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More on the Adult-Child Syndrome

By March 9, 2016 April 29th, 2016 High-Conflict Divorce Counseling

I have previously written on the subject of what I coined to be the “adult-child syndrome”. I have used this term to describe a way of relating or behaving in which an adult resorts to throwing tantrums, much like a child. Have you ever encountered an adult who slams doors, shuts down, screams, yells, becomes silent, avoids, places blocks, makes excuses, and sulks? If yes, then, you know what I am talking about when I use the term “adult-child syndrome”.

More on the Adult-Child Syndrome:

Most adults do not like behaving in such a manner but do not know what else to do when strong feelings take hold. The truth is, these adults may receive some attention for a period of time, only to discover that this way of relating takes a toll on loved ones and oneself. Despite knowing this reality, the adult-child is determined to not want change until it impacts their personal sense of competency, personal sense of worth, or some other emotional loss or potential loss. This way of relating is well established from early life and has a definite purpose in helping the adult survive and even manage daily stressors. These well-established patterns offer a sense of power, a sense of security, and sense of control. These characteristics are highly valued. All these characteristics are “sense of” verses actual experience of being. They are transitory; and not lasting. Yet, to give this up, means to potentially feel vulnerable and come into uncertain territory. Having said that, without the release of this child-like ways of dealing with intense emotion, the adult cannot realize their true potential nor have lasting, intimate, fulfilling adult relationship, that are characterized by deep feelings, closeness, a mutually gratifying way of relating, and real sense of personal security.

Most of us live lives in a hurry and move at lightning speed. We rarely stop to consider the need- pattern change unless there is an immediate fear, potential loss, or insight about the shallow-ness in this operating standard. Intense emotions offer us the largest possibility for true growth and real satisfaction. And the truth is that we continue to avoid these opportunities by employing the adult-child strategies until the lessons of dissatisfaction, anger, contempt, and conflict press for a crisis. At times, even the crisis is inadequate to stop the lightening speed of life—and change has to wait—until of course, it cannot wait any longer.

Recently, a woman presented for an assessment and although her marriage and her relationships with her children were in jeopardy, her major concern was financial commitment. Although finances can be a real issue; let’s face it, we all find ways to bring those things which we value and want into our lives. For her, this crossroad moment presented her with the real opportunity to claim what she valued most in her life. We all have moments of choice. When we are not ready, there are numerous blocks or patterns of dysfunction which are presented to keep the status quo. It is much easier to use the old patterns and to hold onto old patterns, to keep feelings at bay, instead of creating happiness. The truth is at some point, we are all faced with ourselves. Often, after many losses, crises, and health risk one has to make the choice of change within or continued pain. If you are faced with potential loss, now is the time to do something.

Don’t wait to lose yourself or your loved one. Make the choice not an excuse to move ahead and value yourself.