Stunted Growth

.……..When we are no longer able to endure our pain, it is time to look at our symptoms, which are usually consistent and definable in adults who were raised in dysfunctional homes. This is because our growth was stunted, impaired or interrupted in some way. Stunted growth occurs either when we are deprived of something that is vital to our growth or when we experience abuse during development. Each stage of develop­ment in our lives is an important transition in the maturing process.

At all stages, children must be loved, cared for, affirmed and guided in order to develop into mature adults. If we are abused or deprived of what  we need as children, we age chronologically but do not mature emotionally. When we reach adulthood, we are actually children trapped in adult bodies. We are often referred to as adult children. This book is intended to help us as adult children to recover from the traumas of our past. It is designed to teach us show to "grow up and become an adult."

Looking back on our past, many of us might say, ‘If only I could be a child again." Wouldn’t it be great to have a second chance at being a child living in a happy and functional home? Who wouldn’t love the opportunity of not paying bills or not having to work 40 to 60 hours a week. Imagine spending many weeks playing or on vacation!

For too many of us, childhood was not happy, and childhood memories may not always bring images of carefree and joyful times. Instead, we may have painful memories, fears and a general feeling of sadness that surface when we reflect on our childhood. For some of us, it may be a blur, marked by severe memory loss. For others, a wealth of negative emotions may overshadow any pleasant memories we might have.

In 1 Corinthians 13: 11 (NIV), we read, "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child…" A symptom of our present painful condition is that many of us cannot understand this biblical description. As children, we didn’t have the opportunity to talk, think, or reason as a child. So we did not experience the maturing process necessary for becoming an adult and putting childish ways behind us.

When our growth is stunted, we may be unable to function in critical areas of our lives. For example, we may be mentally and emotionally unstable. Some of us may not be able to achieve and maintain healthy relationships or sustain physical and spiritual health. We may be chronologically and biologically adult, but still children emotionally. We may have physically mature bodies but lack many of the skills necessary for functional adult living. As adult children, our development may have been impaired by growing up in a home where appropriate  communica­tion and nurture were absent.

Those of us who have not experienced childhood properly may not be able to put childish behavior behind us. We may feel frustration at not being able to handle adult responsibilities and relationships. We may wear ourselves out trying to encourage growth or wholeness in ourselves or others. Some of us may feel stuck in the same problems year after year, always hoping and believing "things will get better."

The pain of a negative childhood lingers with us long into adulthood. It doesn’t just go away with the passing of time. The inability to function in adult life doesn’t automatically correct itself. To become whole, we need to define and deal with the issues of our past that have inhibited our growth and kept us stuck in the trauma of a painful childhood.

If our parents suffered from some sort of dysfunction, whether it was alcoholism or some other condition, their ability to be healthy role models was impaired. Many of our parents were wounded because they were raised in painful homes. Whatever the circumstances, we were not able to develop in a normal, God-intended fashion. Instead, we began to live in reaction to the behavior of those around us.

Most of us were not even aware that we were not maturing properly. We probably assumed we were as normal as everyone else, but we were usually left wondering what "normal" might be. If there were no healthy adults around to aid us in discerning what was appropriate and what was inappropriate, we had no measure by which to assess our own experiences. Yes, some pain is normal-some conflicts in families are normal-some childhood responsibility is normal-some negative thoughts and feelings are normal-some fears and concerns are normal. In our vain attempts to figure out what was acceptable, we might have asked ourselves some of the following questions:

– Is it normal to see my parents fighting all the time?

– Is it normal to have to scream to be heard?

– Is it normal to be left alone, taking care of my younger brothers and sisters, when I am only seven years old?

– Is it normal to do most of the cooking, laundry and cleaning when I am only nine years old?

– Is it normal to bleed after I have been punished?

– Is it normal to have to put mommy or daddy to bed?

– Is it normal to have to tell daddy’s boss that he can’t come to work again because he is sick?

– Is it normal to have different men in mommy’s bedroom while daddy is gone?

– Is it normal to eat mostly junk food at mealtimes?

– Is it normal to have to call an ambulance for mommy after daddy came home and yelled at her for a while and then left again?

– Is it normal to seldom be allowed to play?

– Is it normal to have to sit up at night with a baseball bat waiting for my stepfather to return because he has threatened to kill the whole family?

