The Role of Denial in an Adult Child’s Life

Posted on October 27, 2017 By

Denial is a defense mechanism used to fight or minimize the danger to which one is exposed and exists as a powerful in both the alcoholic and the grownup child who is created after an upbringing with him.

If a person teeter on the outside ledge of the 100-story building, for example , you may transform your chances of climbing back into this if you deny the danger and avoid the particular terror associated with it.

Denial will be the cloud that surrounds an intoxicating or dysfunctional family. A tornado rages on the inside, but this is mainly hidden or distorted when seen from the outside.

The Alcoholic:

Alcoholism will be the only malady that fools an individual into believing that it is not an illness and, even if he thinks it really is, his denial of it just further nullifies it.

Why, it might be wondered, can a family suffer intolerable mental and emotional pain plus abuse because of a dad’s drinking, yet he himself appears to assume no responsibility for their suffering?

Perhaps the single most irritating characteristic of an alcoholic will be his refusal or inability in order to admit that he has such an issue, even when his family is dropping apart, his job is at risk, his drunk driving convictions are acquiring, and his wife is suing your pet for divorce.

“Much has been written about denial,” according to Kathleen W. Fitzgerald in her publication, Alcoholism: The Genetic Inheritance (Whales’ Tail Press, 2002, p. 191). “The alcoholic simply cannot see and understand what is happening to him. The family also suffers this denial.”

“Slowly, painfully, the fabric of family life has been picked away,” she also wrote (p. 177). “There are big holes, even craters and gorges in that family. The family members are truly the walking wounded.”

Although the trail of destruction left by an alcohol may be blatantly obvious to other people, he himself cannot connect their actions with it.

“It is the very nature of this disease that self-awareness is dim, blunted, absent,” according to Fitzgerald (p. 55). “Even in recovery, all that is left is a memory of bizarre occasions and of painful, confused feelings. Recovering people, sober many years, suddenly remember a forgotten incident, a buried conversation, something that was seen or said or felt while drinking.”

An alcoholic is not really consciously, by the definition of the phrase, lying. He truly does not think that he has a drinking problem, a lot less that he belongs in the “alcoholic” category.

He cannot make an immediate brain connection with his excessive drinking and the negative consequences it leads to others, yet this only amplifies the anger and rage of those he hurts-in other terms, those who can make that connection.

So true is this aspect of the condition, that one adult child recently recounted that, after his father had been flagged by police because of his erratic driving, given the breathalyzer test, demonstrated a high bloodstream alcohol level, and issued a single of many DWI’s, the grownup child himself was blamed for that incident because he had purchased cheaper tires for the car and they experienced caused the erratic driving. “Alcohol!” he emphatically stated. “I never touch the stuff,” regardless of the heavy smell of it nevertheless escaping his mouth. There experienced obviously been no connection in between his actions and their effects.

Denial, the brain’s self-protecting system, consists of three processes:

Turning off, the first one, occurs when the individual’s mind seeks to protect itself towards anxiety by dimming or blunting what causes it. Like the static within the radio, it can be reduced or removed by flipping its off change.

The creation of a sightless spot, the second, can be considered an region of blocked attention and self-deception, and one which the alcoholic is no longer capable to reach and review.

“The blind spot is the cornerstone of the alcoholic’s system of defense,” based on Fitzgerald (p. 57). “This is what is meant by ‘alcoholic denial.'”

“For many reasons,” the lady later writes (p. 57), “they are unable to keep track of their own behavior and begin to lose contact with their emotions. Their defense systems continue to grow, so that they can survive in the face of their problems. The greater the pain, the higher and more rigid the defenses become; and this whole process is unconscious… Finally, they actually become victims of their own defense systems.”

Multiple levels, the third tenet of refusal, occur when the alcoholic employs their blind spots in all levels of his life, and in every case is unable to process the consequences of his actions.

Blackouts, periods or even episodes of induced amnesia, concrete the condition.

“The alcoholic does not have conscious access to knowledge of the amount he drank, how he drank, what he was like, the effect he had on others, how he looked, (or) how he sounded,” Fitzgerald wrote (p. 59).

All this produces the particular classical denial syndrome: he gets blind to his disease after which becomes blind to the fact that he is sightless. His actions bypass the unconscious and go directly into the subconscious part of his mind, leading to him to fully believe that they are not presently there. He cannot connect with what this individual does and he therefore has no feel dissapointed about, remorse, empathy, or even conscience concerning the harm he inflicts on themself or others.

“When a person is left without the marvelous defense of denial, guilt and shame wash over him, drowning him in self-loathing,” according to Fitzgerald (p. 175). “This cannot be avoided and serves to knock down the last vestiges of his denial; the degree to which he is still able to disown his alcoholism is the degree to which he will not recover. All the denial must go. He does not need it anymore.”

In the end, it does not take alcoholic’s blindness to his too much and dangerous drinking levels, great seeming unwillingness to take ownership on their behalf, that causes more rage in the particular families affected by them than the work of drinking itself. How the actual adult children who ultimately arise from such upbringings deal with just about all of this? Ironically, with refusal of their own.

The Adult Child:

Ignorance is an early type and foreshadow of denial. The former implies “do not know.” The second option can be considered “refuse to know.” Those raised in alcoholic, dysfunctional, and/or abusive households quickly and ironically learn the only thing that holds all of them together is to not see the reality that otherwise causes others in order to fall apart-that is, the dysfunctional family’s truth is a lie–that everybody must deny what they see plus experience in order to continue residing within it.

Alcoholism or malfunction hardly occur in isolation or even only to the imbiber or abuser, and those affected use the same mind mechanism as those who affect.

