PV Mirror, Jan 29-Feb 4, 2011, issue # 120, pg 21

There is a classic book in the addiction field written specifically about daughters who grow up in alcoholic homes. Robert J Ackerman, PhD, spent his career specializing in alcoholic families and has written numerous books. This one in particular is “Perfect Daughters”. In it he describes the experience of growing up in an alcoholic home, differentiates between the impact of alcoholic mothers and alcoholic fathers, and describes the long-term effect into adulthood. He focuses on the impact on parenting, relationships, intimacy, self-esteem, the need to be perfect, the need to be controlling, and much more. His findings are based on years of research and interviews with these women.

The rest of us

Interestingly,these traits do not just apply to women nor do they only apply to growing up in an alcoholic home. I have known many people who have very similar if not exact traits growing up in homes with some other stressor such as a bi-polar parent, or a borderline parent, or a workaholic parent. I think many of you relate to and identify with these descriptions and types. Many of the characteristics also fit the descriptions of children according to their birth order.

As a child, you probably adapted to life the best you could which required developing certain “adjustment behaviors”. They probably: a) kept you from feeling abandoned, b) met the expectations of others, c) helped you to create some balance in your life, d) helped you to overcome inconsistency and chaos. Although they probably worked well for you then, do you still need them now? Do you even know what they are? If you continue to implement these behaviors, they prolong more of the same; same pain, same crisis, same dysfunctional relationships. Do you want to break-free from old childhood behaviors and roles? Are they holding you back and keeping you from growing?

You have to know what to change

Wanting to change is one thing; knowing what to change is quite another. Ackerman identifies eight different patterns that carry over from childhood and he identifies positive and negative implications. He explains that you, this adult woman, are a survivor and you possess many positive qualities. The negative qualities or characteristics cause you pain and keep you from enjoying life. The key to recovery is to overcome the negative characteristics. He then identifies a list of things you need to do to transition from those negative characteristics.

8Types: (Keep in mind that no one type completely describes anyone and that you will probably identify with several).

The Achiever:all-knowing, ever competent, totally in control, very responsible, accomplishment–oriented. Her accomplishments are the basis of her self-worth. Her self-worth is always external, so that the only way to be validated is to do things that others recognize as worthwhile. She is emotionally motivated by a sense of inadequacy or not being good enough. She compares herself to others and always feels that they are better. In relationships, she wants to be in control and is usually willing to do more than her share to achieve it. Some of the negative characteristics are: perfectionist, difficulty relaxing, can’t express feelings, never wrong, workaholic, marries a dependent person, fears failure, and unable to play.

The Triangulator:never deals with anyone or anything directly, always has excuses; it’s never her fault. She became the focal point in her parent’s relationship by acting out in negative unacceptable behavior so that they could avoid dealing with each other. She is courageous, creative, has lots of friends, and is adventurous. Her negative characteristics are: conduct disorders, substance abuser, passive-aggressive, poor communication skills, angry, and manipulative.

The Passive one:noticed more for what she doesn’t or won’t do, for example, she is never the player in the game; always the spectator, she is never the actor, but the reactor, she goes along with everything and has low self-esteem. In relationships, she tolerates a tremendous amount of inappropriate behavior, is willing to be second, never expresses her needs, and takes the path of least resistance. She is tolerant, highly adaptable, a loyal friend, empathic, a good listener. The negative characteristics include: low self-worth, eating disorders, depressed, joyless, shy, lonely, and won’t standup for herself.

The Other-Directed One: relies heavily on what other people think she should do and is always trying to be the person she thinks everyone expects her to be. The emotional motivation is a deeply rooted fear of being abandoned if she exposed her feelings and needs. She believes that in order to be accepted, she should do what others want her to do. If she is in pain, she will hide it. She pretends she is always happy. She does everything for everybody else and has great difficulty doing anything for herself. She has a very limited self-identity. In relationships, she is overly sensitive to criticism, denies her own feelings, and has a terrible time establishing boundaries. She is charming, has a good sense of humor, is adaptable, team player, cooperative, energetic, joyful. The negative characteristics include: indecisive, no sense of self, overly dependent, and needs constant approval.

Well, so far, how many of you have identified with any of these types or maybe they remind you of a friend or family member?

Note:Be sure to look for next week’s article, which will continue with the other four types.