. You behave just like your father. Look at how you're turning away from me right now. You practically have your back to me. You turn away whenever I tell you something you don't want to hear. You shut it out completely. You reject feedback automatically. I think you come to therapy just to be told what a good guy you are. You want someone to reinforce your conviction that you have no responsibility for your problems. It's someone else's fault. The chief of staff. The head nurse. The hospital administrator." He wanted to break in and defend himself, but I held up my hand and said, "Wait . . . Let me finish. This doesn't mean you're a bad person or that I have a bad opinion of you. I don't think badly of you. You don't have to be a perfect person to win my esteem . . . you don't have to have all the answers . . . you don't have to be afraid of making mistakes . . . your worth as a person does not depend on always being right.". "You don't understand," he insisted, "a doctor can't afford to make mistakes." "But you do make mistakes. You can't help it, you're only human. How can you learn anything at all about other people if you're constantly on the defensive -thinking only about your own performance?" As we talked, Barry grudgingly admitted that he might have picked up standoffishness and defensiveness from his parents. They had reared him in the conspiracy of silence and shame and denial, just as their parents reared them. "They are as innocent of intentional wrong doing as you are," I told him. "They did the best the knew how." "But I can do better," he said bitterly. "Yes," I agreed. "Yet despite the best of intentions, you keep sabotaging yourself with rigidity and denial. If you want to become a better person, you've got to start by breaking down that thick wall of denial you're protecting yourself with." Barry hit me with a barrage of poly-syllabic verbiage that went on for quite a few minutes. Then he sighed and said, "Shit." It was a therapeutic breakthough. As part of his therapy, I asked Barry to take a searching moral inventory in which he kept a written diary of his closed behaviors, paying special attention to secretive, closed minded, or self-righteous actions. Emotionally Closed People Are: SECRETIVE CLOSED-MINDED SELF-RIGHTEOUS

While it took several weeks, Barry finally came to the conclusion that much of his current unhappiness was of his own making. "I've been a complete ass," he said disgustedly. I disagreed. "I think you've been a frightened adult child stuck in denial." Barry realized that his closed behaviors represented a formidable barrier to change, and if he was to reach his full vitality and potential he would have to open up emotionally. He decided that to become the person he wanted to be, he would have to work on three new behaviors. He made this list and brought it to me.

Becoming Emotionally Open
1. Instead of being secretive, I will work daily on being open and honest in my actions and emotions, focusing on the idea that I have nothing to hide. 2. Instead of being defensive, I will work daily on being receptive to the ideas and opinions of other people, focusing on the idea that I don't always have to win. 3. Instead of being self-righteous, I will work daily on being constructively selfcritical, focusing on taking responsibility for myself rather than blaming others. Every morning, before he started his workday, Barry reinforced his determination by re-reading his list. In the evening, he spent about 15 minutes writing a selfreport on his day. This helped him to recognize the situations that cued him to close up tight again. Opening up was not an easy task for Barry. It's not easy for any of us, especially when years of practice make defensiveness almost a reflex action. The following exercise can help you keep an open attitude. Affirming Openness Affirmations are a powerful tool for changing negative beliefs and values. By speaking directly to ourselves in a positive and loving manner we can build attitudes which act as a counterbalance to the conditioned reflex of our defensiveness. Affirmations are done for a few minutes every day, at a regular time or whenever we feel tense or anxious. They can be written, spoken aloud or silently repeated. The following affirmations are designed particularly to combat a closed emotional stance. Barry used them several times a day for two months. I Barry am open and receptive. You Barry are open and receptive. Barry is open and receptive. I Barry have value even when I'm wrong. You Barry have value even when you're wrong. Barry has value even when he's wrong. I Barry am only human. You Barry are only human. Barry is only human.

Notice that each affirmation takes three forms: An "I" statement; a "you" statement; and a "name" statement. Hearing these statements from three different points of view will help you make these open attitudes a reality. You can use other affirmations as a positive inner voice of strength an courage. For example: I (Your Name) am confident and strong and happy. I can face today's challenge. I feel loved and loving today. I feel happy and glad to be alive.

The Courage to Change
Eric Hoffer once said, "To become different from what we are, we must have some awareness of what we are . . . Yet it is remarkable that the very people who are most dissatisfied and crave most for a new identity have the least self-awareness." In the coming chapters, we will be looking at some of the darkest, most negative aspects of the adult child's paradoxical personality. We will explore fear and arrogance, narcissism, self-hate, alienation and pride. Instead of looking at how good and wonderful and accomplished we are, we will delve into our feelings of badness and terror and failure. For it is my belief that we do not become different from what we are by ignoring the negative and dark side of our spirits. To exorcise our demons, we must face them. All I ask is that in the process you keep your emotional channels open. And when your mind yells "NO!", when the emotions churning in your belly make you want to toss the book aside, stop for a moment before acting, and remember . . . You are not a crystal figurine. Self-examination will not break you. You are a solid, flesh and blood human being who has already survived a long series of interwoven events, both good and bad. Value them, for it is mainly through these events that you developed the steel in your spine and the strong urge to seek out better ways. You have learned how to meet adversity and overcome defeat. You have learned to survive. You can continue merely surviving, constricted by denial, and end up like the "fugitives" described by former HEW Secretary John W. Gardner in Self-Renewal: Human beings have always employed an enormous variety of clever devices for running away from themselves, and the modern world is particularly rich in such strategems. We can keep ourselves so busy, fill our lives with so many diversions, stuff our heads with so much knowledge, involve ourselves with so many people and cover so much ground that we never have time to probe the fearful and wonderful world within. More often than not we don't want to know ourselves,

don't want to live with ourselves. By middle life most of us are accomplished fugitives from ourselves." Or you can break through your denial and start living. And you will learn the wisdom Eleanor Roosevelt discovered in her own life: "You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face."

Paradox #2: Fear and the Mask of Invulnerability
We get so much in the habit of wearing a disguise before others that we finally appear disguised before ourselves. --La Rochefoucauld In our age of technological wonders, there's a place where even the most advanced, most finely tuned and calibrated machines, can't penetrate. In each of us, inside our deepest emotional selves, lives a small child who never grows up. The small child won't show up on a conventional X-ray or a CAT scan. The small inner child remains invisible to the almost-magical probing of nuclear-magnetic resonance. Invisible, but ever- present, a part of every cell, every fiber of being. No matter how big, strong, capable and successful we become, a part of us still feels small and helpless. We are afraid of disapproval, scared of making mistakes, terrified of being found out. We worry about rejection and abandonment. We fear isolation, being left alone to fend for ourselves in a world hostile to us, or worse: utterly indifferent. We know what the poet meant when he wrote, "We are strangers and afraid, in a world we never made." At times everyone -- not just children of alcoholics -- feels like a lost child, stumbling alone in the crowd, sucking his thumb and hoping not to be found out as a fool. Sadly, this perpetual frightened child feeling is frequently over-developed in people who grow up with alcoholic and co- dependent parents. And is it any wonder? As a child in an alcoholic home, you were bombarded constantly with threats to your physical and emotional safety. You were forced to take on the physical, psychological, and social responsibilities of adulthood before you were emotionally prepared to cope with them. And you probably did a fairly decent job of it, too. But it is scary to a child to take on adult worries, cares and responsibilities. After all, from a child's vantage point, the adult world looks big, powerful and

menacing. In comparison, the child is small and powerless. A nebbish. Without a loving and reliable parent to guide the way, the world seems frightening, almost overwhelming. To be sure, alcoholic and co-dependent parents do love their children. Of this there can be no doubt. Neither can we doubt the simple truth that alcoholism turns even the most loving parent into a person who is unreliable, unpredictable, and emotionally distant. Because alcoholic and co-dependent parents are so wrapped up in their own problems, kids are frequently left to fend for themselves. Even when your parents were in the same room with you, they may have been unavailable to you emotionally. It's not that you were left alone all the time. No, it was much worse than that. You were isolated with a person you couldn't predict, count on, or control. You were stuck. You felt trapped in a kind of living hell, damned if you tried to escape and damned if you stayed. Now, think back. Did you talk about your anxiety and fears? Did you openly discuss your sense of insecurity and isolation? Certainly not! That would be breaking the rules. Admitting such feelings would be a direct violation of the alcoholic family's conspiracy of silence. Just as your anger had to be denied, so did your fears. You had to be strong, invulnerable, controlled, proud. Those were the rules, the covert laws of the co-dependent domain. Those dimly articulated regulations foster the adult child's second paradox: A fragile inner life of fear and anxiety covered by a false front of competence and bravado. Tanya accurately described this paradox: "I have this feeling of being in over my head all the time. I feel overwhelmed. It's hard to talk about, but it's like I have to please everyone, make everybody think I'm this strong, wonderful person. I feel stuck, always struggling, but never getting to where I want to be." At the same time, Tanya was objective enough to realize that in many ways she was the very image of success. At work, she was even considered a role model for some of the younger women -- an example of the enterprising woman executive. "What a joke!" Tanya said ruefully. "I worry all the time that one of these days my mistakes will catch up with me and everyone will find out what I'm really like. Just thinking about it puts me in a depression." Tanya isn't alone. Her feelings of being overwhelmed, of being stuck, of constantly trying to please are common among adult children. And so is her well-practiced ability to present an image of having it all together. She's really very good at fooling people. This pretense of emotional invulnerability does not come cheaply. The denial and deceptions needed to hide our real selves from others exact a high cost in terms of lost self- esteem, secret guilt and endless nightmares of inadequacy.

Sadly, when a person has to expend so much energy pretending to be a strong, capable, and invulnerable adult when they don't really feel that way, they risk the possibility of forever feeling like a frightened child inside.

Emotionally Stuck in Childhood
All children need and want help in structuring and controlling their lives. In alcoholic families, this necessary guidance is either totally missing or confusingly inconsistent. To add insult to injury, the little structure that is provided in alcoholic homes is based on parental needs rather than the needs of the child. Your mother or father needed you to grow up fast socially and emotionally in order to satisfy their own ego needs. If your family was poor, you may have had to assume early financial responsibilities. Even if money wasn't a problem, your confused and emotionally inadequate parents may have relied on you to provide emotional support beyond your capabilities, to be a confidante to adult worries, to care for other children, to act as a mini- mother or mini-father. And in some instances, even to act as a minispouse. Your character was prematurely structured into adult-like behaviors, but on the inside you still had the feelings and fears that were appropriate for what you really were: A child. You were pushed to grow up too fast, you were structured so early to behave in a way that was beyond your emotional limits, that there was little room for further growth and personality development. As a consequence, you became emotionally stuck in a place where you were part child and part adult. You were a child adult. Neither fish, nor fowl; neither child, nor adult. Now, when you are physically grown-up, you may be suffering the stunting emotional effects of premature structuring. Your mature behavior belies the truth -- in many ways, you still feel like a kid. If you were forced to grow-up fast to satisfy parental ego needs without concern for your own needs, you will inevitably reach a point of rebellion. You will struggle against the constraints of your existence. You will want to grow, to expand, to find the answers to life's questions. In agonizing moments of introspection, you ask: Is this all there is? Is this enough? And ultimately you cry out in desperation: Who am I-- really?! But what can you do? Where does a man or woman trained from childhood in the alcoholic family's conspiracy of silence, shame and denial go for answers to these deeply personal existential questions? How can you address the deeper issues of your life when to do so raises an irrationally ingrained fear of physical or emotional annihilation?

You can hold tight to your emotions for a long time -- some people can hold on forever -- but for many adult children of alcoholics, crisis-time hits somewhere in the mid-thirties. It's a natural time to take stock, not just for adult children, but everyone. We start asking questions: "Where am I going?" "What am I doing?" "Why am I doing it?" And we worry: "Is it ever going to get any better?" "Has life passed me by?" We want answers to our questions, we want to understand the meaning of our lives. If the answers don't come, we may drop into an emotional tailspin, opening ourselves to anything that provides even temporary relief from our anxiety and questions -- alcohol, drugs, food, smoking, work, new lovers, encounter groups, meditation, religious cults. A voice inside is shouting: Take stock! When is it going to get better? You've been living somebody else's life. When are you going to start living your own life? Half your life is gone! Is this all there is? As one adult child said, "It was like I woke up one day and found out the race was almost over and I hadn't even left the starting gate." Confronted with the undeniable reality that you no longer have all the time in the world to find yourself, you are quite simply terrified. The question is: Do you face your fear head on, or do you run from it? Do you even possess the necessary emotional equipment required to confront the frightened child inside you? Your parents certainly didn't act as exemplars, as good models, did they? Unable to cope with family stresses themselves, alcoholic and co-dependent parents try to ease part of the burden of their own problems and fears by enlisting their children's help in covering-up and coping with the family turbulence. Your parents did not mean to harm you when they abdicated their parental duties in this way. They did the best they knew how to under difficult circumstances and, yes, they made mistakes. Continually. Forcing young children to become miniature adults is one of the major childrearing blunders made by alcoholic and co- dependent parents. As a child in an alcoholic home, you were placed under tremendous pressure to solve problems over which you had no control, to please, to make things better without asking questions or making waves or asking for outside help. You became an active member in the conspiracy of silence, learning that it was important for you to cope without admitting the confusion or pain or fear you felt every time your parents behaved like crazy people with their deceits and moods and unpredictability. Even though you were only eight or ten years old, you were expected to adjust to problems your parents couldn't handle. You were expected to cope without cracking, to stuff your feelings, to not only survive yourself, but to protect your siblings and help your parents in their struggles. You weren't up to the task. No child is.

Survival Technques
So, there you were -- a child burdened with adult worries, but without the grace of adult knowledge. What could you possibly do? Who could you turn to? What were your options? If you were a normal child living under these chaotic circumstances, you soon learned how to use your own behavior to bring a semblance of order and control to your environment. You learned there were some specific things you could do that made life just a little bit easier to bear . . . if only for the moment. You learned to lie because sometimes it was the only way to keep the peace. You learned to manipulate because sometimes it was the only way to obtain the emotional and physical necessities of life. You learned to tell people what they wanted to hear because sometimes it was the only way to shut them up. You learned to make promises you couldn't keep because sometimes that was the only way to win approval. And you learned to hide your emotions because sometimes that was the only way to avoid unbearable pain. When carried into adulthood, these childhood survival skills become the tools of self-destruction. If we lie, manipulate and pretend in our adult relationships, we end up short-circuiting our capacity to love and be loved. The constant strain of protecting ourselves against detection puts us into a frenzy of fear. And it makes us feel guilty! Part of the paradox is that most adult children have pretty high standards of right and wrong. You aren't a sociopath-- you know the difference between right and wrong. And you care about others. When you stretch the truth, or withhold information, or pretend to be something you're not, you aren't deliberately trying to hurt anyone. You're just trying to get by, keep your self-esteem intact, and avoid disaster. And still you hurt. Because you admire honesty. Lies, half-truths, pretenses, manipulations, and unkept promises violate higher values of integrity, truthfulness, authenticity, and personal responsibility. You want to be honest, but something always gets in the way. You want to learn to be open and above-board, yet the fear of being judged and found wanting prevents you from showing your real self. You want to enjoy the freedoms of adulthood, but you find instead that the old roles and conflicts of childhood reappear to haunt you. Ask yourself the following questions: -- Do you withhold information about your feelings, so the people closest to you have to guess what's really in your mind and heart? -- Is it hard for you to make a direct request because being denied makes you feel unloved?

-- Is it hard for you to tell the people you love how much you really care about them? -- Do you worry about keeping track of all the half-truths, misrepresentations and lies you tell to different people? -- Do you feel isolated and afraid of people and authority figures? -- Do you sometimes feel you have no identity of your own? -- Would you rather swallow poison than be publicly exposed as being wrong or unable to competently handle your responsibilities? -- When put on the spot do you become defensive and justify your actions by blaming or criticizing others? There's a tug-of-war, a bitter conflict, between the desire to fulfill our higher values of honesty and integrity and the need to protect our frightened inner selves with a wall of denial, deceptions and pretense. This conflict is one of the major sources of our anxiety. Understanding this anxiety is one of our most important tasks. Our self-esteem is based in large part on this most fundamental human dilemma -- do we live up to our higher values or do we play to our fears. To be honest or to be safe? Which will it be? As children, we had no way of knowing there were other modes of operating. We lied because we had to. We manipulated and pretended because it helped us get by. It didn't make us happy, just safe for a minute or two. We simply did what had to be done to survive. But as adults, we stand on the crossroads of choice, all possibilities open to us. In all honesty, it must be said again that the path to taming a turbulent past is not an easy one to follow. For if we choose to pursue our higher values, if we pick openness and honesty and integrity, then we must forsake our mask of invulnerability. We must stand naked and be judged for who and what we really are.

Fear: A Zero State
Fear is a slinking cat I find Beneath the lilacs of my mind. --Sophie Tunnell Though fear may manifest itself in a thousand and one ways, the adult child's basic fear is this: "Deep down inside, I am nothing." Zero. Socrates took as his motto: "The unexamined life is not worth living." The adult child has unconsciously adopted the motto: "The examined life is unbearably threatening."

Because we fear the emptiness inside, we don't look inward. It's too scary. On the map of Self, we've marked off huge areas of uncharted territory, a terra incognita. And we will not journey there. Yet we live in apprehension, pretending to be perfect while fearing that our worthlessness will be discovered, dreading that some observant person will see through the flimsy facade and discover what we're really like-- hollow pretenders. Imposters. Then we will be ridiculed and abandoned. There is a deep and pervasive feeling of badness. It is not intellectual, it is emotional. It is in our very guts, the feeling that, "I am nothing. I must not allow anyone to see inside me. It is better to go on pretending." We struggle daily to keep our projected image intact. But because this image is phony, it produces fear. The image we project seems sturdy, but it's really very fragile, like a thin glass globe containing clouds and shadowy figures. An illusion. And like the fragile glass globe, our image can be shattered in many ways. A friend's cross remark, a co-worker's criticism, a lover's momentary indifference. Each of these small acts has in it the power to shatter our confidence. So we guard ourselves the best way we know how, by placing a protective mask over our emotions. As La Rouchefoucauld noted, We go disguised before others, and we become disguised to ourselves. We end up in a disguise we can't recognize ourselves. We so carefully conceal our inner anxieties that even our closest friends are usually unaware of their pervasive nature. To a certain extent, this makes sense. Without some degree of outward poise, we'd never be able to sit through a job interview or walk into a room full of people or carry on a causal conversation with a stranger. If we put every twinge of our inner anxiety on display for all the world to see, we would soon be labeled nut cases. Obviously, a certain amount of concealment is beneficial. Indeed, Freud went so far as to argue that civilization depends on curbing our urges and impulses. Yet, hiding our fear is not always wise and reasonable, not always a sign that we are highly civilized. Too often our mask of invulnerability cuts us off from love and growth and positive change. It traps us, keeping us isolated and alone even while we are in the company of those we love. The anxiety, however, remains. It stays inside us and incubates, growing monstrous and savage, something to be dreaded, pushed away, destroyed. Anxiety becomes our enemy, an inhibiting, paralyzing force . . . . . . fear of ridicule, rejection, humiliation . . . fear of failure, defeat, loss . . . fear of being unloved, lost, abandoned . . . fear of weakness, discovery, vulnerability . . . and fear of fear itself.

Ramifications of Fear
In particular, the adult child gets trapped by fear of physical injury, pain, and possible death. This fear is over- developed, far beyond the normal reluctance any person has to avoid pain. A trip to the doctor or dentist for minor procedures becomes an ordeal of terror accompanied by the expectation of major pain, mutilation, or maiming. The result? Very often relatively minor medical and dental problems develop into major illnesses. A simple case of tooth decay, through avoidance, turns into a root canal job. A minor cut, through neglect, turns into a major infection. Brenda learned about the ramifications of fear the hard way. She ignored irregular vaginal bleeding for months because she couldn't stand the thought of undergoing the terrible pain of a pelvic exam and pap test. Under normal circumstances, a routine pelvic exam can be uncomfortable and embarrassing, but it is not physically painful. Still, Brenda's fear of the procedure prevented her from making a doctor's appointment. But there was more to it than that. Brenda wasn't stupid -- she'd read the seven warning signs of cancer. Unusual bleeding, that was one of them. No way was she going to let them cut her up and make her hair fall out and stick her full of drainage tubes. If she was going to die, she'd rather do it fast, make it look like an accident, not waste away like some vegetable in a hospital bed. She kept hoping the bleeding would stop on its own. It didn't. Home alone, in the middle of the night, Brenda suffered a life-threatening uterine hemorrhage. It wasn't cancer. Her doctor told her that had she sought medical care months earlier, her common problem could have been taken care of with a simple office procedure under local anesthetic. Instead, Brenda ended up with major surgery, weeks of convalescence, and a huge medical bill. It would be easy, even comforting, to dismiss Brenda as an oddball, a foolish woman with an overactive imagination and an appalling lack of common sense. Easy, but not helpful. Brenda doesn't fit the stereotype. She is an intelligent and capable woman with a strong desire to lead a happy, normal life. Still, she finds herself handicapped by omnipresent fears -- the adult child's legacy from a childhood of shame and confusion, lies and cover-ups, wild hopes and bitter disappointments. Like Brenda, many adult children allow legitimate small worries to snowball in their minds into major catastrophes. A friend of mine named Loni calls this process negative intuition.

Negative Intuitions and Catastrophic Fantasies
As Loni described it to me over lunch one day, "Whenever anything even a little bit bad happens, I start imagining the very worst. For instance, a few months ago

I found a picture of my husband, Todd, with his arm around a woman he works with. She's very beautiful, tall and slim and young. I was devastated." Loni confronted her husband with the picture and after several days of arguing, Todd finally convinced her that the young woman in the picture meant nothing to him. He assured Loni repeatedly that he loved her and was committed to their marriage. And Loni believed him. But her negative intuitions wouldn't let her rest. Todd was a very good looking man. She suspected that young girls might find him attractive. And that began to worry her. "I'd look in the mirror," she recalled, "and I'd see lines on my face I hadn't seen before. I started thinking that I was getting older. I'm 34, and I've had a child. My body isn't as firm as it used to be and each year it seems I gain a pound or two. How long would it be before Todd found me too old and fat? How long until he left me for one of the beautiful, nubile girls he works with?" Loni's imagination began to run wild. "I saw myself deserted, divorced, poor and too ugly for any other man to want. I cried myself to sleep worrying about it." Loni finally snapped herself out of the corrosive welter of negative intuitions and catastrophic fantasies by keeping a journal where she recorded her fears on one side of the page and the positive realities on the other. Her journal looked like this: JOURNAL Fears: I'm turning into a pathetic old woman. Positive Realities: I'm only 34 years old and nowadays that's still young.

I'm fat and ugly. I weigh 12 lbs more than I did when That's only one dress size. Todd married me. No one will ever love me again if I lose Todd. I'm not going to lose Todd. But if I do, I'll find love again. I'll still be lovable. I have a college education and good job experience. It might be hard, but I could support myself if I had to.

I can't support myself without Todd's help.

Every time Loni felt a surge of catastrophic fantasies taking over, she opened up her journal and forced herself to look at her fear rationally. By concentrating on the positive realities of her life, she was able to get on with the important business

of living each day fully and she was also able to openly accept Todd's affections and assurances of his love. Several months later, Loni laughed and blushed as she told me about the way her negative intuitions had sent her into a tailspin of fear. "You know, I actually had myself half convinced I was going to end up a Bag Lady. All because of that stupid picture."

Catastrophic Fantasies of Abandonment
Loni's experience illustrates one of the adult child's most common catastrophic fantasies -- the deep inner fear of being abandoned by those we love. Abandonment, physical and emotional, is a reality in alcoholic homes. Alcoholic fathers are frequently autocratic and unreasonable in their demands. They view themselves as always right and anyone who fails to live up to their standards as always wrong. Co-dependent mothers repeatedly emphasize how responsible, put-upon, correct and hardworking they are. They have you believing they are always considerate and always thinking of your needs first. They can't understand why you are so inconsiderate and selfish in return. Why do you insist on hurting them with your every action? Young children -- believing as children do in the infallibilty of their parents -begin to think of themselves as bad, unworthy, and the cause of their parents problems. Of course, this is nonsense. But how is a child to know that? Children frequently come to believe it is their own badness that makes Daddy drink, makes Mommy miserable, makes Daddy slam out the door and stay away for hours and hours. If only I was better . . . if I was a better child . . . if I was a perfect child . . . then my Mommy and Daddy would be happy, they would love me, and everything would be better . . . if only I wasn't so bad . . . How does a child cope with so heavy a burden? How does a child survive the invisible stigmata of complete badness in a universe where everyone else is so worthy and right and perfect? If only I was a perfect child . . .

The Perfect Disguise
No matter how hard we try, perfection is beyond our human ability. But we can put on a front, we can present an image of goodness and perfection. It's possible to act "as if" . . . I don't make mistakes I don't have hateful thoughts

I don't have deep inner fears I don't feel inadequate I don't behave badly I don't hurt I don't care It's possible to act as if . . . I am invulnerable. The child comes to believe that not an ounce of fear or weakness can be displayed . . . all must be perfect. I mustn't show my real self, the child reasons. The real me is bad and unworthy and unlovable. The real me would be abandoned.In this way, the child learns to wear a mask before others. The masks take various forms: One mask gives the appearance of goodness, sweetness and light. By behaving in this way, the child hopes to win the approval of the all-powerful, always-right parent. Another mask allows the child to blend into the background like a chameleon hoping to attract as little attention as possible. The chameleon seeks safety by being inconspicuous. A third mask presents an image of toughness and brusque invulnerability. Leave me alone, this mask warns. Don't question my actions. Still another mask is the face of indifference. Pretending not to care at all covers the pain of caring so much. Our protective masks create a vicious circle. Because we fear abandonment, we withhold the authentic nature of our real selves; and because we withhold our real feelings, we create distance and loneliness in our relationships; and because we are so distant and uncommunicative with our loved ones, they become rejecting and angry with us. Because we fear abandonment, we act like jerks. And because we act like jerks, we are abandoned. The circle is complete. Simon, a 35-year-old attorney explained why he wouldn't tell Laura, his live-in partner of three years, that he loved her. "I don't want to make that kind of commitment," he told me. "I don't want her to have that kind of power over me. I feign indifference so much that I've gotten used to it. Maybe I'm missing out on a lot of warmth and tenderness, like you say, but maybe I'm missing a lot of pain, too." Underneath his air of detachment, Simon sounded very sad when we talked about his sense of loneliness, fear, and isolation. "In my family," he said, "you wore a mask over your real feelings. If you showed you were upset or scared or worried, the picking started. 'What's wrong with you?' 'Wipe that ugly look off your face!' 'Don't be a cry-baby.' Pick, pick, pick. As far as I'm concerned, it's a hell of a lot safer to keep my feelings to myself. The less people know about what's going on inside me, the safer I feel." Like Simon, many adult children dare not risk exposure of their real feelings because they fear being hurt, manipulated, rejected, ridiculed, or humiliated.

Simon also used his profession as a rationalization for his aloofness. "Clients don't trust a tax attorney who's emotionally labile," he said. "I have to be in control at all times." He couldn't explain how expressing affection for the woman he loved would hurt his legal career, yet he still possessed a deep-seated belief that any show of emotional vulnerability would be irrepairably harmful to him. On the surface, Simon's coldness makes him sound like a stubborn fool who deserves every bit of loneliness that comes his way. But if we realize that Simon, at age 35, is just now beginning to acknowledge the unresolved conflicts he feels about his father's alcoholism, perhaps we can be less harsh in our judgment. An alcoholic family is not a safe place to show honest emotion. Too often, tender displays are trampled on by parents who are too drugged or troubled to respond sensitively. If your childhood expressions of vulnerability were met with ridicule, anger, or judgments, you may have felt too frightened and assaulted to risk exposing yourself again. Sharing true feelings was dangerous because you could never predict how your turbulent parents would respond. Naturally, you did what you had to do to protect your emotional self. Simon puts it this way, "I have to stay in control. There will be no messy disclosures of my true feelings, no displays of weakness, no opportunity to be hurt and embarrassed. That's the way I am, and if Laura doesn't like it . . . well, that's too bad." And it is too bad -- too bad for Laura because she has no way of knowing Simon's real feelings. But mostly too bad for Simon because it means he's living an emotionally-constricted life. He sought counseling because he knew something was missing in his relationships. It never occurred to him that what was missing was the real Simon. Think about your own life. Are you caught in the same kind of trap? Are you allowing a facade of strength to keep you weak and frightened? Are you hiding behind a mask of invulnerability?

The Invulnerable Child We are not invulnerable; we are closed, rigid, frozen. We are not strong; we are too frightened to show our weakness. We are not safe; we are merely hiding and leading lives of desperation.

Pulling the Plug On Panic
No fear is so ruinous and uncontrollable as panic fear. For other fears are groundless, but this fear is witless. --Seneca Anxiety is always combined with a sense of vulnerability. The threat may be physical -- I might get hurt, I might die, this pressure in my chest means I'm having a heart attack. But most of the time, the danger we sense is psychological - fear of rejection, public humiliation, disapproval, exposure of one's weaknesses. Do any of these examples sound familiar? Susan would rather go hungry than go into a restaurant alone. She was afraid everyone would stare at her. Burt lost a promotion at work because he refused an important client's invitation to join a charter fishing cruise. Burt had a morbid fear of deep water and a worse fear that the client might find out about his "lack of manliness." Lloyd pretended to enjoy the extra hour a day he spent driving to work on the old highway. Actually, he avoided the quicker route because the freeway traffic could trigger an anxiety attack. Sheila slept on the living room sofa with the TV on and a butcher knife under her pillow when her husband went away on business trips. Being alone in a dark house terrified her. Don had a fear of speaking in groups. Whenever called upon to say something, he'd smile and shake his head. But in reality, his heart pounded furiously and his throat felt like it was packed with Kleenex. He knew that if he opened his mouth he'd sound exactly like a bullfrog in distress. These "ordinary" fears, though inhibiting, can be hidden or passed off as amusing personal quirks. After all, practically everybody is afraid of something at sometime. But sometimes the fear becomes overwhelming.

Panic Attacks
"I've been to seven different doctors," Valerie told me. "And twice I've ended up in the emergency room thinking I was having a heart attack." She paused, looking down at her hands. "But I'm only thirty-one and the doctors say there's nothing wrong with my heart. They say my problem is all in my head -- anxiety. But I don't have anything to be anxious about. Everything in my life is perfect." Valerie bit her lip and gave me a small smile. "I guess I sound pretty crazy, don't I? If everything is all right, how come I can't breathe right?"

From childhood, Valerie had experienced these inexplicable attacks of suffocation. Sometimes, she'd have two or three attacks a day, then she'd go for months without an episode. When the attacks hit, she felt like she couldn't breathe and her heart raced so fast she thought she might faint. She had no idea why she had these feelings. She was sure they were symptoms of a serious illness, but no doctor could make a diagnosis. She tried everything from acupuncture to Valium in an effort to be "normal." Nothing worked for long. And when Valerie said everything in her life was fine, she wasn't lying. On the surface, she appeared to be an attractive, successful, and well-adjusted woman. She held a responsible job and was well-paid for her work. She and her husband had a loving relationship and an active social life. Valerie's friends and work associates liked and respected her. What, then, was going on? Why did Valerie suffer from these uncomfortable panic attacks. As Valerie and I talked, it became clear that these brief episodes of suffocation were only one part of a larger pattern of fear. On a daily basis, Valerie felt restless, irritable, and unable to concentrate. She couldn't put her finger on what the trouble was, because her anxiety wasn't always attached to any specific apprehension or worry. But there was this constant feeling, this fear, that if she wasn't ever-vigilant, something really awful was going to happen and it was going to be her fault. Valerie had never discussed these feelings with anyone, not even her husband, Hal. "What? unload this junk on Hal? I may be crazy, but I'm not nuts." Valerie wasn't about to let Hal in on her closest secrets, her private mausoleum of terror. To do so would mean admitting weakness, lack of control over her life, an imperfection of character, and that was something Valerie just couldn't do. The stakes were too high, the risks of revealing herself too great. If people found out what she was really like inside . . . well, she just couldn't let that happen. Valerie's need to keep a tight reign became apparent in the first session when she sweetly but firmly said that she was willing to come to me for counseling on three conditions: "You can't speak to my husband," Valerie told me. "And you have to recognize that some areas of my life are off limits for discussion." There was more. I had to agree not to pressure her to join a therapy group. She didn't want any of her friends or acquaintances to even suspect that she had problems that required the assistance of a counselor. It would simply be too humiliating. Naturally, her insistence on taboo topics became grist for the therapeutic mill. And although she denied it at first, it soon became apparent that Valerie had grown up with an alcoholic father and a co-dependent mother. Ten years after leaving home, she was still lying, denying, covering-up, and trying valiantly to appear like a happy, normal, healthy woman who had it all together. But she was miserable.

"Why do you want to know about my parents?" Valerie demanded. "I hardly ever see them anymore, so how could they possibly trigger my panic attacks?" Panic attacks have been recognized as a physical disorder that strikes 1% to 5% of the general population. Yet, in my conversations with adult children I have found that more than half of the women and at least a quarter of the men report suffering from anxiety so fierce that at times they actually believe they are going to die from it. Clearly, feelings of panic and anxiety are special problems for many, many adult children. Why is this? What is it about alcoholic families that breeds fear in the same way a swamp breeds mosquitoes?

