January, 2001

Edited selections from the ASCA newsletter.

The original newsletter (pdf)


  1. A Reflective Moment for January: What Kind of a Person? What Kind of a Life?
  2. Rotation C Topic: Possible Meeting Topic for January: Maladaptive Patterns and Destructive Behaviors
  3. ASCA Meeting Ongoing Education Moment: Conflicts Within A Meeting
  4. Poetry: “The Man with the Odd-numbered Chakras”, by James Daniel

1. A Reflective Moment for January:
What Kind of a Person?
What Kind of a Life?

by George Bilotta

(The following brief article continues our monthly series focused on pondering some of life’s basic questions as we slowly move into a new millennium.)

January often invites us to examine and perhaps to reconsider some of the fundamental aspects of our lives. Who am I as a human being? In what manner do I go about living my daily life? What is important to me? What are my priorities? What are my thoughts and behaviors that enhance and/or constrict my life? Is there something specific about my life or person that I would like to begin to change?

Many survivors of childhood abuse find it difficult, unusual, conflicting, and/or uncomfortable to lift the lid off of these fundamental questions. I consider these questions, along with many other questions, as formative, i.e., inquiring into and coming up with some basic practical answers. These and similar types of questions help to form who we are as human beings and influence the manner in which we proceed through our lives. I also think that regularly delving into these fundamental-type questions is part of recovery, i.e., rediscovering who we are, who we want to be, and what we want to be all about. These kinds of questions give a present and future orientation to our lives, offering hope and perspective. They balance the in-depth work that we need to do—recalling our past, the incidences of past abuse, and dealing with the emotional stuff that comes up for us when we delve into the past.

When asking the question, “Who am I as a human being?”, I am referring to the essential qualities that define our humanness and our experiences as human beings. For example, I define essential qualities as those characteristics, virtues, or dispositions that thrive deeply within the essence, the heart of who we are. For example, I try to be a compassionate person, a kind person, a thoughtful, reflective person, a gentle and welcoming person, a curious person, a considerate person, etc. For me, these qualities or dispositions are important to me in my daily life. They increase my ability to be a human being. Whereas their polar opposites, such as insensitivity, meanness, harshness, aggression, rigidity, and so on, reduce and constrain my ability to be the kind of human being I envision for myself.

These qualities are what I strive to be, the way I try to be as a human being during the course of ordinary everyday activities. In trying to live in a specific way, e.g., compassionately, reflectively, receptively, etc., this trying forms me. It forms me as a person. It forms me in the ways that I interact with the various people, events, and things that I encounter daily. While striving and trying to live life in specific ways, I gain a concrete sense of who I am as a person. I am aware of who I am and who I am not. It is comforting, reassuring, and grounding to have a sense of who we are. In many ways, pondering and responding to the questions of who we are and how we go about living daily life forms the foundation of self-esteem. Self-esteem is not based on feelings. Rather, self-esteem is rooted deeply within who we are and how we try to live daily life.

What is important to me? What are my priorities? Again, these are basic formative questions. They are formative since their answers provide orientation and direction for life’s daily journey. If I did not seriously think about what is important to me and what my priorities are, then I would probably use someone else’s answers. Someone else’s answers, however, might not be congenial for me; they may even be antagonistic and unhelpful for my life, leading me astray, alienating me from my true self.

I do believe that part of the foundation of our recovery from childhood abuse is asking and thinking constantly about fundamental and formative questions that influence who we are and how we live our daily lives. Imagine the depth that we could develop over the year 2001 if we dedicated time every month to dwelling on these and other important questions.

2. Rotation C Topic:
Possible Meeting Topic for January:
Maladaptive Patterns and Destructive Behaviors

While working through our recovery, we often see in books, hear in ASCA shares, and possibly experience in our own lives, concerns around maladaptive patterns and destructive behaviors. Maladaptive patterns are embedded systematic thoughts and/or behaviors that are unhelpful and unproductive in our everyday lives. For example, thoughts involving self-criticism and put-downs are common maladaptive thought patterns. Behaviors such as confusing sex for love, drinking or using drugs to escape emotional pain, or eating to soothe emotional discomfort or emptiness, are also common examples of maladaptive behavior patterns.

Destructive behaviors include cutting, hitting, addictions, and behaviors that are mean, antagonistic, and/or abusive toward oneself or others. Destructive behaviors tend to damage bridges, resulting in an isolating effect. When we harm ourselves, not only do we cut ourselves off from other people, we also disengage and separate the body, mind, and spirit from their congenial integration. When we are in a destructive behavioral mode, our eyes are blinded, our ears are closed, and our hearts harden and turn cold.