– Is it normal at age eleven to have to attack my stepfather when he is drunk to keep him from hurting my mommy or my sister?

– Is it normal for daddy to leave home and never come back?

– Is it normal to feel ashamed of my family?

– Is it normal to want to leave home because no one will talk to me?

– Is it normal to feel numb, no matter what happens?

– Is it normal to think it’s my fault when my sister dies?

– Is it normal to feel guilty when mom and dad break up?

– Is it normal to feel that I am abad person because someone else treats me badly?       

– Is it normal to wish I were somebody else’s kid?

– Is it normal to wish I had not been born?

 

We may have been damaged by the crazy rules enforced in our parental homes, such as "don’t talk," "don’t trust," "don’t fee1." Negative behaviors like these hinder our growth rather than facilitate it. They can cause us to repress our emotions, which becomes devastating to us and to our relation­ships. Some o( the crazy rules we might have learned are:

– Not to talk about our thoughts, preferences, desires, concerns, home life, or, problems.

– To talk only about superficial or insignificant subjects.

– Not to trust anyone or anything. Sometimes we don’t even trust ourselves.

– Not to trust that God is with us and truly loves us.

– To deny our feelings or become unaware of having them.

– To mask our feelings or call them by another name.

 

These rules may continue to govern our behavior as adults. They can help us to pretend that nothing unusual is happening and aid our relentless defense of past and present family systems. If we are going to recover, we need to r place the old crazy rules of our childhood with new life-affirming behaviors that enhance our growth.

While searching for wholeness through recovery, we can find clues in the Bible. MATIHEW 5:48 (NIV) refers to "becoming perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect," a sign of reaching toward maturity. ROMANS 8:29 (NIV) talks of "being conformed to his likeness," a promise of growing into the fullness of Christ. And EPHESIANS 4:23 (NIV) stresses "being made new in the attitude of bur minds," a guideline for changing for the better. Using passages from Scripture in this way can help us see that turning to Christ in recovery as our support and guide enables us to grow and change.

Having been slowed down in our growth doesn’t excuse us from the call to maturity and the realization of the ,wholeness we can find in Christ-centered recovery. In order to initiate our healing, it is important that we face our pain and understand our symptoms as adult children. Only then can we move on to functional adult living.

       As an adult child, we may find ourselves struggling with many issues

that are discomforting to us. The symptoms which are listed on the following page have been determined to be common among adult children.

 

Common Symptoms of Adult Children

– We are incapable of building and maintaining enduring, meaningful and intimate relationships with God, ourselves, or others.

– We find it difficult to trust ourselves or others in a deepening fashion; thus, it is hard for us to live by faith.

– We do not possess the skills or vocabulary necessary for the healthy communication of feelings, preferences, ideas, or needs.

– We do not know how to manage the inevitable stresses of life; we cannot easily play, relax, or rest.

– We do not possess all of the skills necessary to understand God’s will in our lives.

– We are resistant to change.

– We are rigid and inflexible in our thoughts and actions.

– We lack the ability to grow spiritually and emotionally.

– We do not know how or where to seek help or to offer help to others. – We do not know how to handle adult responsibilities and relationships. – We often feel that we do not belong anywhere.

– We have difficulty developing healthy beliefs, morals and values.

– We have a strong need to be in control.

– We have difficulty following projects from beginning to end.

– We feel guilty when we stand up for ourselves.

– We give in to others instead of taking care of ourselves.

 

We may not necessarily exhibit all of the characteristics prevalent in adult children. However, any symptoms we do have must be identified and adequately addressed if we are to live as mature, healthy adults. These feelings and behaviors are the direct result of not having been given the foundation necessary for living as an adult. The realities of our childhood, however damaging they might have been, do not give us an excuse to reproduce the same symptoms in our own children.

I Healing begins when we understand that God wants us to reach our full potential-to find fulfillment, maturity and wholeness. The Bible is filled with exhortations to grow, and when our God-ordained growth is stopped, we become a warped form of what God intended us to be. As we seek to become "adult" in every dimension of our lives, we begin to realize our potential for becoming whole spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically. Christ-centered recovery enables us to discern God’s will and to mature as quickly or as slowly as is right for each one of us.