Emotional Perfectionists and Panic
The adult children who have talked to me about their anxiety attacks are all what I would call emotional perfectionists. While they may be extraordinarily kind to other people, they are unreasonably harsh with themselves. They cannot feel satisfied with themselves unless they attain all the qualities and achievements our society holds up as worthy. They believe they must be successful, beautiful and admired, and to get that way they must be in control of their emotions at all times and they mustn't make mistakes. They believe bad feelings are abnormal and they consider anxiety a personal failing. They expect nothing less than perfection from themselves. Ironically, it is their perfectionism which fuels their anxiety. Remember Valerie's statement: "Everything in my life is perfect." Of course, that statement is untrue. None of us will ever have a trouble-free existence of perfect contentment. Perfection is impossible. It's an illusion that spoils our satisfaction and our ability to enjoy the riches of ordinary life. The harder we strive for perfection, the greater our disappointments and misery will be because perfection does not exist. But that's not what alcoholic families teach, is it? Alcoholic and co-dependent parents demand perfection, and if that isn't possible, then they demand that you pretend perfection. No weakness, no fear, no anger, no problems. The mask of invulnerability rears its ugly face again, and as always it blocks out the light of reality. This is reality: All human beings make mistakes. All human being have failings. Refusing to accept this truth brings self- hate and misery." Valerie spent so much time attempting to be the wonderful person she thought she should be, that she almost lost her real self in the process. Her self-image as a bright, competent, charming, loving, compassionate and understanding person didn't jibe with the real woman who made mistakes and got angry and felt inpatient with her friends and colleagues. She couldn't accept the darker (and very human) side of her nature and the result was an explosive internal civil war between what she thought she should be

(perfectly wonderful) and what she really was (a less than perfect human being). This inner conflict between the unattainable ideal self and the fallible real self is what triggered her panic attacks. Many months later, it was difficult to correlate my first memory of Valerie's rigid uptightness with the vibrantly mellow person relaxing in the chair opposite me. Valerie was visibly changed. "All my life," she explained, "I struggled to be the very best person possible. I thought I could be impeccable in every way -- a successful career woman, a loving wife, a kind and compassionate and understanding friend. Every time I messed up -- if I lost my temper, or made a mistake, or thought bad thoughts about the people I cared about -- I felt awful. What kind of terrible person lets a secretary intimidate her or feels secretly pleased when her best friend loses a promotion? I mean, only a total shit would have such horrible thoughts and feelings. And I was that kind of shit! I couldn't stand knowing that about myself, so I blocked it from my mind with tranquilizers and keeping myself busy, busy, busy with overtime at work and committees and lessons and housework and yardwork and weekends with lots of company. "And still I couldn't block out the fact that I was this total shit of a person who kept messing up. That's when I'd have my panic attacks." She shook her head and laughed at the memory. "Then one day, after much agonizing, I leaned back and said to myself, Yes, sometimes I'm a shit. So what?" This simple self-statement came as a revelation to Valerie. Sometimes she made mistakes. So what? Sometimes she felt envious, mean-spirited, and spiteful. So what? Sometimes she got angry. Sometimes she embarrassed herself. Sometimes she failed. Sometimes she behaved like a total shit. So what? So, she wasn't an anointed saint. She was a normal human being, which meant she was good and bad, mean and generous, happy and sad, clear and confused, angry and calm, and many other things that combined to make her a complex and fallible human being. Valerie continued, "At that moment I became reconciled to both the light and dark sides of my character. I accepted all aspects of myself and that freed me, finally, from the prison of my own unrealistic perfectionism. And once I was freed, I was able to really start growing and changing. All the energy I'd put into concealing my darker aspects prevented me from doing anything to change them. Now when I find myself behaving in some way that violates my self-image, I don't run from it. I look at it, acknowledge it, and deal with it. I can't tell you how good that makes me feel." Did Valerie's reconciliation with herself eliminate all of her anxiety? "I lost about half of it right away," she says. "I still feel anxious sometime, but I've finally accepted that as part of life. I think the most important change is that I'm no longer afraid of being afraid. I know longer believe I have to be this totally calm, perfectly controlled being. Sweat stains under my arms when I have to make a speech no longer mean the end of the world to me."

Test Your E.P. Q. (Emotional Perfectionism Quotient) Is emotional perfectionism fueling your anxiety? Read the following questions. Examine your most deeply held beliefs about the way you should behave, then answer the questions with complete honesty. -- Do you feel that you should be able to keep your emotions under control at all times? -- Do you believe a happy person should never be angry, anxious or sad? -- Do you expect people will lower their opinion of you if you fail or make mistakes? -- Is it important for you to feel 100% comfortable with your choice before making a decision? -- Do you believe that doing a less than outstanding job is tantamount to failing? -- Do you feel angry, disappointed, hurt or shamed if things don't come off exactly as you planned?

If you are plagued by apprehension, nervousness, and dread and if you answered yes to even a couple of the above questions, your perfectionistic nature may be causing your anxiety attacks. Now, let's take a look at some methods for overcoming perfectionism.

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Perfectionism
Lord, grant me the serenity To do what I can do, to give it my best shot And to be reasonably satisfied If it doesn't come out perfect. --Recovering Perfectionist's Prayer Dr. David D. Burns, founder of the Behavioral Sciences Research Foundation, dares emotional perfectionists to attempt a new and perhaps audacious challenge: Try being average. At first glance, this idea sounds totally absurd, for who in their right mind would strive for such a boring, ordinary level of achievement? It takes no special effort to be mediocre. But, wait. Upon reflection it seems to me that Dr. Burns is on to something wonderful here. Because, as he points out, if you are a perfectionist, you are bound to be a loser at whatever you do. A consummate failure. A sublime flop. A perfectionist will always fail to meet the elevated standards of perfection. If examined with a critical eye, everything, every person, every idea falls short of perfection. Only in the movies was Bo Derek a "10." And even there, the critics ranked her acting "3" or below. Likewise, every achievement falls short of perfection. It can be fixed up, honed, modified, fine-tuned and tinkered with in some way to make it "better". When you pursue perfection, you will inevitably run headlong into frustration, self-hate, and misery. Yet, if you are willing to walk down the road of "averageness" for even one day, you are bound to feel successful, accomplished and pleased with yourself because maybe for the first time in your life you will be striving for an attainable goal. Finally, you can succeed.

Our perfectionistic tendency is usually so ingrained that it has become an unthinking emotional reflex for us. Breaking our reflexive responses takes both effort and practice. On the following pages I will describe several exercises that have proven effective in helping other adult children overcome the feelings of anxiety produced by their emotional perfectionism. Set aside some time to do these exercises, remembering that the heavier your burden of perfection, the more practice you'll need to learn the joys of imperfection.

Anti-perfection Exercise 1: Doing It Right.
If you are a perfectionist, you are undoubtedly an expert at negative self-talk. If you are in any way typical, it's likely that you lay in bed at night going over everything you did wrong today. You know how to focus on the areas where you fall short. You catalog every mistake, blunder, and clumsy encounter. Why did you say this? Why didn't you say that? Did they like you? Why did they give you that funny look? And on and on. You fall asleep counting your shortcomings instead of sheep. No wonder you feel anxious. Tonight, try something different. When your mind starts racing with negativity, say to yourself, "NO! Not now. I'm not going to dwell on the negative." This is a technique called thought stopping, and it works. Now, after you have ordered yourself to stop your negative self-talk, substitute at least five minutes of positive self- talk. What did you do right today? How many things can you count that are positive? Pay special attention to the little things you just normally expect of yourself. At first, your perfectionistic negativity may be so automatic, so ingrained and habitual, that you can't think of a single thing you did right. But you probably did a lot of good things that you take for granted, like getting to work on time, passing up that second piece of chocolate cake, making a dreaded phone call, being patient with a rude store clerk, and so on. You don't need to score big. We want you to appreciate yourself for all the good ordinary normal things you accomplish in a day. The purpose of this exercise is to break your emotional reflex of negative selfappraisal. If negativity creeps in, say "NO! Not now!" and continue giving yourself positive feedback. Now, this doesn't mean that you should never again critique your behavior for areas that need improvement. We all need to do that occasionally. But we perfectionists get carried away with the habit. What we really need practice on is patting ourselves on the back a little bit for all the things we usually take for granted. This exercise will be most effective if you practice it at least five minutes a night over a period of weeks. It takes time to replace the habit of negative self-appraisal with the habit of positive self-appraisal. Remember that, because your perfectionistic reflex will make you want to become an expert in positive self-talk in just one night!

Anti-perfection exercise 2: Less is More
Like many perfectionists, you may believe that producing anything less than definitive work is just about the same as producing garbage. You feel deeply shamed if even small flaws are detected in what you do. Such feelings invariably

lead to, 1) burn-out from trying to do everything perfectly, or 2) emotional and mental paralysis from the prospect of facing the impossible. Here's an experiment suggested by Dr. Burns. Try changing your standards with various activities to see how your performance responds to high, middle and low standards. I've tried this with my writing, my counseling, and with dieting, and I've been very pleasantly surprised with the outcome whenever I have lowered my standards. I end up producing more and feeling better about myself. For example, when I started writing the section on fear for this book, I thought I should cover every aspect of fear, from anxiety disorders through agoraphobia, traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive behavior. Now, let's see, what did I leave out? Oh, yes. I should outline all of the latest behavioral and cognitive research in addition to addressing the bio-chemistry and genetics of anxiety. And that was just for starters. I also decided I should write at least ten manuscript pages a day. I would cover the field so thoroughly that I would qualify for an honorary degree in fear. At one point, the workspace around my computer was so laden with piles of notes and clippings and reference materials that I couldn't find the keyboard. At that moment I developed writer's block. My perfectionism had thwarted me. I decided to lower my standards. Each day I made it my goal to cover a little less material and instead of aiming for ten pages a day, I aimed for one. This meant that I could accomplish my goal easily. I felt so good about this that I was spurred on to write more, knowing that each new paragraph was more than I had hoped for. When my standards were high -- ten pages a day -- I failed consistently. I felt bad about myself and even considered giving up the project completely. The minute I lowered my standard, I started feeling like a success again. And over a period of days the manuscript pages piled up until the chapters were done. Since that time I have never abandoned my aim of doing less each day. Consequently I never feel frustrated or inadequate. I feel good because I am achieving my goal and that motivates me to continue. Try Dr. Burns' suggestion and dare to be average. When you start a project, lower your sights. Instead of aiming for 110%, go for 50% or 30% or even 10% like I did. Then see if you don't enjoy yourself and become more productive at the same time.

Anti-perfection exercise 3: Making Mistakes
Here's a contradiction for you-- emotional perfectionists are unrelentingly selfcritical, yet we'll be dipped in hot tar before we'll take responsibility for our own mistakes.

There's a psychological reason for this. The knowledge that we have behaved badly or foolishly or with a mean spirit gives our self-image a brutal jarring. How can we be the perfectly wonderful person we're supposed to be and make all these stupid blunders? Psychologists call this conflict between perception and reality "cognitive dissonance." The human psyche just cannot tolerate such mental discrepancies -anxiety and panic attacks are frequent manifestations of cognitive dissonance in process. Now, how do we humans resolve this intolerable dissonance in our perceptions? It's really quite simple. We, consciously or unconsciously, redefine reality to meet our needs. Either we accept the fact that we are not always perfect and wonderful or we maintain our self-image by throwing the blame for our mistakes on someone or something else. "It was the secretary's fault that the budget and annual report didn't get finished in time for the site visit." "I coulda been a contender." (But I didn't get the right breaks, know the right people, have the right connections, etc.) "I didn't get all "A's" my senior year because my math instructor knew I had a high grade average and he was out to get me." "I could have been a success if my father wasn't an alcoholic." Unless we've done quite a bit of work to overcome our perfectionist tendencies, you can bet we'll opt for maintaining our emotional illusions. So while we may moan more or less incessantly about our problems, burdens, and difficulties in life, we emotional perfectionists are loathe to honestly and truly take responsibility for our lapses in perfection. Oh, we hurl insults at ourselves, but that's not an effective way of admitting specific mistakes. Sometimes we even criticize ourselves in order to take the sting out of criticism from others. Sadly, if we are unable to admit our errors, we have also cut off our ability to grow and change. Consciously analyzing the irrational and self-defeating nature of our belief in the importance of perfection is one way of facing the transcendental truth that "to err is human." Using your journal, write a list in which you outline why a fear of making mistakes is detrimental to you. How does attempting to maintain a self-image of perfection inhibit your potential for growth. Valerie's journal looked like this: WHY IT'S OKAY FOR ME TO MAKE MISTAKES 1. First, it's okay for me to make mistakes because all humans make mistakes. Thinking that I can be perfect is grandiose and irrational--why should I be immune from the laws of humanity? 2. Making mistakes is okay because I learn from them. When I refuse to accept my mistakes I become rigid and unable to improve myself.

3. It's okay to be less than perfect because one small flaw doesn't ruin an otherwise good outcome. 98% success with peace of mind is better than 100% success with a nervous breakdown. 4. If I recognize where I messed up, I can change it. The discomfort of admitting I've goofed will be worth it if I can make a positive change that will make me happier in the long run. 5. Whenever I try to do 110% perfect job, I either get burned out from the strain or I get so paralyzed from anxiety that I want to hide under my bed. Then I start procrastinating. When I lower my standards to 90%, I get more done. 6. It's okay to make a mistake because it makes me more human. Most people won't hold small mistakes against me. And I think sometimes my pretense of perfection puts other people off. 7. Lastly, even if I really blow it and a lot of people get mad at me and criticize me, I won't die from it. I will feel bad for a while, but if I honestly admit my mistakes I can make amends to the people I hurt and forgive myself. It won't be the end of the world. Rationally analyzing mistake-making does not guarantee you emotional relief, but it is a start. Valerie reported a large decrease in her feelings of anxiety and fear immediately after writing her essay. However, about a month later, her perfectionist tendencies burst forth again when she had to present a proposal to her boss and co-workers. A panic attack struck as she was going over last minute details. "I thought 'this is the end'," she recalled. "Then I said, "NO!" I sat down at my desk and did some slow deep breathing and mentally I recited all the reasons why I didn't have to be perfect. I remembered my list of why it was okay for me to make mistakes, and gradually my panic left me. My heartbeat slowed to normal, the lump left my throat, I was okay. I went to the lady's room and wiped the sweat off my face and body, all the time saying to myself, "It's okay to make mistakes. My self- worth does not depend on making a perfect presentation.' Then I went into the meeting room and knocked 'em dead! My legs felt like Jello, but, dammit! I did it!" After that, Valerie practiced this exercise regularly, especially before any situation where she felt her skills and abilities would be tested and judged. "I still get nervous," she admits, "but I haven't had to take a Valium in six months."

Using Drugs to Treat Fear and Anxiety
As Valerie's comment indicates, she had at times turned to prescription medication to deal with her anxiety attacks. Is this an avenue other adult children who suffer from severe fear problems need to explore? In my opinion, the answer is a qualified "maybe."

Current research shows that some major anxiety disorders may be biochemical -that is, physical, rather than psychological -- in origin. Some people may possess nervous systems that for unknown physical reasons stay on red alert when they should be at ease. Some researchers are investigating the possibility that a predisposition to a red alert nervous system is a genetic trait which can be passed on from generation to generation. We already know this is true of alcoholism, and it is my personal (unscientific) belief that in the coming years scientists will discover a genetic link between alcoholism and a predisposition to a red alert nervous system. In other words, I'm saying that children of alcoholics may be hit with a double whammy -- the destructive effects of growing up in a dysfunctional family and the possibility of inheriting a nervous system predisposed to anxiety. Please note, I said may. Even if a link is found, we must remember that not every child in a family inherits the same genes, just as not every child reacts the same way to family chaos. Some children may be severely affected, while others escape unscathed. So, the question remains. Are psycho-active medications a viable option for adult children suffering from fear disorders? According to psychologist Carol Tavris, "The drugs currently most in use for treating anxiety disorders are the benzodiazepines (minor tranquilizers, such as Valium), tricyclic antidepressants, such as imipramine, and monamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors, such as phenalazine." I remain unalterably opposed to the use of benzodiazepines (minor tranquilizers) by adult children of alcoholics except in emergency situations under the direct supervision of a medical person. Why such a strong stand? Reason 1: These drugs have a high potential for abuse and addiction. Reason 2: Adult children of alcoholics have a high potential for all forms of chemical dependency and abuse. I have seen too many adult children who would never dream of getting drunk or using illegal drugs become physical and emotional wrecks from using legally prescribed tranquilizers. They had no intention of abusing these drugs, yet they still developed serious problems. It is my deepest conviction that for adult children, the risks of using tranquilizers far outweigh the potential benefits. And it is the adult child's responsibility to make this point clear to well-meaning physicians who seek to alleviate your suffering by offering you a prescription for any of the many different brands of tranquilizers. To protect yourself, it is vital that you not accept a prescription for an anti-anxiety drug or a muscle relaxant or a sleeping pill without first obtaining from your doctor a complete explanation of exactly what kind of drug you are getting. Don't be afraid to question either your doctor or your pharmacist. Any doctor worth his (or her) salt will gladly answer your questions. While it is the doctor's responsibility to give you information, it is your responsibility to ask questions if

the information isn't freely offered in terms you can understand. Don't feel shy, for you are certainly worth the effort it takes to ask these questions. Now, what about the tricyclic anti-depressants and the MAO inhibitors? In my experience, under certain conditions, these drugs can be a boon to anxious and depressed adult children of alcoholics. One reason they seem useful is because they pose a lower risk for abuse, mostly because they don't have an euphoric drug effect. In other words, they don't make you high. You might consider being evaluated for drug treatment by a qualified physician if you can answer yes to any of the following questions. 1. Are you unable to carry out your day-to-day activities because of your fear and depression? 2. Do you suffer a lot from physical symptoms such as agitation, racing heart, or feelings of paralysis? 3. Do you have a past history of positive drug treatment with few side effects? The above guidelines are general in nature and are not meant to be comprehensive. If you do decide to seek medical help, it's important that you know that these drugs often need several weeks to take effect. Sometimes the dosage has to be adjusted several times before optimum benefit is reached. And sometimes, the drugs simply don't work for your particular problem. Without exception, people being treated with drug therapy must stay in close contact with their physician. If the medication doesn't seem to work, or if you suffer from side effects, let your doctor know! Otherwise, you won't receive the help you want and need.

Anxiety is a terrible thing. This is an important truth we can't ignore. Anxiety feels terrible. We'll do just about anything to escape it. We'll medicate ourselves with alcohol, marijuana, pills borrowed from a friend, a pint of Haagen-Daz, and two packs of cigarettes. And that's one of the reasons why counseling, exercises, medication, and insight oftimes don't work to alleviate our pain. Our lifestyle habits can keep us in misery! Recent research shows that even small amounts of caffeine or sugar can trigger full-blown panic attacks in susceptible people. Hypoglycemia -- low blood sugar -- can mimic all the symptoms of mental illness. Chemical dependency undermines health and happiness. Constant striving after success and achievement leads to physical exhaustion and emotional burnout. Stress deadens our emotions and sickens our bodies. No matter how much we struggle and search and suffer in our quest for self, we will find no lasting happiness if we examine our psyches under a microscope

while ignoring the needs of our bodies. Insight is a precious thing, yet it is only a small fragment in the complex puzzle of self-realization. If we spend all out time looking into our emotions while remaining unaware of our physical selves, we stay fragmented. True self-realization comes from wholeness. And fundamental to wholeness is the issue of self-care.

Paradox #3: Self-Neglect While Taking Care of Others
First cast out the beam from thine own eye; and then thou shalt see clearly to cast out the mote from thy brother's eye. --Matthew viii, 5 If you ever attend a conference for adult children of alcoholics, you'll soon discover that the vast majority of people there are professional care-givers -nurses, teachers, counselors, social workers, doctors, probation officers, psychologists, health professionals, community volunteers, and so on. This is no coincidence. Those who have studied the dynamics of the alcoholic family frequently comment on the tendency of children of alcoholics to grow into what are called natural helpers. Natural helpers are nurturers and problem-solvers and care- givers. They are the men and women who coach little league, and organize bake sales, and sit with you in the emergency room waiting area while your child is having his brain scanned. Natural helpers open their doors to weeping friends at midnight, loan money when they have an overdue notice from the electric company in their own pocket, and willingly tolerate personal inconvenience if it means another person will benefit from the sacrifice. Not surprisingly, natural helpers gravitate toward careers that allow them to utilize their natural talents and inclinations for helping other people -- counselor, social worker, doctor, nurse, teacher, lawyer, police officer. Why shouldn't adult children be drawn to occupations where they can use the skills they developed in surviving the crucible of parental alcoholism? After all, children who grow up in alcoholic homes have ample opportunity to learn the basics: How to soothe and calm crazy, unpredictable people How to negotiate peace in a war zone How to stretch limited resources

How to find solutions to insoluable problems How to prevent unavoidable disaster How to please unpleasable (and often unpleasant) people How to keep an irrevokably broken down system running And how to work that system for all it's worth . . . And -- after all the glamour is stripped away -- aren't these the very same skills one needs to effectively provide services to people who are sick or needy or simply uncertain of which direction to go? Oh, yes, we all know about the importance of displaying empathy, non-possessive warmth, emotional authenticity, and expert knowledge. But we also know and understand the conflicts and strife involved in office politics, hospital power struggles, and agency warfare. And when you combine a genuine desire to help other people with the adult child's natural instincts for surviving in a stressed-out, ego-jungle, Cracker Factory atmosphere, what you come up with is a super people-worker. However, just because there seems to be a natural tendency in adult children to gravitate toward the helping professions, it does not mean this tendency will always be a positive and healing force for the adult child or for the people who ask for his or her help.

Wanting To Help is Not Always Healthy
According to the National Association of Children of Alcoholics these are some of the characteristics adult children have in common due to growing up in an alcoholic household: We have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, and it is easier for us to be concerned with others rather than for ourselves. We live life from the viewpoint of helping and seeking victims, and we are attracted by that weakness in our love and friendship relationships. We confuse love with pity and tend to "love" people we can pity and rescue. We judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem (sometime compensated for by trying to appear superior). We are dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment. . . The Association states clearly that these words are a description, not an indictment. Yet, if I tell you that I can look back at my early years as a counselor trainee and see myself indicted by those words, will you judge me harshly? If I tell you that I can look around me now and see five, ten, more than a dozen of my professional colleagues hiding their fear and pathology behind a wall of diplomas and certificates and important sounding titles, will you think me overlycritical? If I ask you to honestly consider your own motivations for helping other people either as a professional care-giver or amateur natural helper, will you like what you see?

Under close examination, the giving behavior of the natural helper does not always look selfless and caring. When adult children give, too often we are --- Taking care of others while ignoring our own needs. -- Surrounding ourselves with weak and dependent people so we can feel needed, powerful, and superior. -- Making people dependent on us in order to quell our omnipresent fear of abandonment. -- Bolstering our self-esteem by do-gooding and glory- seeking. -- Rescuing other people from their problems while our own lives are falling apart from lack of maintenance and repair. Now is the time for each of use to ask ourselves if our giving, helping, care-taking behavior is simply another mask we wear. Just whose weaknesses, dependencies, and needs are we catering to anyway? In order to really be genuine, warm and empathetic in our interaction with other people -- in other words, to be able to really give -- we must be relaxed and nondefensive, have our own needs met, and have emotional and physical vitality. These conditions imply a kind of emotional and physical harmony, selfawareness, self-care, and assertiveness that are alien in alcoholic homes. Children growing up in alcoholic homes simply don't learn from their parents how to take care of their own basic needs in a healthy and positive way. We learn how to deaden our awareness, ignore our needs, drive ourselves onward, bury our pain, and keep on giving to others until we collapse from lack of selfmaintenance. This is the adult child's third paradox: A lifestyle of self-neglect combined with a compelling need to improve the lives of others.

The Glorification of Self-Neglect
Despite 30 years of progress towards a more egalitarian society, modern American women still tend to be the nurturers while men still think of themselves as providers. Even though over 50 percent of married women hold down full-time jobs, they still do most of the housework. This is as true in alcoholic families as in any other family. And it is in the role of either nurturer or provider that the daughters and sons of alcoholics live out the third paradox, the paradox of self-neglect. PARADOX # 3 Adult children tend to neglect their own most basic physical and emotional needs. They often justify this self-destructive behavior by saying they are too busy taking care of other people to worry about themselves.

Take Isaac, for example. In his determination to provide for his family, Isaac practiced self-neglect to such a degree he almost left them without a father and husband. "I wanted my wife and kids to have all the good things I'd missed as a child," he told me. "I wanted the big house with the spa and imported cars and a horse for my daughter. That girl is pure horse-crazy! I didn't want them to feel inferior like I did as a child because they didn't have the right kind of clothes. I didn't want them to be ashamed of the old man. " Of course, such things require money. Lots of it. In addition to his job as a hospital administrator, he started a consulting business on the side. This ambitious project required hours and hours of high-energy work. As did his regular job. Soon, Isaac was working 16 hour days, every day. He didn't have time to eat regular meals, and though exhausted, he couldn't sleep at night. He asked one of the doctors at the hospital for some sleeping pills, which he started taking nightly. His wife, Gloria, become both worried and angry. Isaac no longer had the time or energy to relate to his family. "She'd nag at me," Isaac recalls, "and it made me furious. I was doing it all for her and the kids and the selfish bitch didn't even appreciate it." Gloria adds, "I kept telling him I needed a husband more than I needed a new car, but he wouldn't listen." This pattern continued for two years, during which time Isaac grew more and more distant from Gloria and his two children. Then Isaac got sick. It started out as a cold. Isaac ignored it and kept on going . . . until he collapsed three weeks later in the halls of his own hospital. "I almost died," he says. "I had pneumonia and a viral inflammation of the heart. I'd been sick for almost a month and I'd let it go, which is pretty stupid behavior in a hospital administrator." How had he rationalized such stupidity? "I told myself I had to keep going for the sake of my family. They were counting on me and I couldn't let them down." The doctors warned Isaac that if he wanted to avoid permanent heart damage he'd have to slow down, rest, and give his body time to heal. Grudgingly, Isaac agreed to discontinue his consulting business, which meant he'd lose about a third of his income. Isaac and Gloria sat down with the kids to explain that daddy had been very sick and in order for him to get well, they'd all have to give up some of the things they liked. "But daddy's worth it, isn't he?" Gloria prompted. "Does this mean I have to give up my horse?" nine year old Kimberly asked sulkily. "Because if it does, it's not one bit fair!" "That was a knife in my heart," Isaac says quietly. "The damn horse meant more to my daughter than I did, and it was my own fault. I wasn't a real person to her. What kind of father had I been? I was hardly ever home and when I was, I was tired and irritable. Just like my father had been with me. Suddenly all my rationalizations crashed around me. Doing it for them. It was a lie. I hadn't done anything for them, it had all been for me, so I could feel like a big man, respected,

a success. Providing my family with the best of everything was for my own ego glorification, not theirs. Oh, sure, they enjoyed all my material success. But if I'd really been interested in what was best for them, I would have given them some of my time and affection as well as my money. What kind of person was my daughter growing up to be? I had no idea. We were strangers." Isaac, like many adult children, had confused the trappings of a happy family life - a nice home, abundant food, fashionable clothes, the best schools -- with the substance of a happy family -- which is love, mutual caring, trust and emotional as well as physical support. This is a mistake made by many sons of alcoholics -Peter brought his weekly paycheck from the mill home and handed it to his wife. He did it because he loved her, and that's the same reason he signed on for double shifts. Yet, in seven years of marriage he had said the words "I love you," only once. And he'd never once complimented his wife for her accomplishments or kindnesses. Scott supported his wife's desire to have a career. He showed his support by taking every opportunity to critique her performance, clothes and poise. "I want her to succeed," he explained, "and she can't do that unless she knows where to improve herself. I criticize her because I care about her." These men are not uncaring louts. They all believe they are operating in the best interest of their loved ones. Yet, if that's true, why do their wives feel isolated, neglected and unloved? Why do these men have to keep searching for an impossible and unknown magic something to give meaning to their lives? Why do they neglect and ignore their most basic needs for emotional and physical nourishment, rest, relaxation, and connectedness with the people they love? What in the name of heaven is wrong with them? I have only one answer: They don't know how else to behave. Or if they do know how to behave differently, that knowledge is overridden by the inertia of years of habit, years of thoughtless action and reaction in rigid social roles taken as immutable personality traits. Isaac, Peter and Scott are re-enacting scenes from their own unhappy childhoods. Scott had endured years of parental criticism, Peter had never heard compliments or words of affection, Isaac had been taught that a real man keeps going, come hell or high water. Had it made them happy when their parents had acted in these ways? Not on your life! Yet, with barely a conscious thought to what they were doing, they continually repeated the melodrama of their turbulent past, and they continued to feel the same self- doubt and unhappiness they had known as children. They lived as pre-programmed automatons, not as fully alive, emotionally complex human beings.

Women Are Better at this than Men Are, Right?
Not necessarily. Woman usually cope differently than men, but different doesn't always mean better. While sons are learning to ignore and discount both internal and external emotional signals, daughters of alcoholics are learning to cope with family turbulence by developing an acute sensitivity to the whims and desires of the people around them. By anticipating the moods and behavior of her unpredictable parents, a girl gains a sense of mastery and control over her environment. Yet, in no way does this teach the girl about her own need to be nurtured, nor does it give her lessons in positive and healthy self-care. On one hand, a girl in an alcoholic family has a powerful incentive to placate, comfort and nurture her disorderly parents; and on the other, she senses a completely normal and natural desire to have her own emotional and physical needs taken care of. Such a situation is bound to create tremendous inner conflict. In a healthy and integrated family, the conflict might be resolved by allowing the child the opportunity to learn the benefits of both giving and receiving, of thinking of oneself in addition to thinking of others, of selflessness and selfishness. But in an alcoholic family . . . ? So, what choices does such a girl have? With her limited experience and knowledge, how does she resolve the conflict between having to give and wanting to take? Too often, she solves the problem by avoiding the choice altogether, by denying her desires and deadening her feelings generally. She becomes a giver, but the giving is hardly selfless. It is a way of quieting her own unvoiced desires. Gilda, a 35 year old psychotherapist told me, "I was a 22 year-old college student before I heard the idea that it was okay for a woman to put her own needs before the needs of other people. I was stunned by the concept! I am not exaggerating when I say that the thought of taking my own needs and desires into consideration when making a decision had simply never entered my head. It was an unheard-of possibility. My mother had always told me to think of other people first. Take care of your brother, watch your sister, what does your father want, how can you make your mother happy? Those were the messages sent me. Never did anyone in my family ever say to me, 'Now, Gilda, what is it that you want?' My entire self-worth was tied up in my providing services to other people. Whenever I dared put myself first, I felt terribly guilty and selfish, like a total failure as a human being, so I'd try to redeem myself by redoubling my efforts to help others. And, quite honestly, it didn't matter a whit to me whether they really needed or wanted my help. I was going to take care of them, by God, because that was the only way I knew how to feel useful and important. I'm sure that's why I became a mental health counselor, so I could feel good by taking care of other people." Gilda's behavior is neither unusual nor unexpected in adult daughters of alcoholics. Here are some more examples:

Elena was a steady source of information and advice to her many friends with physical or emotional difficulties. If a friend developed a backache, Elena knew of just the right orthopedic surgeon to call. She gave diet books to her overweight friends and the names of marriage counselors to those considering divorce. If counseling didn't work, Elena knew a good lawyer. Meanwhile, Elena herself got fatter and fatter, her marriage faltered, and her health deteriorated. Why couldn't she follow her own good advice? When Dottie's husband came down with a severe case of the flu, she insisted he go directly to bed and stay there until the doctor gave him permission to go back to work. "Your health is too important to risk," she intoned as she dished out homemade soup. Two weeks later Dottie was doing housework, grocery shopping and crosstown errands with a temperature of 102 degrees. "Somebody's got to keep the household running," she moaned. "Besides, it's only the flu." Why was her husband's health more important than her own? Myrna could always be counted on in a crunch. If your car broke down and you needed a ride, you could call Myrna. Did you need an extra five place settings of sterling for a big dinner? A place to spend the night? An extra pair of hands to clean out the basement? You could always count on Myrna. And when Myrna was in a car crash that left her with one wrist and a leg in plaster, her friends all pitched in to return the favors she had done them. Why did Myrna politely reject their offers of help? Why did she hire help instead of accepting it from her friends? Why could she give but not take?

Emotional Deadness
An alcoholic family, with its denial and deceits, kills the honesty, pleasure, vitality, feelings and common-sense of its members. It is a system that values deadening of sensibilities more than the rich, deep feelings and moods that come naturally with true emotional aliveness. Image is esteemed over reality, pride over truth, glory-seeking over honest effort, and control over spontaneity. Because such an atmosphere provides children with only the most shaky foundation for feelings of self-worth, we end up accepting ourselves almost exclusively in terms of what other people tell us we should be. For men in our society, this usually translates into achievement and success as it is measured by money, status, power and sexual prowess. For women, it means nurturing in the form of kindness, generosity, selflessness, and service to others. These values, of course, are not unique to sons or daughters of alcoholics. Ambitious boys and good girls are admired in every strata of our society. And there is certainly nothing intrinsically wrong with these values. In proper proportion, both ambition and selflessness are admirable qualities in any person. Yet I believe that boys and girls growing up in alcoholic families are encouraged, both actively and passively, to take on these traits in a way that is neither

admirable nor healthy. These dominant cultural messages are expanded upon, magnified, and exaggerated by family alcoholism. Boys become obsessive gloryseekers, girls become self-effacing doormats. There is no balance. This imbalance is often disguised by two especially destructive messages alcoholic and co-dependent parents send their children . . . Keep up a good front at all times because the family pride depends on it. Don't acknowledge your real feelings because exposing the truth will annihilate you and destroy the family. In order to live up to these powerful parental dictates, we employ a number of self-destructive strategies --- We deaden our physical and emotional awareness. -- We withdraw from true intimacy and sharing with those we profess to love. -- We martyr ourselves to the supposed needs of others. -- We are compulsively conformist, yet inwardly defiant. -- And we selfishly impose our will on our loved ones in the name of their own good.

Growing Up
If we are to escape the tyranny of childhood pain, we must grow up in the real world. And the first lesson of growing up is learning to take care of our own basic needs. How can we unselfishly give to others when we are so needy ourselves? As adults, we must practice the every day care of the physical self. This includes healthy eating; good and appropriate exercise; and rest, relaxation and stress management. It is important to recognize when we have reached our physical and emotional limits so that we do not deplete ourselves with childish heroics that leave us weakened, exhausted and vulnerable to illness. And finally, we must recognize that as adult children of alcoholics, we face a high risk of developing addictions and co-dependencies.