Maladaptive patterns and destructive behaviors are unsuccessful ways of coping with life. We may have learned them through negative role modeling while growing up. If we come from a highly dysfunctional and/or abusive family background, we probably never had the opportunity to learn positive and nurturing thought and behavioral patterns and behaviors. In a crude adaptive manner, we often reenact and duplicate the maladaptive patterns and destructive behaviors we learned while growing up and/or adapted to cope with a painful life.

One way to go about changing a maladaptive pattern or destructive behavior is to first single out the pattern or behavior. Then, figure out its opposite, or antidote. Third, through thoughts and/or behaviors, engage and practice the antidote. For example, if I am in the pattern of criticizing myself, then I might practice acknowledging the parts of myself that I like, that are successful, and that are whole or moving toward wholeness.

For example, if physically abusing myself is part of my destructive behavior, then I might engage in the antidote of taking leisurely baths to soothe my body. I might apply sensual and fragrant lotions to my body to moisturize and vitalize my skin. I might treat myself to a manicure, pedicure, massage, and/or hair styling on a regular basis.

We cannot do two things at once. We cannot nourish the body, mind, and spirit while at the same time hurting and harming the body, mind, and spirit. The more we try to nurture, the less opportunity there is to use maladaptive and destructive behaviors in our everyday life. Sometimes, maybe even often, we do not feel like doing x. Just like sometimes we do not feel like going to work, or when we were students, to study. Sometimes, we just have to do it. Sometimes, we just have to go through the motions of taking a relaxing bath, of applying soothing lotions to our skin. It might take 100 baths before the body begins to enjoy and soak in the experience of nurturing baths.

Part of reducing maladaptive patterns and destructive behaviors simply involves trying. Trying provides us with hope, encouragement, and eventually the insightful experience that we can change.

  1. What are some of your maladaptive patterns and/or destructive behaviors?
  2. What do you understand to be their opposites or their antidotes?
  3. What have been your successful strategies in changing your patterns and behaviors?
  4. What do you think might be some of the obstacles to trying?

3. ASCA Meeting Ongoing Education Moment:
Conflicts Within A Meeting

In many ways, an ASCA meeting is a microcosm of our daily lives, i.e., the manner in which we interact with people, events, and things we encounter during the course of our day. Conflicts within an ASCA meeting can arise in a variety of ways. Common meeting conflicts revolve around miscommunication and personality clashes.

Communication difficulties might include cross-talk, an unkind or insensitive remark before or after the meeting, or a clumsy or awkward intervention by a co-facilitator. We may feel misunderstood, angry, anxious, uncomfortable, etc. When such situations arise, they provide us with opportunities to practice constructive assertiveness, improve communication skills, and a desire to reconnect with the other person. In the past, when we felt misunderstood, angry, anxious, etc., we might have withdrawn, blamed ourselves, or responded aggressively and harshly. Part of what an ASCA meeting is all about is practicing—practicing new and better ways of interacting with others. We can practice being constructive rather than destructive, tolerant rather than impatient, empathetic rather than distant. In a sense, practicing is part of reconfiguring old maladaptive thoughts and behaviors in positive, constructive, and connecting ways.

The meeting might decide to discuss how to practice ways of dealing with conflict inside and outside of a meeting. What do we do when there is miscommunication or misunderstanding in a meeting? What do we do when we have a personality clash with another ASCA member? Discussing these matters prior to an actual conflict might provide some practice in dealing with difficult situations. Practice does not make us perfect, but it sure helps smooth off the rough edges of life.

4. Poetry

The Man with the Odd-numbered Chakras

by James Daniel, Copyright 1999

Nate’s in his forties, but’s still kinda cute.
He walks around tall in a blue tailored suit.
Pin stripes accentuate angles and lines.
All that he touches is all he designs.
Passing through freely, a cloud in the air;
Public life’s easy, domestic’s a bear.

Living alone since the age of nineteen
In an efficiency he can’t keep clean.
Glad that there’s some place he needn’t perform.
There’s no place inside of him dry, safe and warm.
Seeing his life through perceptions of others,
Nate’s only love is for fantasy lovers.

He knows how to do, but not how to be.
He knows naught of even, he’s all oddity.
More form than function, he’d like to change roles.
But he’s much too polarized now to set goals.
The best he can do then, is just play his part
And fall asleep clutching his pills to his heart.

Selection editing note

Above, for clarity, the word “co-secretary” was replaced by “co-facilitator” as the current title used in ASCA meetings for the same role.