What, then, is denial to an adult child?

“Denial for an adult child has a variety of definitions that include blaming others and minimizing memoires,” according to the Adult Children of Alcoholics textbook (World Service Organization, 2006, p. 454). “There is also an outright rejection of facts. Some aspects of adult child denial involve recalling abusive or neglectful behavior as normal.”

Alcoholism is a disease, not a water.

Despite what may be apparent, based on behavioral transgressions, the presence of alcohol itself, and various types of abuse, that alcoholism is present to others, some two decades of exposure to it ironically fail to give the necessary clues to those who are subjected to it during their upbringings.

“… An estimated 50 percent of adult children of alcoholics deny or cannot recognize alcoholism among their families,” based on the Adult Children of Alcoholics book (p. 124). “By growing up in a dysfunctional home, we become desensitized to the effects of alcoholism, abusive behavior, and lack of trust.”

“We used denial to forget… the fact that we had internalized our parents,” it additional states. (p. 22). “Denial is the glue that holds together a dysfunctional home. Family secrets or ignored feelings, and predictable chaos are part of a dysfunctional family system. The system allows abuse or other unhealthy behaviors to be tolerated at harmful levels. Through repetition, the abuse is considered normal by those in the family. Because dysfunction seemed normal or tolerable, the adult child can deny that anything unpleasant happened in childhood.”

But there is certainly hope.

“By working the twelve steps with a sponsor or knowledgeable counselor,” again according to the Adult Children of Alcoholics textbook (p. 96), “the adult child realizes the denial and secrecy that were necessary to survive such an upbringing. Denial, which fosters a lack of clarity, is the glue that allows the disease of family dysfunction to thrive. Cloaked in denial, the disease is passed on to the next generation with amazing consistency. The basic language of denial is ‘don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t feel.'”

Exacerbating this dilemma is the fact some are so dissociated from their emotions, that, even if incidents are recallable, there is no connection to the pain or bad emotion that existed at the time of their occurrences, leading a person in order to delusionally recount a childhood which was less traumatizing and impacting compared to it actually was.

With or even without these feelings, the behavioral features exhibited by adult children are songs, if not out-and-out downloadings, of their particular parents’ actions.

“Much of that behavior mirrors the actions and thoughts of the dysfunctional parents, grandparents, or caregivers,” continues the particular Adult Children of Alcoholics book (p. 23). “Once we come out of denial, we realize we have internalized our parents’ behavior. We have internalized their perfectionism, control, dishonesty, self-righteousness, rage, pessimism, and judgmentalness.”

Another form of denial is selective recall, or maybe the remembering of those events which were either less threatening or that will sanitized upbringings so that they can be recounted as more respectable and presentable in order to others later in life that do not seem to share their undesirable childhood experiences.

“… This kind of selective recall is a form of denial,” according to the Adult Children of Alcoholics textbook (p. 32). “To think that our parents could shame us or belittle us for being a vulnerable child is too much for us to accept. Like most children, we wanted to believe that our parents cared about us no matter what they said to us. As adults, we search for any kindness that our parents might have shown and ignore clear examples of damaging behavior. Societal pressure helps us select the memories that are more presentable.”

Although this convenient “forgive-and-forget” form of denial may persuade others, an adult child’s very own behavior, which is not always and completely under his control, is like the language that does not forget, if the messages can be accurately translated, plus they often are, bespeaking of oppressed incidents, feelings, fears, and harm by means of addictions, compulsions, codependence, anxiety disorders, hypervigilance, post-traumatic tension disorder (PTSD), and the very success traits which embody and establish the adult child syndrome. The person may deliberately or accidentally lie, but the body usually shows the truth.

There may be an much more subtle form of this push. Continually subjected to energy and mind waves the alcoholic or harassing parent generates, spouse and kids alike may subconsciously lock onto this pattern and adopt this themselves. After all, any program, whether it be that of a family or perhaps a company, can only function as a cohesive entire if all of its people adhere to the same rules.

“When alcoholism or dysfunction are present in the family,” based on the Adult Children of Alcoholics book (p. 165), “every member… is affected… in body, mind, and spirit. Through the first 18 years of our lives, our families had 6,570 days to shame, belittle, ignore, criticize, or manipulate us during the most formative years of our being… To survive this long exposure to family dysfunction, our minds developed deeply entrenched roles and traits that changed the meaning of words and experience.”

Finally, denial will be generated and compounded by the individual’s once-necessary creation, most likely at an extremely young, pre-school age, of their inner child.

“The classic response for someone caught in a situation he cannot handle is fight or flight,” according to Fitzgerald in Alcoholism: The Genetic Inheritance (p. 141). “However, the child in such families is too small to fight and too young to flee; he must stay. But he improvises a way to both stay and leave: the child splits-his body stays, but his spirit leaves.”

“The child is not free to remain a child and stay with the natural rhythms of growing from girlhood to womanhood,” she proceeds. “… Forever she remains the adult child, caught in that twilight zone of inexperienced life, of bearing burdens too heavy, of never really knowing what childhood was and what adulthood truly is.”

“The separation/connection task is never successfully accomplished,” she concludes (p. 144), “so we do not truly develop into a rich, abundant maturity, but become hostage in that never-never land between adulthood and childhood. We become adult children. We are little kids, playing dress-up.”

The more a person deposits their adverse experiences into the sub- as well as unconscious parts of his thoughts and seeks protection from them in his inner child, the much less there is to be in denial regarding. After all, none of this stuff really exist to him, considering that he cannot reach or remember them, and he cannot change exactly what he cannot access, resulting in the perpetuation of the disease of alcoholism or dysfunction and the upcoming generation of adult children.

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