From ACA Red Book—
Many adult children arrive at their adult years with an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, which they communicate as love or nurturing care. This behavior is a disguise to get the love we never received as children. Before recovery, many adult children had relationships in which they thought they were in love with another person. In reality, they were trapping or manipulating that person to extract affection. This behavior creates the response we fear most–abandonment.
By attending ACA meetings, we realize we developed these characteristics to survive our home life. Before recovery, our experience shows that adult children use the 14 traits frequently. We combine them to meet the demands of life. For example. a person might fear his boss (Trait 1) and engage in approval seeking behavior (Trait 2) while accepting a high level of abuse on a job that we would feel guilty about leaving (Trait 7). Feeling like a victim, (Trait 5) he goes home to his alcoholic wife (Trait 4) and stuffs his feelings (Trait 10). He takes on an inordinate amount of house choices by being overly responsible (Trait 6). He wants to leave his wife, but he has confused love and pity and fears facing the abandonment that will come from walking away (Traits 9 and 12). The cycle is repeated the next day, the next week, and the next year. The traits are passed on to children in the home.
While these characteristics stunted our emotional and spiritual lives, we must realize they protected us as children. We grip these common behaviors tightly as adults. They are not easily surrendered even though they create the internal pain and isolation that has driven us to Adult Children of Alcoholics. We urge you to be gentle with yourself as you begin to address the most troublesome traits. There is another way to live.