What exactly is an adult child? Is he a miniaturized adult who somehow never crossed the border from childhood? Was his maturity and development somehow stunted? Does he behave differently? What could have caused all of this to begin with?
“The term ‘adult child’ is used to describe adults who grew up in alcoholic or dysfunctional homes and who exhibit identifiable traits that reveal past abuse or neglect,” according to the “Adult Children of Alcoholics” textbook (World Service Organization, 2006, p. xiii).
“(It) means that we respond to adult interactions with the fear and self-doubt learned as children,” it continues (p. 3). “The undercurrent of hidden fear can sabotage our choices and relationships. We can appear outwardly confident while living with a constant question of our worth.”
But it is much more than this. Home, as is often said, is where the heart is, but in those of adult children there was most likely little heart, when “heart” is defined as “love.”
Self-worth and -esteem result from parental warmth, nurture, respect, clearly defined limits and boundaries, and, above all, love, yet adult children received fewer of these qualities than they needed. Whether their parents were alcoholic, dysfunctional, or abusive people, or they exhibited this behavior without the liquid substance because they themselves were exposed to it during their own upbringings, their children fielded, reacted to, and just downright survived it without choice, recourse, defense, or protection.
Despite advancing age, they all share the same inadequate, anxiety-based feelings which force them into lonely and isolated exile, cut off from the world, but very much suffering in the one they were forced to create in their minds. Suspended in time, their negative and inferior self-feelings, image, and beliefs neither unravel nor die out until and unless recovery intervention methods arrest their downward spiral.
The severity of their home environments is sometimes subtle, but not to be underestimated and not entirely conveyable to those who were never exposed to them by words alone.
“Being home was like pussy888 login being in hell,” according to Janet Geringer Woititz in her book, “Adult Children of Alcoholics” (Health Communications, 1983, p. 9). “The tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife. The nervous, angry feeling was in the air. Nobody had to say a word, as everybody could feel it… There was no way to get away from it, no place to hide… “
Although they felt physically and emotionally alone, their thoughts, emotions, fears, feelings, and impairments were and are shared by approximately 28 million other adult children in the United States alone-or one in every eight-yet they never identified themselves as belonging to this group if they had even heard of the term.
Exposed, from an early age, to detrimental behavior and often fighting to survive it, they paradoxically attributed it to their own inadequacies and unloveability, unknowingly causing the rewire of their brains to do so, which ultimately impaired their functioning and arrested their development.
In the mostly unlikely event that their parents expunged themselves from their own denial, took responsibility for their damaging behavior, and explained the origin of it, their offspring quickly accepted this abnormality as “normal.” Because they felt so different and defective, why would they divulge this secret about themselves that they desperately tried to conceal from others?