“Sometimes the façade becomes the building,” laments one of the characters in the entertaining and deeply moving novel, Rise and Shine, by Anna Quindlen, a favorite author. How sadly true. I see how that has happened to many of my clients, with and without dysregulated eating, and know that they must tear down that façade to become a whole and healthy person.

It’s no mystery how we got to be the way we are. We are built psychologically to survive. That is how the human brain is wired: to adapt to an environment in order to make the best of it. Unfortunately, when this happens, we may think we’re growing toward the light, but end up growing toward the darkness when how we act, believe and feel, which is adaptive in childhood, become maladaptive in adulthood.

I have many clients who are Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOAs) and they have the typical traits of people whose parent or parents were addicted to drugs or alcohol (or had other addiction problems): they say they’re fine when they’re not, they take pride in being stoic, they pretend they don’t need help, and they believe they can power through any situation by sheer will. Each one of these attitudes is a façade that inhabits their being and has gradually taken over who they are. Their façade took over the building, fossilizing it. They got so used to coping with dysfunction in childhood by using certain strategies and taking certain stances, that they never learned that there are healthier ways to cope and that how they’ve been coping in adulthood is a major problem.

For example, if you had to grow up fast or take care of an erratic, moody single mother because she was inebriated much of the day, you learned to do things yourself and not bother to ask for help. Makes sense to stop seeking it if you weren’t going to get it. So, your façade is to pretend you don’t need other people. Except that we all do and there are plenty of people now who would be happy to help you.

Another example is how you may have adapted to having a father with PTSD from his war days by cutting off your longing for his fathering whenever he went into a funk or a rage. Shutting off your feelings helped suppress your sadness or anger at his unavailability and your façade became one of intellectualizing rather than feeling. But not allowing yourself to experience a full range of feelings as an adult and being disconnected from emotions is not only unnecessary but unhealthy, because there are many people now who will love and care for you with all their hearts.

What façades are you ready to take down so that people can see the real you?

Best,

Karen

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