Jane Middelton-Moz: ACA Therapist and Author

Jane Middelton-Moz is the child of an alcoholic and has devoted her life to helping other Adult Children of Alcoholics.

From the Middelton-Moz Institute–Meet Jane

From the Middelton-Moz Instituteher books

Some of her quotations:

  1. “One of the survival mechanisms of children raised in alcoholic families is an awareness of parental needs and feelings and of changes in parental moods and behavior. The Adult Child often makes a full-time occupation of mind reading with partners, friends, employers, and therapists. As a consequence, they earn a Ph.D. at the age of six in observing the behavior of others and assessing parental needs—but are in elementary school at age thirty, trying to learn to assess, label, or communicate their own needs and feelings.”
  2. “Under those conditions, chronic stress becomes so common that it seems normal. Individuals use denial and repression to protect the ego from disintegration. Living with both the constant unpredictability of the alcoholic parent and the detachment and/or anxiety of the codependent parent is difficult enough for an adult who has a fully developed defense system. For a child, surviving the regular assault of trauma requires massive amounts of energy. This puts the normal developmental process on hold; there is no energy left to invest in development. While other children are learning to play, to trust, to self-soothe, and to make decisions, children in addicted families are learning to survive. The end result is a child who often feels thirty years old at five and five years old at thirty.”
  3. “Most Adult Children report that they have always felt that they were a “mess” deep down and have protected themselves and others from the embarrassment of seeing or feeling that “mess.” They have felt alone in a crowd or isolated all their lives. They have taken care of others compulsively, but never let others care for them. They have sought out relationships where needs weren’t possible, or intimacy could never be achieved. Children of Alcoholics tend to have caseloads, not friends, and feel that they have to work harder than anyone else—to be more perfect, tougher, or more independent and in control. They feel they must hide the craziness they feel inside, and they must earn the right to have relationships or merely live in the world like everyone else.”
  4. “ACOAs often develop an external locus of control, believing that something outside of themselves will decrease the emptiness or the pain they feel inside. Thoughts such as “If the house is clean enough, I will be good enough” or “If I win the big one at the casino, I will be somebody important” are attempts to control blocked pain and fear.”
  5. “When the time capsule from the past bursts open, flooding her with feelings, she will confuse her traumatic memory from the past with her experience in the present. Painful experiences from the past, if not understood, validated, processed, and integrated with a compassionate and trusted other, will continue to intrude on our present and form our beliefs and expectations of others and life experiences.”
  6. “The survival adaptation developed by these children is similar to that of any trauma survivor, with attendant psychic numbing, restricted affect, hypervigilance, and recurrent intrusive dreams and flashbacks of earlier traumatic experiences. The home environments of these children are what psychiatrist Frederic Flach calls “depressogenic” (156). These homes lack ego support, prevent the development of healthy self-reliance, create hostility and block its release, promote feelings of guilt, and cause the child to feel lonely and rejected. Such an environment engenders a chronic, pervasive sense of loss that tends to be outside of the child’s conscious awareness. It predisposes children raised in these homes to problems with depression in adolescence and adulthood.”
  7. “Children from healthy families may work out childhood traumas in the playroom, while children of addicted families find themselves working out the painful traumas of the past in real life.”

Amazon’s review of her book, After the Tears

“The trauma and grief of growing up in an alcoholic or addicted family create a lifetime of baggage. If you grew up in an addicted family, the dysfunction that permeated every aspect of your childhood may have seemed ‘normal,’ and you may not even realize the level of affect alcohol still has on your adult life—whether or not you drink.”

“If you are one of the millions of Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOAs), the cost of your childhood pain can be unbearable. You may have learned how to ‘survive,’ but are you ‘living’ your life? Do you fear normal conflict? Do you blame yourself when something goes wrong—even when it isn’t your fault? Are you a chaos junkie? Or do you just fear relationships because they are too difficult or too painful?”

“Having devoted much of their careers to working with ACOAs, therapists Jane Middelton-Moz and Lorie Dwinell now take a deeper look into the origin and cost of childhood pain, as well as the grief resolution process that is integral to recovery. This revised and expanded edition of their groundbreaking 1986 hit After the Tears discusses the latest research and offers insights on living a good life despite a dysfunctional childhood by tackling issues such as intimacy, sibling relationships, codependency, breaking the alcoholic pattern, building a relationship with the inner child, forgiveness, and opening a window to spirituality.”


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