We’re all social animals, even when we sometimes need our privacy

Many people in the mental health field, spiritual practices & new-age wisdom say we shouldn’t worry about what others think of us. Yes, OK, but it’s not that simple! What they don’t tell you is that there’s 2 different aspects, the negative & the positive.

1. Damage (ACoA version) - for anyone with limited self-esteem (self-hate) there’s always the assumption that other people don’t like us - it’s our default position & hard to let go of.  And that has 2 part too! Doesn’t everything?  AH, Dualism!  I can’t help it - I’m a 22/4 with an 8 Destiny. I see both sides - ‘now’. :) Anyway...
a. Awkward
• If we’re obnoxious, angry, selfish or needy, clingy, childish, ungroomed, lazy or say lots of dumb things - then most people will not like us! 
• If we care, these issues can be worked on, if we’re willing to deal with the pain, sadness & fear that’s at the root all our shortcomings.
• If we don’t care, or the resistance is too great to get past, the external signs & internal causes never get corrected. A great loss for us as individual & to society, but each has their own path.

b. Isolators: Some ACoAs (nothing to do with extrovert/introvert typology)
• hide out because of some physical or mental disorder
• but mostly it’s from -- Fear, Lack of good Boundaries & Self-hate: wounded souls who need lots of love but aren’t allowed to let it in, even when it’s available. They blame themselves for everything that goes wrong. They ‘don’t belong’
• at the other extreme are those wounded ACoAs who are always angry,   complaining, dissatisfied & think they’re superior.  They also push others away & lose out. They have self-hate too, but blame everyone else for their troubles.

c. Acceptable: Most of us are not social misfits -
• we have education, jobs, mates, maybe children & some outside interest. YET we think everyone is going to judge us harshly, find out we’re frauds, see all our flaws... later if not sooner, especially if they get to know us
• that is straightforward Projection onto others of - how our parents treated us & now, our self-hate.  It’s mind-reading - we’re sure we know what others are thinking. That’s ACoA grandiosity!  Stay out of people’s heads. 
• Sadly, even when others like us, love, admire & laud us - we have a hard believing it, don’t trust it, get embarrassed, tell them why it’s not true. Yuck !

2. Health - All humans NEED connections, but in differing amounts.
a. Normal:
• Extroverts. (75-80% of the population, at least in the West) They thrive on the energy absorbed by being with others people, even if not interacting with them directly.  (I’m not talking about energy vampires). Think: a walk in the park on a great spring day alone, when everyone’s out, or an evening with a bunch of friends, just ‘messing around’. Doesn’t have to be heavy or deep, although that’s needed too. Just being ‘part of’ feels great. 

• Introverts need it too, just in much smaller doses. They’re mostly comfortable one-on-one & in small groups, for short periods. They derive their energy internally, & are overwhelmed by too much external input.

b. Delays : For ACoAs - So, what if we’re in recovery, want to connect & not stay an outsider - but it’s still not happening. Even when we try & try, most people just don’t easily warm to us, don’t accept us into their inner circle, don’t look to us as peers ! 
➼ What our social group thinks of us DOES MATTER.  If they shun us, we’re alone, lonely & unhappy! It hurts.

There are (at least) 2 possible causes:
i. Location, Location, Location! We may be in the WRONG GROUP. It could be a ‘faith’ that doesn’t suit, type of job or career that’s not a good fit, the wrong social set for our personality, or even the wrong city, state or country! that make us uncomfortable.  It’s just not right for US.  
-- Compatibility is crucial in any situation. This will require rethinking our attachments, & make changes - not always our favorite thing!
• We need to keep looking for the right venue, the right people - that we fit with. For some it will be hard to do that in person but the internet helps.

ii. Old Wounds - the other reason has to do with all that stuff in Section 1. We may have been working on ourselves for a long time, have grown, & we want to connect - but there are still lingering aspects of the damage that are getting in the way, perhaps very subtly:
-- deep seated rage that colors our energy, but not on the surface
-- the hidden neediness of wanting someone, somewhere to take care of us
-- some terror in the WIC about old abuse, just out of reach, keeping others at arms length
• Without knowing what it is, people pick these up & keep their distance.
As we continue on our healing path, even these issues can fall away or greatly diminish. As we become more comfortable in our own skin, others will be more comfortable with us.

c. Recovery
• Long-term isolation, from shame & fear, is not good for us. However, periods of retreat, whether alone or in a community of like-minded people can be beneficial. We may need to be alone from time to time to process emotions & events.
• With emotional growth, AcoAs become more comfortable dealing with social situations. We’ll experience one of the AA Big Book’s Promises: ‘We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us”.
✶ When we’ve gained some self-esteem we realize that although we will inevitably run into a few people we rub the wrong way, don’t like us, ignore us, belittle us.... we won’t be so deeply effected as before AND we won’t take it personally. It is normal & appropriate to be hurt, but NOT devastated.

➼ THIS is what the quote applies to !! Once we’re OK with ourselves:
• we don’t automatically assume people won’t like us (projection)
• we are less affected when we are not automatically accepted
• we find out that many people think better of us that we were originally believed!
WE ARE SOCIAL BEINGS. How others react to us DOES make a difference, especially if it’s throughout our life, not just once in a while.
Some things we have NO control over, but we can continue working on what ever - inside & outside - we can change: as stated in the Serenity Prayer.
✶ ✶ ✶ ✶

Author's Bio: 

is a psychotherapist in private practice for 24 yrs in New York City, specializing in ACoA RECOVERY (adult-children of alcoholics & other narcissists).
She has appeared on radio, television & at New Life Expo, created & presented ACoA / Al-Anon intensive weekend workshops & ran an ACoA therapy group for 6 years.
She was an instructor at the NY OPEN CENTER  for 9 yrs, presenting her 12-week interactive lecture course “KNOWLEDGE Is POWER: 
What makes an ACoA”

She works with individuals & couples/partners, in person and by phone & Skype. FREE Intro Session, to see if there is compatibility.
For Testimonials, go to www.acoarecovery.com ("About Me")