Numerous lights await the person who endured a dysfunctional or abusive upbringing, yet bores through the tunnel of recovery to reach them.
Powerless, devoid of understanding, and justifying his parent’s detrimental treatment of him because of his own alleged deficiencies, he reacted in ways that ensured his survival, causing his brain to rewire itself into survival tactic pathways so that he could negotiate an adult world he erroneously believed was the equivalent of his home-of-origin one.
Unable to function in such a debilitated state for long, however, but not entirely understanding his personal restrictions and fears, he may seek help and answers in a spiritual twelve-step program, enabling him to progressively regain what his upbringing forced him to lose, such as trust, a reconnection with positive, genuine feelings to enhance his life experiences, a re-established link with a Higher Power of his understanding, and, finally, a reknit with the rest of humanity, so that he no longer perceives himself to be on the outside, looking in.
Three aspects, all of which are interconnected, can be considered the goals of such a program.
The first of these is the determination of a person’s own interests, abilities, strengths, talents, and aspirations in life.
“By moving beyond survival,” according to the Adult Children of Alcoholics textbook (World Service Organization, 2006, p. 429), “we realize that lost dreams or wishes can re-emerge. The return of dreams is a signal that we are continuing our separation-from-family work. We learned… that we had internalized many aspects of our parents’ thinking and behaving. We had no real identity or dreams separate from them. Even if we had moved far away, our parents and their dysfunction still lived inside us.”
Indeed, adopting his parents’ own derailed life plan can be considered an example of a parent-child boundary loss, but his motivation for doing so may have been an effort to please them and a last-ditch attempt to attain their love.
The second goal is to become his own autonomous person beyond the boundary-poor projections, which caused him to subconsciously adopt his parent’s image of him by means of their distorted mirrors.
“Often one or more (family) members are dysfunctional in some capacity so other members take on their roles,” according to Dr. Charles L. Whitfield in his book, Healing the Child Within (Health Communications, 1987, p. 48). “Everyone learns to mind everyone else’s business one way or another. What results is a group of family members who are enmeshed, fused, or have invaded or even overtaken one another’s boundaries.”
“These enmeshed or fused relationships are generally unhealthy, closed, rigid, and tend to discourage the fulfillment of one another’s needs and rights,” he continued (p. 49). “They tend not to support the mental, emotional, and spiritual growth of each person. Little or no ebb and flow of closeness and distance is allowed.”
One of the major manifestations of a dysfunctional, alcoholic, and/or abusive upbringing is codependence, which can be defined as “a disease of lost selfhood.”