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The Role of Fear and Anxiety in an Adult Child’s Life

For an adult child who grew up with alcoholism, para-alcoholism, dysfunction, and abuse, fear and anxiety almost define his life.

“Adult children often live a secret life of fear,” according to the “Adult Children of Alcoholics” textbook (World Service Organization, 2006, p. 10). “Fear, or sometimes terror, is one of the connecting threads that link the 14 traits together.”

Those traits, such as isolating, seeking approval, victimization, an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, the inability to self-defend, denial, repressed feelings, the need to people-please, being consistently reactive, and self-judgment result from a rewired brain that seeks to survive in a post-home environment it believes will be similar to the one it already experienced. Sex markt

Three of those traits mention the word “fear”-namely, “… Afraid of people and authority figures;” “We are frightened by angry people and any personal criticism;” and “We became addicted to excitement.” “Excitement,” in the latter case, became a substitute for the original word, “fear.”

“While many adult children appear cheerful, helpful, or self-sufficient, most live in fear of their parents and spouses in addition to fearing an employer… ,” the “Adult Children of Alcoholics” textbook continues (ibid, p. 10). “They have a sense of impending doom or that nothing seems to work out.”

Those who attend Al-Anon meetings, which provide comfort and support to families of alcoholics, echo this phenomenon.

“Before I came to Al-Anon, fear was my biggest obstacle,” one member shared in Al-Amon’s “Hope for Today” text (Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 2002, p. 58). “My reactions to fear included withdrawing, hiding, procrastinating, running, or berating myself. None of these behaviors helped me to face my fears. In fact, they only made situations worse.”

Although fear and anxiety, as indicated by this member, dictate, distort, and derail a person’s life, and can course through an adult child’s veins as regularly as does blood, they are fundamental to all belonging to the animal kingdom, restricting actions and activities that the brain perceives as dangerous and detrimental. But when they become excessive, they inhibit meaningful, nurturing, and healthy relationships and erode the quality of life. They are also hardly new.

More than a century ago, Sigmund Freud made a statement that was just as valid then as it is today.

“What we clearly want is to find something that will tell us what anxiety really is,” he said.

“Anxiety,” in response to his plea, is a set of unpleasant, but familiar and sometimes frequently-experienced emotional and physiological sensations that can include elevatored blood pressure, pulse, heart, and respiration rates. It is a state of lesser or “dis”-ease, an unsettledness, a jitteriness. The person is not fully able to calm down, rest, and be at peace with himself.

It implies that something about his current condition, circumstance, or environment is not entirely safe or is even mildly retriggering and can provide a subtle, anticipatory warning that something amiss is about to occur. Compounding this state of unease is the fact that the person may not be aware of what this doom may be nor when it will take place-in other words, why he or she feels like this and how he or she can shake it off cannot be determined.

 

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