You may push my buttons, but I’m responsible for my Thoughts, Emotion & Actions

In it’s simplest form: honestly admitting, to ourselves, first of all, what we feel, think & have done - or - not. (Review T.E.A. - Thoughts, Emotions, Actions, pg 54 )  “I cannot tell a lie - I chopped down the apple tree”. Abe Lincoln. And if possible, acknowledge these without judgment, without shame, without guilt.  MOST of ALL - without self-hate. 
✶ it eliminates the need for spin
✶ it significantly reduces guilt & shame
✶ it increase self-esteem and strengthens our true self
✶ it makes us more reliable, trustworthy & likable!
✶ it allows us to get more of what we want in the world. NOT BAD, huh?

In Recovery Programs, people use the 12 Steps of AA as a guide to personal growth, in part by taking responsibility:
Step 4: Made a searching & fearless moral inventory of ourselves
Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves & to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
Step 9: Made direct amends to such people (we had harmed) whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory, & when we were wrong, promptly admitted it

a. To ourselves - ACoAs are well known for NOT:
• taking care of ourselves - body, living space, appearance
• acknowledging the damage done to us, & getting the right help
• standing up for our rights, proving for our own needs
• using our inborn talents & not contributing our best to society
• general ‘anorexia’-- under-earning, bad relationships, isolation...
b. To others - ACoAs abandon others:
• by not considering their rights and emotions, from being so focused on our pain & trying to protect ourselves
• by our narcissism, idealizing, constant criticism, being controlling, etc. See 3 posts on: “How ACoAs Abandon Others”

a. About Us: Over-disclosure
✶ Comment on Step 10: This is often misused by ACoAs in the service of perpetuating our self-hate -- seeing everything we do as wrong (sorry, sorry, sorry!), which is NOT what it says. Rather:  “...and, when we were wrong...” which is not all of the time.
ACoAs think that telling everyone they meet ALL their flaws, trauma & problems, in great detail, is being honest & responsible. NOT.  
 That compulsion is actually:
• SELF-HATE, which says: I’m so bad, worthless, unlovable & a fuck up
that I can never do anything right AND I have to let everyone know that I know, so they don’t think I have an arrogant bone in my body
• LACK of BOUNDARIES - not having any sense of appropriateness as to who, what & where and how to tell about our damage. One woman used to say all in one breath: ”Hi, I’m Mary, I was raped!”
• FEAR OF ABANDONMENT - ACoAs default position is that: “ I will be abandoned sooner or later, without fail - so why not get it over with before I get too attached to someone. I’ll tell them about all my flaws so they won’t be shocked & disgusted and leave me later, when they inevitably find out.”

✶ Comment on Step 9: A much neglected part is at the end: ‘’...except when to do so...”  Sometimes telling an aggrieved person what we’ve done or said is not a responsible action & will only do everyone harm.
EXP: A husband loves his wife & kids, & doesn’t want to lose them, but is nevertheless unfaithful.  He's filled with guilt, & tries to stop, but doesn't;  he wants to tell his wife, but knows if he does, she’ll leave.
i. Some unhealthy reasons to tell her would be:
• to stop his immediate anxiety about ‘being bad’, so he doesn’t have to deal with his emotional pain
• a fantasy hope that she’ll forgive & let him stay (so he can then ‘get away with it’ AND be absolved)
• a need to be punished, no matter the consequences to everyone (he doesn’t really deserve to be part of a loving family)
• a wish for his wife to be his watch dog (use her as the controlling mother) - because he doesn’t really want to stop acting out, but may do so to be the ‘good boy’, or, maybe keep acting out as a form of rebellion
ii. Some responsible things for him to do:
• identify childhood issues & self-hate, which motivate the cheating
• deal with this in therapy & with the support of a Recovery Program
be genuinely willing to correct his ways (disloyalty is a character defect)
• be able to handle his emotional distress in a more appropriate way (not dump it at his wife’s feet so she could make him feel better - NOT.)

b. Toward Others:
ACoAs were trained from birth to only focus on others instead of ourselves. We never learned to ‘keep the focus on yourself” which is another way to say - be responsible for our own T-thoughts, E-emotions & A-actions.
So we spend all our time, talents & effort on:
• ‘fixing/taking care of other people’s needs, wants, demands & troubles
• trying to figure out what others want us to be, how we can please them, why they don’t like us & how to fix that...
For the ‘full monty’ on this, see the posts on ‘Rescuing’, and ‘Healthy Helping’.

Taking appropriate responsibility :
a. About Us
✶ identify all our talents, gifts, knowledge & hard work - and USE THEM
✶ be willing to own our strengths & weaknesses, from self-esteem rather that perfectionism
✶ as adults - to take care of our own needs, not wait for someone else to rescue us, to be able to ask for help when appropriate & take time to rest but not isolate
✶ know ourselves well enough to observe how we functions in the world in many different situations, & so gain mastery
✶ regularly check the motives that drive our words & actions
✶ be willing to ‘fess up’ to words or actions we make in error or that hurt someone else, without self-recrimination
✶ make changes when our thinking & actions are self-defeating or injurious to others
✶ be interested in improving ourselves, whenever possible - allowing for resistance, damage or outer pressured which may slow down my process

b. About Others
• learn the difference between caring about someone & care-taking them
• honor everyone’s personal boundaries
• never assume we know what’s going on with someone, no matter psychic we are or how well we know them
• notice what the other person says about themselves & use that (not ourselves) as the basis for communicating, for gift giving, for giving support, for choosing activities...
• ASK, ASK, ASK - before giving suggestions, advice, instructions...
-- if they want or need it
-- what have they done so far (so we don’t waste their time covering what’s already been tried - & maybe failed)
• consider the other person’s ‘buttons’ so we don’t keep stepping on their toes
• if we can’t keep a promise, let them know as soon as possible
• be emotionally honest, without dumping, whining, blaming, being too needy
▼ Being respectful & kind - which comes from the Healthy Adult, is NOT co-dependence, which comes from the wounded IC.
➼ Consider how you’d like to be treated & then do likewise to others, whenever possible, without hurting yourself!

Q: How do you act responsibly in your life?

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Author's Bio: 

is a psychotherapist in private practice for 24 yrs in New York City,
specializing in ACoA RECOVERY (adult-children of alcoholics & other narcissists).
She has appeared on radio, television & at New Life Expo, created & presented ACoA / Al-Anon intensive weekend workshops & ran an ACoA therapy group for 6 years.
She was an instructor at the NY OPEN CENTER  for 9 yrs, presenting her 12-week interactive lecture course “KNOWLEDGE Is POWER: 
What makes an ACoA”

She works with individuals & couples/partners, in person and by phone & Skype. FREE Intro Session, to see if there is compatibility.
For Testimonials, go to www.acoarecovery.com ("About Me"