Adult children of alcoholics are prone to chemical dependency problems. The risk is both hereditary and learned. ADULT CHILDREN WHO DRINK HEAVILY OR WHO USE LEGAL AND ILLEGAL DRUGS FOR RECREATION, RELAXATION, OR STRESS REDUCTION WILL DEVELOP THE SAME PROBLEMS THEY HATED IN THEIR PARENTS. Alcohol, drugs, smoking, compulsive eating, lying and more . . .

Are we shaking an accusatory finger at our parents when more honestly we could be pointing that finger in our own direction? Are we just a bit too eager to be judge, jury, and executioner of villains from the past, and a bit too reluctant to take our own inventory here and now. How do we measure up in the selfresponsibility department? Isn't it time we took stock of ourselves in the present and started taking care of ourselves for a change?

Avoiding Martyrdom To Self-Neglect
Whether the goal is to produce changes in cognitions, beliefs, feelings, behavior, motivations, etc., there can be no doubt that the therapist's business is the more or less deliberate, self-conscious production of change. --Hans H. Strupp, M.D. Picture this: In about l961, one of my alcoholic relatives -- let's call him Uncle Herbert -- who held an important position with a major national corporation, started having problems on the job because of his drinking. A sympathetic executive officer took Uncle Herbert aside and said something along the lines of, "Good God, man, get a hold on yourself." He then slipped Uncle Herbert a card with the name of a New York psychoanalyst written on it. "Did me a world of good," the executive said cryptically. Uncle Herbert, who still had his wits about him enough to realize this subtle exchange between him and the boss should be construed as a direct order to shape up, immediately called the shrink for an appointment. After several months of thrice weekly analytical sessions, the doctor explained to Herbert that his drinking, though troublesome, was not really the problem. It was merely a symptom of a deeper underlying unconscious conflict rooted in childhood. With proper therapy, the conflict could be resolved, at which point Herb's alcoholism would subside because the major underlying disorder would be cured. "Does this mean I don't have to stop drinking now?" Uncle Herbert asked. The doctor took a firm stand. "When you have made sufficient progress in analysis, you'll no longer need to drink abusively." Uncle Herbert stayed in analysis for five years, finally dropping out when his company forced him into early retirement with a reduced pension. Did he ever resolve his childhood conflicts and quit drinking? Nope. He died at age 56 of cirrhosis of the liver.

Uncle Herbert received the highest standard of care available to alcoholics at that time. During the l950's and '60's there were no specialized chemical dependency units, no widely accepted disease concept of addiction, no effective treatment other than Alcoholics Anonymous. Fortunately, times have changed. Today, we recognize alcoholism and chemical dependency as primary diseases and the first order of business in recovery is: Get sober and straight. Co-dependency is also gaining recognition as part and parcel of chemical dependency problems, and again the message is loud and clear: Co-dependents must overcome their denial, acknowledge that their life has become unmanageable, and take action to change self-destructive behaviors. We have learned much in the last twenty-five years. The enlightened wisdom of today tells us that people can recover from alcoholism and co-dependency. We don't need to resolve all of our inner conflicts before positive change can occur. Recovery can't wait for us to come to grips with our so- called underlying problems. Chemical dependency and co-dependency are not symptoms. They are the real thing. Now, picture this: The year is l997. It's nine o'clock on a Saturday morning. A woman therapist who specializes in treating depression in adult daughters of alcoholics is addressing a small group of hung-over, over-weight, unhappy women. The air is heavy with cigarette smoke. "You have a right to your depression," the therapist says gently. "You have survived a terrible ordeal and you have a right to your pain." Several woman nod comprehendingly, others just smoke, eyes downcast. "I eat when I'm depressed," one woman says, kneading her heavy thighs. "I just get started on food and I can't stop. I feel hungry all the time." "I can really relate to that," another woman says, and other group members nod their heads in agreement. She adds, "I know I'd feel better if I could just stop eating so much junk." "I think we've all felt bad and tried to eat our way out of it," says the therapist. "And then when that didn't work, we tried to starve the depression out by eating nothing but parsley and grapefruit. But weight isn't the issue here. Sue's talking about real depression. Right, Sue?" "Yeah," Sue says. "How does it feel for you, Sue? Can you share your feelings with the group?" Sue begins to talk about how she gets really down. The therapist skillfully guides her into talking about her relationships with her parents when she was growing up, her fear and hatred of her alcoholic mother, her ambivalence toward her father and her confusion over her own role in the family. Sue begins to cry as she recalls the lonely lost times, and the therapist and other group members give her a lot of support. Afterwards Sue feels a sense of relief. Many months later, the group is still dealing with heavy emotions and all the group members have been able to unload the

negative feelings of growing up in an alcoholic family. But Sue still feels bad. And she's still eating. And eating. And eating. But she should feel better, she tells herself. After all, she'd grasped a lot of the dynamics of her family. She now had a fairly good acceptance of the bad feelings that had seemed so unacceptable before. Finally Sue got the courage to bring up the problem again in group. "I've been wondering if it might help if I could just get my diet under control." "Diet," said Iris. "I'm for it. The chocaholic's guide to quick weight loss. Sign me up." "Diet," said another with a trace of bitterness in her voice, "diet is a four-letter word." Everyone laughed. The therapist smiled. "I hear you," she said. "I hear what you're saying. But that's a temporary solution, a quick fix for a much deeper problem. Eating junk is not the real problem. Compulsive eating is merely an ineffective way of coping with the unresolved pain of growing up in a dysfunctional family. It's a superficial manifestation of our real problem. We need to spend much more time working through these emotions, dealing with our pain and sense of loss and guilt. Once we have resolved those issues, dealing with other areas in our life will be much easier . . . " Wait a minute! What's going on here? Is this deja vu or a time warp or what? Isn't that essentially the same message that enabled alcoholics to continue drinking while participating in intensive psychoanalysis thirty years ago? Haven't we all pretty much agreed that chemical dependency and co-dependency are not symptoms, but real problems? Why would adult children want to use theories and methods that failed with their parents? Haven't we learned anything in the last three decades? As we have seen, one of the major problems of adult children is that we don't take care of ourselves. This characteristic is not a symptom, not an outward sign of some profound underlying disorder. Self-neglect is a firmly entrenched pattern of behavior. And if we are to recover, we must deal with the problem directly. We can spend hours and hours in insight therapy groups exploring the past and "coming to terms with" the anxiety monsters in our closets, all the time waiting for the magic time when we will be transformed from ugly, awkward, frightened ducklings into magnificent swans-- or fearless eagles boldly soaring where no man has gone before. Those magic transformations are rare outside of fairy tales. The real truth is more mundane. As one therapist put it, "Therapy is change, not peanut butter."

Integrating Insight & Behavior Change

Insight is a perception into the inner nature or real character of a things. When we seek insight into the workings of the physical world, we can usually find one true and correct answer to our questions. Why is the sky blue? Why do the tides turn? Why does water boil at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. These questions have answers that anyone, if given the proper knowledge and tools, can decipher. But when we ask, "Why? Why? Why am I the way that I am?" the answer is frequently, "Because you are." We can dig up family trees, we can try to recall the family determinants . . . but how far back do we go? When do we stop? Some people are now into past life regression therapy. How many of our past lives do we therapize? Which one is the real culprit causing our present problems? And what about our current life? How reliable is our memory of what happened in childhood? In adolescence? Ten years ago? Last Wednesday? (Research suggests that memory of early childhood for example is not very reliable at all, and that memory in general tends to be a hit and miss affair, with imagination filling in many of the blanks.) And why is it that Jaimie , whose mom and dad were both alcoholic, turned out to be a college president, while Jack, whose parents never drank, ended up on skid row? We are told, "The same fire that melts the butter boils the egg." Small solace, since we have no way of knowing whether we're butter or egg, or even how hot the fire is, if there is one. So we generally settle for acceptable answers. In truth, there are no pat answers, no perfect explanations that make the pieces of the personal puzzle fall neatly into place. And there is no revelation, no universal solvent, that will automatically make everything better. We humans are too complex. We may never discover the true causes or real nature of our deepest, most strongly felt emotions. All we know is that all humans are hardwired to experience intense feelings of love and anger, joy and fear, happiness and grief. It is our nature to feel. Do we recover by seeking insight into the twists of our inner psyche or do we start changing specific behaviors that are causing us harm in the hear and now? For me, the answer is that we do both. Insight and Change We can simultaneously do grief work and learn stress management techniques. We can explore our inner rage while we are learning to modify our eating habits. We can examine our fear of abandonment while we kick marijuana and stop going one toke over the line. In other words. . . . We can gain insight into our emotional weaknesses while we start taking care of our physical selves.

These are especially important points to keep in mind, because over the years, adult children employ a variety of physically destructive methods in an attempt to eradicate ever- present feelings of anxiety and fear -- alcohol and drugs, heavy smoking, over-eating, over-sleeping, workaholism, compulsive talking and arguing, compulsive sexual behavior. Ironically, our compulsive "solutions" to anxiety make our lives worse, not better. These ersatz anxiety-reducers inevitably make life more complicated. They are diversions, not solutions to anxiety. And they are costly diversions: They not only lower the general quality of our lives, but they have an aspect that leads to what has been called "sub-intentional suicide"-- a kind of self-destruction by default. While many adult children try to diminish their pervasive fear by avoiding all risks (and thus most opportunities), some of the most frightened people -- male and female -- adopt what seems like a don't-give-a-damn attitude. They laugh in the face of fear, taking increasing risks with their health and safety. These people specialize in walking along the edge of disaster. They scoff at danger and they disdain the margin of safety. The "edgework" specialist seems to court self-destruction. Edgeworkers drink heavily, drive fast, smoke two packs packs a day, and go, go, go. Sinclair Lewis, a winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, recognized this behavior in his collaborator, Paul de Kruif. A man of gargantuan appetites and a flamboyant risk-taker, de Kruif reveled in swimming in a bay full of sharks. After listening to his friend brag about swimming out further and further each day in the shark infested waters, Lewis commented, "You have a will to destruction, Paul." "You've got me wrong," de Kruif replied. "It is only the determination of a coward to conquer fear of destruction." (Sinclair Lewis, an alcoholic, had his own brand of self-destruction.)

Of Cowardice & Courage
Is it the fear of destruction that motivates adult children to abuse our bodies and minds? Is it fear of experiencing the discomfort of real feelings that leads us to medicate ourselves with alcohol, drugs, and food? Is it fear of intimacy that turns us into workaholics who have neither the time nor energy to get really close to those we love? Is it fear of failure that makes us all-or-nothing perfectionists who too often do nothing toward making ourselves well? Are we cowards who cling to the past because we are afraid of the present? To face the present without our chemical crutches, to slow down, to test our discipline, to risk failure . . . all of this takes courage. Change is frightening Yet, courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is facing the challenges before us in spite of all the fear.

If we accept the challenge of making ourselves healthy, if we take the responsibility for our own well-being, if we fail and try again and again, then slowly, slowly our fears subside. Accepting the challenge of really taking care of ourselves makes us strong, gives us a certain sense of integrity, makes our minds feel sharp. For the first time we start feeling that life is not just a trial, but an adventure. And slowly, slowly, as we gain mastery and control over our lives, our despair transforms into hope and our cowardice into courage.

Somato-Psychics: The Food/Mood Connection
Our daily diet grows odder and odder It's a wise child who know it's own fodder. --Ogden Nash Louise, a 29 year old teacher, went to the doctor complaining of chronic fatigue. She had taken half a dozen sick days in the last few months, not because of any specific illness, but because she simply felt bad. "I feel like I've got a case of chronic mononucleosis. I'm literally dragging myself through the day, and I have trouble sleeping at night. I have weak spells and palpitations. I can't go on like this." Before conducting lab tests, the doctor wisely took a thorough history, quizzing Louise about her eating and exercise habits, whether she was taking any medications or over-the- counter preparations, and whether she was happy with her job and personal life. It didn't take very long for the physician to spot a suspicious, but all-too-common pattern in Louise's lifestyle. She'd been fighting 15 extra pounds for several years, using a combination of self-discipline and over-the-counter diet pills in an effort to shed the stubborn pounds. She sometimes succeeded in losing weight. . . temporarily. "In the past five years," she'd confide to friends, "I've lost at least 200 pounds." The problem was, of course, that she always regained the weight. And sometimes a little bit more. Typically, Louise started the day with a cup of coffee, a 12-hour timed release appetite suppressant, and a multi-vitamin pill. No breakfast. Lunch consisted of a cup of plain yogurt, a piece of fruit, a rice cracker, and black coffee. She also drank coffee during her morning and afternoon breaks. Dinner was a well-balanced meal of meat, complex carbohydrates, and fresh vegetables. "I'm very interested in good nutrition," Louise explained.

"That may be true," the doctor told her, "But you're still undernourished and over-medicated. You're going the whole day on about 250 calories and caffeine. You're depleting your body of fuel, and you may have upset your glucose metabolism. The appetite suppressants you're taking contain ingredients which can stimulate the adrenal glands, causing sleeplessness, anxiety, heart palpitations and high blood pressure." The doctor ran a series of tests, including a glucose tolerance test. The results showed that an otherwise healthy Louise suffered from unstable blood glucose (or blood sugar) levels. Because glucose is the main fuel for the body, Louise would feel weak and shakey when her blood sugar level dropped below normal. "People who diet frequently and who skip meals often suffer from periods of hypogycemia or low blood sugar," the doctor explained. "This condition can be easily corrected by following a sensible diet." Louise cringed inwardly. "Sensible diet" sounded a lot like "sensible shoes." No fun at all. Carrot sticks and bran, with a handful of raisins tossed in, along with a lettuce leaf and a biter, stringy stalk of celery. Rabbit food. The doctor continued, "I want you to throw out your diet pills, start eating breakfast and a more substantial lunch, and a smaller dinner. You're not getting enough calories, protein or carbohydrates during the day." "But I eat yogurt and fresh fruit," Louise protested. "Those are healthy foods." "Of course they are," the doctor agreed, "but they are not magic foods. They have no special properties. A cup of yogurt is basically a cup of milk -- 8 grams of protein, that's all. The culturing process adds beneficial bacteria, but it doesn't increase the nutritional value of the basic ingredients." The doctor went on to explain that in order to lead a high- energy life, Louise needed to feed her body the fuel it runs on best -- which is high quality protein and complex carbohydrates, not caffeine and vitamin pills. He said, "In effect, you're filling your tank with high octane fuel at night while your engine is idling. But the next day there's nothing left to go on but vapors. You feel tired and weak because you're running on empty." He also assured her that eating breakfast and lunch would not make her gain weight, as she feared, as long as she didn't fill up on high calorie junk food, too. In fact, recent research shows that people who go all day without eating, then eat a large evening meal, will gain weight. Yet, eating the same amount of food during the day, when we are active, does not make us gain weight. By starving herself during the day, Louise was actually sabotaging her efforts to slim down. Louise started to follow the doctor's suggestions and she started feeling better within a week. "The hardest part was taking time for breakfast and lunch," she says. "I'm so used to being pushed for time that eating regular meals sometimes seems like a real inconvenience, but I feel so much better, it's worth it."

Adult Children Have Special Nutritional Problems
In today's society, a fast paced life seems to be the norm. We always seem to have too much to do and not enough time to do it in. Both men and women are juggling the demands of career and family, child care and commitment to the community. Such responsibilities can foster a lifestyle which saps us of the energy we need to function at an optimum level. When we examine this lifestyle we see Irregular eating habits . . . Perpetual dieting . . . Inadequate exercise . . . Too much coffee, tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, valium, cocaine . . . Too much stress, not enough rest . . . And not enough personal time . . . All of these factors add up-- and they don't just add up, they multiply, augment each other and contribute to a chronic energy drain. These problems of lifestyle seem to be especially acute in a adult children of alcoholics. Why is this? I think one of the main reasons is that in alcoholic homes, irregular habits are the norm. Children of alcoholics don't know how to live a healthy lifestyle because their parents didn't model healthy behavior. Hit and miss meals, emotional and physical exhaustion, and constant stress are normal components of homelife to adult children. Then there is the heredity factor. We know that alcoholism runs in families. Scandinavian research clearly shows that the propensity for becoming alcoholic is based on biology, not on upbringing or environment. It doesn't matter how terrible a person's home life is -- if there is no history of alcoholism in biological relatives, that person has a low risk of becoming alcoholic himself. And if you are raised in the most wonderful foster home imaginable, you still have a higher risk of becoming alcoholic if you have biological parents who are alcoholic. ADULT CHILDREN OF ALCOHOLICS FACE A HIGH BIOLOGICAL RISK OF DEVELOPING CHEMICAL DEPENDENCY PROBLEMS. The hereditary factor may effect more than just a predisposition to addiction. After studying hundreds of adult children of alcoholics, we have seen three specific problems over and over again. These problems occur at a much higher rate in adult children than in adults who report no family history of alcoholism. 1. Chemical Dependency (to alcohol, legal and illegal drugs, and tobacco). 2. Blood Sugar Disorders (both adult onset diabetes and reactive hypoglycemia).

3. Chronic Endogenous Depression (a blue mood and sense of hopelessness that continues regardless of external circumstances). We don't know why adult children seem to have more trouble with these problems. Maybe alcoholism, depression,and defects in blood sugar metabolism are somehow related. We don't know and there is no clear-cut scientific evidence to offer us an explanation. But for our purposes, all we need to know is that if you are the child of an alcoholic you have a higher than average chance of developing blood sugar problems and depression, especially if you drink, skip meals, follow fad diets, or are a junk food junkie. You may also be hit harder by the stress and strain of a competitive lifestyle than a person who inherits a less sensitive nervous system and metabolism. I believe that our moods are irrevocably intertwined with the way we treat our bodies. If we neglect or abuse our physical selves, we are abusing ourselves mentally and emotionally. We may struggle and search and suffer in our quest for emotional well-being and happiness. We may spend thousands of dollars for therapists, retreats, seminars, and groups. We may reach out desperately for the help we know we need . . . Yet, here is a basic fact that cannot be ignored: All the counseling, therapy, psychology and insight in the world will not put an end to unpleasant feelings that are caused by a body screaming out for proper care and feeding. Our physical and emotional selves cannot be separated. We have all heard of psycho-somatic illnesses, a phenomenon in which physical problems -- real illnesses -- are created or made worse by the mind. I believe that many miserable adult children suffer from somato-psychic illnesses, that is mental and emotional problems intensified or caused by the biochemical interactions of an abused body. This is an important concept. Without going into an anatomy and physiology lesson, and at the risk of oversimplfying, let me say this: The unstable blood sugar levels self-neglectful adult children are prone to can cause a variety of unpleasant physical and emotional symptoms, including depression, weakness, nervousness, anxiety, headaches, sleep problems, mental confusion and despair. And, in most cases, the kinds of blood sugar problems adult children suffer from can be corrected by changes in lifestyle that emphasize eating well, physical activity, and relaxation.

Patterns of Care-Less Eating
Over the years, I've observed a certain pattern of eating that is common among adult children who suffer from moodiness, fatigue, lack of vitality, and excess

weight. It's a pattern of eating that's virtually guaranteed to produce somatopsychic symptoms. Does this sound familiar? No breakfast, or a breakfast high in sugar or caffeine. Skipped meals. Light eating during the day; heavy eating during the evening. Nighttime snacking to assuage gnawing hunger. Lots: Sugar, junk food, salt, fat, tobacco, caffeine, simple carbohydrates. Little: Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains. These erratic eating habits are frequently accompanied by sporadic bursts of dietary self-discipline that are meant to slim us down or perk us up. Unfortunately, these attempts are usually short-lived and sometimes counter productive as in the case of fad diets and magic-bullet, one-shot cures. Lose 14 Pounds in One Week With Hypnobese! Try the All-Buffalo Quick-Weight-Loss Diet Lose Up To 50 Pounds Without Dieting! Cal-Ban 3000 Tablets Firm Up Flabby Thighs In One Week Sexercise Yourself! Lose 25 Pounds In 14 Days Rice Diet Natural Energizers-- Okra-Pick-Me-Up Pills (They're Super-Charged!) Tap Your Hidden Power Reservoir With CellulosePLUS (Cedar Shavings With Added vitamins) These come-ons promise an effortless quick-fix to problems that have been a long time in the making. Primed by technologies that give us instant light, color, sound, and motion, as well as one-stop shopping and effortless transportation, we tend to gravitate toward the quick-fix, toward the effortless solution to complex personal problems. Of course, one-stop effortless solutions exist for every social and psychological ill: such solutions, however, turn out to be simple, painless and wrong. All of us are looking for a quick-fix, a sure-fire, painless technique of recovery. No such thing exists. When we launch ourselves into periodic bouts of Spartan selfdiscipline, which usually means drastic diets and rigorous exercise for a period of a week or two, we are doing ourselves no favors. Such a regimen more often than not turns out to be an energy drainer. Any positive effects are short-lived and transitory. And in the long run, we end up feeling like failures. Fatigued, unhappy, or overweight adult children don't need another diet. We need a new lifestyle.

Avoiding the All-Or-Nothing Pitfall
Remember, you are a troubled person taking on a most difficult task -- the taming of a turbulent past and all the bad habits that come from a lifetime of denial, fear and self- neglect. Give yourself a break. All the breaks you can. Desperate adult children have a tendency to sabotage themselves with an all or nothing approach to self-improvement. We make Great Resolutions with High Expectations. The scenario goes something like this: "Okay, I'm really going to get my act together. I'm going to improve everything. Natural food only and an hour of aerobics everyday. Instead of pigging-out, I'm going to meditate every night. No more screwing around. I'm changing all the way this time." Don't do it. You will fail and your failure may make you feel depressed and miserable. We don't have to become paragons of virtue. We don't need to be perfect, not in 14 days, anyway. It's important to set achievable goals, not impossible ones. Repeat: You don't need to be perfect. A lot of small changes can add up to a big improvement. And that's good.

Health Boosters
I live with this body of mine, and yet for all I know about it, I might as well be living with a stranger. -- John Stewart Collis Our goals are simple: (1) We want to decrease lifestyle habits that are health drainers. And . . . (2) We want to promote lifestyle habits that are health boosters. I'm not asking you to go on a diet. And for a very good reason. The word diet conjures up certain images in weight conscious America. Negative images. As one of the group members in Chapter 12 said, "Diet is a four-letter word." We see a diet as punishment for our sins of gluttony, a penance we pay for past pleasures. Diets mean deprivation. We starve ourselves down for a few days or weeks or months and then go back to our old unhealthy ways until we can't stand ourselves any longer, then we start the whole miserable process over again.

A diet connotes a temporary change, a short period of unpleasantry (for our own good, we say, masochistically), which will be discontinued once we get in shape. Never before in history have so many people gone on so many diets and lost so few pounds. So, no. No diets, puleeze! What I am asking is this: Will you embark on a long-term quest for physical and emotional health? Before answering this question, you must first determine if you have made the diagnosis -- that is, do you realize that much of your current unhappiness is directly related to the unresolved co-dependent behaviors you learned in your alcoholic family? And that one of the major co-dependency issues is the glorification of self-neglect, exhaustion, and martyrdom in the service of others? If you are to really change, you must come to the point where you accept your codependency and yourself as a co- dependent with unresolved problems. This sounds easy, but it's not because you are suffering from the deeply ingrained, unspoken belief that it is wrong and selfish and weak for you to put your time and energy into meeting your own needs in a healthy way. On a very deep level, you believe that you do not deserve to pamper yourself in any way unless you first earn that privilege by working very hard. So, you eat on the run, because you don't deserve to take time for a pleasant lunch until you've done all of your work. You go for days without exercise because you don't have the time to walk around the block. And even if you did have the time, you couldn't go walking because you didn't deserve to spend $50 on yourself for a good, comfortable pair of walking shoes, so instead you bought three pairs of plastic sandals at Wal-Mart for $17 each, and they pinch your toes, so you can't walk far in them, and that's why it's impossible for you to get healthy, don't you know? This kind of thinking and behavior keeps you feeling constantly deprived and overburdened. And the real tragedy is that you are spending just as much time and money and energy in not taking care of yourself as it takes to treat yourself in a truly loving and caring manner. And that brings us back to square one -- the deep, vague, inarticulate belief that you don't deserve to love and care for yourself. Your job is to take care of other people. Right? So, let's say you don't deserve to do it for yourself. You're just no damn good, a hopeless case. I mean, what the hell, why even bother? Well, what about the people around you? The people you profess to love? Do you really think they like being around a moody, irritable, sick, depressed martyr? So, if you can't do it for yourself, do it for them. They will be heartbroken if you collapse on them. "I don't know where to start," you protest, shrinking inside at the formidable task before you. Let's look at some health-boosting ideas that can make a difference in your life-not just in the short run, but over the long haul.

Health Booster #1: Eating Well
Here are some suggestions on how to start taking care of yourself. These nutritional guidelines are generally accepted by experts as behaviors that promote good health. Which is what we're after. Avoid diets that distort nutritional balance. Any diet that advocates magical properties for special foods or that skimps on protein, carbohydrates or fruits and vegetables can result in a health drain. Eat enough protein, but avoid "high protein" diets. While most Americans get more than adequate amounts of protein foods -- meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk -many depressed and anxious people go on eating binges where they crave sugar and starch to such an extent that they may go for days without eating even minimum amounts of protein foods. Make complex carbohydrates --starchy food like bread, cereal, pasta, rice, beans, and potatoes an important part of each meal. Contrary to popular belief, starchy foods are not fattening. It's the butter, mayonnaise, gravy, and sauces that add the calories. The best carbohydrates are unrefined -- whole wheat, brown rice, baked potatoes and so on. Carbohydrate is the preferred fuel for the body, and starches give us a longer lasting energy boost than do simple sugars. Unrefined starches also provide needed fiber. Avoid simple sugars -- including white sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, syrup, corn sweetener, and honey. These sugars give a quick lift, followed by an energy drain. Anyone with a blood sugar problem is wise to avoid sweets, candies, cakes, cookies, donuts, pie, ice cream, flavored yogurt and so on. The biggest source of sugar in the American diet is soft drinks, including pop and so-called 'fruit' drinks. If you eliminate only one energy drainer from your diet, make it sugared soft drinks! Reduce your intake of fat. This is especially important if you have a weight problem. Most of the fat in our diet is hidden from view. Did you know that one chocolate chip cookie can have a whole tablespoon (100 calories!) of butter in it? And who eats just one chocolate chip cookie? A slice of pie has about two tablespoons of Crisco (200 calories!). And a measly quarter cup of commercial cake frosting can have 400 calories worth of lard (that's right, pig fat!) in it. A high fat meal can cause immediate fatigue in some people. And we all know that a fatty diet contributes to obesity, heart disease, and other chronic maladies. Cut down on caffeine. If you suffer from anxiety attacks, panic, or that horrible choking pressure in your chest, caffeine is not your friend. Recent research shows that even one cup of coffee can cause a panic attack in a susceptible person. Caffeine is a drug. In large amounts it can cause jitters in just about every one. But in a sensitive person, even small amounts can have a devastating effect. If you suffer from severe anxiety problems, it is important that you eliminate all caffeine from your life. This means cola drinks and tea, as well as coffee. Also check

ingredients in OTC drugs. Expect drowsiness, headache and irritability for two or three days if you go off caffeine cold-turkey. Don't rely on vitamins and food supplements to make up for poor eating habits. Vitamins and minerals are important and I take supplements myself. I think of them as an insurance policy, but that's all. Vitamin pills won't make us healthy if we are skipping meals, drinking, taking drugs, and living on junk food. They are a supplement to our diet, not the main course. Don't skip meals or go on fasts. Such behavior causes blood sugar to fall and makes us feel physically and emotionally bad. While this is true for most people, it is doubly important for adult children. If learning about nutrition or changing your eating habits seems overwhelming to you, don't despair. I've seen remarkable physical and emotional improvements in people who only remembered these four rules. FOUR RULES TO BOOST NUTRITIONAL HEALTH 1. I will not skip meals. I will make time for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. 2. I will avoid junk food, sugared foods, soda pop, and caffeine. 3. I will aim for balance between lean protein foods, complex carbohydrates, and fresh fruits and vegetables in my daily meals. 4. I will not beat up on myself if I blow it. I will simply start over again. If you follow these four rules on a fairly consistent basis, you will come a long way toward getting your blood sugar level and other bodily processes stabilized. If you are serious about improving your health, now would be a good time to see your doctor for a check-up. An important note: If the doctor tells you there is absolutely nothing wrong with your blood sugar test, please don't take that as permission to continue all of your old self-destructive habits. Think about this: Bouts of low blood sugar (and the resulting miserable symptoms) can be caused by your lifestyle, rather than by a disease. The blood test your doctor orders measures how your body reacts under certain controlled circumstances. But what about the uncontrolled circumstances of your life, like the times you're under terrible stress on the job and you go for three days on two Big Macs and five gallons of coffee? I don't think very many doctors realize how common that behavior is. And we're too embarrassed to tell them. I have a doctor friend who gets very cross with me whenever I mention hypoglycemia and the special nutritional needs of alcoholics and their children.

"The standard American diet provides all the essential nutrients a person needs," Dr. M intones. "We are the best fed nation in the world. Except for occasional fad dieting, my patients are all well-nourished." What the poor man doesn't seem to realize is that patients lie, lie, lie to their doctor about what they eat. Yes, they do! With malice aforethought and nary of twitch of the eye! I once had a client who was referred to me by her doctor because he felt her problems were emotional rather than physical. He had asked her about her diet. Doctor: "How's your diet, Jill?" Jill: "Fine." Doctor: "You eat three meals a day?" Jill: "Uh-huh." Doctor: "Good." As part of her therapy, I asked Jill to keep a food diary. This is a very simple procedure. Every time she ate something, she wrote down what it was, how much she ate, and at what time she ate it. Then we went over it at our weekly sessions. After one week, it became apparent that Jill fixed three meals a day for her family, but she herself existed on Oreo cookies, Hostess Cupcakes, Twinkies, coffee, and Diet Pepsi. And the scraps off her children's plates. And she wondered why she felt so bad! Why don't you try keeping a food diary for three or four days. Write down everything your eat, how much, and the time of day. Don't try to change your eating for the better while you're keeping your diary. Follow your normal pattern. Be honest! Then compare your diary with the typical pattern of dietary abuse we outlined in Chapter 13. If anything can convince you of the need to change, the food diary is it!

Preparing For Failure
I am asking you to make changes in deeply ingrained, destructive, health draining lifestyle habits. It is extremely important from the start that you realize that you will have failures. Lasting change does not come easily. There will be times when you take two steps forward and one step back, but that still means you are one step beyond your starting point. This acceptance of less than perfect adherence to your new health boosting habits is essential if you are to avoid disappointment and health draining despair. You will have failures. Accept this and prepare for it. If you are an all-or-nothing perfectionist, one small slip can send you onto a tailspin of self-hate and hopelessness. If you expect nutritional perfection from yourself, you are already on the way to defeat and self-recriminations.

My friend Naomi is a good example of an all-or-nothing perfectionist who every few months goes on a self-improvement kick that never lasts more than two weeks. "Pizza," she wailed. "I ate a whole pizza! I couldn't help myself. I was so hungry that once I started I couldn't quit. I blew it again! I'll never be thin!" Because Naomi sometimes blows it, she gives up, going back to the old bad habits that keep her heavy, tired and moody. And she's right. With her present attitude, she'll never be thin. What Naomi fails to understand is that failure is not black and white. Failure comes in different degrees, and half a failure is not the same as a whole failure. To Naomi, eating even one slice of pizza means she has gone off her diet, therefore she is a failure, a pig, a weak-willed nothing, and there is no use even trying any more. She's blown it. This type of thinking leads directly to massive hopelessness and self-hate. Realistically, one slice of pizza is not a serious transgression, and even ten slices of pizza are nothing more than a temporary set-back. Even if we jump into a vat of chocolate with an open mouth, there is nothing stopping us from climbing back out again and continuing on our forward trek towards positive self-care and good health. How can this be true? Can we really redeem ourselves when we blow it? Let's say you are breaking your nutritional goals. You are on an eating binge. We're not talking about a little pizza here, but a destructive and dangerous nighttime sugar and fat jag -- for example, you didn't eat all day long and now it's nine o'clock and you're starving and you're sitting in front of a pint of Haagan-Dazs ChocoChocolate Chip ice cream, a package of Duncan Heinz Peanut Butter Cookies, and a large bottle of Pepsi. And you're depressed. So why the hell not visit Hog City and . . . pig out? Now, listen: To any degree -- and I do mean any -- that you can limit this eating binge, you are limiting the degree of your failure. If you eat the ice cream and throw out the cookies, you have succeeded a little. If you stop halfway though the ice cream and cookies, you have limited the binge, and you have scored a partial success. You don't have to be perfect. This is hard to accept, very hard. It goes against our most deeply ingrained belief that to fail a little is tantamount to failing completely. It defies our belief that we are either perfect or we are nothing. But believe me, we do not live in an either/or world. We have multiple options and one option we face is choosing to be an 80% success! Or 50% or even 10%. The control it takes to successfully limit a binge will indicate to you that you do indeed have the capacity to succeed, to tolerate frustration, to pick yourself up and dust yourself off and go on with living and developing a happy life. All right, you're back with the program. The binge is over. Now is the time to put rule #4 into effect. Do not beat yourself up or hate yourself or feel guilty or vow to starve yourself in penance.

Food is not your enemy. Food is not responsible for your problems. You are responsible. And when you limited your binge, you took responsibility for your problems. That's good. Now, why did this binge happen? Did you skip meals and let yourself get too hungry? Did you allow yourself to be sabotaged by well-meaning friends? Were you stressed-out? Depressed? Feeling unloved? Isn't that an old habit? Eating because you feel lonely and down, then hating yourself for your lack of will-power, and eating some more? Learn what you can from this slip. Store that knowledge for future use. Now, what went right? Did you stop your binge sooner this time than you have before? Was your self-control better? What did you say to yourself that got you back on the right track? Pat yourself on the back for having the guts to start over again. And remember the immortal words of Scarlett O'Hara: Tomorrow is another day.

