Wednesday, August 4, 2010

That Old Familiar Feeling

There are those of us who are referred to in the clinical literature as Adult Children of Alcoholics, ACOA for short.  So many of us exist in a daily state of busyness. Our lives are full of things to do, tasks to complete, responsibilities to be met. We must always be doing something. There is generally no free time to be had because there is so much to do. When we get a free hour we’re looking around for an activity to fill that empty space. Got a free ten minutes where’s the vacuum cleaner?

We work extremely well under pressure, in fact we thrive under just the right amount of pressure. We seek out professional responsibilities that allow us to make use of our confidence and competence under pressure. Our employers love us, glowing reviews, pay raises, promotions. We are people who get it done and we’re not afraid to mix it up, in fact we welcome the opportunity to mix it up. It’s a challenge yes?

We’re probably high-achievers and to some degree perfectionists, at least that is how others undoubtedly see us. Those same others might also envy us our high energy level, our high degree of competence, “how do you do it?” they ask. “Oh I don’t know, I just do it, it’s just the way I am” I might respond. I don’t even think about it. It is what makes me go.


There are those people out there with advanced degrees in psychology who do not necessarily envy those of us who exist in a daily state of busyness and achievement. In fact they probably have an entirely different perspective of that propensity to seek out busyness, pressure, too much work. I suspect in many cases that these people with advanced degrees might suggest that perhaps we are running from something. Running from our feelings. Running from our pain. Running from our memories. They may be right, at this moment I cannot say.

Life is not either/or.

I would like to posit an alternative theory and my theory goes like this:

Those competent, high-achieving, perfectionists are not running from something but rather running to something. They are running to an old familiar feeling. The old familiar feeling that is a fluttering, a nervousness, a feeling of always being on edge. This is what they know because this is what they had growing up. This feeling of edginess, or rather of always being on edge is where they are comfortable. It is what they have always known… and when it goes away they notice. They might not know exactly what it is that's missing but they know something vital is no longer there. And so they go searching. For that old familiar feeling.