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The Role of Fear and Anxiety in an Adult Child’s Life
For an adult child who grew up with alcoholism, pre-alcoholism, dysfunction and abuse, fear and anxiety almost define his life.
“Adult children often live a secret life of fear,” according to the textbook Adult Children of Alcoholics (World Service Organization, 2006, p. 10). “Fear, or sometimes terror, is one of the threads that binds the 14 traits together.”
These traits, such as isolation, approval seeking, victimization, an excessive sense of responsibility, inability to defend oneself, denial, repressed feelings, needing people to please, being constantly reactive, and self-judgment result from a rewired brain. that seeks to survive in an environment back home that it believes will be similar to what it has already experienced.
Three of those traits mention the word “fear” – that is, “…Fear of people and authority figures;” “We are afraid of angry people and any personal criticism; and “We got addicted to the excitement.” “Excitement,” in the latter case, became a substitute for the original word, “fear.”
“While many grown-up children appear cheerful, helpful, or self-sufficient, most live in fear of their parents and spouses in addition to fear of their employer . . . ,” continues the text “Adult Children of Alcoholics” (ibid., page 10). “They have a sense of impending doom or that nothing seems to be working.”
Those who attend Al-Anon meetings, which offer comfort and support to families of alcoholics, echo this phenomenon.
“Before I came to Al-Anon, fear was my biggest obstacle,” said one member in Al-Amon’s text Hope for Today (Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 2002, p. 58) . “My responses to fear included withdrawing, hiding, crawling, running, or scolding myself. None of these behaviors helped me face my fears. In fact, they only made things worse.”
Although fear and anxiety, as shown by this member, dictate, distort, and disrupt a person’s life, and may run through the veins of a grown child as regularly as blood, they are essential to all who belong to the animal kingdom, limiting actions and activities. that the brain perceives as dangerous and harmful. But when they become excessive, they hinder meaningful, nurturing and healthy relationships and erode the quality of life. They are also almost new.
More than a century ago, Sigmund Freud made a statement that was as valid then as it is today.
“What we clearly want is to find something that will tell us what anxiety really is,” he said.
“Anxiety,” in answer to his plea, is a set of unpleasant but familiar and sometimes frequently experienced emotional and physiological sensations that can include elevated blood pressure, pulse, heart rate, and breathing rate. It is a lesser state or “restlessness,” a restlessness, a nervousness. The person is completely unable to calm down, rest and be at peace with himself.
This implies that something about his current state, circumstance, or environment is not entirely safe or even slightly disruptive, and may give a subtle, foreboding warning that something wrong is about to happen. Compounding this state of anxiety is the fact that the person may not be aware of what this punishment might be or when it will happen—in other words, why he or she feels this way and how he or she can shake it off. defined.
Freud mistakenly believed that fear was experienced when the person could determine what the harm was and that anxiety prevailed when he could not. However, this was not an accurate assessment because these physiological states are not equal. Fear is the diametric opposite of love and is therefore the lowest rung on the emotional scale, while anxiety is milder and less intense. Although neither is particularly pleasant, fear can release stress hormones and adrenaline, triggering the fight-or-flight response because a person or situation poses a threat to safety or survival. Anxiety, on the other hand, is milder and can be considered the preliminary step of this intense state, which precedes the actual threat.
And, while fear is more likely when these anti-survival circumstances are known, anxiety can be experienced whether or not they are. An adult child, for example, silently suffers from this condition without being able to determine why, but someone else, whether he belongs to this category of adult child or not, may undergo the same situation while thinking about an event of future, such as such as the need to give a speech to a large audience or to undergo a medical procedure. Anxiety, in this case, can be considered synonymous with anticipation.
Both fear and anxiety can be equated to the “rings” of the body’s “alarm system”—that is, warnings that adapt it to endure, tolerate, or even survive an impending event.
“The perception of these bodily changes is what we experience as anxiety,” according to Michael Kahn, Ph.D. in “Basic Freud: Psychoanalytic Thought for the 21st Century” (Basic Books, 2002, p. 108). “Their function, without Freud, was to serve as a warning of impending danger. The purpose of warning is to signal us to take action against impending danger.”
But he went a step further. It was not just the danger that proved harmful, he assumed, but the helplessness or powerlessness that the person would experience in the face of it, leaving him vulnerable to its effects.
“It is important to remember that Freud’s theory describes not only the anticipation of danger, but also the anticipation of helplessness in the face of that danger,” continues Kahn (ibid., p. 110). “If I feel confident in my ability to face danger, I don’t need to be warned and I don’t experience anxiety.”