Health Booster #2: Physical Activity
I have never seen a busier bunch of people than a group of adult children of alcoholics with nothing to do. Adult children can't stand doing nothing. Doing nothing seems . . . well, sinful. It's not allowed. So, even when we are doing nothing, we have to act like we're doing something -- making a list, planning a project, doing Yoga breathing exercises, figuring out how Mary Ellen and Joe can fix up their marriage, something. I think all this busy-ness results from two particular characteristics common in adult children. 1. Shaky Self-Esteem. Adult children usually believe you are what you do. Ipso facto, if you do nothing, you are nothing. Such an attitude is not a good incentive for enjoying free time. 2. Fear of Honest Self-Appraisal. If we keep busy enough, we won't have the time to stop and take a good look at the direction and focus of our lives. What are we doing? Why are we doing it? Is it right or wrong? Is it what we really want out of life? These questions scare us. Keeping constantly busy is an effective way of avoiding answering them. Busy, But Going Nowhere When you are busy, you probably feel that you are active. The busier, you are -that is, the more hours of the day in which you are engaged in working, playing, visiting, cleaning, cooking, mowing, washing, talking, commuting, meeting, fixing, planning, loving, arguing, shopping, gaming, and coming and going -- the more active you think you are. Makes sense, doesn't it?

Well . . . not always. A lot of that busy-ness takes place behind a desk or in a car or in a chair or standing in one spot. It is inactive activity. Too often, we are busy, but not moving. We are efficient, but not active. We are enthusiastic, but not vigorous. Paradoxically, the busier we are, the more physically inactive we may be. Why? Because really busy people usually feel pressed for time. There's just so much to do, and so little time to do it well. So, we dash out the front door and into the car. We park as close to our destination as we can and hurry to the elevator in order to get to the third floor in time for our appointment. We're busy, rushed, pressured. And at the end of the day, exhausted. Yet, except for running from the house to the car to the office building to the elevator and back again, we have moved very little. This lack of physical movement in our daily activities has had a profound effect on our health. The human body is designed to be vigorously active, to walk and move and stretch and work and play. Lack of physical movement results in a slowed down metabolism, a build-up of body fat; a lessening of stamina and strength, a weakening of the heart and lungs, and the chronic aches and pains of physical disability. The degeneration of our physical capacities usually happens so slowly that we don't notice changes as they occur. Because we are so busy, we just assume we are also actively working our body. Then suddenly we wake up one morning wondering how we we got so flabby, tired, weak, and breathless. We have become another unsuspecting victim of the modern busy lifestyle. Some doctors call this mode of inactive activity hypokinesis, meaning an abnormally low amount of movement. And unless you are a physical laborer, or you walk to and from your office job, or you religiously adhere to a vigorous exercise routine, you are probably a victim of hypokinesis. Now, don't panic. Hypokinesis is not a disease. But it can lead to physical degeneration and disability unless we do something about it. Recent studies show that increased physical activity not only improves our bodies, but our mental outlook as well. Exercise can actually cause a biochemical change in the body that helps relieve feelings of depression. But before you run out and buy yourself a designer leotard, wait a minute. Remember your tendency for all- or- nothing perfectionism. If you let this personality characteristic slip your mind, you will undoubtedly sabotage your efforts for long-term physical improvement. It is neither healthy nor wise for a sedentary adult to suddenly start acting like he or she is trying out for the Olympic Games. If you try to do too much exercise too fast and too soon, some bad things are going to happen to you.

You'll hurt yourself. At least 25% of men who take up running and 50% of woman who take up running or aerobics injure themselves because they don't use proper equipment, technique, or instruction. You'll quit after a short time. A too difficult work- out makes you feel like a failure, and because you don't like feeling that way, you'll find excuses not to continue. You won't have any fun. If you're already busy, an exhausting or painful exercise program becomes just another unpleasant burden in your life. Stuart, a school psychologist in his mid-thirties fell into this last trap. He decided to get into shape by taking up running. Always a competitor, Stuart didn't feel he was making progress unless he could run a little farther or a little faster each day. He explained it this way, "I finally got to the point where I could run a mile in a little under six minutes. That's pretty good for a guy my age and that made me feel good about myself. I started thinking I had to match that time on every run. I invested my entire identity in being able to run a six minute mile. My knees and ankles started hurting and that slowed me down, so I'd just push that much harder to compensate. I was pushing myself way beyond my natural limits, putting myself under a terrible strain to perform. After a few months I was totally burned out on running. I dreaded it. Hated it! It got to be just like the worst parts of my job, something I detested but had to do because I was supposed to. I couldn't quit my job, but I could quit running. And I did." In Stuart's case, exercise became a health drainer instead of a health booster. You don't have to let this happen to you. Are you willing to build your stamina slowly? Are you willing to be consistent and persistent in your efforts? Will you resist the temptation to push yourself beyond your natural limits? If you can say yes to all three of these questions, you have a good chance of making long-term improvements in your health.

Wash Your Face, Brush Your Teeth, and Move!
"Oh jeminy crickets--kid stuff. Next you'll be giving lessons on how to blow my nose." Well, take a deep breath and . . . For starters, every morning you get up, wash your face and brush your teeth. "But doesn't everyone do that?" Nope. A lot of people let it slide, put it off. "Oh, I took a shower yesterday," they'll say. "Or maybe it was the day before yesterday." They don't brush their teeth until they begin to see green algae growing next to their gums. Their mouth becomes an ecological niche for flagella-footed bacteria and other interesting slime-dwellers. But if you've trained yourself in basic hygiene, you need no special motivation to head in the direction of your toothbrush. You don't need a friend to go into the

bathroom with you, and you don't need any exotic equipment. Just a few essentials. If you miss two or three days of washing, you positively look forward to the earliest opportunity to commune with hot water. In fact, not washing makes you feel like a total grunge! These basic hygienic habits are deeply ingrained and automatic. To most of us, the very thought of going a week without soap and toothpaste is absolutely unthinkable. And that's the way it should be with physical activity -- an automatic daily routine. You will be most successful in boosting your health if you start thinking of physical activity as an essential part of your daily routine, just like combing your hair. Taking aerobics classes with a friend, being involved in team sports, and weekend golfing, tennis, skiing, and hiking are wonderful activities. But they cannot be the core of a routine of physical activity. Why not? Because your aerobics partner's six-year-old will come down with the chicken pox and you won't want to go to classes alone. Only three guys will show up for basketball practice, so you might as well go over to the Tides Tavern and watch the Celtics on the bigscreen T.V. And how many skiing trips do you take a year? Ten? Six? Two? Here are some suggestions on how to change a lifestyle of hypokinesis into a health boosting routine of increased physical movement. Now, we're not talking about exercises here, we're talking about routine movement. In the morning, stretch when you arise. Stand on your tiptoes and reach for the ceiling, move sideways and backwards, slowly bend to the floor (don't be a hero, it's okay if you bend your knees.) This takes less than a minute and can profoundly increase flexibility if done regularly over time. Park your car a block away from your office and walk the rest of the way. (Not recommended in tough neighborhoods or if you work nights.) Always take the stairs, even if the building has twenty stories. Walk up the first three flights, then take the elevator to the twentieth floor. If you walk up and down five flights of stairs at least twice a day, by the end of a year you will be in vastly improved physical condition. If you can't manage five flights, do one flight for two weeks, then two flights and so on. (But, please, if you are sedentary, overweight, or breathless, check with your doctor first. We don't want any heart attacks on the fourth floor.) Take five minute walks. Forget what you have heard about needing 20 minutes of increased heartrate to get any benefit from exercise. It may be true that you will get the most aerobic benefit from that kind of routine. But you will also get positive physical benefit from walking around the block after lunch. Don't let your all-or-nothing perfectionism prevent you from enjoying a short, vigorous stroll a couple times a day.

Become an inefficiency expert. If you have a message to give to your co-worker down the hall or your neighbor down the street, deliver it in person instead of using the intercom or telephone. This needn't turn into an hour-long visit. Simply deliver your message, smile, say good-bye and stride back to your work-station. Walk the dog around the block. When you go to the mall for shopping, take a few minutes to walk from one end to the other. Glance in the store windows, watch the other shoppers, look at their clothes and hairdos and enjoy yourself. Smile at an old lady, admire an attractive man or woman, cluck at what young people are coming to. And keep moving. If you have shopping or errands to do within a half mile of your home, walk to the store, do your shopping, and have another member of your family pick you up at a designated time so you don't have to carry heavy packages home. (This only works if you have reliable and cooperative family members.) Invest in an attractive and comfortable pair of walking shoes. You're not likely to take a walk after lunch if you're wearing spike heels. Some people keep a pair of walking shoes in a desk drawer so they can be stylish at a business meeting and sensible on a stroll. There are dozens of other ways that you can easily incorporate more physical movement into your daily activities without gouging too deeply into your time schedule. Be inventive. Be creative. And most of all, be inefficient. Yes, we all know it's more efficient to take the elevator. You will save a whole two minutes (unless, of course, you have to wait five minutes for it to come. Then you lose three minutes.) Oddly, the amount of extra time it takes for us to climb stairs, walk around the block, or walk to the store equals exactly the same amount of time we usually spend pinching our flab and wishing it will go away, or smoking cigarettes, or complaining about how tired we are. I believe this bizarre equation is one of the undiscovered laws of physics. Not enough time? You've got 24 hours in a day, just like everyone else. In a way, having the time is taking the time. Okay, we've been talking about increasing routine physical activity. Now, let's talk about serious exercise.

So You Want To Be Ironman
First, and of extreme importance: If you want to embark on a serious program of physical fitness, get clearance from your personal physician. This is especially important if you are over thirty, overweight, sedentary, breathless or a smoker. Once you are cleared by your doctor, keep these guidelines in mind.

1. If you are not already in excellent physical shape, start with mild exercise that does not outstrip your current level of fitness. You will, of course, be able to do more as your condition improves. If you are in terrible shape to begin with, say 50% overweight or recovering from an illness, start real slow. Perhaps on the first day, all you can do is walk to the end of the block and back. Good! Do it! Be proud! In two weeks you might be able to walk around the block, in three months, you might be able to walk three miles. Build your strength gradually and consistently. You will improve. 2. Get expert guidance. Consult a fitness instructor at your local YMCA, health club, community college, or wellness center. Read books written by recognized experts in your chosen area. Know what you're doing. 3. Use proper equipment and use it correctly. Buy proper foot gear. Get instructions on how to use exercise machines and weights. Don't try to do aerobics on a cement floor. You'll hurt yourself. 4. If you injure yourself, don't be a hero. Get proper medical attention. Don't play through the pain. And most of all, don't give up.

Health Booster #3: Rest & Relaxation
We all suffer from stress of one kind or another. When we think of stress we usually think of a major crisis, a disaster, turmoil and pain. But stress can also come from other sources -- seemingly minor irritations. Little things, like lost car keys, no toilet paper on the roll, a door knob that comes off in your hand, three red lights in a row, and too much to do in too little time. People under chronic stress do not feel good, they don't function at the peak of their abilities, they don't enjoy life to the fullest. Such individuals often benefit from learning how to calm down, relax, how to manage their time better, and how to say 'no' when asked to take on another task. On the other hand, too little stress can be equally disastrous. A certain amount of tonus, alertness and challenge are necessary to keep from sliding into a condition of potato- like torpor. The dreary silence of an empty house when the kids are in school and her husband is at work can cause a housewife to lose all of her charm and threequarters of her intelligence unless new stresses and interests other than waxy build-up are found. When the young man with a Master's Degree in English Lit can find no job other than cataloguing children's books in the basement of the city library, he may find himself becoming dull-witted and depressed from lack of stimulation. Unstimulated people need to find new excitement, new action, they need to learn to say 'yes' to life.

So stress can be either a health booster or health drainer, depending on our own individual situation and responses. What we need is a balance -- neither too much stimulation, nor too little.

Health-Draining Personality Styles:: Type A and Type U
The Type A personality style has been aptly described by Dr. Meyer Friedman in his book Type A Behavior and Your Heart. Type A personalities are aggressive gogetters, they get things done fast, they compete and they keep score of who wins and who loses. The also tend to have more stress-related illness (like heart disease) and personal problems (like a sour home life), than do more easy-going people. Here are few other Type A characteristics: In a chronic struggle to get more done in less time. Highly competitive -- winning is everything. Engages in oneupsmanship with friends, family and colleagues. Impatient with people who dawdle. Feels guilty when relaxing. Easily bored. Multi-tasks; i.e., eats, talks, watches T.V. and reads at the same time. Wants to play "fast and loud", not for pleasure, enjoyment or artistry. Hostile and aggressive in day-to-day life. Reacts to normal tasks with an "emergency" response, both emotionally and physically. Adult children are well-represented among the ranks of Type A personalities because, as we noted before, constant busy-ness gives some of us a sense of security. We suffer from the hurry syndrome. If we hurry up, if we work at a fast and furious pace, then maybe, just maybe, we'll get enough of the goodies that prove we are worthy and successful people, which sounds like classic Type A behavior to me. But the hurry syndrome certainly doesn't describe all unhappy adult children. Some of us could use a little Type A aggression in our character if it would help get us out of bed in the morning.

Type U: Unstimulated and Unchallenged
Some of us find ourselves in incredibly boring working or living situations: Housewives, retirees, production workers, and those who are over-trained for the job they hold. What appears to be personal pettiness, burn-out, or depression may actually be nothing more than lack of intellectual challenge, or an absence of emotional, and physical stimulation. For example, Roslyn had always lived a full and stimulating life. She and her husband raised two sons, and Roslyn always participated in school functions and

scouting activities. She also worked for many years in a small custom clothing store that had a steady clientele. Over the years, she developed interesting business relationships with the regular customers. She enjoyed solving special clothing problems for them and, of course, she enjoyed the gossip and camaraderie that came with familiarity. When Roslyn was in her late 40s, she developed a serious circulation problem in her legs. The condition was so serious that it threatened her life. She had to quit working. By this time, her sons were young men. They no longer needed or wanted their mother's daily attention. Stuck at home, immobilized by her physical condition, without the challenge of her work, Roslyn soon lost her vitality. She changed from a lively and charming woman into a dreary Type U personality. Unstimulated and unchallenged, she spent hours each day propped on a couch in a dimly-lit room watching soaps and game shows on TV. When we find ourselves unstimulated and unchallenged, we have a tendency to become fussy and small-minded. We become bores. Perhaps the most pernicious aspect of an unstimulated life is that we lose perspective on what other people find interesting or amusing. For example, Roslyn started regaling her husband, sons, and friends with a rundown on the plots of all the daytime television shows she watched. Pretty soon, all she had to say to empty a room was, "Today on Perry Mason . . ." An even worse, but very real, example is this: "Oh, it was awful. I didn't have a bowel movement for a whole week, and then when I did, oh, I thought I was going to die from the pain. I just went and went and went." When the ordinary performance of necessary duties is all that engages our interest, we become wearisome to our families and a nuisance to our friends. Here's the sad truth: If a painful bowel movement is the most exciting thing that's happened to you lately, you will want to share your experience with other people. In detail. Listen: They don't want to hear about it. Our lack of perspective and our obsession with detailing the trivial, the gross or the mundane aspects of our lives chases people away. We remain unstimulated, bored . . . and boring. We must create our own stimulation. If we want interesting lives, we must first become interested in life. We need a little stress to wake us up. If you are the victim of Type U behavior, here are some suggestions: Say 'yes' to extra duties around home or on the job. Do more than your share. Ask for extra assignments. Engage your body in physical activity. Even if you are physically limited, consult your doctor on ways you can safely maximize your physical potential. Watch the news, read the newspaper, and read news magazines. Keeping up with the news can give you interesting topics to discuss when the opportunity arises. Take on a new project or hobby. Something that will engage your time and interest.

Volunteer for a worthy cause.
Take a class. If you are homebound, you might check with your local community college. Many are now offering Telecourses. You tune into the class via cable television and talk with the teacher on the phone. Take pride in your appearance. Letting yourself go to pot is a sure sign that you have lost interest in life. Take the first step. Sometimes we feel so stuck, we don't know where to start. But, really, it doesn't matter where we start, just as long as we do.

Pampering Yourself
Adult children are notorious for denying themselves small daily pleasures. We're saving up for the Big Reward, for that time in the future when we'll have the time and money and freedom to Have The Things We Really Want. Frequent, small rewards are much better stress-reducers than distant big rewards. Rewards don't have to be purchased (or eaten!) They can be a gift of time that we give ourselves. Each of us deserves a few minutes every day in which we can be selfish -- a long bath, a short walk, or ten uninterrupted minutes with the newspaper and a cup of tea before you start fixing dinner. Stoic denial of small daily pleasures may seem like admirable behavior, but, more likely, it's a sign of selfish martyrdom. Denial of pleasure weakens you, leaving you vulnerable to stress and illness. Now, here's the problem: Most adult children don't know how to enjoy small pleasures. Take Susan, for example. The members in her Women's Support Group suggested that Susan needed to start being nice to herself. She deserved to pamper herself a little instead of always doing things for her husband and children. Their prescription: A daily present for herself. The first day, Susan bought herself a dinner ring. The second day, it was a leather jacket. The third day, it was dinner at the finest restaurant. The rest of the month it was Soup-In-A-Cup and generic noodles for dinner because Susan had blown the entire month's budget on presents for herself. And her stress level? Sky high! Here are three stress-reducing exercises that can help you learn to reward yourself with the small, ordinary, and free pleasures of life. Stress-Reduction Exercise #1: Small Delights (5 minutes a day) Adult children with Type A characteristics are multi-taskers. That means we often do three things at once, with little awareness or pleasure in any of it. This is an

exercise of the physical senses. Its purpose is to increase your awareness of the pleasure of an ordinary activity, in this case, drinking a cup of coffee. STEP 1. Stop and consider this for a moment: You possess five senses -- hearing, seeing, touch, taste and smell. As you sit in your kitchen in the morning drinking a cup of coffee, you have it within your power to enjoy that coffee as much or more than anyone else in the world -- if you become aware of your senses. Think about it . . .your coffee tastes and smells just as good as the coffee Prince Charles and his mother are drinking right now in Kensington Palace. STEP 2: Choose a sturdy mug or a delicate china cup, whatever you prefer, but make it special. Hold the full cup between both hands, letting the warmth seep into your fingers. As the fragrant steam rises, inhale the aroma deeply, savoring it. Enjoy the play of light on the liquid's surface, watch the sparkle and shine for a moment. Then slowly sip, relishing the first pungent burst of taste on your tongue. Then drink deeply, allowing the lovely sensations of the moment to fill you with pleasure. For a few moments, think of nothing but the pleasure you are experiencing. STEP 3: Every day, as you go through your daily routine, take a few moments to truly use your five senses. Immerse yourself in the sound of a bird singing, or the touch of fabric on your body, or the geometric lines in brickwork. Our senses are rather like our muscles. If we don't exercise them, they atrophy. Exercise your senses for the sheer pleasure of it.

Stress Reduction Exercise #2: Noticing the World (five minutes a day)
One hectic year, I discovered I had been so busy with my work and civic responsibilities that I had completely missed Springtime, Summer and Fall. As I ran from meeting to meeting, from dawn to dusk, the leaves budded, flowers bloomed and withered and died, the leaves turned brown and fell. When I looked up it was winter again. I missed a whole year of seasons, a whole year of my life, without even noticing it had slipped away from me. Has that ever happened to you? I vowed not to let it happen to me again. That was seven years ago. I devised the following exercise for myself and I have used it everyday since then. It has brought me immeasurable pleasure. Stand at a window and look outside. Or better yet, stand outside and look around you. Look at the sky, the clouds, the patches of blue and gray. Notice how the clouds move and change. Look at the buildings. Watch how shadow and light play along the surfaces. Move your eyes over the landscape. Pick out textures and colors and shades. Notice them. Look at a tree or a flower or a weed. Has it grown since yesterday. How has it changed? Smell the air. Is it sweet? Polluted? Ripe with street smells? How does it compare to yesterday? Better or worse? How's the

temperature? Broiling, freezing, nasty, perfect? How does it compare with yesterday? Does it look like it will be better tomorrow? As each day passes, pay attention to the changes in the sky, the weather, the air, the plants, the trees, the flowers, even the weeds. Watch the seasons unfold. Appreciate the warm days and the foul days, for they are the days in which we live. And just as a winter storm can be followed by a day of clear crisp loveliness, our emotional storms can be followed by emotional clarity and peace. If we will only take the time to notice the changes.

Stress Reduction Exercise #3: Time Out (1-5 minutes)
Would you like to learn how to relax under pressure? You can actually use the power of your mind to slow your pulse and unknot your muscles. This is an exercise of mental imagery. To experience this most fully, you might want a friend to read the following words to you. Or better yet, tape record the words in your own voice. The words should be read slowly and evenly, with pauses of several seconds between lines. By practicing regularly, you can train your mind to help you cope with stress. Then, whenever you feel the pressure mounting, sit back, close your eyes for a minute or two, and relax. Just sit back and make yourself comfortable. Allow your eyes to close. . . As you listen to my voice, you will feel a growing sense of relaxation and comfort in your body. . . We are going to count from one to five and as we do . . . You will imagine yourself feeling a deep sense of peace and tranquility . . . one . . . Just beginning . . . letting relaxation spread through your scalp . . . and your face . . . and your neck . . . two . . . going down deeper . . . more relaxed . . . into your shoulders . . . and arms . . . and hands . . . three . . . breathing easy . . . every breath taking you deeper . . . into peace and tranquility and calm . . .

Feel the relaxation in you chest . . . in your belly . . . and down . . . deeper into relaxation . . . Four . . . Feel the relaxation in your stomach . . . and hips . . . and legs . . . and feet . . . down deeper into complete tranquility . . . Totally calm . . . deeply relaxed . . . almost there . . . Five . . . Tranquil, calm, peaceful . . . Let yourself drift with these lovely feelings. . . Feeling so calm . . . and when you are ready . . . just open your eyes . . . all the way up . . . back to alertness . . . bringing these calm feelings with you . . . totally refreshed.

Active Relaxation
Not all relaxation is passive, slow, or restful. Sometimes we need to work our bodies in order to relax. For example, when I am writing, I may sit for hours and hours without moving anything but my fingers and eyes as I work at a computer. At the end of the day, I need to relax with a fast paced walk around the neighborhood, a hike in the woods, or a swim in the river. The last thing I need, no matter how tired I am, is to collapse on the sofa. On the other hand, when I teach a class or seminar I am very active both physically and emotionally. I'm on my feet, moving around the room and engaged in intense interaction with the seminar participants. When it's over, I'm beat, totally drained. I need rest, peace, quiet, a time to reflect and recharge my batteries. The point is this: Recreational activities which are relaxing for one person at a particular time can be draining to a different person or at another time. We need to balance what we do for relaxation with what we do for work. If our job is sedentary, hum-drum, undemanding, or boring, we are wise to spend our free time in active and exciting pursuits.

If our work keeps us running physically and emotionally, if it's fast paced and thrilling, we need some time to recoup our energies. We need rest. Failure to recognize these separate needs can cause severe problems for couples who work at jobs that have a different level of demandingness, but who spend their leisure time together. The results can be disastrous unless compromises are made. What we all need is balance. Enough sleep, enough activity, a little excitement, and some moments of tranquility. We need to manage our lives wisely. Taking care of ourselves doesn't mean an end to self-indulgence and pleasure. It means managing our lives so that we can get the most pleasure possible . . . with the fewest negative consequences. So have fun, eat an ice cream cone, stay out late, sleep in if you want to. But not every day.

Chemical Independency
Everybody who tells you how to act has whisky on their breath. -- John Updike A significant number of adult children begin to deal with the unresolved issues of their family alcoholism after developing chemical dependency problems of their own. Usually, these are men and women who get into treatment early -- in their 20's or 30's. They get sober and straight, they go to their meetings, but still . . . something is lacking. Then they discover an unsettling fact: While they may be recovering from chemical dependency, they are still unrecovered from the co-dependency problems they developed while growing up in an alcoholic family. And the same things that keep them sober -- the programs, the steps, the living one day at a time and saying the serenity prayer until their tongues grow numb -these strategies that worked so well in their recovery from chemical dependency may have limited value in the recovery from co-dependency. Still, these adult children -- the ones who are sober and straight -- are one jump ahead of the game. They are free to continue on their journey to self-realization, drug free, unencumbered with the self-stultifying health drainers of chemical dependency.

What about the rest of us? Does everyone seeking self- realization have to go on the wagon and become adamant and selfrighteous teetotalers? Is it possible to find love and happiness and still have a Bloody Mary or a Bud Lite now and then? Can we go one toke over the line on Saturday night and have self-fulfillment the other six days if the week? Usually this kind of questioning is phrased in a mocking, sarcastic way, because we live in a culture that promotes the widespread use of drugs-- drugs for ills, drugs for pains, and drugs for recreational use, for altering moods, quelling anxieties, for sleep. We are a nation of drug users. Given that drugs and drug use are so prevalent in our society, let's take a closer look at the implications of drug use for adult children. One point of vital importance for all adult children to understand is this: The inability to safely tolerate alcohol and other psycho-active chemicals is an inherited, biological characteristic. Let's say it another way: The tendency to develop alcohol and drug addiction runs in families. The probability of developing a problem with chemicals increases with A) the number of close relatives who have had similar problems. B) the biological closeness of the relationship of those who have had chemical problems, and C) the number and intensity of those problems in one's relatives To take this out of the abstract realm of probability and really hammer the point home, let's say: If either one of your biological parents suffered from alcoholism or drug addiction, the chances are that you, too, will become an alcoholic or drug addict if you use alcohol or drugs on a regular basis. What does this mean in real terms? 1. You can consider yourself a heavy drinker in risk of developing alcohol problems if . . . You drink more than two drinks a day. Or . . . You regularly drink six or more drinks at any given time. For example, you don't drink during the week, but you drink heavily on weekends. Or . . . You don't drink on a regular basis, but when you do drink, you get drunk. Or . . . You drink to relieve emotional tension, anger, boredom, or insomnia. You already have a drinking problem if you have suffered from black-outs (you don't remember things that happened while you were drinking), or you are sneaking and lying about how much you drink, or you need to drink to get

through the day, or you have had job or legal problems (DWI arrests, or other alcohol-related offenses) because of your drinking, or your family and friends are complaining or expressing concern about your drinking. Please notice that each of those conditions is separated with the word "OR". You don't need to have all of these problems to be an alcoholic, although if you keep drinking you probably will. In fact, it's important to note at this point that you don't have to be an alcoholic to have a problem with alcohol. You don't have to be an addict or a a mainliner or a coke fiend to have a problem with drugs. Listen: You are probably saying to yourself, "If I ever got as bad as my dad (or mom) was, I'd quit drinking right away. But I'm not that bad yet." How bad do you have to get? Is there a magic moment when you will sit up and exclaim. "Gosh, I guess I'm finally that bad." Don't wait until you are as bad as your parent. Ask yourself honestly, "Do I really need drugs in my life. Do drugs really make things better, or is that just and illusion?" If you do decide to become alcohol and drug-free, you may find that it's harder than you thought. Get help if you need it. You don't have to check into a hospital for a month. Many major treatment centers now provide out-patient counseling. Or call Alcoholics Anonymous. Don't let the disease of alcoholism destroy another generation of your family. 2. You can consider yourself chemically dependent if you smoke marijuana on a regular basis. The horror of watching a parent destroyed by alcohol is enough to turn some people totally against drinking. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to find an adult child who spurns liquor, but who smokes marijuana on a regular basis. For example, Dinah wouldn't touch a drop of alcohol. Both her parents were drunks. While in her teens and early twenties, Dinah had tried drinking, but she hated the way it made her feel. She threw up. She made a fool of herself. She had terrible hang-overs. That was enough to make her swear off completely because she didn't want to end up like her parents. During her senior year in college, Dinah started smoking marijuana with her boyfriend. She liked it. She liked the dreamy floaty feeling. She liked the way it made her feel protected against the hard-edges of life. And she also liked the fact that she could keep functioning after smoking. Marijuana seemed like a light and harmless high compared to what alcohol did to her. Over the next few years, Dinah smoked a little marijuana almost everyday. During that time she never felt like she had a problem. But she did. Let's not get into an argument about the relative merits of marijuana vs. alcohol. That will get us nowhere. Yes, yes, we're all agreed. Alcohol is a drug. So is marijuana. It is not a neutral herb. If it was, we wouldn't use it to get high.

While marijuana intoxication is not as sloppy and apparent as drunkenness, it does cause a change in feeling, thinking and judgment. I have seen these particular problems in my clients who regularly use marijuana. Emotional flatness. This may be one of the effects adult children seek. My marijuana using clients don't feel and react to their surroundings in an appropriate fashion. They seem to be reacting more to internal cues. This emotional flatness damages relationships by hindering the development of intimacy. In short, marijuana users may be present in a relationship, but they are not emotionally available. Inability to tolerate even small levels of frustration. I don't know how marijuana causes this effect, but I have seen it many times. It is the opposite of the emotional flatness of intoxication. While stoned, the user under-reacts to his or her environment. When not stoned, there is an over-reaction. Small annoyances flare into disasters. If the lid won't come off the jar of spaghetti sauce, the jar might be shattered against the wall. The door won't open? -- smash your fist through it. The ashtray is a few inches out of reach? -- kick over the table. The combination of emotional flatness and emotional over-reaction are especially damaging to children growing up with a stoned parent. I predict that in the next generation we will have a movement called Adult Children of Potheads. Paranoia. In the l960's, we used to think that it was the harsh laws governing marijuana use that made pot smokers paranoid, not the drug itself. Now, the thinking is different. Smoking marijuana doesn't make people paranoid in the classic sense. It won't make you think the Commies are frying your brain with micro-waves unless that happens to be something you normally worry about. What happens is something more like this: Each of us possess certain secret fears, worries and concerns. For example, Karen carried inside her deep fears of abandonment that could be traced back to the early death of her beloved father. The fear was always there, hidden, simmering below the surface of her consciousness. Smoking marijuana brought this fear to the forefront, but not in a healthy way. It surged up like a nameless black fog from the sewers of her soul. Karen thought smoking marijuana helped ward off the fog. But it wasn't until she got straight that she was finally able to face her fear and release herself from its bonds. Many of our most basic fears are unnamed and unvoiced, yet they bubble under the layers of our consciousness. This is true for all of us. Yet my marijuana using clients seem to suffer more from nameless anxiety than do my other clients. It has been argued that these feelings and behaviors are the result of a personality disorder for which the victim uses marijuana as self-medication. I disagree. I believe emotional flatness, the inability to tolerate frustration and increased nameless anxiety are direct drug effects. Why do I believe this? Because I have seen these symptoms lessen and even disappear within a year after a client stops using. How do you figure out how much marijuana is too much? What is social smoking and what is chemical dependency?

If you smoke about once a week, you are at risk of developing a problem. If you smoke two or three times a week, you do have a problem. If you smoke almost everyday, you are in serious trouble. If you suffer from any of the same kinds of problems we discussed concerning alcohol use, regardless of how much or how often you smoke, you have a problem. Help for marijuana abuse is available from the same sources that assist people with alcohol problems. Please, if you recognize yourself in these words, seek help immediately. You can improve your life. 3. You can become chemically dependent by using legally prescribed pain medication, sleeping pills, or tranquilizers . . . even if you take the drugs according to your doctor's instructions. We discussed this issue in Chapter 10 when we addressed using medication to treat anxiety. We also risk getting hooked on prescription medication if we suffer from chronic pain, such as backaches, headaches, or arthritis. Lucille, a 55 year old housewife and mother, had seen her father and brothers die of alcoholism. She didn't drink and she successfully urged her children to stay away from alcohol and illegal drugs. She also volunteered her time to provide drug education in the local schools and she became a highly respected expert on how to develop a grass-roots anti-drug campaign. Lucille never dreamed she could become a drug addict. But that's exactly what happened. How? She slipped a disc in her back. The pain was excruciating. Her doctor prescribed pain killers and tranquilizers. The pain continued and after a while Lucille had to take twice as many pills to get relief. Eventually, she had surgery. After a period of convalescence, her doctor took her off all medication. "You won't need pain pills anymore," he told her. And Lucille agreed. After all, she believed in a drug-free life. But within two days, she felt awful. Her skin crawled, she felt shaky and irritable. She wanted a pill. But she was too embarrassed to ask her regular doctor. So, she called her gynecologist and asked for codeine. She told him an old condition was acting up again. Unsuspicious, he called the pharmacy with the prescription without insisting Lucille come in for an examination. Lucille promised to wean herself off the drugs, but whenever she tried, she felt so awful. Within six months, this respectable housewife was getting pills from four different doctors and four different pharmacies. She was a junkie. It wasn't until her family confronted her that she was finally able to get off the pills with medical supervision. The point is this: If addiction can happen to someone like Lucille, it can happen to anyone. Including you and me. Here are some warning signs: Have you taken prescription pain medication, sleeping pills or tranquilizers on a daily basis for more than two weeks? Do the pills seem to work less effectively than they used to against your pain? Have you tried to cut down or stop taking the pills, but you felt so awful and nervous that you took one and it relieved your nervous feelings? Are you hiding the fact that you are taking a lot of pills from your family? Are you getting pills from several different doctors and drug stores?

