Our childhood experiences shape us as we become adults. In so many ways, our self-concept is influenced heavily by the messages we received from our caregivers when we were children. Oftentimes if a child is effected by parental substance abuse, we can pick up negative messages that can turn into internalized beliefs. These can become so ingrained in our way of life, it may feel like these learned responses are just who we are.
One of the most common ways parental substance abuse effects many children is experiencing discomfort dealing with emotions later in life.
Patterns Developed from Parental Substance Abuse
“There are many traits we developed as children that served a purpose in our childhood but actually hinder us in adulthood.” – Lisa Firestone
These learned messages affect us into adulthood, particularly with our emotional response and reactivity. Perhaps, as a child, we were never taught how to effectively identify, process or express emotions. Or perhaps our parents invalidated, shamed, or dismissed us for trying to express our feelings, resulting in an adverse childhood experience.
This could have looked like messages such as “suck it up!” or “you’re too sensitive and needy.” Even well-intentioned attempts from parents to help their children get over or move on from their emotional distress can be incredibly hurtful in the long-run.
We carry these messages inside us, and eventually, we start to believe them. In an attempt to deal with it, we need to find a way to cope with this internal conflict and understand these repressed emotions. However, if we were never taught how to do so, we may turn to coping skills such as distraction or avoidance, which can be found in activities such as social media, video games, or drugs and alcohol.
These learned coping tools serve a function for us because they allow us to deal with our uncomfortable emotions when it becomes too overwhelming to sit with them and process them in a healthy way.
However, how sustainable is it to use external distractions every time we experience an uncomfortable feeling? Eventually, we feel disconnected from ourselves and exhausted from constantly running from our true selves.
How to Unlearn Traumatic Conditioning
To be able to reconnect with ourselves and process our emotions in an effective and healthy way, we must unlearn the conditioning passed to us from our childhood. A way to do this is by choosing to redefine what it means for us to express and cope with our emotions- including the uncomfortable ones!
Mindful living is a way to begin unlearning our conditioning. When we practice awareness without judgment, we are re-learning how to notice and identify our feelings. Journaling is a highly effective way to organize our thoughts and raise our emotional awareness. From there, we can begin to expand our coping skills to include tools other than distraction and avoidance. In addition, speaking with a therapist or counselor and processing these unhealthy coping patterns can help us develop mindfulness and identify the root causes of our negative beliefs systems that subconsciously rule our life.
Los Angeles Treatment Center
For those that are suffering from the debilitating effects of parental substance abuse, treatment and recovery is available. At Launch Centers, our Los Angeles Treatment Program helps individuals identify and process negative childhood experiences, unlearn internalized beliefs and begin to shift how they process difficult emotions. Our support staff and highly-qualified staff provides a safe structured environment to develop new skills and apply them to everyday life. Contact Launch Centers today for more information.