While moving toward adulthood, toward being mature and whole in Christ, we become integrated and balanced, and our behavior begins to match our new belief system. Our personalities reflect our true selves, and we no longer pretend to be someone we are not. We stop imitating others and claim our own identity. Gradually we become secure enough to accept ourselves as we are and cease performing to please others.  The farther we progress in recovery, the more we recognize how much we can rely on the grace of God to empower us to meet the demands of our adult responsibilities and relationships. While making peace with our past and learning from it, we stop repeating our negative behaviors and try new, healthier ways of living.

As we begin to grow, we find ourselves "practicing what we preach." Our attitudes, thoughts, morals and values become the basis of our actions, and our behavior becomes more and more reflective of Christ. As adults in Christ we learn to give generously and receive graciously; we become blessings wherever we are instead of a drain on those around us. Being an adult in Christ calls us to reflect our deepening trust in God and his unconditional love.

 

Recovery Tool: Prayer and Meditation

 

       The following material, adapted from The Twelve Steps-A Spiritual Journey, can help us more effectively use prayer and meditation as a tool for recovery.  A daily regimen of prayer and meditation makes it clear that relief from lain of the past is just a day-to-day reprieve. We must relentlessly pursue recovery on a daily basis. Those of us who have experienced chaos caused by our willful acts may have worshipped false gods such as drugs, sex, or money and may have participated in addictive relationships. For us, surrendering our lives to Christ dm be the step that begins the process of leading us out of the mess that our lives had become.

Spiritual growth and development occur slowly and through dis­cipline. The best example of the discipline of prayer is that of Jesus praying frequently to know his Father’s will. He gave us his Lord’s Prayer which is a foundation for our prayer life.

 

Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven,hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

In the Lord’s Prayer, the most important element for recovery is "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." This may be interpreted as "May your will be realized throughout all of space, time and creation. God, if it is to be done, it is for you to bring it about;" As our self-esteem increases and Jesus Christ becomes a trusted friend, we grow more confident that he is with us even when we pray, praying for knowledge of God’s will for us helps us set aside our self-serving motives and provides an opportunity for God to bestow his grace upon us in often surprising ways. We receive reassurance of God’s presence and know that his will for us is to be restored to health.

An overview of prayer and meditation for a given day may be outlined as follows:

 

At the beginning of the day, review your plans.

– Ask God for direction in your thoughts and actions.

– Ask God to keep you free from self-pity, dishonesty, or selfishness.

– Ask for the guidance needed to take care of any problems.

– Ask God for freedom from self-will and be prepared to accept his solution.

– Avoid praying for something that might turn out to be harmful.

 

During the day, in moments of indecision or fear, ask God for inspiration and guidance.

– Become aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit and be willing to release your concern for a specific outcome.

– Pray to God as often as necessary during the day, asking him to remove the feeling, obsession, or addiction that is bothering you at the moment.

– Invite Jesus to be present with you in tense situations when you are facing temptations or personal confrontations.

– If possible, call a friend in recovery to identify and share what is happening.

 

At the end of the day, review the events that happened.

Reflect about how willing you were to turn to God for courage and

strength to handle the events of the day.

– Ask God for guidance in taking corrective action. – Ask God for knowledge of his will for you.

– Ask God’s forgiveness where needed and acknowledge that this review is not intended to cause obsessive guilt, worry, or remorse.

– Give thanks to God for the guidance and blessings that were part of the day.

 

Individual Exercise

 

§      What questions about a normal childhood occurred to you as you read the list of questions in the chapte? ____________________________________________________________

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§      Write down the major “crazy” rules that operated in your home of origin. __________

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§      How are these crazy rules operating in your life today?  ________________________

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§      What are the major symptoms of stunted growth that you feel you display in your life now? ___________________________________________________________________

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§      List the two adult child symptoms that cause you the most amount of difficulty.  Explain. _____________________________________________________________

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§      List the two adult child symptoms that cause you the least amount of difficulty.  Explain.  _____________________________________________________________

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Group Exercise

 

§      What does maturity in Christ mean to you?  What specific steps do you wish to take to become more mature in Christ? ______________________________________________

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§      Cite examples of your behavior that indicate you are immature.  What steps can you take to correct this? ____________________________________________________

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§      How does knowing the truth make you free? _________________________________

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§      Cite an example when you prayed for knowledge of God’s will.  What was the outcome?

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§      Share a meaningful experience in using the journal concept as part of your recovery process. ______________________________________________________________

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§      What is your prayer request for yourself or others?____________________________

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Your prayer list for this week:  ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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