If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, it's time for a frank discussion with your doctor. You may need medical help to get off the drugs (stopping cold turkey without your doctor's assistance can be dangerous). If you've been using prescription painkillers and relaxers for a long time, you may need special treatment. Please, talk to your doctor today. 4. You can consider yourself chemically dependent if you use tobacco. By now the addictive nature of tobacco is almost universally acknowledged. (Almost, I say, because the tobacco industry contends that smoking is a harmless pastime and people choose to smoke because they enjoy it.) The surgeon general, the AMA, virtually all health associations and insurance companies recognize the hazards of smoking. The addiction to nicotine is a health drainer in every sense of the word. It depletes the body of essential vitamins. It weakens the immune system. It increases the likelihood of heart disease, emphysema and other respiratory ailments, cancers of the lungs, throat and mouth. Cigarette smokers report more use of sick leave and other health benefits than non-smokers, which is a major reason why Fortune 500 corporations have started no-smoking policies for employees. On a more mundane level, most people who smoke develop an insensitivity to odor, Thus, they have no appreciation of the fact that they leave a miasma of stale cigarette smoke behind them wherever they go. Because their taste buds have been charred, they have little appreciation of food unless it is heavily salted. What are the payoffs from stop-smoking efforts? Increased libido (sexual responsiveness and sensitivity> Greater awareness and pleasure in food An enhanced awareness of your living environment Fewer chronic heart and respiratory problems Greater longevity at a higher quality of life Become exemplars of drug-free behavior for children! This last point is often overlooked by adult children who have themselves been raised on the "Don't do as I do, do as I say" rule. I want to go out on a limb and say: You can't tame your turbulent past unless you become drug free -- including cigarettes. Drugs are a self-indulgence, not a selfenhancer. Smokers are inconsiderate of others and abusive toward themselves -whether they know it or not. The expert who stands behind a podium and mouths high-sounding truths about self-fulfillment and self-worth, and then sneaks off for a cigarette when the public presentation is done is engaging in a parody of self-fulfillment. And there's an irony in the fact that nurses are schooled in caring for others but have the highest rates of smoking among the professions. Other ironies abound:

The parents who become frenzied about a child's experimental use of marijuana, but who smoke and drink with nonchalance. The smoker who buys Topol to get the cigarette stains off his teeth, but who remains oblivious to the stains on his lungs. A government that fights a War on Drugs, but ignores hot political issues concerning subsidies and advertising of the most popular drug in the country -tobacco. Alcohol and drug treatment programs that help their patients recover from the life-threatening addictions of alcohol and other drugs, but who approve of their patients remaining addicted to the life-threatening drug of nicotine. The counselor who pontificates on the value of a drug- free life while puffing on a pipe. *** *** *** Drugs may sometimes make us seem to be more alert and competent, but this always -- always-- turns out to be an illusion. You are not a better person when on drugs -- you are a drug-affected (and likely drug-impaired) person. On any journey it's important to remain alert and responsive. And on the journey to self-fulfillment, to self- realization it's especially important to be drug-free, alert and responsive. You cannot tame your turbulent past by soothing or medicating memories and emotions with drugs. While being drug-free does not automatically bring about instant recovery, a drug-free life is indispensable to growth and a necessary step in taming your turbulent past.

Paradox #4:: Self-Esteem
I Must Be Everything or I will be Nothing

It is of prime importance to recognize that just about everything we've been taught to expect as "normal" in our lives is the stuff of fairy tales and unrealistic dreams. -- Theodore Isaac Rubin, M.D. I know dozens of perfectly decent, bright, moral, caring, productive, creative and attractive men and women who have come out of alcoholic homes and into the world believing: "There is something terribly wrong with me. I am not like other people. I am not normal."

From time to time, everyone questions his "normality," everyone feels alienated from others. At one time or another we all have felt --even if momentarily-- like strangers in a strange land. But those who have studied adult children of alcoholics say that feelings of intense alienation pervade the lives of adult children. One of the lasting legacies of growing up in an alcoholic family appears to be a dim sense of what "normal" is. Because life in an alcoholic home is filled with denial, pretense and confusion, children end up having to guess at how "normal" people act. And often they guess wrong. This makes self-esteem a special problem for adult children. When self-esteem is founded on unrealistic notions of what constitutes normal and acceptable behavior, it becomes extraordinarily susceptible to both external and internal threats. Eddie, a 32 year-old lawyer whose lawyer father was an alcoholic, is a prime example of an adult child who imposes a tremendous pressure on his self-esteem. He truly believes the only way he can be worthy is by being the best at everything he does. "If I can't excel in an activity," Eddie told me, "I don't want to do it. I want to top the top, be the best that ever was. I think anyone who aims lower than the very top deserves to fail. It's only normal to want to win." Like many other adult children, Eddie wants to be brave, strong, confident and successful. He wants to be admired and respected. And, certainly, there is nothing wrong with having such desires. Yet for Eddie, and many other adult children, the desire to excel is at the very root of self-hate and despair. Why? Because the perfectionistic, "Either/ Or" dynamics in alcoholic families leave no room for tolerance, for balance, for acceptance of human limitations. Children are trained in a thousand subtle ways: Either you are good, or you are bad. Either you are the best, or you are nothing. Either you are the top dog, or you're a son-of-a-bitch. So, what happens is this -The adult child makes a mistake and says, "I am a failure." If he needs help, he thinks, "I am a weakling." If she feels fear, she says, "I am a coward." If she encounters obstacles on the path to success, she believes, "I'll never get what I want." Or the adult child may set up impossible obstacles for success. "If I can't be at the top, I don't want to be anything." One adult child sneered at a master's degree in psychology because the Ph.D. was the only worthy attainment. He failed to complete a dissertation, dropped out of the Ph.D. program and ended up with no advanced degree at all. Underlying these attitudes is the belief that "normal" people -- the people worthy of esteem -- don't have to struggle to get what they want, and they don't make mistakes or ask for help or feel fear.

An adult child mired in self-hate doesn't realize that courage doesn't mean the absence of fear. Courage is going into the unknown in spite of sometimes overwhelming fear. Brave people often quake in their boots. Confident people struggle with self-doubt. Strong, resolute people sometimes falter, break down. Successful people make mistakes. (Many would argue that you can't be a success without making mistakes -- and learning from them.) Strong, confident, brave, successful people are just as awkward, self-doubting and vulnerable as the rest of us. They spill coffee down their shirt fronts and argue with their mothers and feel nervous in front of an audience. They lose their patience and worry about the wrinkles growing around their eyes and wonder if there might be something odd about their sex drive. This is reality. This is what normal is all about. Yet being subject to "normal" human blunders, gaffes, and limitations is unacceptable to the adult child who believes that striving for excellence is nothing less than striving for perfection. Rather than being founded on realistic assets and achievements, too often an adult child's self-esteem is based on unattainable goals. I asked a number of adult children who honestly admitted they suffered from low self-esteem to tell me what they thought it would take for them to start feeling better about themselves. Here are some of the responses -"I'm going to keep searching and struggling until I discover the final answers to my questions. I know there is an ultimate plan and once I find it, then I'll be happy." -- Linda, age 28 "What I need is greater career recognition. I'm not as far along as I should be at this point. I'm making fairly decent money, but I thought I'd have a judgeship by now." --Tyler, a lawyer, age 39 "If I had my own home -- not an apartment, but a real house with a garden and my own furniture, decorated just right with antiques, that would make me feel more equal to my friends." -- Diane, age 41 "My problem is that my parents are against me and so is my husband's mother. They always criticize me and try to get me to do things their way. If I could just get them to accept me, I know I'd like myself better." -- Kimberly, age 22 "I feel as though I'm trudging though a long tunnel of trouble toward a glowing light at the other end. If I can just get to that light I know I will come out of the end of the tunnel a transcendent person. I'm going to be whole and happy and I'll have a hell of a lot to offer the world." --Quentin, age 33

"What would it take to make me feel good about myself? That's easy! I need to lose 50 pounds, and get a nose job, and my boyfriend could stop chasing around the bars!" -- Trixie, age 24 A consistent theme runs through these very different responses. One woman hopes for ultimate knowledge, another for a nose job. A lawyer wants an appointment to the bench and an apartment dweller wants a house. Very different dreams, indeed. Yet, every one of these unhappy adult children is searching for an external solution to a problem of inner unrest. For these adult children, self-acceptance is predicated almost exclusively in terms of achievement and success as measured by position, status, money, power, approval by others, or physical beauty. Even Linda and Quentin, who seem to be seeking more spiritual goals, are really locked into a struggle for achievement. For what can be a greater achievement than unlocking the ultimate plan of the universe or transcending the troubles of ordinary mortals. Self-esteem is our own evaluation of how we compare in worth to other people. Do we have as much as they do? Are we smarter? Better looking? Funnier? Stronger? Sexier? Faster? Meaner? Dumber? Now, you've probably been told that it's not healthy to compare yourself to other people. And, ideally, that's true. But, being human, we just can't help ourselves. We are social creatures and it's quite natural for us to make comparisons between ourselves and our neighbors. If we find we compare favorably, then we are disposed to think highly of ourselves. We feel that we are worthy. If we find ourselves to be abnormal or lacking in some way, then we tend to form a low opinion of ourselves. We feel that we are unworthy. But what if our comparisons don't have any objective basis in reality? What happens to our self-image when our concept of normal or acceptable performance is based on fairy tales and unrealistic dreams? How can our real self ever measure up to the wonderful fantasy self we imagine we should be?

What Is A Self?
We forge our personal identity -- our self -- from the raw materials provided us in our early years. As nursery rhymes lull us to sleep, they tell us that little boys are made of snakes and snails and puppy-dog tails, while little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice. These are cute ways of interpreting the development of self, but the reality is much more complicated and not always cute. Our values, our beliefs, our traditions, our histories . . . these are the snakes and snails and sacred unicorn horns that spark the strange alchemy of self-esteem. We are embroiled in a network of influences that includes heredity, learning, circumstance and chance. Somewhere in the midst of a complex chain of

interactions, a self-concept forms, a notion of who we are, tightly interwoven with a weltanshauung -- a world-view, a notion of how the world works. What is a self? Who are we really? Self, said psychologist William James many years ago, is a social concept, and we have as many selves as there are groups of people about whose opinions we care. Was poet Robert Frost talking about the glimmers of self in an insect, when he saw it pause on a page of paper: "I have a mind myself," wrote Frost, "and I recognize Mind when I meet with it in any guise." We encounter other selves in many guises, and these other selves provide the social milieu, the rich broth, wherein our own self finds nourishment. And, for most of us, the family provides that growth-promoting context, that nourishment. But families can also be growth-stunting. As Jane Howard put it in her book Families: "Nothing is or ever was more wonderful, more dreadful or more inescapable than families, nor are there many words more perplexing to define." Think back to your early years in your family. Close your eyes and let your mind roam for a moment. What do you remember? What were the dominant messages in your family? What lessons on life do you remember most? What are the raw materials from which you are forging your identity? What are the family rules and role models that influenced and guided your learning and development? This question is much more difficult to answer than it seems. We have a natural tendency to protect and defend ourselves against pain. And when we start dissecting our roots, we sometimes feel as if we are cutting into our own flesh with a thin sharp blade. It may require some extra courage to delve into the morass of family memories, but it can be an important undertaking, especially when inquiry proceeds not as an exercise in brooding and blame, but as a means to understand the sources of pain and dissatisfaction, and to discover ways to change, ways of disentangling from the family roots that bind, constrict and strangle growth. It's fashionable these days to call the family a "dynamic system." There are all kinds of dynamic systems, from schools of fish to herds of buffalo. Our planetary system is a dynamic system, and as the planets speed through our part of the Milky Way, they are held in formation by the sun's gravity. A dynamic system, in short, is an aggregation of members that exert an influence on each other. A family is a dynamic system of two or more individuals, where members influence each other in many ways, physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. Family systems do not exert influence through some kind of cold, impartial mathematically precise Newtonian gravitation. The binding elements of family systems consist of security, touch, love, warmth, stimulation, caring and feeding -- a constellation of critical factors that make up the human gravity of emotional bonding, attachment. The early childhood years are a time, says Selma Fraiberg, "when a baby and his parents make their first enduring human partnerships, when love, trust, joy and self-evaluation emerge through the nurturing love of human partners."

Of course, there are other elements of this partnership. Babies and young children influence parents and caretakers through smiling and crying and temper tantrums, among other things. And, in general, older family members influence the younger to accept certain values, beliefs, and traditions as good and right and normal. As a result, we look at ourselves and at the world through a many-layered filter of family dogma, ritual, faith, and experience. We integrate these family rules into our own personality and code of conduct. This is a normal and natural process. We cannot escape it. The rules we learn in our family may be bewildering, contradictory, or harsh. Regardless of whether we chose to accept them or defy them, we are stuck with them. They become an integral part of our identity. The alcoholic family is not only a dynamic system, it is as much an educational system as any school with all its accouterments and paraphernalia of learning. And many of life's most important lessons are learned not in the formal schoolroom, under the tutelage and guidance of teachers, principals and aides -the lasting formative lessons of life are learned in the family system. The lessons start at birth and continue, in one way or another, throughout life. Consider this: A child reaches for a toy, pauses in mid-reach and checks out mom or dad, as if to say, "Okay? I'm going after the rubber ducky." Or, more slyly: "Hey, I'm takin' over this place, okay?" Or: "I want that -- how about a little help!" In truly attentive families, much of this shorthand communication gets picked up and accurately translated. In the alcoholic family something quite different happens. The child's playfulness may be resented as an intrusion or nuisance. The parent may misread the child's needs or misplace them with her own, giving us warped and inaccurate feedback so that eventually we come to mistrust the truth of what we do and feel. The thought crops up: "Something is wrong, dreadfully wrong. I am not in tune with my own family." We feel out of kilter . . . repudiated and assaulted. The School of the Family has taught the child not to trust his own feelings and judgments. The chipping away of self-esteem has begun.

Learning Life's Lessons in the School of Dread
For many adult children, the family is P.S. Dread. P.S. Dread can be best described as an informal pedagogical system promoting denial, lies, promises, selfish martyrdom, grandiose fantasies, despair and shame. Oh, love is in there, too. Lots of it. But love gets so mixed up with fear and anger and pride that sometimes we can't tell it apart from a sick kind of emotional dependence and the internal family struggle for control and power. We don't know exactly where we belong nor if we are truly loved.

We learn more than anything that love is capricious, that human attachment is uncertain and sometimes perilous. We learn to hoard love, store it up for the hard times ahead. Love is surely not something to squander. We don't feel safe in P.S. Dread. We don't feel safe in our families. Perhaps it was P.S. Dread that poet Alexander Pope had in mind when he wrote, "A family is but too often a commonwealth of malignants." Perhaps it was P.S. Dread that prompted Andre Gide to utter the savage curse: "Families, I hate you!" And perhaps it was P.S. Dread that anthropologist Ashley Montague had in mind when he called the family "an institution for the systematic production of physical and mental illness in the members." Adult children may defend their true self by forming a false self, a compliant self. Such a self, says Judith Viorst, has no agenda of its own. "It seems to be saying, 'I'll be what you want me to be.' Like a tree that has been espaliered so that spontaneous growth is forestalled, it conforms to a shape imposed upon it from outside. This shape is sometimes attractive, sometimes marvelously attractive, but it is unreal." In her seminal work, Neurosis and Human Growth, psychiatrist Karen Horney wrote vividly about the predicament of adults whose self-esteem is warped in a troubled family. Horney believed that neurosis develops when a person's striving for self-realization is thwarted by adverse circumstances. And what circumstances can be more adverse for a child than the chaos and turbulence of alcoholic and co-dependent parents? To cope with natural feelings of isolation and helplessness, the child develops strategies for minimizing anxiety, strategies which invariably lead to a growing sense of alienation from self. These include neurotic pride, denial and reinterpretation of events, vindictive scheming against those who have caused pain, avoidance of risky situations, or procrastination. The thwarted individual more or less sacrifices the goal of self-realization in favor of the goal of reducing anxiety, of finding safety and security. We become stuck. Horney theorized, "Not only is his real self prevented from a straight growth, but in addition his need to evolve artificial strategic ways to cope with others has forced him to override his genuine feelings, wishes, and thoughts." Dr. Horney could have been speaking directly to an adult child when she said the confused individual ends up not knowing "where he stands or 'who' he is." But we need some sort of identity. We need a concept of who and what we are. So, because we need a self-image, we manufacture one -- and idealized image which promises fulfillment and a sense of worth. We come to expect perfection from ourselves and from others. We not only expect it, we demand it. "In this process" Horney wrote, "he endows himself with unlimited powers and with exalted faculties; he becomes a hero, a genius, a supreme lover, a saint, a god." This need for perfection, our striving for an idealized self, becomes what Horney calls a "search for glory."

The search for glory corresponds to an inflexibly high and grandiose evaluation of how we are and should be. It is the notion that we are and should be better than other people, that we are above hum-drum existence and that other people should recognize our superiority. We deserve to get everything we want and anything short of this is totally and completely unfair. An adult child's glory seeking is often invisible. In fact, many adult children appear to be remarkably modest and self- effacing. Yet, the inner state of mind is aimed at preserving an inflexible self-image of a powerful, totally in-control person. This rigid stance is based on fear and despair, for the glaring discrepancy between objective reality and our idealized self- image of perfection is so great that even minor disappointments can plunge us into the zero level of depression and self-hate.

The Crash From Glory to Zero
Nowhere is the paradoxical nature of the adult child's personality more evident than in the area of self-esteem. A large portion of the unhappiness and personal conflict adult children experience is caused by the see-saw of self-esteem between the grandiosity of Glory Seeking and the despair of the Zero Level. There is a direct cause-and-effect relationship between the adult child's feelings of selfloathing and the desire to be superior to everyone else. When we fail to live up to our impossibly high expectations of how we should be, our self-esteem drops to zero level. We are at rock bottom, psychologically frozen. An adult child at zero level absolutely believes himself to be a creature of total worthlessness. Not only do we believe ourselves to be nothing, but we are convinced that everyone else can look at us and see our worthlessness. Furthermore, we believe our situation is totally hopeless. We are nothing, everyone knows it, and we will remain this way forever. As a therapist, I have been privy to the most secret inner thoughts, hopes and fears of numerous men and women who quite literally despise themselves and the lives they are living. They feel like shadow people living unreal and disjointed lives. They feel overwhelmed and numb. More than anything else, these people tell me they want to feel good. They want to feel better about themselves. They want to be happy. They want me to help them find the key to positive self-esteem. I used to think I could help raise a client's self-esteem with my displays of unconditional positive regard. I would give them the love and consistent approval they never received as children. I would reinforce their strong points, their accomplishments, their achievements -- all of the things about themselves for which they could be proud. Gently, through a gradual process of natural growth, their true inner worth would unfold, slowly and inexorably, like the slow

blossoming of a daffodil, petal by petal, culminating in a full fragrant spring flower. Working together, we would explore the many facets of self and they would by this natural developmental recapitulation reach the unmistakable conclusion that they were indeed worthy people. And we would all live happily ever after. Just like the Waltons. Meanwhile, back in the real world . . . About ten years ago I began to realize that objective positive feedback has little or no lasting impact on a person wallowing at zero level. Simply put, this means that if you truly believe you are a worthless person, all my telling you that you are a good and valuable person will do is make you think that I'm a bad judge of character. So, I'm not going to try to raise your self-esteem by telling you what a good person you are. I'm not going to ask you to look at your good points and all the things you do right. Because it's not your good points that fill you with self- loathing. You hate yourself when you feel you can't do anything right. You want to be admired and loved, but problems keep getting in the way. You feel like you don't measure up, you're not good enough or smart enough or appreciated enough. Oh, you may be a big success in some ways, yet whatever you do, it's not enough to fill that empty, dead feeling inside, it's not enough to chase away the blackness concealed in your heart. You probably haven't told anyone about that black rotten spot eating away at the center of your being. It's filled with envy and fear, bitterness and desire. Your most secret feelings and thoughts are stored there, ugly things, so dark, so cold, so mean, it seems impossible that other people can't look right into your eyes and see the badness lurking inside you, skulking in the corners of the rag and bone shop of your heart. "I celebrate and sing myself," Walt Whitman wrote with exuberance. "Clear and sweet is my soul. . ." But if you were to sing your own soul, it would be a dull and dolorous dirge. It would be a bitter aimless noise, more akin to a wail than a melody. You may feel like the person in Stephan Crane's poem: I stood upon a high place, And saw, below, many devils Running, leaping, And carousing in sin. One looked up, grinning, And said, "Comrade! Brother!" A cold hell, a solitary confinement-- that's what your self feels like at zero level. I know you don't want to talk about the secret darkness that makes you hate yourself. Such words bring a stiffening of the body, a turning away of the countenance. Sometimes the terrible reality is accepted . . . with tears. You think you are alone.

You are wrong. You think the only way to deal with the darkness in your heart is to hide it. You are wrong again. You are suffering, in part, because in P.S. Dread you learned to judge yourself and others with a distorted set of values. Your experiences in your alcoholic family taught you to believe that normal feelings are bad. This meant that in order to be "good" you had to be perfect, so this warped logic led you to believe that perfection was normal. Since the ideal of perfection is impossible to attain -- let alone to maintain -- selfhate and misery followed. "Lord," prayed Sir Thomas Browne, "Lord, deliver me from myself." Alcoholic families kill self-esteem. This is a reality. Once we truly accept that our self-hate is a direct result of the rules and values and behaviors we learned in our alcoholic families, we can transcend our sense of worthlessness. Because once we truly accept this reality, we can change it. We can create a new reality, write a new equation of self. We can make up new rules. We can discover new values. We can change our behavior. We can accept ourselves. We can be free, finally, from the torment of self-hate.

The Bliss City Blues
The elusive Holy Grail of Happiness has become the great American obsession. -- Taki My dog, a miniature dachshund named Zeke the Geek, is a joyous little creature . . . so long as his belly is kept full and he's allowed to romp and run around the fenced yard his ears are scratched on a regular basis, and I let him sleep under my electric blanket on cold winter nights. Zeke doesn't care if we are rich or poor, ugly or gorgeous, acclaimed or sneered at, and he doesn't seem at all concerned about what the poodle down the block thinks of the way we live. Zeke is happy as long as he has good health and enough food, a warm place to sleep, and a little affection. I would feel very fortunate if, when asked how I am doing, I could respond (with Zeke in mind): It's a dog's life. For it seems to me that human beings ought to experience at least as much pleasure from living as a dog does.

But how many of us do? Writer Taki Theodoracopoulos notes, "We have finally reached a state of such anxious discomfort over how to be happy that lives have dwindled into an unending process of fulfilling obsessive lists. It is the trendiest of anxieties, and to prevent it a whole industry of shrinks, gurus and books has sprung up and is doing a brisk business." Many of the adult children I have talked to find their lives dreadfully intolerable. They don't have trendy anxieties. Underneath their smiley faces, they feel dissatisfied or unhappy most of the time. They want to like themselves and their lives, they tell me, but they don't know how to begin. Some even doubt that such a state as happiness and self-esteem even exists. Dulcie described the feeling this way: "Sometimes I seriously question whether I can continue going though life this way. I have no faith in the future. I feel gloomy, pessimistic. Life should be better than this. I have a good job, but work is a charade. Everyone thinks my marriage is wonderful . . . everyone except me. Greg and I never talk about important things. Our sex life is a joke. I've got pretty clothes, a nice car, a beautiful son . . . but my life is empty. I'm faking it. I hate this life, I just hate it. I hate myself and the constant unending struggle just to keep living. That's what life is . . . a constant struggle. And it's not fair." Dulcie is not alone in her misery. Thousands of other adult children share similar feelings, and too often each one is living a secret life of emotional isolation, faking it, putting on a pleasant mask for friends and family and co-workers while inside they feel empty, almost dead. They don't know that it can be different.

Types of Misery
There are two distinct and separate kinds of unhappiness which are best dealt with as two different conditions. External, situational unhappiness strikes all of us at some time in our lives. It is the unhappiness of grief and loss. It hits us when we lose someone we love through death, divorce or separation. If we are fired from our job or passed over for promotion, if our house burns down, or we break a leg or develop a heart condition, if our best friend rejects us or our child is arrested, if our spouse is unfaithful or our divorced father marries a woman we can't stand-- we may experience both sadness and anger. "It's unfair," we cry. We feel the same sense of shocked betrayal that William Saroyan felt when he uttered his last words: "I always knew that everyone had to die, but I always thought that in my case there would be an exception." Well, yes. We'd all like to be exceptions.

So it's normal and natural to feel unhappy at various times in our lives, normal and natural to feel as if the world is out of joint and there is no one to set it right. This kind of unhappiness is a reaction to a bad situation. If the situation changes for the better or if we are able to grieve and finally accept an unchangeable loss, then our ability to again derive pleasure from everyday living will return to us. External, situational unhappiness is, by definition, a temporary condition. Of course, the idea of temporariness is relative to the intensity of your pain. For example, if you lose your wallet, but it is returned the next day with all your money and credit cards in place, a normal unhappiness reaction would be shortlived and of mild-intensity. When the loss you suffer is immeasurable -- for example, your wife and child are killed in a car crash -- it may take two to five years to overcome the intensity of your pain and to accept the terrible void in your life. And, while your life may never be the same as it was before, it is possible for you to regain the ability to feel happiness and pleasure and even love. On the other hand, chronic undifferentiated unhappiness is a persistent and enduring condition which may be punctuated by moments of extreme excitement and delight, but any feelings of joy are usually brief and ultimately unsatisfying. No matter how much you accomplish, what goals you attain, no matter how great your achievements are, happiness always seems to slip through your fingers like smoke. With this kind of unhappiness, a lost wallet is not a temporary inconvenience, it is perceived as one more concrete piece of evidence that nothing ever goes right for you. And because nothing ever goes right for you, you are unhappy, and because you are unhappy your life is . . . is. . . Your life is . . . what? There is one inelegant phrase that I have heard whispered, cried, screamed, groaned and bemoaned at least five thousand times by unhappy adult children who are struggling with the conflict between what they have and what they want in their lives. It is a sentiment which, in it's crudity, sums up a thousand divergent complaints. The sentiment is this: My life is shit! Adult children frequently suffer from chronic, undifferentiated unhappiness and the belief that their lives are especially difficult. This kind of unhappiness feeds on itself. It persists regardless of positive external events in the adult child's life. While it may be punctuated by brief periods of elation, the adult child perceives his or her life as generally unsatisfying.

Unhappiness As A Way of Life
Almost every child growing up with alcoholic and co- dependent parents suffers a series of disappointments, both large and small. Emotional insecurity, physical pain, and the constant threat of loss of love, family, and self are very real problems. So, we can say that, originally, your unhappiness was external and situational. It was a normal reaction to a dysfunctional family. But what child is able to rationally analyze the family dynamics and say, "Oh, yes, I see that the unpleasant emotions I am experiencing at the moment are normal reactions to the stressful circumstances of my father's disease. I will again be able to experience the joy of living in about twelve years when I turn 18 and can legally move away from this funny farm. Boy, I can hardly wait to wallow in all that happiness out there." What really happens is closer to this: We experience all the anger, fear, frustration and pain generated in our external environment and we internalize it. It becomes a part of us, coloring everything we do and feel and think. We are steeped in dissatisfaction, we are soured on life. Unhappiness is no longer a temporary reaction to an unpleasant situation. Chronic unhappiness becomes our way of life. As one adult child named Sydney told me a year ago, "My unhappiness has taken on a life of its own. I used to think I was miserable because the people around me treated me badly or I got bad breaks or because I didn't have the things I wanted and needed. Now, I'm coming to realize that no matter what I have or how well I'm treated, I'm still unhappy. I keep on setting these goals for myself, thinking that if I can just get the things I want that I'll finally be happy." Sydney could look back over a lifetime of achievements that were supposed to make her happy and didn't. "I'm embarrassed to talk about this," Sydney said, "so, you have to promise not to laugh at me." I assured her I wouldn't. "This story seems so trite," she said, "especially when you consider there are people in the world who are starving to death, but this is one of the most painful incidents in my life and it represents every disappointment I've had since I was a child." "This represents a pattern of unhappiness in your life?" She nodded vigorously. "Yes, that's it exactly. And I think that by recognizing the pattern in my behavior I can start making positive changes. It's like I've been playing this same scene over and over again, but in a different setting and with different actors each time." "And you're always playing the same role?" She nodded. "When I was in the eighth grade, I wanted to be a cheerleader so badly I couldn't stand it. I tried out and lost. I was devastated. You see, being a cheerleader represented the pinnacle of success in my school. Cheerleaders were

popular and admired and all the boys wanted to take them to the dances, and I knew, I just knew, that if I was a cheerleader I wouldn't feel shy or inferior or inadequate anymore. I would have arrived." "You would be happy?" "It would be Bliss City. It would be a magic charm, something like an invisible force field against the cruelties of life." "And you lost?" "I didn't even make the finals." As she said it, I heard a catch in her voice. "But I didn't give up. I had three more years of eligibility. I practiced and practiced my cheers and tried out again the next year. And, God, I made it to the finals." A look of remembered pain passed over her face. "I lost by two votes." Sydney and I sat together for a moment in silence. Her face, with eyes staring blankly at a spot on the floor a few inches in front of her feet, showed that twenty years had not erased the pain of her eighth-grade defeat. Sydney's voice became small and distant. "Hearing the names of the girls who had won read out over the loudspeaker, and waiting to hear my name called . . . and waiting and waiting . . . and then all six names had been announced and I wasn't on the list and everyone was jumping up and down and clapping and cheering and I . . . I wanted to die." For Sydney, it wasn't just a defeat, it was a total humiliation. "I got so sick that I had to stay home from school for a week. I was the most miserable, dejected, creature you ever saw. I told everyone I had the flu. It was terrible. I knew that if I didn't make the cheer team that I would never be happy in my entire life. For me, this was almost a life and death issue. For two years I had lived and breathed Two bits . . . four bits . . . six bits. . . a dollar . . . all for Central stand up and holler!" I laughed, remembering my own junior high school gyrations. (I didn't even make the first cut.) "You promised not to make fun of me," Sydney reminded me. "Believe me, I'm not!" I said. "But you did make it, didn't you? I thought you were cheerleader in your senior year." "That's right." "So, it was worth it. All the practice and hard work and pain finally paid off. You did achieve your goal." Sydney shook her head. "No, I didn't." "But, I thought . . ." "Don't you see?" she asked plaintively. "What I wanted was to transcend the pain and unhappiness of my everyday existence. I wanted to rise above everything and everybody. I wanted to be special. I thought being a cheerleader would magically make everything in my life better." "So winning didn't make you happy?" "That's what I've been trying to tell you. Winning was a delirious experience for me. Next to the birth of my daughter, hearing my name announced over the school loudspeaker was the happiest moment of my life. This is it! I thought. My troubles are over! But don't you see? That was merely an illusion. After the initial

excitement wore off I was still little, shy, self-conscious Sydney McCallum and nothing was different. My dad didn't stop drinking because I was cheerleader. I didn't get more dates, and my boobs didn't get bigger and I didn't suddenly have more friends. Here I was, sitting on top of my pinnacle of success . . . and nothing had changed. What I didn't realize at the time was that the unhappiness was inside me. I spent the next twenty years struggling for knowledge and success and power and money and I have achieved most of my goals, but still . . . I'm little, shy, self-conscious Sydney. No matter what's going on around me, I find something to be miserable about. I'm some kind of misery junkie! I've finally come to the conclusion that I've got to change me, not my situation." Sydney had discovered that her personal unhappiness was not the result of what she did or did not have, but rather it was an internalized attitude and belief system. One of the problems Sydney shared with almost all adult children I have talked to who consider themselves to be severely unhappy was her definition of happiness. She subscribed to the Big Bang Theory of Happiness. Happiness would be "Bliss City." "A magic charm". "An invisible force field against the cruelties of life." I have never met a chronically unhappy adult child who possessed a realistic conceptualization of happiness. They have it all mixed up with euphoria, rapture, Utopia, Nirvana, the Astral Plane, Shangri-la, a mescaline trip, or the ultimate orgasm. This sort of expectation prevents us from experiencing pleasure in the here and now because we're always waiting for that super-charged, blissorama, ultimate, magic something which will forever transform us and lift us out of our mortal misery. In the meantime, happiness slips by us like a soft summer wind. So, what is this thing called happiness? How do happy people define it? After talking to many people who say they are happy and who look and act as if they are (yes, these people do exist), I've distilled out the following operational definition: Happiness is the ability to derive pleasure from every day life. Are you disappointed?

The Happiness Quiz
If you are unhappy, and you want to change into a person who derives more pleasure out of everyday life, it's important to know whether you are suffering the temporary unhappiness which is a normal reaction to loss and pain or whether, like Sydney, you have turned unhappiness into a way of life. If you consider yourself to be unhappy, ask yourself the following questions: 1. Have you recently suffered a great physical or emotional trauma, such as a death of someone close to you, a break-up in an important relationship, a job loss, severe illness in yourself or a loved one, or a severe financial loss?

2. Have you recently experienced a major unpleasant change in your work, family, or social life, such as being passed over for promotion, or having to take in a sick relative, or having your best friend get married and move away? 3. Can you remember times in the last five years when you felt happy or satisfied with your life for more than short periods of time? 4. Do you believe it is possible for you to become happy with your life again? Now, look at your answers to these questions. If you answered 'yes' to either question #1 or #2 and also answered 'yes' to question #3, it's possible that your unhappiness is a temporary condition that can be reversed either through a specific change (a more satisfying job, for example), or through accepting that certain situations are temporary (like having two kids down with the flu at the same time), or through the process of working through the natural grief you feel if you have lost someone or something very dear to you. If your loss, trauma or failure has been great, the recovery process takes time, but we can heal and feel happiness again. If you answered 'yes' to #4, your prognosis for healing is good. But even if you said 'no', don't despair. If your loss is very recent, it is sometimes difficult to believe you will ever feel anything but the sadness you are now experiencing. I do ask you to reflect carefully on the fact that, with time and care, even the most shattered heart can heal. Now, what if you answered 'no' to question #3? What if you can't remember being happy in the past? Do the following statements apply to you? (Be Honest!) 1. My life has been full of disappointments. 2. I have been hurt deeply in the past and I haven't gotten over it. 3. My life is a struggle. 4. I often feel that the people closest to me don't care very much about my real feelings. 5. I've been subjected to a lot of criticism and disapproval in my life. 6. It's important for me to excel in all that I do. 7. Life shouldn't be this hard. 8. Making blunders in front of other people is, for me, worse than death. 9. It seems like other people don't have to struggle as hard as I do to get what they want. 10. I can't help feeling angry when I see how easy it is for some of the people I know to get what they want and be happy when I am having such a hard time in my life. If you answered 'yes' to five or more of these questions, you are probably suffering from chronic, undifferentiated unhappiness. Do you feel dissatisfied, discontented, disturbed and dismayed by your inability to grasp on to this elusive thing called happiness? Do you sometimes think there is something terribly wrong with you, but you aren't sure exactly what it is?

