This week I came across The 13 Characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics. It makes interesting reading even if you are not the child of an alcoholic.
As the author, Dr Janet G. Woititz, observes: “If you did not grow up with alcoholism but lived… with another potentially dysfunctional system, you may find that you identify with the characteristics described here.”
It inspired me to rewrite it specifically for abused women. The point of doing so is this: to share the realization that the damage caused by a dysfunctional relationship results in characteristics that are common to an entire category – in this case abused women.
However characteristics are not the same as character or nature.
Characteristics translate into behaviours. They are learned and can be unlearned. The essence of the individual, their character or nature in other words, may be eclipsed by those characteristics for months, years or even decades, but it endures.
Clear the characteristics – and let there be no doubt, you can clear away those characteristics – and your true character and nature will emerge, tempered, refined and strengthened by your experience.
The 14 characteristics common to abused women are:
- Abused women have to guess at what normal behaviour is.
- Abused women have difficulty maintaining their focus and drive.
- Abused women are often paralysed by their own negativity so that they find it hard to start something new and an uphill struggle to see it through.
- Abused women judge themselves without mercy.
- Abused women feel they always have to justify themselves.
- Abused women have difficulty being light-hearted.
- Abused women have difficulty trusting.
- Abused women take everything very seriously.
- Abused women overreact and catastrophize even over small problems.
- Abused women faithfully record every last criticism they experience and they discount the praise.
- Abused women need approval and affirmation and tend to look for it in all the wrong places.
- Abused women usually feel that they are different to other people as a result of their relationship.
- Abused women are extremely loyal, even despite the evidence that their loyalty is undeserved.
- Abused women envisage a future that will be just as hard as the present.
Whether or not you feel able to shift these characteristics right now, please bear in mind that they are superimposed, they are not an integral part of you.