Stress and Chaos Are My Friends
Abuse From Alcoholic Parents Creates Learned Behavior
In my novel, The Shade Tree Choir, I write about the physical abuse eight year old Krame experiences from his alcoholic father. His mother is of no help as she too is an alcoholic and and mentally ill. In the 1950s, tranquilizers were often prescribed as the drug of choice for 'nervous breakdowns'. Keeping a person almost lethargic was a common result. Today, that term 'nervous breakdown' may be described as Clinical Depression. Krame's mother had severe depression and combined with the alcoholism created an individual incapable of nurturing her children. Krame had to fend for himself for survival.
A common trait in an alcoholic home is stress. Children never know when they will be beaten or emotionally abused. They live in constant fear twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Any person living in a constant state of stress will actually find that the stress 'feels' normal. Eventually they may not know how to behave in a 'stress-less' state. Therein lies the paradox. The very feeling they despise as a child becomes more comfortable for that child as he/she grows. Neurologically, what is happening is that a neural pathway has developed. This pathway is always in the brain. It is reactivated any time there is stress for that person regardless of his/her age.
Do you remember the first time you rode a bicycle? After several falls and more attempts, you achieved success. You could ride a bike! What happened in your brain is that you developed a neural pathway for successful bike riding. Imagine, that you have not been on a bike for several years. When you first attempt to ride, you might be a bit shaky and unstable. After a few moments you will be right back riding like you did as a kid. You reactivated the neural pathway that was laid down years before. Emotions, reactions, and behaviors are exactly the same.
Krame at age eight, set himself a goal of one day getting out of the house, the neighborhood, and the town never to return. It was his method of developing a sense of control. He wanted to control his destiny. There was one place in the book where Krame promises himself, "Nobody will ever hurt me again."
Some 'adult survivors' from alcoholic parents actually revert back to exactly what they wanted to run from as children. They embrace stress and chaos because they are so familiar. They find relationships that are destined to fail, they might seek stressful jobs, or they might become alcoholics like the parents. Krame met his goal of running away and becoming a success. But one must wonder, at what price? Adult Children of Alcoholics can also become over-achievers who are relentless in their lives to never fail. "You are a no good, dirty, son-of-a-bitch," is a phrase many of these children hear day in and day out. Consequently, the child then begins to believe what the parent says must be true. A low self-esteem is set in concrete. As an adult, that child then has to keep the demons away by appearing to be a success in the eyes of society. Outsiders look at the person as being excellent at multitasking, solving problems, being in control, and stable. In reality, that person can never allow the 'dog of defeat' attack his achilles heel and confirm what was told to him/her as a child - "You are a no good, dirty, son-of-a-bitch!" They become successful in business, they might be senior managers, and two have become Presidents of the United States in the past forty years!
In The Shade Tree Choir, Krame is respected by his friends a the 'Great Thinker' who analyzes everything so they never get caught. He already is an overachiever who never rests. The reader can gather that Krame struggles with lots of inner turmoil. Getting caught pulling pranks would be a sign of failing. Krame would never allow that to happen.
So how does an adult confront those old demons? I say embrace, accept, and rejoice in it! It is who you are. It is a part of your total being! You are one of a kind! You are special! All the turmoil in the past has allowed you to live to this point. If you are at a point where you are still on the 'pity pot' and want to blame others and are upset at your parents there is one thing some folks find healthy. Write a letter to that person who is still upsetting you. Say anything you want in any way you chose! Even if they are dead, you can still do this activity. After writing, feel the paper, smell the paper, and crumple it up. Then burn it! Those physical acts can often relieve inner stress.* Allow yourself to fail at something. Take up golf. That will humble you quickly
* You do not have to know all the answers.
* You do not have to always be 'right'.
* There are erasers on the "Pencils of Life" for mistakes. In the movie, City Slickers, it was called a 'do-over'. We can all have do-overs in our lives.
* Give yourself fifteen minutes a day for quiet time. maybe try meditating. Take up Yoga or Tai Chi
* Learn a new hobby. Something that requires deep concentration can be helpful. Some examples might be painting, creating stained glass, punch needle, etc.
* Give thanks! Thank your Higher Power. Thank your significant other. Thank your inner child who still needs attention.
Want to help others? Drop a line on what you do to manage stress. Someone reading your comments might learn something new and find relief.