Though you are tired and hurting, have you continued to push harder and harder in your efforts to reach that final goal which you hope in your heart will turn the magic key in the door that blocks your way to the joy and happiness you seek? If you are suffering from an attitude of chronic dissatisfaction, every one of life's normal disappointments will wound you deeply. And if you have been unfortunate enough to suffer a major loss recently, your habitual unhappiness will gravely hamper your ability to heal emotionally and may even set the stage for a severe depression. But we must remember this: Chronic unhappiness does not mean permanent unhappiness. My friend Sydney answered 'yes' to all ten of the questions. In her thirty-four years she had known only fleeting happiness. "My entire life had been a series of hills and valleys," she told me. "No, that's not right. It was more like mountains and chasms. I'd claw my way to the top of a mountain thinking this was going to do it for me, this was my pinnacle, then down I'd fall into this bottomless chasm of despair and I'd have to start all over again clawing my way back up." Sydney's life isn't like that anymore. "I discovered that my unhappiness was directly related to my attitudes and my philosophy of life. I had to redefine my concept of happiness and I had to challenge some of my most deeply cherished beliefs about myself." Sydney learned that chronic, undifferentiated unhappiness in adult children of alcoholics is reinforced by three readily identifiable attitudes. Confronting these attitudes is an extremely painful process for most of us. Sometimes it's much easier to continue a life of misery than it is to take the difficult steps that lead to positive change. Why? One reason: By taking the initiative to change ourselves, we are admitting that in some ways we are responsible for our own misery. Yes, we have had bad things happen to us, things that would make anyone unhappy -- troubled parents, lying lovers, unfair bosses, duplicitous friends, ungrateful children, physical illness, the list goes on and on. And while we can disown our parents, divorce our mates, find new jobs and new friends, move to another town, wreak vengeance on those who have hurt us, even change our name and start over, we can never find personal happiness by making external changes if our misery is emanating from within. Unless we make inner changes, we'll simply move from one bad situation to another. We will carry our unhappiness with us. We must end the blame game, we must cease pointing our finger at those who displease us and instead stand in front of the mirror of self. For it is there that we will see the instigator of our pain. We are chronically unhappy for three reasons: 1. We are overly pre-occupied with ourselves, our feelings, our impact, and our position in the universe. 2. We live by a set of unrealistic expectations that set us up to be dissatisfied with ourselves and the people who are closest to us. Let's face it: Our culture bombards

us with messages of unrealistic expectations. In fact, we live in a culture whose whole economy depends on the chronic dissatisfaction of citizen-consumers. We're told constantly that we don't smell right, that we have bad skin, bad teeth, misshapen bodies, that our hair is the wrong color, that we drive the wrong model car, and that our clothes are hopelessly unstylish. We are inundated by images of add-on glamor and bottled sexual success. Stephan L. Mayham, past honorary president of the Toilet Goods Association, said: "Hope is what we sell." Hope for what? Look at the ads. Hope for ageless skin. Hope for ageless sexual attractiveness. Hope for a beauty miracle in a 29 cent jar of skin cream sold for $20. In The Hidden Persuaders, Vance Packard noted the signs of hope abandoned and renewed again and again: "Many women's dressers are cluttered with 'dead enthusiasm'-- stale jars, unopened bottles, half-used boxes of cosmetics." Packard also pointed out that advertizers systematically key on "marketing eight hidden needs." These needs include Emotional security. Reassurance of worth Ego-gratification Personal creativity Beauty and sexual allure Sense of power Sense of roots, belonging In short, we are not only born into a family that influences our behavior, we are born into a marketing system that not only relies upon our psychological vulnerability but actively promotes it. And that's why it's essential to develop the skills to deflate the hype so that our lives are not cluttered with dead enthusiasms and shattered dreams. 3. We are consumed by envy. When our self-esteem is low, we feel threatened by the success and good fortune of others, even of those we care about. Their triumphs diminish us. As our mouths murmur words of congratulations, our hearts rail at the unfairness of it. The triumph should be ours. We deserve it more than they. And when our friends fail? A secret pleasure overtakes us. Ha! There is justice, we silently gloat. These secret feelings of envy and spite sabotage our self- esteem because they violate our higher values of caring, honor and empathy. The only cure for envy is happiness -- becoming satisfied with your own life. Yet, too often, we respond to these base feelings by trying to diminish the pleasure and tarnish the success of the fortunate, rather than by increasing the pleasures in our own lives. We think that by putting them down, we can raise ourself up. How much better it would be if we forgot spite and put our emotional energy into appreciating and enjoying our own successes, however small they might be. For if we insist on comparing our achievements to those of others, we will always find someone who did better, laster longer or got more. These invidious comparison

turns our triumphs into ashes and dust. The worm of envy prevails, and we have failed . . . again. It is painful to acknowledge such ideas about ourselves. Our natural tendency is to deny the existance of unflattering truths. Yet, in fact, these traits are not engraved in stone. They are malleable and flexible characteristics that can be changed with practice. Yes, that's right. Practice. For happiness is not a magical ephemeral gift from the Gods. Happiness is the ability to derive pleasure from everyday life. I believe this ability is a skill. It isn't something that happens by magic, because one is favored by Zeus or Jehovah or Jesus Christ. It's a skill and skills can be learned. In other words, we can train ourselves to enjoy life. This is possible under these conditions: 1. We are willing to redefine our concept of happiness. 2. We are willing to learn a new set of expectations. 3. We are willing to orient our thinking away from our own importance. 4. We are willing to have a more gentle, less critical attitude toward the successes and failures of others. If we are willing to risk personal change without becoming angry or defensive or fearful, we can guide our lives in new directions. Instead of being stuck, we can move forward. Life can be a process, rather than a trap. We can affect a transformation in self-esteem. But before that is possible, we must take a deep look at a major obstacle blocking our way -- the problem of self-absorption.

I Am The Center of The Universe
Happiness is an afterthought; it comes after years of putting out the energy, making the commitments, standing by them, through thick and thin. William Carlos Williams Unhappy people have suffered many disappointments, difficulties and traumas in their lives. This is a truth that cannot be denied, a truth for all people, a truth so universal that writer Judith Viorst has called the experience Necessary Losses. "Somewhat wrinkled, highly vulnerable and non-negotiably mortal," Viorst writes, "I have been examining these losses. These lifelong losses. These necessary losses." They

are the losses, she says, we bump up against when we are confronted by the inescapable fact . . . that our mother is going to leave us, and we will leave her; that our mother's love can never be ours alone; that there are flaws in every human connection; that our options are constricted by anatomy and guilt . . Two inescapable facts in Viorst's list stand out: ". . . we are utterly powerless to offer ourselves or those we love protection -protection from danger and pain, from the inroads of time, from the coming of age, from the coming of death. . . ." And: ". . .what hurts us cannot always be kissed and made better." Studs Terkle, in The Good War, captures a fourteen-year-old "Victory" girl's loss, a necessary loss that comes with war, no matter whose side wins or loses: "What I feel most about the war [she recalled], it disrupted my family. That chokes me up, makes me feel really sad that I lost that. On December 6, 1941, I was playing with paper dolls: Deanna Durbin, Sonja Henie. I had a Shirley Temple doll that I cherished. After Pearl Harbor, I never played with dolls again." Growing up in an alcoholic family is another kind of exposure to war. It ensures that you will experience a thousand battle wounds piled one on top of the other. You must endure the lies and promises, embarrassment and shame. And that horrible powerless feeling inside when your parents maneuvered, manipulated and disappeared as parents altogether, leaving a child in charge, leaving a child to make sense out a crazy, unpredictable world. Then there were the big problems. Really big ones that maybe you've never talked about. Perhaps you were physically or sexually abused -- at least a quarter of kids with alcoholic parents are. You may have had to cope with separation or death in your family. And you might have taken desperate measures to escape your unpleasant homelife -- running away, teenage pregnancy, an early marriage, drugs, booze, even attempted suicide. As you reached adulthood and went out on your own, these problems and bad feelings did not magically disappear. No. You carried them with you and, over the years, added more on top of them. So if these kinds of things happened to you, you do have valid reasons for feeling miserable. Yet every study that has ever been done on the subject of happiness shows there is absolutely no evidence that people who are happy, those people who are satisfied with their lives and who radiate a sense of well-being, have had any less trouble, disappointment or tragedy in their lives than people who are miserable. The biggest determining factor in whether or not a person has a high sense of well-being is not what has happened to them. What counts is how they have dealt with what has happened.

Frank Barron, a University of California psychologist, made this point in his 1963 study of healthy graduate students. Barron wrote, "No especially blessed individual turned up in this assessment; the luckiest of the lives here studied had its full share of difficulty and private despair." Barron concluded that "soundness is a way of reacting to problems, not an absence of them." Harvard psychiatrist George Vaillant took that conclusion as the motif for his landmark study of adult development, Adaptation to Life. Vaillant found that happy adults are not insulated from life's problems. They have their share of heartaches and failure, just like the rest of us. Many grew up in disadvantaged homes, people they love died, many have suffered through divorce or career failures. They have had serious car wrecks, broken backs, and broken hearts. Their kids have flunked out of school and their parents have grown old and feeble. It's vital that we recognize that people who have good and satisfying lives do not have perfect lives. As psychiatrist M. Scott Peck points out: "Life is hard." For everyone. It is full of disappointment, failure and tragedy.

Attitude Makes the Difference
Those people who possess the ability to derive pleasure from life respond to tragedy and failure differently than do those who are chronically miserable. Adult children (who, we must remember, have no corner on the unhappiness market) often become obsessed or depressed about the mistakes, bad breaks and poor choices of the past. When we look toward the future we often adopt an "all or nothing" attitude, and thus feel cheated when we don't get what we want. We may become embittered, believing ourselves to be unfairly singled out for hardship or thinking we are unjustly the victims of ingratitude, unkindness, or treachery. A repeated chorus runs through our brains: "Why does life have to be so hard?" Instead of turning our mental and physical energies toward handling the challenge at hand, we become mired in the past and relentlessly negative in our thinking. Like the driver who puts the pedal to the metal and veers down the road at 65 MPH with eyes fixed on the rearview mirror, the chronically unhappy adult child charts a crash course for misery and pain. We spend our time engrossed in personal archaeology, mulling over the past, dredging up old pain, examining in excruciating detail the sources of the flaws in our character or finding scapegoats for our many failures and humiliations. But those adult children who have thrown off the yoke of the past, who have dared to learn new and creative ways of viewing life's difficulties, approach failure and crisis differently. Having failed or been frightened or hurt, these people learn from their pain, finding it a useful experience which both deepens and enriches their lives.

A year after my friend Sydney McCallum decided to work on changing her attitude toward happiness, she told me, "I no longer think my life has to be one long line of success, joy and accomplishment in order for me to be happy. I still have problems, and I know I always will. But in the last year, I have learned new ways to cope with those problems. Making a mistake or not getting what I want no longer devastates me. I'm more open and accepting now, more in touch with the process of living. My life still has its ups and downs and even some periods of downright unhappiness -- I had a death in my family last year. But my sense of well-being seems to run deep inside me and I'm beginning to view each of my setbacks as an opportunity to grow. I've come to accept that sorrow is a necessary part of life, but not the only part open to me. And this may sound strange, but I'm no longer very concerned about Being Happy. I'm less pre-occupied with my feelings, which were usually pretty negative, and more interested in learning and exploring new ways of experiencing each day as it comes." Sydney had hit upon an important point. While introspection, insight, and getting in touch with our feelings are central aspects of many important therapies, this tendency toward picking apart our thoughts, feelings and actions signals trouble when we carry it too far. When our self-analysis is coupled with a good dose of denial, as it almost always is with emotionally isolated adult children, it leads to neither understanding nor change. Instead of healing us, our obsessive soul-searching is akin to picking away at an open sore. All our digging accomplishes is to keep the wound open and constantly infected. Our pre-occupation with our thoughts and feelings and actions, prevents us from experiencing anything other than our own discomfort. We become unavailable to pleasure. When we do find ourselves in a pleasurable situation, we are apt to pick it apart and analyze it to death. "Am I having fun? I mean, shouldn't there be more? It won't last, so what's the use? How can I tell if this is as good as it should be? Do I look silly? I wonder what Tom thinks? Look at Shelly. She always seems to have a better time than I do. What's wrong with me? Why can't I ever have as much fun as she does?" Poet Wallace Stevens knew the mood: "But in contentment," he wrote, "I always feel the need of some imperishable bliss." It's almost as if we are standing off somewhere watching ourselves with a critical eye and no matter what we do, it's never quite enough, not quite good enough to please that sour-dispositioned account-keeper inside us. Ah, for some imperishable bliss! Unhealthy pre-occupation with your own thoughts and feelings could be a trouble-maker in your life if you respond 'yes' to more than half of these statements. 1. I'm constantly trying to figure myself out. 2. I always try to make an impression on people. 3. I worry a lot about what people think of me.

4. I spend time almost every day scrutinizing how I acted and how people responded to me. 5. I'm very conscious of people noticing me or ignoring me in a group. 6. I have a tendency to brood about things. 7. When I go into a place where people are, I feel like they are looking at me and judging me. 8. I am very self-conscious about the way I look. 9. I worry a lot about why people act towards me the way they do. 10. I have a lot of secret feelings people don't know about. 11. I have a lot of thoughts like these: "I'm ugly." "I'm inadequate." "I'm stupid." "I'm bad." "I really messed up." "Life is unfair to me." "I'll never get what I want." "They'd hate me if they knew the real me." 12. When I am with other people I worry about things like this: "What kind of impression am I making." "What do they think of me?" "Do they like me?" "Am I doing all right?" 13. Even when I am pretending to be modest, it is very important to me that people recognize and admire the things I do. 14. It is not unusual for me to lie in bed and vilify myself and others for bad things that have happened. If you answered 'yes' to a majority of these statements, you are not alone. Extreme pre-occupation with self is the most characteristic feature of a dissatisfied adult child's personality. And let me assure you that if you possess this trait, you came by it honestly, for it is also highly characteristic of unrecovered alcoholics and codependents. Unhealthy pre-occupation with self is a universal symptom among unrecovered members of chemically dependent families. When combined with denial it can cause chronic unhappiness with life. Now, when you think about it, saying that unhappy adult children are overly preoccupied with themselves is a glaringly paradoxical assertion. How can adult children be pre-occupied with themselves when we've already said they are emotionally messed-up because they are pre-occupied with meeting the needs of others? This sounds like an impossible contradiction in logic. And it is. But who ever said we conduct our lives in a logical fashion? What it comes down to is this: All the giving, nurturing, care-taking, sacrificing and martyring we do . . . . . . we do for ourselves. It's the only way we know how to feel good about ourselves, to make people love us and admire us and not desert us. It's a way of building our own ego, our own power, our own sense of control. Without realizing it on a conscious level, we are far more concerned with the impression of good that we make, rather than with the reality of the good we do.

And, often, we are pathetically, mind-numbingly insensitive to what might be most helpful to those we seek to comfort. Several years ago, a young couple in my neighborhood lost their baby son to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Family members arrived from all over the state to lend a hand. Two weeks after the funeral Celia, the sister of the bereaved young father, was still staying in the young couple's home. With her were her two preschool children and her unemployed husband. One morning she stopped by my kitchen for a cup of coffee. "I'm so glad I'm able to stay on and help poor Millie and Josh through this crisis," she said. "Our mother is useless, of course. Her new husband is a worse alcoholic than the last one." "How's Millie coping," I asked. "Well, you know it's hard for her," Celia said. "I'm trying to keep her mind off it and I'm doing most of the housework. Poor Josh is terribly depressed, but my husband is good company for him." "How long do you expect to stay?" "As long as we're needed," she said. "I don't know what they'd do if we weren't here. Millie's in a daze. She can't cook or do laundry or anything. And that house would just be as quiet as a tomb if we left now. I'm really glad I'm in a position to help out." Two days later I was pulling weeds in the front yard when Josh came by. We chatted for a while, and he said casually, "I don't know what in the hell I'm going to do about Celia." I said: "Oh?" "She's driving us nuts." "I said: "Oh?" "We love her kids and all, but they make so much noise and . . . and it's like a knife in Millie's heart to see them playing with the toys we bought for . . ." His voice trailed off. "Will Celia and her family be leaving soon?" I asked. "That's the problem. She wants to stay and help us out. Millie and I don't have any time to talk. We need some time alone, but Celia's always buzzing around trying to be entertaining and helpful. She means well, you know . . . " He shook his head. "I don't want to hurt her feelings, but I've got to get rid of her. And that husband of hers. He wants to sit around and drink beer and talk baseball all night. I swear to God I'm going to . . . Hey! I didn't mean to dump all this stuff on you." "It's all right, Josh. I know it's a difficult situation." "I guess I'm going to have to tell her to leave. It's going to really hurt her feelings, but . . ." He sighed heavily in frustration. "Your feelings and Millie's are important, too." "Yeah, I guess so." As this troubled young man walked away, I wondered . . .

How many times in my eagerness to "help out" a friend in need had I insensitively imposed my will and skill and knowledge where it was neither needed nor wanted. How many times had my helpfulness made a problem worse instead of better? Had my strong shoulders created cripples? How many times had I charged in on my white horse when it would have been better had I simply offered non-judgmental encouragement to a friend who needed to stand on her own two feet and figure out her own problems? I know it had been done to me, back in the old days before I'd developed the gumption to say, "Thanks, but no thanks." I can remember the resentment I used to feel when some dear, giving person would add the burden of their helpfulness to my already heavy load. Well, if it was my husband I wouldn't stand for it. If you don't like your job, why don't you just quit? You better come stay with me for a few days. That'll teach them a lesson. I know you're working, but I baked this chocolate cake and it's your favorite, so why not take a break? I don't care what you say. I'm coming over there right now and we're going to get to the bottom of this. I can tell by the sound of your voice that you're upset about something! You'll feel so much better if you talk about your feelings. Tell me everything that happened. Here, let me do that. You never do it right anyway. What you ought to do is . . . Why don't you just . . . If you had any sense you'd . . . Statements such as these are well-meant and offered in a spirit of giving and helpfulness, but too often a desire to help others is motivated by our own need to be important, appreciated, loved and in control. In chemically dependent families, when a loving mother or father or sister or husband says, "Here, let me do that," or some such words, very often what they really mean is . . . Let me impose my will on you. I want to be in control of this situation. If you don't do what I want, it means you don't love me. I am strong and powerful and you are weak and incompetent. If you don't do it my way, I'm going to make your life hell. I have to do everything because I don't have any faith in your ability to function as a capable person. See how good I am! See how much you need me! Love me, love me, love me! Now, if you grew up in a chemically dependent family, you have undoubtedly been the victim of this kind of emotional transaction. You may not have been able to intellectually identify what was going on, but you felt the anger and frustration

and resentment and defiance rise up inside you when a helpful friend or relative imposed their will upon you. Did it make you love them more? Did you respect them and appreciate them for all they did for you? Did it ease the tension between you? Did it make you want to respond with unconditional love and positive regard? No! No! No! You wanted to run away or strike back or rip out their spleen and feed it to the crows! You may have loved this person -- your mother or husband or wife or sister -- loved them intensely, yet for maddening moments you felt your heart fill with a venom as black as murder. And, oh, the guilt that followed . . . How could you be such a selfish, ungrateful, bad person? How could you harbor such terrible feelings? So yes, you know intimately what it feels like to be the victim of another's selfabsorption and need to feel important, loved, wanted and powerful. You know how it made you feel. But have you ever stopped to honestly consider that you may be doing exactly the same thing to others? All in the name of caring and concern and love, of course. For, you see, observation will tell you that alcoholic and co-dependent family members hurt each other more with their love than with the lack of it. And we are all guilty. If your life is a miserable mess of conflict and tension, if you have felt rejected and hurt over and over by those around you, if you are unappreciated and unhappy, is it possible you are bringing this misery down on yourself? Celia loved her brother and his wife and sympathized with their pain. She wanted to help. Yet, she was so pre-occupied by thoughts of how good and kind and wonderful she was supposed to be that she was blinded to Millie and Josh's real needs. And, yes, she was hurt when Josh asked her to leave. Hurt and angry and humiliated. She blamed her brother and she blamed her husband and her kids and herself. She felt she had been ill-treated, but what was so new about that? Didn't she always get the short end of the stick? And while she was painfully aware of how everybody else's actions affected her feelings, she was oblivious to the role her own behavior had played in her unhappiness. After all, she had tried her best. She only wanted to make everything better. Why didn't they see that? Celia is not a bad person. She considers herself to be sensitive and caring, and in many ways she is. She would not purposely hurt anyone, especially the people she loves, but she is an adult child still struggling with the unresolved issues of her turbulent past, and for that reason she continues to stumble blindly in the dark, hurting herself and the people she cares about without knowing how or why. She keeps running up against a wall of rejection, hurt feelings, and humiliation. "Why," she wonders, "don't people appreciate all I try to do for them? Why do they keep treating me like this?"

Celia could find the answer to her questions if she would only open up her eyes and her heart long enough to look beyond her own needs and desires. Preoccupation with self blinds a person to a simple fact. If we receive, by our own reckoning, recurring ill-treatment by many different people, the likelihood is that the cause lies within ourselves, and we are either exaggerating normal problems or we are behaving in such a way as to arouse the continual ire and enmity of those around us. While it may be painful for us to face the possibility that we are the perpetrator of our misery rather than it's hapless victim, isn't it better to face a painful truth, and get used to it, and to proceed from there to build a life that is enriched and strengthened by our new knowledge? Though change is painful, we must change: The price we pay for stagnating is too great. When we hide behind our fear, blame others, or brood over our misfortune we get stuck, mired in misery. These attitudes and actions neither deepen nor enlighten us. They keep us from growing and changing. They stifle our energies in negativism which buries our hope for the future. They keep us self-absorbed and deadened to pleasure. They destroy our capacity for joy and hinder our recovery. When we can finally look beyond our own pain, when we stop searching for the Big Bang of Happiness, stop seeking the imperishable bliss machine, and slow down long enough to feel the soft breeze of enjoyment, then we can be free, free to experience the full range of human emotions, from sorrow to joy, the bitter and the sweet. We must shatter the dream of the perfect life, for it does not exist. Happiness comes when we stop crying over life as we think it should be and learn to experience our life as it is. It is not an entitlement. Happiness comes, as William Carlos William put it, as an afterthought, after years of expending energy, making commitments and keeping them. When we pull our attention away from the microcosm of self, we can be free to experience the wonders the world holds for us. And then we may find ourselves surprised by joy, ambushed by happiness and find ourselves in wondrous agreement with poet Raymond Carver, who wrote: Happiness. It comes on unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really, any early morning talk about it.

Confronting Your Inner Parent
To reach the clearing beyond, we must stay with the weightless journey through uncertainty. Whatever counterfeit safety we hold from overinvestments in people and institutions must be given up. The inner custodian must be unseated from the controls. No foreign power can direct our journey from now on. It is for each of us to find a course that is valid by our own reckoning --Gail Sheehy, Passages Not long ago, I watched a group of children playing games down the street. A small boy, about four years old, with blond hair and an impish grin, seemed to be making up his own rules. Whenever he got the chance, he'd grab the ball and run with it tucked tightly into his belly, his head bent low as he charged down the street like a miniature Refrigerator Perry screaming gleefully, "Mine, mine, mine!" One of the other children, a girl about age seven with cornsilk hair matching the boy's, fumed indignantly at this infraction of the rules. She stood with her feet firmly planted on the pavement, fists on her hips, elbows jutting out at the sides, jaw thrust forward. "You stop that right now, Jimmy!" she bellowed. "Do you hear me?" How could he not hear her? Her voice had the volume and timbre of a diminutive drill sergeant. But it didn't have much effect on Jimmy. He turned around, made a face at his sister, then ran away. "You're in trouble now, young man," the little girl hollered, sounding for all the world like a distraught mother ready to snap. "You get back here right now! Do you hear me? You're gonna give me a nervous breakdown! Can't you act right?" The front door of a nearby house flew open and a woman appeared, hands on hips, feet wide apart, chin thrust forward. "You kids get in this house right now! Do you hear me? Can't you even play for five minutes without fighting? Get in here! Now!"

The Importance of Acting Right
Earlier we spoke of the frightened inner child each of us carries with us -- the part of us that is vulnerable and insecure and needy. The inner child is one aspect of self, one of the pieces in the complex puzzle that is our identity. Each of us also possesses another aspect of self -- the inner parent. The inner parent is akin to conscience. It is the internalized messages, values, rules and feelings that control our behavior and keep us from behaving like savages.

It's also the beliefs and feelings and self-justifications that at times make us behave like punitive jerks, insufferable asses, and self-righteous prigs. And it is the inner parent that makes us want to control the behavior of other people. We want them to act right, shape up, use their heads, have a little will power, and for God's sake, start treating us the way they should. In alcoholic families, control is the most fundamental and basic issue for every family member. Why do control issues take on such an overwhelming importance? Because the family is out of control. Totally and completely. No one will talk about it, of course, unless they are complaining, blaming or making excuses. Yet every member of the family senses the tension, feels the apprehension, and worries late at night about how to fix the whole mess up. How, we wonder, can we make these people act right? What is it we need to do to make everything better? This preoccupation with the need to control ourselves and the people around us is such an integral part of the alcoholic family that I have not yet met an adult child who wasn't bursting at the seams with the need to make people (including themselves) act right. But what is Acting Right? If our own needs and wants and desires are unfulfilled, if we are self-absorbed, hungry for recognition and admiration, then acting right is easily defined. Other people are acting right when they-share our beliefs and biases. recognize our innate superiority. let us have our own way. depend on our knowledge and wisdom. hold us up in awe and admiration. approve us, love us, and don't criticize us. We, in turn, are acting right whenever we behave in a manner that makes other people act right. To a certain degree, the desire to influence our family and friends to share our beliefs or to behave decently or to hold us in high esteem is normal. But in alcoholic families this normal tendency is carried to destructive extremes. Indeed, whether we recognize it or not, making parents, lovers, children, siblings, friends, neighbors, co-workers, grocery store clerks, strangers and small household appliances act right becomes the major focus of our lives. Even after intensive therapy, the need to control is so deeply ingrained in adult children I don't think we can ever be completely cured of it. In fact, one of the most amusing sights around is a room full of recovering, selfactualizing, professional care-giving adult children of alcoholics jockeying for recognition and power and control. And all the while keeping the determined pasted-on smiles grimly in place and trying valiantly not to let therapeutic levels of unconditional positive regard slip away because to publicly show that you

considered all these other guys misguided fools and that you wanted to be powerful and controlling and the center of attention wouldn't be acting right! The point is this: For adult children, over-sized egos, an excessive need to be in control, and an excessive pre-occupation with wishing to be recognized and admired is, and always will be, a major aspect of our character. We can deal with this unflattering truth in several ways: We can deny it and continue conducting our lives as usual. We can brood about it, beating ourselves over the head for a while, and hope it will go away. Or we can accept it with good humor and learn to live with it. And when we marvel at all the self-centered egotists we encounter in our everyday lives, we might reflect on our own egotistical needs, recalling Ambrose Beirce's definition of an egotist: "A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me."

Power, Control and Manipulation
In alcoholic families the underlying issue in every argument is a bitter conflict over who is right, who is in authority, who has the power and who is in control. Whether our inner parent is a healthy guide to moral conduct or a punitive and manipulative spirit depends in large part on the teachings we received from our real parents as we watched or participated in family conflict. Figuring out who's trying to control what in an alcoholic family can be both frustrating and confusing. While one family member may appear dominant (loud, angry, aggressive) and another submissive (fearful, passive, depressed), it is important to note that the undercurrent of family dynamics can be quite different than surface appearances. The alcoholic male who rages when his intimidated wife dares to use the telephone, who controls the bank accounts, and who makes jealous accusations when his wife is fifteen minutes late coming home from the grocery store, may seem like the master of the household, yet in reality he may feel totally dependent on and at the mercy of his wife and children. His violent outbursts and stony silences are his way of defending against feelings of weakness, helplessness or impotence. In his own mind he is a besieged man, a victim of unfair circumstances, and his dominating and violent actions are, to him, justifiable means of regaining his sense of power and control. If he has to hurt others to achieve this . . . well, he's only giving them what they deserve. Women in alcoholic homes also think of themselves as victims and, like men, they may adopt manipulative strategies aimed at giving themselves power and control in the family. The seemingly passive mother who appears to be a doormat may, in reality, be in tight control of her family. A woman who is dependent on the achievements and support of her husband or children for her own sense of self-esteem may use exaggerated displays of hurt

feelings and martyrdom to force the support and submissiveness of others. Her two main weapons are physical illness and emotional lability. When the going gets rough, she gets sick . . . or hysterical . . . or depressed. She seldom asks for help directly. In fact, she usually tells her family, "Don't worry about me. You're more important." She takes the martyr's stance, generating guilt in others and using her self-punitive behavior as a way to induce her family to protect and take care of her. Because she is sick or nervous or sad, she is excused from being a fully functioning self- fulfilling person. Full of guilt and resentment, her family grudgingly adjusts to her needs. She's in control. She wins . . . or so she thinks. These are but two of many control strategies children learn in alcoholic families. These strategies are obviously dysfunctional, and they increase pain and resentment and alienation. But they work. As an adult child named Edna told me, "My mother always makes a big production about how she doesn't want to be an interfering mother and about how free I am to do whatever I want to do with my life. But whenever I do something she doesn't like -- if I apply for a job in another city or if I say I'm not coming for Sunday dinner, within 24 hours she has one of her terrible asthma attacks. She can't breathe. She calls me up gasping and I have to come running over and rush her to the hospital. Now, she really is sick. The doctor says that when she gets like that she could die if she doesn't get quick treatment." So what's the message Edna's getting? Do something that makes your mother unhappy and she'll die. "So what do I do?" said Edna with bitter resignation in her voice. "You know damn good and well what I do! I come running!" Edna fairly vibrates with rage when she talks about her mother. "I tell you, that woman can walk through a field of ragweed without a sniffle, but if I say I'm not going to spend Thanksgiving Day with her and the rest of the family, she's on oxygen and life support by sunset." Edna came into therapy feeling depressed and totally overwhelmed by daily life. She felt like a victim . . . of her mother, her husband, her boss, her in-laws. She believed she was being constantly manipulated by their unfair efforts to control every aspect of her life. She felt powerless. During our conversations, Edna's language was peppered with phrases like:: -- my mother should . . . -- if only my husband would . . . -- my father-in-law ought to . . . -- they should know that . . . Underneath her outward pleasantness and concern for the well-being of the people she loved, Edna was unrelentingly critical and disapproving toward all the people who were close to her. Her comments were frequently two-edged. "I'm so lucky to be married to a man as wonderful as Zack . . . if only he was more competent at his job and made more money." "Zack is such a sweet, old-fashioned romantic, but . . . he has such terrible timing."

Over time, questions began to form: Was Edna's problem that she was being controlled? Or was she miserable because of her excessive need to be controlling? Was it possible that Edna was caught in one of the paradoxes of self-esteem? Is it possible that we feel the most manipulated and controlled when we fail in our attempts to control and manage the behavior of others? After several months, Edna answered the question herself. "You know," she said, "I'm always in a dither because the people I care about don't do things the way I think they should. Take my mother, for example. I've always felt like she was pulling my strings, but I'm beginning to see that I pull her strings, too. I'm always trying to make her act different. I'm always full of helpful hints. Lose weight. Dye your hair. Go to night school. Don't let dad walk on you. Speak up. Be more assertive. Get in touch with your feelings. Get out more." Edna paused and thought for a moment. "All those suggestions are really veiled criticism. Good Lord, I've been judgmental toward her! And it seems like her asthma attacks come on after I've given her a good lecture on how to improve herself. It's like we're locked in this mortal battle to see who can exert the most influence over the other. I nag and defy. She gets sick. I think maybe I'm going to work on being less negative with her and see what happens." That was two difficult years ago. Edna has totally eliminated the words "My mother should . . ." from her vocabulary. Mother still has asthma attacks. The last one was six months ago. And she'll probably have more in the future. But not every week, like she used to have. Edna's frustration quotient has gone down considerably. But she hasn't reached Nirvana yet. Edna is still working on: "Zack's a wonderful husband, but . . ."

Being Controlled By Your Inner Parent
Too often, children raised in alcoholic families develop an inner parent that is stern, intimidating, disapproving, critical and self-righteous. Edna discovered this to be true in her case. When she worked on changing the voice of inner parent to a more positive and accepting chord, she changed her life. The voice of our inner parent develops early. Even as adults we can all recognize aspects of this early imitative process in ourselves. Susan, for example, cocks her head and rolls her eyes just like her mother. Steve contemplatively strokes his beardless chin, much the same way his bearded father did when lost in thought. But the mimicking of Mom and Dad go far beyond stroking the chin and rolling the eyes. At age seven, the little blond girl playing in the street already displayed an amazing repertoire of controlling, intimidating and critical behaviors. Without conscious effort, she had adopted and accepted her harried mother's behaviors as normal and right and worthy. She had internalized the messages her mother had given her and made them part of her own identity.