This statement contains two basic realities of growing up—the danger of an adult child (in the midst of a shaming, blaming, potentially abusive, alcoholic, or dysfunctional parent) and powerlessness (as a vulnerable, defenseless, underdeveloped child in the midst of it). . But fear and anxiety intensify when they are associated with this helplessness, serving, to a considerable degree, as the cause and essence of the adult child syndrome.
“Many grown children struggle with the notion of helplessness in the first step (of a twelve-step recovery program), since helplessness is all that many of us have known as children . . . ,” advises the textbook “Grown Children of alcoholics” (op.cited pg.101). “As children, we were conquered by parents who unknowingly taught us to feel powerless or less capable”.
Parental dysfunction, betrayal, and even abuse create what becomes the original “authority figure” for such a child, the one who seems to lead him, as if for reasons they do not understand, he has submitted to the other or the enemy. , side of the fence and creates an indelible image that he attributes to others later in life.
“We may see our parents as authority figures who cannot be trusted,” states the textbook Adult Children of Alcoholics (ibid., p. 11).
“Our past experience tells us that every leader, employer, or officer is essentially an authority figure and should not be trusted,” it further states (ibid., p. 379).
Because most of these parents are unhealthy grown children themselves and are driven by their offspring, they project their fears, often through unmitigated fighting, onto them.
“The fear, excitement, and pain of the nondrinking parent are affecting the children and transferring to (them),” advises the textbook Adult Children of Alcoholics (ibid., p. 24). “This is the adoption of parental feelings and behavior in one of its purest forms.”
Even when these children reach adulthood and leave their home environments, they carry transferred fears with them.
“Our parents projected fear, doubt, and a sense of inferiority into us,” explains the textbook “Adult Children of Alcoholics” (ibid., p. 101). “We were vulnerable to projections. We absorbed our parents’ fears and low self-esteem thinking that their feelings originated with us.”
That grown children live a life based on fear as a result of these conditions can hardly be disputed. The mere entrance of an alcoholic or pre-alcoholic into a room can create anxiety and tension—so much so, in fact, that the air can often be cut with a knife. Walking on eggshells, they withdraw, avoiding any movement or sound that will trigger the parent and invite chaos, upset, blame, criticism or even abuse. This constantly uncertain and unstable environment does not provide the experience of growing up in a calm, trusting, secure state, and they then carry fear and anxiety with them into their adult interactions.
“…Adult children use (fear) to imitate the feeling of being alive when in reality they are recreating a scene from their family of origin,” explains the textbook “Adult Children of Alcoholics” (ibid., p 16). Gossip, dramatic scenes, pending financial failure or poor health are often the upheavals that grown children create in their lives to feel connected to reality.
Although abandonment can take many physical and emotional forms, it can be considered the fundamental foundation of fear. An infant, in its original, helpless state, is completely dependent on its mother or primary caregiver for protection, safety, warmth, food, clothing, comfort, soothing, and all its physical needs and can do little more than too much to cry to warn him. that he wants attention. Being abandoned and feeling that she will never return evokes overwhelming fear and anxiety, as her absence can ultimately equate to death.
While abandonment may be considered the first fear in a chain that binds the life of an adult child to it, there are many others that follow, including the initial parental betrayal and the terror that the helpless and vulnerable child may feel, causing him, with no choice or alternative, to escape into the protective inner sanctum of his self-created children. He describes that parent as the original authority figure, and he sees the multitude of others he encounters later in life as wearing his displaced face. This leaves her, as a vulnerable and vulnerable child, exposed to a person who projects fear, who can sometimes be unstable, criticizing, blaming, shaming and abusive, adding layers to the fire of fear. This creates an uncertainty as to when these incidents will occur. It makes him choke and swallow what can be done to him, as he adheres to the unwritten “don’t talk, don’t believe, and don’t feel” rules in place in alcoholic homes as he continues to build his fear. base. And, finally, he leaves a home environment that he believes approximates what he will experience beyond its doors, causing hypervigilance to danger that he cannot identify or understand, but that makes his child inner to tighten his grip on his sanctuary.
This chain, linked by fear-based bonds, results in a life characterized by worry, anxiety and mistrust.
“Adult children of alcoholics”. Torrance, CA: World Service Organization for Adult Children of Alcoholics, 2006.
“Hope for today.” Virginia Beach, Virginia: Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 2002.
Kahn, Michael, Ph. D. “Basic Freud: Psychoanalytic Thought for the 21st Century”. New York: Basic Books, 2002.
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