And whether we like it or not, the voice of our own inner parent will remain an unpleasant echo from the terrible past unless we begin to work through the distorted and negative internalized messages we received from our real parents when they were sick, confused, hurting and least able to provide us with positive lessons. If our inner parent is stern, critical and disapproving, it will not permit us to love and enjoy our real parents, our spouses or our children. It will force us to feel judgmental and victimized at every turn. No matter how noble our motives or how sincere our efforts to love and care for the people close to us, our disapproving inner parent will sooner or later get in the way of harmony. A client of mine named Kevin is both a son of an alcoholic and an alcoholic himself. He readily admits that during his drinking days he was insensitive, preoccupied with himself, surly toward his wife and children and unreasonably demanding. "I always had to be right," he admits. "I put Ilene down a lot, blamed her for my problems. I never listened to her or the boys. All of our conversations were oneway monologues with me interrupting, bragging, moralizing, preaching, blaming or giving orders. I thought if she would only do what I thought she should, if she'd act the way a wife was supposed to, then we wouldn't have so many problems." By the time Kevin was thirty, his drinking was out of control. Desperate, Ilene threatened him with divorce. "Go ahead and get your damn divorce," Kevin responded defiantly. "I don't care." Less than a week later, Kevin was picked up for drunk driving. When his boss heard about it, Kevin lost his job (which entailed driving clients in a company car.) The judge gave Kevin a choice: Alcoholism treatment or jail. Kevin checked into an in-patient program. And Ilene filed for divorce. In treatment, Kevin underwent a transformation. With sobriety came a spiritual awakening and a new understanding of the pain he had caused Ilene and his sons with his drinking and surly behavior. He turned his life over to his Higher Power and immersed himself in Alcoholics Anonymous. And he realized how much he loved Ilene and the boys. Family took on a new importance. "I don't want the divorce," Kevin told me. "I need to show Ilene that I've changed. I'm not the same person I was before." How did he go about trying to change Ilene's mind? Why, by showing her how spiritual he was now and by letting her know that if she would only get as spiritual as he was, their troubles would be over. "I'm really worried about the boys," he confided. "If the divorce goes through, I'm going to have to sue for custody. Ilene isn't doing anything about their spiritual education. And, you know, her brother smokes marijuana. That's not a good influence on them. Ilene says she doesn't let him do it around them, but I don't think she's providing them with the proper moral environment. We need to be together again as a family, but she still says she wants a divorce. She says she

doesn't trust me, that I killed our marriage, and she's right. But I'm changed. She's got to see that I'm not the same man I was before." Several weeks later all hell broke loose. Kevin discovered that Ilene had renewed a sexual affair with an old boyfriend. "She lied to me," he said, aghast. "All this time, she's insisted that starting a new relationship was the farthest thing from her mind. Now I find out she's been lying to me the whole time." Kevin confronted her with the facts. He told her he still loved her and wanted to save their marriage despite the fact that she was a liar and an immoral person. Now that he was so spiritual he could call upon his Higher Power to give him the strength to forgive her for messing up so badly. But if she still insisted on the divorce, he was going to drag her and her boyfriend and their "sex orgies" through the mud, and he was going to get custody of the kids, and she could go off whoring all she wanted, but by God, not around his sons, she couldn't. They needed a moral home and he was going to make sure they got it. "I don't know what's wrong," Kevin wailed. "I love her. I want to save our marriage. I'm willing to forgive her for all she's done. Why can't she see how much I've changed from the drinking days?" Maybe because he hadn't changed enough. Before treatment, Kevin had been a drinking, insensitive, prideful, punitive, boastful, intimidating, self-righteous man who wanted to solve his problems by making his wife act right. After treatment, he was a non-drinking, insensitive, prideful, punitive, boastful, intimidating, self-righteous man who wanted to solve his problems by making his wife act right. Big change. With less than two month's sobriety under his belt, Kevin was now judge and jury on how to conduct a moral life. He was an instant expert. While drinking he had lied constantly, picked up women in bars for one night stands, neglected his children, squandered money and jeopardized his family's future. Yet, with hardly a twinge of conscience, he condemned Ilene as a liar, a sinner and a whore for behavior that was no worse than his own. Kevin even started applying for jobs as an alcohol counselor. "I want to help people," he told me. "I have a lot to offer." He certainly did -- self-righteous opinions, accusations, moralistic platitudes, cracker barrel philosophy, disapproval and an inner parent with a harshly judgmental, punitive voice. Kevin's recovery is complicated by the fact that on the surface he is one of the wittiest and most charming fellows you would ever want to meet. He smiles easily. His laugh is infectious. He's a wonderful salesman and it's hard not to like him. Like many adult children, Kevin covers up his real feelings with a congenial mask. But deep inside, he has an image of himself and the world as he thinks it ought to be, which is in continual conflict with how it really is.

He is in constant conflict with the people he loves because on both a conscious and unconscious level he is driven to restructure his world to conform to the impossible standards of his demanding and disapproving inner parent. In many ways Kevin, and many other adult children, are similar to the little seven year old girl standing in the street screaming after her brother, "Can't you act right?" By the time we reach adulthood that voice has buried itself deep into our unconscious, yet it still calls out, the voice of our inner parent demanding in a tone only we can hear: Act Right! The voice of the adult child's inner parent is typically controlling, disapproving, harsh and judgmental, and it gets in the way of loving relationships with our real parents, our spouses, siblings, children and friends. For many of us, the problems caused by our preoccupation with control are not as obvious as Kevin's. Still, our lives are filled with conflicts caused by our unconscious need to have our own way. Because Kevin sincerely wants to recover, he is in the process of confronting his demanding inner parent. He's learning techniques that allow him more emotional freedom. He's also become aware that letting go of control -- learning to live and let live -- is risky. When we relinquish control, we must adopt new attitudes that say: I believe other people have the capacity to function in a competent fashion. I will allow other people to be responsible for their own behavior. I will experience moments of anxiety, awkwardness or uncertainty, and I can do this without falling apart. I will allow other people to take credit for their own successes and failures. I admit that opinions, beliefs or customs different from my own may be of equal or superior value. I admit my own fallibility. I set aside the importance of always winning. I will show respect and support for the ideas and actions of people who may differ from myself. I will abandon my self-righteous desire to be superior to others. Letting go of control fosters independence in the people we love, and that can be scary. Will they become so independent that they will no longer want or need us? Will they abandon us? Reject us? Hate us? Perhaps. Yet, it seems far more likely that we will drive the people we love away from us with our insufferably self-righteous, disapproving and critical attempts to make them act right.

Our judgmental, disapproving inner parent prevents us from truly communicating with the people we love because instead of really listening with an ear toward understanding and sharing, we are busy mentally preparing our rebuttal. Like Kevin, we preach, moralize, criticize, distance, degrade, devalue, brag and dispense advice. Usually unsolicited advice. None of these activities has anything to do with listening. Yet, more than anything else, I think all of us want to be listened to and understood. We can never underestimate the psychological healing power of the simple act of listening. When we listen to another person without expressing criticism or disapproval, when we let them talk without forcing our own opinion on them, we are allowing understanding and positive self-esteem to grow. We are demonstrating that -o we care. o we value that person even when we disagree with them. o we have faith in their ability to competently deal with their own life. o we respect that person's intelligence. o and we are letting that person know they are not alone in an uncaring world.

Empathetic Listening
Empathy is an understanding so intimate that the feelings, thoughts and motives of one person are readily comprehended by another. We sometimes try to show empathy by saying, "I know how you feel," or "Exactly the same thing happened to me." If we then follow-up with a description of our feelings, thoughts, problems, or trials and tribulations, we are not showing empathy at all. We are like thoughtless children vying for recognition: "Me first! Me first! Listen to me!" We hog the conversation, and we put a barrier (our own ego) in the way of true communication. Self absorption and empathy are incompatible traits. How can we possibly comprehend the feelings, thoughts and motives of another person when we're all wrapped up in our own concerns? Empathetic listening means putting your own concerns and judgments aside for a few minutes and listening to your spouse or parent or child or friend so that you understand the feelings underneath the spoken words. Sounds easy, doesn't it? It isn't. In alcoholic families, family members talk at each other, not with each other. The majority of dialogues are really double monologues. Dad spouts off his demands and rationalizations, mom waits for him to pause for breath, and when he does, she launches into her own agenda, her own demands and rationalizations. They are like debate opponents vying for advantage, seeking to score points. The purpose of these conversations is to influence, persuade,

browbeat, manipulate, guilt-trip and generally convince the opposition to act right. Not surprisingly, most adult children adopt the communication style they learned from mom and dad. Quite often I hear adult children complain that their parents never listened to them. These feelings spill over into other relationships -- with lovers, co-workers, our children. We feel alone and misunderstood. Yet, how many of us realize that our parents, lovers, friends and children have just as great a need for us to understand and listen to them. If we want to be understood, perhaps we first need to stop judging, disapproving and criticizing those around us. Empathetic listening is a skill we can learn to help us make emotional connections with the people we love. Here are some rules for empathetic listening: Don't assume that the person you are listening to expects you to come up with a solution to his or her problems. Many times all we really want is a sounding board. For example, a friend of mine named Ralph was encountering some serious problems with his 23 year old daughter, Jenna. They'd always had a close relationship, but lately they seemed to argue constantly. Jenna admitted that she was feeling resentful towards him. "He's gotten so bossy and interfering and critical lately. He's driving me nuts." What was happening was this: Jenna had taken a demanding new job which was consuming most of her waking thoughts. When she visited her father, conversation usually centered on her job, its complexities, challenges, and difficulties. She'd vent about problems with co-workers, confusion over policies, struggles for recognition. Ralph, with his many years of business experience, wanted to help his daughter succeed. He'd listen for a moment, analyze the situation, and plot a strategy for her. He'd say, "What you need to do, honey, is . . ." Whenever Ralph used those words, Jenna wanted to scream, "If I want your advice, I'll ask for it!" And that was the crux of the problem. Ralph felt he was supposed to solve his "little girl's" problems, tell her what to do, make everything better for her. All Jenna wanted was a sounding board for her excitement, triumphs, frustrations and fear. When Ralph realized Jenna neither expected nor wanted him to come up with solutions, a tremendous burden was lifted and the closeness returned to their relationship. Don't minimize their concerns or worries by telling them about somebody else who has real problems, changing the subject or telling them they are making a big deal out of nothing. Once when I was teaching a seminar, a shy teenage girl came to see me after class about an intimate and embarrassing physical problem. She had an undeveloped third nipple on her chest. While this minor defect posed no risk to her health, it was the sort of thing that would cause anguish to any normally sensitive girl. Because correcting her problem would require a relatively inexpensive medical

procedure, I suggested she discuss the intensity of her feelings with her parents. She returned several days later to report that she had sincerely tried to express her embarrassment and despondency to her parents, but they had "poohpoohed" her concerns, telling her she was making a mountain out of a molehill-and chuckling at the pun. "You should be grateful you don't have any real problems," they told her. They refused to discuss the situation further. It was only after their daughter attempted to perform surgery on herself in the family bathroom that her parents reacted. "Why didn't you tell us it bothered you so much," they asked. "I did," she responded. "But you didn't listen." Don't act superior by saying, "Well, what I would do is . . ." When we start explaining what we'd do, we have stopped listening and started talking, making ourselves the center of attention while at the same time implying we can quickly and easily come up with a plan of action that the other poor boob is too dumb or weak to figure our for himself. It's remarkably easy to say . . . "Well, I wouldn't take that kind of crap." "I'd divorce the dirty S.O.B." "I'd knock my kid silly if he talked to me like that." "I wouldn't care if he is the boss. I wouldn't let anyone push me around." Why is it that we can be confident, assertive, wise and righteous when solving another person's problems? But when it comes to solving our own problems, well .... Don't feel that you have to agree 100 percent with everything they say in order to be empathetic. A person who came of age in the l960s or l970s is likely to have a world view quite different from someone who lived through the Great Depression and World War II. Values change. Goals change. Styles change. Changes inevitably create a fertile breeding ground for conflict, especially for adults who have conflicts with both their own parents and their own children. This isn't a generation gap, it's a generation squeeze from both directions, and when we're squeezed too hard, we reflexively push back against the pressure with all our might. Undeniably, alcoholic and co-dependent parents possess many personality and character traits which make them difficult to deal with in a loving manner. But what good is it to blame and resent them for attitudes and behaviors they've had for a lifetime? We can improve our relationships if we become more accepting and less blaming. Now, you may be asking: Why bother? Here is the most important reason: Unless you make the effort to learn how to communicate more effectively and lovingly with your parents, there is a very real danger that you will perpetuate with your own children the same kinds of conflicts and barriers to loving that you have with your parents. When you were born, your parents were supposed to suddenly become child-care experts. They weren't ready. They had not solved their own problems yet.

Are you ready? Have you solved your problems yet? A loving parent will not force the same pattern of conflict on their son and daughter. If you can learn to accept and value your turbulent parents, you are setting a good example for your own children to follow. Your parents may be critical of the way you live your life and the way you raise your children. It's natural for you to want to make your parents see the validity of your lifestyle and values. It is just as natural for them to try to make you live according to their rules. This conflict between parent and child is as old as humankind itself, and it will probably continue forever. So it is pointless to resent your parents or argue with them or try to change them when they express a deeply felt opinion that differs from your own. They have a right to their beliefs. And so do you. The bottom line is this: You don't have to live your life according to their rules. And they don't have to live according to yours. Repeat: YOU DON'T HAVE TO LIVE YOUR LIFE ACCORDING TO THEIR RULES. And they don't have to live according to yours. By listening to your parents when they criticize you, rather than attacking them or blaming them, you may generate a more caring, less hostile atmosphere. This doesn't mean you have to agree with them. Listening to their point of view and acknowledging their right to their own opinion simply gives them an important sense of being taken into account, which we all need. Empathetic listening can drastically cut down on the need to endlessly defend your own position and point of view from attack. For example, your mother says indignantly, "I don't think a couple should live together without marriage. A man won't buy a cow when the milk is free." Instead of shouting, "I'm not a cow and this isn't a dairy I'm running here, so mind your own damn business!". . . . . . You might make eye contact with your mother, nod your head slightly, and say, "I can see how you feel that way." What does it hurt to let her have her say? What does it hurt to listen to her, to nod your head and say, "I understand what you're saying to me. Thank you for being concerned." If, in August, your mother calls you long distance and says, "I don't know what I'll do if the whole family doesn't get together this Christmas," what does it hurt to respond, "I know how important family traditions are to you, mom, and next November when we start making plans for Christmas I'll let you know right away if we're going to be able to visit you."

If your father-in-law sees your child snuggled up in bed with the cat and intones, "We never allowed animals in the house," what does it hurt to say, "I know you feel strongly about that." Sometimes, simply making eye contact and saying, "I understand," is enough. You are acknowledging they have a valid point of view. It just happens to be different from your own, equally valid, point of view. Caring people can disagree on many issues and still care about each other. If your parents feel you are taking their opinions into account, if they don't feel the sting of your rejection, they may surprise you by backing off a little. Think about this for a moment. Your own observations will tell you that we feel the most need to repeatedly hammer home our own point of view when the person we are talking to refuses to listen to us. The more someone fights us, the more effort we put into trying to convince them of the rightness of our position. And, oddly enough, we are less likely to try to impose our will on people who listen to us openly . . . even when we continue to disagree with each other. Right about now, your internal voice might be saying: "That makes a lot of sense, but you don't know my parents. If I give them an inch of thinking they can tell me what to do, they'll take a mile. If I let down my guard, they'll run right over me." That's an understandable feeling, and it's also a good case of either/or thinking. Either we keep up the fight against the demands of our parents or we give in to them. That's how it was when we were children. But, as adults, we have more than just these two options. By listening to their point of view with empathy, you are not giving into their demands. You are listening. You are opening the door for a calmer discussion. You might learn something from them, for it is rare to find any individual who is 100% wrong about everything. You may, for the first time in your life, have a chance to express your own views to them in a rational, adult manner. Maybe you won't change their minds. Maybe you will. Maybe it doesn't really matter whether you convince each other. Remember: As long as you are an adult, supporting yourself, and not asking your parents to take care of you, you don't have to live by their rules. And they don't have to live by yours. You don't have to be in control. To an adult child inured in the family battle for identity and self-worth, the idea of actually giving up the fight for control can sound like heresy. It's unthinkable, unimaginable, dangerous. Everyone knows that only weak people, sinners, miscreants and various other vermin live a life that is out of control. But wait a minute. The opposite of being in control does not have to be out of control. Consider this: For recovering adult children, alcoholics, addicts and codependents, the opposite of being in control can be . . . . . .Live and let live. Why can't people who love each other accept each other? The problem is the past.

We interpret today through yesterday. Nobody is listening in the present. We are listening instead to all the pain and hurt and conflict from the past. Yearning for what Gail Sheehy calls "counterfeit safety," we all cling to yesterday. An "inner custodian" directs our lives. And because we cling to yesterday, we become unavailable to today. We spend our whole lives pushing against the past, wrangling with the inner custodian. If your parent or spouse or child is stubborn, infuriating, opinionated, controlling and pushy, what will it hurt if you stop pushing back? Try to understand. When you push against a strong opposing force, you both remain stuck in one spot. You hold each other rigid. Move aside. Stop pushing. Without your resistance to hold it up, the opposition may collapse. Take a chance. Stop pushing.

Expectation whirls me round. The imaginary relish is so sweet That it enchants my sense. --Shakespeare What do you expect out of life? Are your giddied by expectation, as Shakespeare suggests, letting the sweet relish of your imagination enchant your mind and senses alike. Or are you more down to earth? Do you want to live comfortably? Do you want a loving and stable family? A great sex life? Romance? Recognition for your work? Money? Admiration from your friends and colleagues? Excitement, adventure, travel? If you want any or all of these things, your desires are perfectly normal and natural. We all want a share of the good things we see around us. There's nothing wrong with wanting to grab a piece of the action for ourselves. And there's nothing wrong with enchantment, if you wake when the bell rings. But what happens to a young man or woman who views life through the distorting lens of family alcoholism? What happens when they reach out for their share of the goodies? The extraordinary demands alcoholic and co-dependent parents place on their children, coupled with the ever-increasing standards of perfection we place on ourselves, inevitably close us off from the goodness life has to offer.

Why? Because the alcoholic family demeans ordinary achievements. Instead, the alcoholic family exalts pride, control, perfection and the struggle for personal power. Distressed parents possess neither the patience nor the emotional stamina required to encourage a curious child's tedious trial-and-error efforts to learn a new skill -- whether the skill be picking up toys, spelling words, or pitching a ball. You either got it right in the first few trials, or else ... . . . you were reproached . . . lectured . . . yelled at . . . ridiculed . . . maybe even beaten. The message was clear. You were supposed to do it right the first time. Through some sort of automatic process you were supposed to be perfect at whatever you tried. And if you weren't? Well, it must be because you were: 1. Stupid 2. Lazy 3. Thoughtless 4. Careless 5. Ugly 6. Clumsy 7. A Loser 8. All of the above, and (which goes without saying) a disappointment to your parents and possibly a blot on the entire human race. Thus, using the logic of childhood, you came to some conclusions about how the world operates. You came to believe that normal people -- the people who are good and worthy -- have a natural knack for learning things easily, an aptitude for perfection, perhaps a special genetic gift for excellence. Or maybe just a lot of good luck. The alcoholic family teaches its children unrealistic expectations about success, about relationships, about what it means to be normal, and about self-worth. And if we look to the media for exemplars, what do we see? The student at Harvard who at age 20 is running a multi- million dollar software business from his dormitory room. The 45 year old actress with slim hips, firm breasts and a flawless, unlined face. The factory worker who picked the winning numbers in the State Lottery and who'll be getting a check for $60,000 a month for the rest of his life. It looks so easy for them. We start thinking these extraordinary examples represent ordinary achievement. In comparison, our own lives seem inferior, drab and dull and hopeless. We feel as if we are locked in a constant struggle just to survive. At the age of 35 we feel like the score is: Life 35--Me, 0. We feel frustrated and bitter. And continually deprived, even in the midst of plenty.

When a perfectionistic adult child tries something new and runs into trouble or makes mistakes or suffers rejection, we have a typical reaction -- we think the world is against us. We feel assaulted, betrayed, diminished. We believe that in a fair world we would have gotten what we wanted because we deserved to get it. If we were normal and worthy, we would have accomplished our goal in the first few trials, we should have been rewarded for our efforts. Our belief system is childlike. We look around us and see other people who have what we want and we assume that for them it came easily. We feel sorry for ourselves. Why does our life have to be so hard? And deep inside us, a voracious green worm of envy gnaws away at our soul and other innards as we stew over why our life has to be so hard while it seems so easy for others. And the cry wells well inside, "It isn't fair!" There is a pattern here that bedevils a large number of adult children who want to be happy, yet who find themselves constantly thwarted by life. The pattern has three steps: 1. We hold expectations for ourselves and others that are so high and so unreasonable that disappointment is the only possible outcome. 2. The pain of our disappointment plunges us into a fit of self-pity. We feel we are failures and the people who should care about us have betrayed us and treated us unfairly. 3. Our self-pity is slowly replaced by rage which manifests itself in envy and revenge. We attempt to build up our own tattered self-esteem by tearing down, belittling or hurting the people we believe are responsible for our pain. Take Gwen for example. A 47 year-old divorcee and mother of two grown children, Gwen decided she wanted to become a writer. That in itself is not unreasonable. Many writers have harbored aspirations for years before they got the time or the courage to actually begin. Gwen's impossible expectation was that she would become a recognized talent and would produce articles for major publishers almost immediately. She signed up for a writing class at the local community college and started filling notebooks with her thoughts. Her first project was a short story about the difficulties a middle- aged divorcee faced in adjusting to life without a husband. The story showed promise. It had humor and sadness and the heroine was sympathetic and charming. Her teacher, Jacob, complimented her efforts and suggested some areas that could use a little polish. Gwen was hurt and angry. "This story came from my heart and I'm not going to change a single word." She made copies and submitted her story to Cosmopolitan for publication. It was rejected. She submitted it to Redbook. It was rejected. She submitted it to Good Housekeeping. It was rejected.

Jacob said, "You're aiming too high, Gwen. Those magazines only accept stories from professional writers. You need to re- write and polish your story, then submit it to a smaller publication, maybe a local newsletter, something like that." "But they wouldn't pay me!" "An amateur writer can't expect to get paid in the beginning. You have to prove yourself first. Get some clips." Gwen felt like she'd been gut-shot and left out in the sun to slowly bleed. Her teacher had actually called her an amateur! She immediately dropped the class. And she told her friends what a bad teacher Jacob was and that he obviously had problems relating to women because he was totally incapable of understanding the message in her story, a message any woman would grasp in seconds. If anyone asked, she told them that taking Jacob's class was a waste of time and money. Of course, Gwen said all this with a note of concern in her voice and a small smile on her face. She told me, "I don't want to do anything to hurt Jacob's feelings, but I think other people should know what he's like." When I mentioned that Jacob had been successful in getting his own stories published and he might have a lot to offer, Gwen sniffed and said, "Of course, he gets published. He's a man . . . and he's Jewish. He's got friends in the New York literary clique. That opens doors that are closed to the rest of us."

Unrealistic Expectations
Gwen expected instant gratification of her desires. She thought that if a person is bright and talented, they should attain immediate success in whatever they attempt. She thought that a real writer, someone with real talent, would be published right away and be paid big bucks. She believed that in a fair world, a person of her abilities should face no struggle, no tedium, no rejection. And her abilities should readily be discerned in the intensity and sincerity of her feeling. She felt like a writer, therefore she was one. Success should follow her efforts. Enchanted by the idea of being a writer, she was oblivious to the realities of the world of publishing. Gwen did not wake when the bell rang. With each rejection slip, Gwen fell deeper into self-pity. She reviled herself. She was a failure, a fool, an ass. She imagined Cosmo editor Helen Gurley Brown and the rest of the Cosmo staff rolling on the floor and laughing at her pitiful attempt to break into the big time. She even imagined that Mrs. Brown had coded Gwen's name into a national computer network that warned all magazine publishers: "Red Alert! Beware of Gwen Arkine's insipid drivel!. . . Unless, of course, you want a good laugh." Then, as she leafed through her returned manuscripts, an even worse realization struck her -- the editors hadn't even read her story. She could tell by looking at the pristine pages that they hadn't even given her a chance. Why? Why had they done this terrible thing to her? How could they be so unfair?

As Gwen lay in her bed that night, a hundred destructive questions raced through her mind. Had she addressed the envelope incorrectly? Did they reject her because she'd misspelled the editor's name? Why hadn't she been more careful? She should have done more checking. Had Jacob told people how bad her story was? Why did she even keep trying? Why? Why? Why? How could she set the score straight? What's going on here? Is Gwen crazy, or what? Well . . . not crazy. But she is confusing fantasy with reality. Because Gwen grew up in an alcoholic family with all the usual distorted rules, demands and expectations, she's had to spend her whole life guessing at how the normal world operates. And like most adult children, Gwen is guessing wrong. Her behavior and thoughts typify the secret fantasies, fears, apprehensions and disillusionments adult children with unrealistic expectations suffer from constantly. Now, stop for a moment. Think about your own expectations. How many times have you punished yourself with self-pity, anger and depression because you weren't good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, or fast enough in your first few attempts to achieve a new goal? How many times have you quit a project because you wanted fast results with just a little bit of effort? Think about what you expect out of life. Pause for a moment and examine the underlying beliefs which shape and color your view of yourself, the people around you, the the world as a whole. I'm asking you to look behind and beyond your public self -- the reasonable and socially acceptable persona you present to the world. Stop and look closely at your most deeply held, private, unreasonable beliefs about how you and the world should operate. Are you sabotaging your ability to derive pleasure from life with any of these unrealistic expectations? Do you believe -You must always be right. You must be admired. You must have the love and approval of everyone. You must get what you want easily and with only a little effort. You must be continually happy, without mood fluctuations or feelings of irritation. You must be in command of all situations. You must be brilliant. You must excel in all that you do. You must always be treated fairly. You must get all the good things you deserve. You must be physically attractive, slim and well- muscled. You must know what the future holds. You must not make mistakes, fail, have a hard time, or sustain frustration or pain of any kind.

And, finally, that failing to live up to these unreasonable expectations is totally unbearable and is a valid reason for hating yourself and the world. It would certainly be lovely if all our unreasonable expectations could come true, but, in fact, such a perfect world is impossible. The sooner we truly understand and accept that our expectations are fantasies and nothing more, then we can get on with the exciting process of getting as much goodness as possible out of this imperfect world we live in. By clinging to unrealistic expectations, we are closing ourselves off from goodness and pleasure. Learning something new, achieving a sought after goal, comes slowly, little by little, step by step. People who find pleasure in life know this . . . many adult children don't. But it's not to late to learn. Are you willing to give yourself the opportunity to learn, to make mistakes, to start slowly and build as you go? Are you willing to open yourself to success. Here are some suggestions on how to open yourself to the goodness that life has to offer. Exercise # 1: Self-Statements for Success Perfectionistic adult children spend half their lives beating themselves over the head for real and imagined mistakes. We label ourselves failures with our castigating self-talk. We focus on the negative. We make ourselves feel miserable by the way we talk to ourselves. For example, Gwen's unrealistic expectations rendered her unable to experience any pleasure in her achievements. She labeled herself a failure with these unrealistic expectations and self-statements. Failure Self-Talk: o Jacob hated my story. He thinks I'm an amateur. If I was a real writer, I'd get it right the first time. I wouldn't have to go back and make corrections. o I'd be totally humiliated if my story was published in some jerky little rag nobody ever heard of. I need to get into the top magazines. o Why even try? They're not going to pay me what I'm worth. For all the time I put in on that story, I'd have to get at least $300 to even make minimum wage. o I've been rejected three times, therefore I will always be rejected and I am a failure. Success Self-Talk: By lowering her expectations and by being less critical, Gwen could have labeled herself a success (and enjoyed the pleasures of success) with these selfstatements. o Hooray! My teacher said my story showed promise. o I only have to make a few corrections. Pretty good for my first try! o Jacob encouraged me to polish my work and submit to a small publication. That means he thinks I have potential as a writer. o I've been rejected three times, but I've heard that some of the greatest writers were rejected dozens of times. I'm going to keep trying.

The next time you find yourself in a situation where you feel yourself sinking into self-pity or you feel worthless or like a failure, try this. 1. Get a pencil and a piece of paper. 2. Listen -- really listen -- to your Failure Self-Statements. On one side of the page write down all the negative, self- castigating things you're saying to and about yourself. 3. Examine your thoughts. Identify the ideas that are perfectionistic, nit-picking, unrealistic, and unreasonably demanding. Are you expecting instant success? Are you insisting that everyone else follow your rules? Are you sulking because you haven't lost ten pounds in five days? And so on. 4. Now, on the other side of the page, write down at least five Success SelfStatements. Focus on the positive. Bring your expectations down to a reasonable size. Give yourself credit for small improvements. This might be hard for you because you're so used to thinking negatively. Don't worry. Positive thinking develops with practice. 5. Read over your list of Success Self-Statements several times. Commit the positive statements to memory. When you find yourself getting discouraged and making failure statements, STOP! Take a deep breath. Now, substitute a positive and realistic success statement for the negative, unrealistic failure statement. 6. Practice, practice, practice. Exercise #2: Family Expectations After so many years of living with ourselves, it would appear that we would know the rules and expectations that we live by. Surprisingly, few of us do. We don't take the time to really analyze the basis of our beliefs or to question whether or not the values we live by are helpful or hurtful to us. We just keep marching on doing the same thing today as we did yesterday and will do tomorrow. This exercise will give you a chance to examine some of the values you learned in your alcoholic family. What ten commandments would best summarize the expectations and beliefs your family advocated. List them. For example, this is the list made by a client named Robert: 1. Make your mother happy. 2. Don't upset your father or something bad will happen. 3. Don't express thoughts or feelings that might rock the boat. 4. Don't let anyone push you around. 5. Don't embarrass the family. 6. Always win. 7. It's okay to have sex, but not with nice girls or virgins. 8. Deny yourself, don't be selfish. 9. Be secretive about your actions, money and plans or you'll get screwed over. 10. You don't belong to yourself. You belong to your family. Examine the rules you live by closely. Do they benefit you? Or inhibit you? If you want to change the rules, you can. Exercise #3: Changing the Rules

STEP 1: Some of the confusion we feel as adults can be traced back to impossible rules or ambiguous messages we received as children. Can you identify some of the impossible or mixed messages you are still trying to live by? How are these rules hurting you today? From Robert's List: My dad encouraged me to "prove my manhood" by getting sexual experience, but to leave "nice" girls alone. Nice girls are for marriage. Sluts are for sex. This is hurting my marriage now because I get anxious when Lenore (my wife) wants to experiment sexually. If she gets real hot and excited, I lose my erection. I love Lenore, but I only really enjoy sex with other (cheap) women. I never lose my erection when I'm with a "bad" woman. STEP 2: Using your rational mind and adult knowledge, list all of the ways in which this rule is unreasonable and destructive to you. From Robert's List: 1. It's a double standard for men and women. 2. All scientific and medical research shows that "nice" woman can and do enjoy sex. 3. Seeking out sleazy woman for sex exposes me to sexually transmitted diseases which I could bring home to Lenore. 4. Prevents the development of intimacy (sexual and emotional) between Lenore and I. I'm not being fair to either of us. 5. I love Lenore and this rule puts a barrier between us. It makes us both feel resentful and sexually inadequate. 6. It makes sex dirty, when I want it to be beautiful. 7. I feel guilty after I've had sex with another woman. I can't look Lenore in the face, so I'll pick a fight with her. And I'm embarrassed to see the other woman again because I've exploited her for my own selfish needs. 8. This rule is old-fashioned and based on ignorance. 9. This stupid rule prevents me from getting both physical and emotional pleasure in my life. It's destructive to my happiness and Lenore's, too. 10. This was my dad's rule, not mine. I'm an adult now and I don't have to live by his rules if I don't want to. STEP 3: If you have convinced yourself that the rule is unreasonable and destructive, you can change it. Think up a new rule for your life. Be sure to ask yourself: 1. Is the new rule realistic? 2. Is it attainable? 3. Is is likely not to be harmful to me or anyone else? Consider various possibilities until you come up with a value you both like and respect, then write your new rule down. Read it several times. Try it on for size. Is it reasonable? Healthy? Is it accepting of human limitations.? Will it enhance your life? Is it a rule you would be proud to share with your own children? If you can answer 'yes' to all those questions, you've probably come up with a pretty good new rule. This is how Robert framed his new rule:

It's okay and healthy and moral for a husband and wife to give and receive sexual pleasure from each other. STEP 4: Framing a new rule doesn't mean we will automatically begin to live by it. The old negative rules are second nature to us, firmly entrenched and stubborn. They are also comforting by simply being familiar, not only to us, but to the people around us. So, changing an old inhibiting rule into a new enhancing one takes courage, thought, study and practice. Begin a third list. What actions are you going to take so that you can start living by your new life-enhancing rule? What steps must you take? What behaviors are you willing to change? How will you go about unloading the burden of the old rule? Write down the positive steps you are willing to take. From Robert's list: o I'll practice positive self-talk. I'll repeat the new rule to myself everyday and tell myself why it's a good change. o I'll educate myself about male and female sexuality. I'll read everything I can about the topic. o I'll work on expressing my real feelings and thoughts to Lenore. o I'll behave more romantically toward Lenore and encourage her to be more open to me. o I won't expect everything to change overnight. o If Lenore and I have trouble working this out on our own, I'll suggest we see a counselor together. o If Lenore refuses to see a counselor with me, I'll go on my own to see if I can learn some new ways of dealing with the situation. Keep your lists and review them on a regular basis. Although your new rules may not be well-formulated yet, they are a start on building a more positive life. They represent how you want to live. In time, you may want to refine and change your new rules. And you can! Summary for Changing the Rules Exercise Step 1. Identify a rule or message you would like to change. Step 2. List the ways in which this rule is unreasonable or harmful to you. Step 3. Frame a new rule that is reasonable and beneficial. Step 4. List the things you must do to put this new rule into effect in your life. Step 5. Review your progress regularly. Now, think. What old, destructive rules would you like to change? How about some of these? o Hide your real feelings. o Always think of other people first. o Men don't show weakness. o Nice girls don't get angry. o Don't trust, don't talk, don't feel.

o You don't deserve to be treated well. o Always be in control. o A man is nothing without a good woman. o A woman should make her family happy. And on and on. When you examine the rules you live by, you may find some warm, comforting ones you want to keep. Good rules, once examined, can become even more treasured and valued. They can reinforce your sense of purpose and identity. That's good. And it's also good to discard the hurtful rules. But remember, just because you decide to change the rules, it doesn't mean the people around you will automatically change, too. Do you possess an internal gyroscope that will help you maintain the delicate balance between the demands of your own goals in life and the buffetings of the external environment? Probably not. And there will be buffetings, there will be reactions from others because they have certain expectations about you. "Carrie can be depended upon to have my dinner ready at 5:12 on the dot." "We always can count on Sam for Christmas." "Glenda's such a sweet girl -- never complains, never moody, and never has a bad word to say about anyone." If you change the rules you live by, the people around you may applaud. Or they may be outraged. And that is an expectation your can count on.

Escaping the Approval-Defiance Trap
What's the matter, you dissentious rogues That, rubbing the poor itch of your opinion, Make yourselves scabs? -- Shakespeare Although rugged individualism is extolled in our culture, the truth is: Not very many of us can be happy unless we have congenial companions who approve of our way of life and of our outlook on the world. We may deny it. We may even shout, "I don't care what anyone thinks." Or we may croon like Frank Sinatra: "I'll do it my way," and march to the beat of a different Moog Synthesizer. Yet it is a rare (and perhaps not altogether sane) person indeed who is well-armored enough not to need or want the approval of the people they live with and care about. The need for approval and various approval-seeking behaviors are universal. In adult children, this need for approval tends to be disproportionately strong.

Approval-seeking is usually honed to the highest degree, and this is the source of many conflicts. Take Micci, for example. As a schoolgirl and young adult, Micci was the typically well-behaved good daughter, good student, good friend, good citizen. She did her best to make her parents proud of her and to meet the needs of her friends and family. By the time she was twenty-five, Micci was coming unglued. It seemed like no matter how hard she tried to be pleasant and loving, she got screwed. Her college sweetheart dumped her. Her parents, who loved her dearly, criticized her constantly. More than a few of her friends treated her like a doormat. One night, after an ugly scene with her roommates, Micci found herself alone and frightened, crying uncontrollably in a deserted cornfield at three o'clock in the morning. How had she come to this point? she cried. And more importantly, where did she go from here? From somewhere, an answer came into her brain. "Get help. Get into therapy. You've got to change." And Micci did change. With the help of a skilled therapist, Micci learned to become more assertive. She learned to honor her own needs, as well as the needs of others. She learned to say, "No." She learned to ignore her mother's unsolicited and unwanted advice and she learned how to tell her new lover what she needed from him emotionally and sexually. And what happened when Micci started changing the destructive rules that had been making her so miserable? The spit hit the fan, that's what. "What's wrong with that girl?" her mother complained. "She's getting too big for her britches," her father fumed in response. "You never have time for me like you used to," an unhappy acquaintance whined. "I have so many problems and I need you to help me. Why are you being so mean?" "None of my other girlfriends needed fifteen minutes of foreplay," her lover said indignantly. "They never told me how to make love to them." Micci found herself in a difficult spot. If she behaved in a way that gained the approval of her family and friends -- sweet, acquiescent, submissive, helpful, unselfish and quiet -- she hated herself and the way people treated her. But if she behaved in the manner that made her respect and like herself -assertive, open, honest, expressive, and, yes, uppity -- her parents and old acquaintances acted as if she'd sprouted fangs and a beard. Micci didn't know what to do. For a while she considered getting a teaching job in New Zealand in order to get away from all the pressures and conflicts. At least there, no one would know her and she could act any way she pleased. But in her heart, she knew that running away was not the answer. For one thing, she loved her parents. She had a good job and some very dear friends and she didn't want to give up the security and warmth of her current life. At that point, Micci made a mistake common to people who feel the censure of those they wish to please. Micci turned defiant.

Defiance:: Approval-Seeking in Disguise Defiance is the will to oppose or resist authority. It is the urge to challenge, the disposition to engage in combat. It is a contemptuous disregard of expected behavior. Defiance is the opposite of deference, and, not surprisingly, forced deference is the chief cause of feelings of defiance. When Micci felt that her parents and friends were trying to force her back into her "nice girl" mold, she rebelled. She was tired of deferring to her parent's wishes. She was a grown women, she supported herself, and she felt she had a right to her own choices and, if necessary, to her own mistakes. Micci developed a defensive, pugnacious attitude. She started saying things like, "If you don't like it, that's tough." "It's my life and I'll live it anyway I please." "What I do is none of your damn business." "I have a right to my own feelings and I don't need to justify myself to you." Micci didn't actually say these things. She shouted them. Or sneered them. Or grumped them. She turned prickly as a cactus, made herself and others uncomfortable, and seemed to have completely lost her sense of humor. Fortunately for Micci (and her companions) this was a short- lived stage in her journey towards recovery. For a while, Micci sincerely believed that her defiant stance was an indication of recovery. She felt she no longer needed the approval of others and she saw this as progress. But she was mistaken. For you see, defiance is merely the need for approval turned inside out. It doesn't look like it on the surface, but the person who is behaving defiantly is actuallydemanding approval. Their message is: "This is the way I am. I want my own way. You are wrong and I am right. I expect you to accept me no matter how I behave and if you don't, I will react by making trouble for you." I will react . . . Defiance is a reaction to authority. Defying the conventions of your parents or spouse or of society as a whole may make you feel free. You showed them. Thumbing your nose at authority can be a thrilling experience. It can make you feel alive, powerful, free! But are you really free? Or are you still dancing to a tune drummed out by somebody else, the only difference being that when they tell you to waltz, you dance a jig? You may be doing your own steps, but you're still dancing to their music. In recovery, the goal is learning how to be in harmony not only with your companions, but, more importantly, with your own higher values.

To Defer or Defy -- That Is The Question
As you would expect, the people who have the most problems with needing and wanting approval are those who have shaky self- esteem or who lack a strong sense of their own identity. If we don't recognize our own innate value, we have a tendency to measure our worth by the opinions that other people, especially authority figures, have of us. And remember, authority figures can be just about anyone -- parents, spouse, your boss, your doctor, your kids (when they try to tell you what to do), even your disapproving next door neighbor or a smug store clerk. Now, ask yourself, do you want to go through life reacting to the opinions of store clerks and small-minded strangers? Consider this: If you grew up feeling a lack of personal power, you may actually feel that practically everyone else in the world is an authority figure that you either have to defer to or defy. Thus when the checker at Safeway gives you a dirty look, you feel just about as uncomfortable as you would if you got the same look from your boss. A very great deal of unhappiness arises from these feelings. A huge amount of energy is expended in trying to win the approval of the people around you, or conversely, in defending your independence by resisting or combating the opinions of those who are hostile to you or your way of life. When we habitually defer, we spend our energies trying to live up to the expectations of people who may not have our best interests at heart, or who may not care about us at all. When we habitually defy, we spend our energies trying to maneuver, inveigle or manipulate other people to agree with our own views. We take a point of view and hold onto it dogmatically, because it is OURS. We seek to affirm our worth by engaging in petty defiances -- such as speeding or smoking where it is forbidden. Or through noisy posturing -- "I don't care what the judge says, I'll go to jail before I'll go to alcohol treatment." Or by insults -- "Screw you, buster!" But whichever choice we make -- deference or defiance -- we are still locked in a struggle for approval.

Defiance In Disguise
Open defiance like Micci's is fairly easy to recognize. Some people seem to be spoiling for a fight, for any opportunity to assert themselves. Others manage to avoid sharp issues. Outwardly, they conform to social conventions, while inside they are bristling. Their defiance comes out disguised. Disguised defiance can range from the silly to the suicidal. Lynn's husband wears dentures and finds it difficult to eat sticky foods or foods with small seeds. Lynn usually takes this into account. But when she gets angry

with him she always puts a peanut butter sandwich made on a poppy seed bun into his lunch pail. Ben is out of work. The family is relying on his wife's paycheck. And she doesn't let him forget it. Her comments hurt. He feels resentful and inadequate, but he's too scared to tell her. His wife loves to cook gourmet meals. About five minutes before she places the food on the table, he involves himself in a project, so that by the time he's ready to sit down, the food is cold and congealed. Judy feels intimidated by her dominating husband, Tom. She feels powerless to stand up to him directly. When they are gathered together with family or friends, Judy can be counted on to liven up the party by gaily saying, "Hey, did anybody notice that Tom's started dying his hair?" Or, "Poor Tommy, his hemmorhoids have been killing him lately." Or, "Did I ever tell you about the time Tom got seasick and we were on his boss's boat. Oh, it was soooo embarrassing. What happened was. . ." Leonard had spent his whole life trying, on one hand, to win his father's approval and, on the other hand, feeling resentful that his father had so much control over Leonard's life. Leonard enrolled in law school because that's what dad wanted him to do, and he flunked out from not studying because he hated his dad running his life. He married a girl his father approved of, and cheated on her. He joined his father's business and regularly came in late and missed meetings. Leonard did whatever his dad wanted him to, and got even by doing it badly. Morey's wife always tried to tell him how things should be done. She told him how to knot his tie, how to cook bacon, how to comb his hair, how to talk to his boss, how to mow the lawn. She wasn't nasty about it, she just sort of followed him around criticizing him for his own good. She also kept telling him he should stop smoking unless he wanted to die from cancer like his mother had. It drove Morey nuts. Over time, Morey developed some sores in his mouth and went to the doctor. The sores were pre-cancerous lesions and the doctor told him in no uncertain terms that he must stop smoking immediately or else. At home, he told his wife, "They're just canker sores. Nothing to worry about." He lit up a cigarette and took a deep drag, thinking, "I'll be damned if I'm going to give her another chance to say I told you so."

Learning To Live With Disapproval
It's a truism that you can't please all of the people all of the time. Nonetheless, many unhappy adult children think they must win approval for all they do. And they must never displease anyone. Listen: You can't do it. No one can. Criticism, censure and disapproval are a part of life. No matter how well you perform, someone will find fault with what you do. If you write up a superb report, somebody will ignore the content and criticize the punctuation. "Are you sure a comma goes there?" You say you raised brilliant children? So how come your daughter is fat?

Gee, congratulations on getting such a great new job . . . do you suppose your son will develop emotional problems from being put in day-care? And so on. ` The Iron Law of Approbation It is impossible to win universal approval for everything we do. All of us will face criticism and disapproval at some time in our lives. Trying to get everyone you know to like you and approve of you is a useless preoccupation. You can't succeed and your failures will only make you feel miserable or defiant. So if we want to break free from the approval trap, we must accept the fact that we can't please all the people all the time. Yet, we must also remember that sympathetic surroundings and supportive companions are an important ingredient in personal happiness. Therefore it makes sense for us to try to please some of the people some of the time. Let's ask ourselves some questions. Question #1. Whose approval do you need and whose don't you need? Under some circumstances it is healthy and mature to actively seek the approval of another person, especially if your behavior directly effects that person. Yet, one problem approval-seeking adult children have is that they are indiscriminate in their need to please. They don't know how to set priorities. Consequently, it becomes as important to please your next door neighbor as it is to please your mate. You worry as much about winning the approval of the parking lot attendant as you do about gaining the esteem of the person who signs your paychecks. Why do we fail to set priorities? I think the main reason is that approval-seeking adult children are addicted to praise and it's a heck of a lot easier to get positive strokes from parking lot attendants than it is from bosses. All the attendant needs to think you're a great guy is a smile, some small talk and regular tips. Try handing your boss a smile and a five dollar bill the next time you come in late and see how far it gets you. So how do you decide who you need to please? That depends on the circumstances, the importance of the situations, the degree to which it effects other people, and your personal value system. For example, Pam wants to have a baby. This is a major decision, one which will effect many people who care about Pam. Just whose permission and approval does Pam need in this situation? If you were in Pam's shoes whose opinion would you be worrying about? Your mother's? Your best friend's? Your mother-in-law's? Your boss's? Now, think about it for a minute. When you faced a major decision, whose opinion mattered most to you? Who influenced you the most? In whose best interest were you operating.

In Pam's case, the person she needs most to approve of her plan is her husband. In fact, in a decision as personal as having a baby, he may be the only other person who needs to be involved in the decision. If Pam gets pregnant his life will be changed. He will have emotional, moral and financial commitments for the next 20 years. But haven't you known a woman who purposely got pregnant without the approval of her husband or boyfriend? Mary secretly stopped using birth control while her husband was in his senior year in college. They had agreed to wait to start their family until he had completed school and he had worked for a year. But both of Mary's sisters and her best friend had new babies. She felt left out. Mary thought it was more important for her to be like her sisters and her girlfriend than it was for her to be open and honest with her husband. She had her priorities mixed up. Not surprisingly, Mary is now divorced. Conversely, Bill and Maggie hesitated in having a very much wanted fourth child because in their social circle, large families were frowned on. When Maggie did become pregnant she was delighted, but she also developed a defensive and surly attitude. She let the raised eyebrows of friends rob her of the natural joy she and Bill felt at this wondrous time. Every day we are faced with the fact that other people will judge our actions and behaviors. Have you ever stopped to consider that if someone disapproves of you, it might be that person's problem and not yours? Perhaps that person is consumed by envy or is a victim of irrational or bigoted beliefs. And what if criticism aimed at you is valid? It need not destroy you. Use criticism to learn from your mistakes. If you are fully human, then you will and must make mistakes. It's simply part of life. Disapproval can upset you only as far as you are willing to buy into the idea that you must have the admiration and approval of everyone you meet. You have the right to your own opinions and ideas. You have the right to break free from old destructive rules. You have the right to be yourself. Now, with all that in mind, let' pause for a moment and remember Micci. After years of fawning for approval, Micci did an about face. She turned pugnacious and rude. And that earned her more pain and disapproval than she had ever known before. Have you made the same mistake? Question #2: Are you being unreasonably demanding? Sometimes, people in our lives disapprove of our behavior for legitimate reasons. In other words, we really are behaving badly or in an inconsiderate fashion. Ask yourself: Are you deliberately flouting public opinion? Are you definitely behaving in an antisocial manner? Are you expecting other people to bail you out when you get in a jam? `

Consequences If you play your stereo full blast late at night . . . If you regularly dump your children off with friends or relatives so you can go party . . . If you spend your money recklessly and have to borrow from your parents to avoid being evicted from your apartment . . . If you wreck yourself with a wild lifestyle and need to be nursed back to health . . . If you lie to your friends or cheat on your lover . . . If you are surly or abusive to the people around you. . . If you come back to your conservative small town with pink spiked hair and a safety pin in your ear . . . If you show up for work or social engagements anytime you feel like it . . . If you try to make love to your twelve year old neighbor . . . . . you must accept the natural consequences of your behavior, which in most cases will be negative. While you may justly feel that it is your right to play your stereo at any hour you please, your neighbors have just as much right to complain about your ungodly noise . . . further, they have the right to complain to the police. The point is this: A person who flagrantly defies commonly accepted social customs and rules can expect disapproval, censure and outrage from all quarters. To expect anything else is both unreasonable and foolish. Question #3: Are you behaving in a critical fashion toward others? Your departures from conventional behavior may rouse the ire of your family and friends because your behavior may be interpreted as a criticism of them. For example, Patty was raised in a traditional ethnic Italian family. Papa was the head of the household; mama cooked big meals, raised the kids, went to mass; the sons went to college; and Patty married young. Unfortunately, her marriage was a disaster. Her husband drank, ran around with other women, slapped Patty around, and generally treated her badly. But he was a successful businessman and he did provide Patty with a nice home and lovely clothes. Which was exactly what papa had provided for mama. When Patty went to her parents for help in getting out of her abusive marriage, they were outraged. Her husband beat her because she was a bad wife, her father told her. Have a baby, mama counseled.

Patty went back to her husband, tried to be a good wife, suffered several miscarriages and more abuse. After 17 terrible years, her husband left her for a younger woman. Patty was destroyed. And so were her parents. "He was a good husband," her father told her. "What's the matter with you that you couldn't keep your man happy?" "If only you'd been able to give him children," her mother sighed. "How are you going to get another husband if you can't give him children?" Courageously, Patty started putting her life back together. She was 37 years old, she'd never held a job, she had no training, she'd never even paid a bill or had her own checking account. She was like a teenager just leaving home . . . only more frightened. By finagling grants and financial assistance, she was able to put together enough money to enroll in college. Thrilled, she went to her parents to announce her triumph. Her father made a dismissive gesture. "That's your problem," he said. "Don't bother us with it." "Will you meet any nice men?" mama asked hopefully. Patty cried for a week. What did she have to do to show her parents that what she was doing was right? How could she get the moral support from them that she needed so desperately. Over the next year, the conflict between Patty and her parents increased. She showed them her "A" papers. They told her that her ex-husband's new wife was expecting a baby. Patty placated, cried, argued, screamed, manipulated, threatened, and demanded that her parents recognize her as a worthy individual engaged in a worthy endeavor. In fact, she was putting more energy into trying to get her parents to accept her as a childless, husbandless woman who was trying to get an education in order to have a career then she was putting into her studies. Her grades began to drop. What Patty didn't realize was that her parents interpreted her behavior as a very direct and cutting criticism of their own values and lifestyle. Patty didn't stop to think how her mother might feel when Patty ranted, "I won't end up an old tired out Italian hag in a black dress who doesn't do anything but boil pasta and play bingo at church. I'm going to make something of myself." She never considered that her father might take it personally when she talked about her husband and followed it with, "All men are asses. Always trying to run the show and push women around when they're nothing but liars and cheats and fools." While Patty keenly felt the sting of her parents' disapproval and criticism, she had no idea that they too felt attacked and criticized. Without being fully aware of it, Patty was demanding a total capitulation on the part of her parents. She wanted to prove that they were old-fashioned and stupid

and wrong. She was stuck in either/or thinking. Either mama and papa were right and she was wrong. Or Patty was right and they were wrong. No middle ground. Patty was operating under the silent assumption that she and her parents had to follow the same rules and share the same values. . . otherwise they wouldn't be a family. And like most of us, Patty cherished the idea of family. Half the time her inner child refused to accept the notion that she did not need her parents' permission to live her own life. The rest of the time, her inner parent tried to make her real parents act right. As you can imagine, almost every family get-together turned into a battle. Are you living under the same mistaken beliefs? Do you mindlessly accept the notion that you can only be happy if your parents or in-laws or step children fully approve of and applaud your lifestyle? Do you spin your wheels in the dust trying to get them to act toward you the way you think they should? Listen: You don't need anyone else's permission to be a different or unique individual. The world is big enough to accommodate many different beliefs, behaviors and values. I do not mean here that you should feel free to be mean or criminal or destructive in your conduct, which is self-defeating and dangerous. I mean only that you have the right to make your own choices, to be natural and to follow your own values, so long as these are not anti-social or harmful to others. If your lapses from conventionality are minor, such as failing to keep your lawn mowed, or refusing to dress for success, or letting you hair grow long and straggly, you can go a long way toward staving off criticism simply by being goodnatured and friendly about it. Say, for example, your mother-in-law calls you at 10:00 o'clock on Saturday morning and greets your groggy hello with a disdainful, "Are you still in bed?" Instead of bristling, you could languidly respond, "Positively sinful, isn't it?" Put a dash of insouciance in your voice, a tone that says you are thoroughly enjoying yourself. Remember, you're an adult now and you don't need mama's permission to sleep in. If you show you are threatened or afraid, a potential critic gains courage. However, if you show good humor or even indifference they begin to doubt their power over you and they are more apt to leave you alone. That is what happened to Patty. When she stopped trying so desperately to win her parents' approval, when she showed good humor instead of surliness, her parents became more tolerant. They still didn't approve of their daughter and her new independence 100 percent, but they stopped actively criticizing her. Patty never did get the total capitulation she had tried for. She settled for peaceful co-existence. And it was enough.

Enduring Outrage
Sometimes our lapses from conventionality are major. We are choosing a path which is totally contrary to what is expected as normal and appropriate for us. For example: You come out of the closet as gay or lesbian. You marry a person who is of a different race. (Only a generation ago marrying a person of a different nationality or religion could cause outrage.) You drop out of your senior year in college to become an unpaid advocate for street people. You stop going to the Baptist Church and start worshipping as a Zen Buddhist. You leave your mate for a new love. You fail miserably in your chosen career. Not surprisingly, friends and relatives will be shocked, disappointed, even outraged. Ugly scenes can be expected. First, you must realize that you have very little, if any, control over how other people react to your behavior. While you might not like it, you must accept the fact that they have just as much right to their negative feelings about what you have done as you do to whatever feelings you have about their reaction to what you have done.

Shocked? Outraged? Get used to it. It would be nice if everyone (including Christians) were imbued with the spirit of Christian humanitarian acceptance and forbearance and tolerance. But they aren't. And life isn't always the way it should be. As long as those who disapprove of you are not illegally harassing you or violating your civil rights, they have a complete right to hold whatever opinion of you they wish. It would be nice, of course, if they were courteous enough to keep it to themselves. Second, you must remember that life will go on. The unpleasant nature of the current situation will not go on forever. It does not need to permanently impair your happiness. If you are willing to accept the fact that you can't break the Major Rules of Conventionality without raising at least a short-term stink, you will have an easier time getting through the crisis and on with the rest of your life. Third, you will be wise to consider the possibility of forgiveness. If friends and family reject and hurt you, if they act like bigoted fools, you will only harm yourself by carrying a grudge. Even when friendships are broken, forgiveness can heal the pain in your own heart. It is possible for us to endure and survive criticism and disapproval. But if we want to be happy, we must do more than endure. We must emerge unembittered and with unimpaired vitality. The best way to increase tolerance and acceptance

for who and what we really are is to model accepting and nonjudgmental behavior towards our friends and companions. In our alcoholic families, we learned to fight fire with fire. In recovery, we gain more by fighting fire with love.

Living well is the best revenge. --George Herbert In the beginning, we said this book was about confronting and changing ourselves, not about confronting and changing our parents. Still, many of us yearn for the power to rewrite the script of our lives, starting out by changing the character of our parents. It's always tempting to begin our own self-renewal and transformation by reforming the behavior of someone else. Too many of us have been almost obsessed with the idea of transforming our parents and our families. In our fantasies we straighten things out, fix things up, create love and warmth and harmony. We share the truth with them, we enlighten them, and the scales will drop from their eyes. Everyone lives happily ever after. Then there are darker fantasies, the ones where we get even, when we have it out with the mother or father who hurt us. To a certain degree, this fantasy is a power trip. We are strong. Invincible. We hurl the truth in the face of our cringing parents. We make them pay for their crimes against us. We say all the words we saved up over a lifetime of hurt. "Don't you know how that made me feel?" we yell in their face. And we make them know. We make them feel our pain. If your parents are still mired down in alcoholism or co-dependency, you may feel that you will never be able to find happiness unless your parents change. Listen: Your recovery does not depend upon the recovery of your parents. It is helpful if the alcoholic quits drinking, but we can begin our own recovery even if their alcoholism and co- dependency continue. Your recovery is not measured by changes in the behavior of your parents. It is measured by your own growth and power to control your own life. Now, say you understand all of this and you still want to do something about your parent's drinking. You have a couple of workable options . . . 1. You can detach yourself emotionally from your mother or father's disease, without totally removing them from your life. This means that you learn how to stop taking responsibility for your parent's illness and start taking responsibility for yourself. This is an approach advocated by Al-Anon. Al-Anon is made up of woman and men who love an alcoholic and who are struggling to find peace and happiness. It can help you deal with your guilt and fear and your need to control.

Al-Anon is listed in the phone book. There are also a number of Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoA or ACA) groups springing up around the country. There might be one in your community. Check it out. 2. You can instigate a professional, structured intervention aimed at getting your alcoholic parent into treatment. We used to believe that you couldn't force a person to seek help until they wanted it. We now know that we no longer have to wait for the alcoholic to want help. We can make them want help. This is done through a process called intervention. Almost all professional chemical dependency treatment units have intervention teams that specialize in creating a well- thought-out, dispassionate, lovingly firm confrontation between the alcoholic and the people that care about him or her. During the confrontation, family and friends tell the alcoholic how the drinking or drug use is causing problems, that treatment is necessary, and that they are committed to participating in treatment as a family. Intervention can be a highly effective means of getting chemically dependent people into treatment. Celebrities such as Betty Ford and Elizabeth Taylor credit family intervention with saving their lives. A cautionary note: Intervention is a rehearsed, structured confrontation . . . not a typical family fight. Trying it on your own will probably be no more effective than any other family brawl. Most major chemical dependency programs will offer consultation on the intervention process free of charge or at low cost. If you really want to do something about your mother or father's drinking, professional intervention is an option worth trying.

When Nothing Works
What options do you have if your mother or father is physically, sexually or emotionally abusive? What do you do if the abuse that hurt you as a child now endangers your own children. What do you do if after your best efforts, the relationship between you and your parent remains impossible, destructive or dangerous. In some cases, it is helpful, even necessary, for us to physically distance ourselves from our parents. Sometimes we must terminate all contact with one or both of our parents in order to survive. Time and distance may -- repeat, may -- lessen the pain and heal the wounds. Or we may have to wish our parent well and in our mind kiss him or her good-bye.

Having It Out
Many adult children feel that their recovery will be facilitated by "having it out" with their mom or dad. This usually means they want to confront their mother or father with a list of grievances detailing the hurts inflicted on the innocent child through the carelessness, indifference, neglect or meanness of the abusive parent. Some therapists recommend this as a good way to clear the air. I caution against this, unless. . . 1. The confrontation takes place as part of a structured process facilitated by a professional therapist. 2. It is handled in a loving and non-judgmental fashion with the aim of increasing family communication and intimacy. 3. The interaction is a two-way exchange in which the parent is also allowed to express both positive and negative feelings. Wait just a minute. Stop right here. I can hear you saying, "But my mother would never agree to family counseling. If I do what you say, I'll never get a chance to tell her about all the terrible ways she hurt me. I'll never get these feelings off my chest." Well . . . maybe you'll never be able to spew venom and hate and vituperation in the face of your mother and father. Now, stop for a moment of total honesty. Think about it . . In your secret heart of hearts, in your darkest moments of fantasy isn't that what you want . . . to punish your parents, to lay blame, to retaliate for the hurt they have caused you? Too often, "clearing the air" is an excuse for claiming revenge, for blame-gaming. And therapy can degenerate into parent bashing sessions, whether the parents are actually present or not. Is that what you really want? If you have the urge to "have it out" with one of your parents I ask you to wait . . . reconsider. Go back to the first five chapters of this book. Practice the Forgiveness Exercises in chapters Four and Five. Remember this: Suffering lives on resentment -- the more resentment, the more nourishment there is for suffering. If you want to keep suffering, you cannot forgive, you cannot let go of the past, particularly the hurts, the humiliations, the wounds, the insults, the living nightmares of your childhood pain. But I guarantee you this: If you master the art of forgiveness, if you practice the Forgiveness Exercises as they are outlined, if you become willing to let go of the past, if you confront your inner parent and inner child . . . . . . you will no longer need to punish and harangue your real parent with a list of grievances and pain. You will no longer need to carry the torch of family pain from one generation to the next.

Shared Guilt
One Sunday night, Annie was on the verge of having it out with her mother. Although Annie now had a child of her own, she was still obsessed with thoughts of how her mother had betrayed her, intimidated her, made her feel unwanted and unloved as both a child and an adult. Annie hated the way she still felt dependent and controlled by her mother's moods and demands. Annie sat in her mother's armchair knitting and fuming, as she did every Sunday night. It was a regular routine. On Sunday night, dad went to his A.A. meeting and Annie and her son, Eric, visited mom. Eric played with toy soldiers on the carpet while mama and grandma knitted and talked. On this Sunday, Annie's mother must have felt the tension in the air. She looked at her grandson on the floor and said, "I love you, Eric." He replied mechanically without raising his head. "Love you, too, grandma." The older woman glanced at her daughter and sighed. "You're lucky you didn't know your grandmother, Annie. She was a real witch. I hated her." Annie looked up startled. "You hated your own mother?" "She hated me." Annie was shocked. "Oh, mother," Annie said. "Your own mother couldn't have hated you." Mom shook her head. "You think that because you always knew you were loved. I vowed I'd never do to you what my mother did to me. I'd never say or do anything to make you feel unloved or unwanted." The older woman looked straight in her daughter's eyes. "I always did my best to let you know how important you are to me." Annie sat frozen in her chair, staring at her mother. She felt like she was losing her mind. Didn't her mother know how it had made young Annie feel to hear her mother shout . . . "Will you please leave me alone for five minutes." "Go outside and play." "Can't you see that I'm busy." "No, mommy will not play with you. Mommy has grown-up work to do. Now go to your room and be quiet." There were thousands of other incidents, insults, rebuffs, and rejections. Didn't her mother realize how that had made her feel? Just then, Eric pulled at her leg. "Hey, mom--" "Shhhh, son, mommy's busy." She pulled up short. Her response had been automatic, reflexive, and it was matched by a thousand other incidents, insults, rebuffs and rejections. None of them meant to hurt. She looked down at her young son, knowing he was the heart and the light of her life, knowing how much she loved him, knowing that she had vowed to never say or do the things her mother had done to her . . .

. . . and now realizing that she was doing to her son what her mother and done to her, and her grandmother to her mother. Where did it stop? Where did the cycle of blame and silent recrimination end? Annie pulled Eric up into a loving embrace. "I love you, son," she said. And looking over his silky hair, she smiled across at her mother, tears in her eyes. "And I love you, mom." "Oh, Annie," her mother said, dropping her knitting. She crossed the room to her daughter and grandson, joining in the warm embrace. "You and Eric mean so much to me." Seven year old Eric wormed his way out of the crush of bodies. Wiping lipstick off his cheek, he said, "Gol! You guys sure are weird tonight." He didn't know he was watching a major transformation. Annie had realized for the first time that her mother had no more purposely wanted to hurt her than she had ever purposely intended to hurt her own son. Yet, in all honesty, Annie had to admit that many times she had done and said things that disappointed Eric, made him cry, hurt his feelings. But that didn't mean she didn't love him. And it didn't mean she was a bad mother. It simply meant that she was a fallible human being who sometimes made mistakes. She faced pressures and worries and problems that sometimes made it impossible to meet her son's needs and desires. She had always assumed that he would get over his hurts in time, that he would understand because he would always know how much she loved him. Just as her own mother had always counted on unexpressed love and time to heal all of Annie's wounds. Now, she had to ask herself a question: How could she expect Eric to understand, accept and forgive his mother's mistakes if she wasn't willing to forgive her own mother for making the same errors in judgment and behavior? Where did the blame end and the forgiveness start?

` The Adult Child's Golden Rule Live in such a way so that you can expect the same amount of love, acceptance, and forgiveness from your children as you showed your parents. It's up to you whether the Adult Child's Golden Rule becomes a blessing or a curse in your life.

Making Your Own Light
Home is where when you have to go there, They have to take you in. -- Robert Frost Sometimes the bitter memories of youth and estrangement from one's family work themselves out in stunning dreams. Loren Eiseley tells of the unraveling of one such drama in a writer who had been struggling with a novel containing difficult autobiographical episodes. In a detailed and memorable dream, the man found himself on a snowy path leading to his childhood home. It was night, and he made his way over the creaking snow to the porch, where he tried to peer through a dark window into his old room. "Suddenly," the man told Eiseley, "I was drawn into a strange mixture of repulsion and desire to press my face against the glass. I knew intuitively they were all there waiting for me within, if I could but see them. My mother and my father. Those I had loved and those I hated. But the window was black to my gaze." He hesitated a moment in dreamtime and struck a match. "For an instant in that freezing silence," he reported, "I saw my father's face glimmer wan and remote behind the glass. My mother's face was there, with the hard distorted lines that marked her later years." Emboldened by fury, he overcame his cowardice, cupped the match before his face and stepped forward, "stepped closer, closer toward that dreadful confrontation. As the match guttered down, my face was pressed almost to the glass." And in that magical warping of time and space that occurs in dreams, he came to face with a transforming truth: "I saw it was my own face into which I stared, just as it was reflected in the black glass. My father's haunted face was but my own. The hard lines upon my mother's aging countenance were slowly reshaping themselves upon my living face. . . . It taught me something." We are never told exactly what it was that he was taught. A story-teller might be tempted to round it off neatly with an ending in which he became reconciled with his family and they lived happily ever after. But for many of us there is no storybook resolution. There is no pat reconciliation, where we nestle once again warm and secure in the bosom of our family. "You can't go home again." This was the title of Thomas Wolfe's first novel, and the phrase struck a responsive chord. Wolfe -- himself an adult child -- found words for adult children everywhere.

When we want to go home, there may be no place to go. Or they won't take us in. And we understand Wolfe's cry, "Come back, lost and by the wind grieved ghosts...." But there is a kind of reconciliation that comes when we look at the scarred knuckles and the textured skin on our hands and see the hand that held us, fed us and pointed out the letters as the story was told. Or when we look in the mirror, rub our eyes and behold the strangely familiar lines of a parent's countenance. It teaches us something. At such times we may feel a chill, a shock of recognition. But it is a healthy shock, not a shattering one, for in the instant of recognition we have grown resilient, touched with a certain clarity and made whole by the ineluctable sense of continuity in our lives-- continuity even in the face of rejection, separation, death. They faced their lives, we realize, and they did the best they could with the tools they had. And we will face our lives and do the best we can with the tools we have. We can spend our time outside shivering in the snow as we peer in a dark window and whimper like small animals to make the shadowy figures within notice us, love us, make things right. Or we can make our own light in the darkness. THE END

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