There are 3 types of character styles for adult children focusing on the opposites of abandonment and inundation. Abandonment and inundation, in this context, are defined as:

inundation - an overwhelming number or amount; “a flood of requests”; “a torrent of abuse”

and

abandonment - to leave completely and finally; forsake utterly; desert: to abandon one’s farm; to abandon a child; to abandon a sinking ship.

Adult children were born of parents that had no boundaries and flaked between either completely leaving their children to their own devices and/or creating unhealthy relationships with them where the child would act as a surrogate husband/wife/mothering influence. These adult children now find themselves with a range of little to no boundaries or harshly defined absolute boundaries that nobody can broach.

What follows is a handy dandy list (we love lists) to give the reader an idea of the types of personalities that develop as a result of this parental mismanagement. I will let these “Character Styles” speak for themselves as you can read them and ask, “Am I an adult child?”:

(from “The Couples Book: Before the Vows Break - Rosenberg/Kitaen Morse”)

Abandonment character style profile

  1. No matter what, it is never enough
  2. haunted by eternal undefined longings
  3. No boundaries: There’s no such thing as too close
  4. Cling and constellate around something or someone
  5. Gives too much and then feels like a victim
  6. Hyper body awareness, sensuality, vulnerability

Inundation character style profile

  1. Often loyal and dependable but separate and removed: I am what I am
  2. Cut off from feelings and sensations
  3. Defined, rigid boundaries and assumptions
  4. Literal black and white, right or wrong solid way of being
  5. Both physical and emotional armoring: not much goes in or out

BOTH abandonment and inundation character style profile

  1. Automatic no: Nobody can tell me what to do
  2. Have an idea of how things should be and cling to it
  3. Treat self as object, treat others the same way
  4. Authenticity gap (lying) tend to lie up or lie down (make things bigger or smaller)
  5. Intimate relationships are not too close and not too far away
  6. Feels split off from feelings, aliveness, self, body soul (dissociation)

I personally personify the middle ground ofabandonment-inundation as my parents were both absentee one moment and then dragging me around and using me for their own ends the next. Those six styles that encompass the abandonment-inundation style fit me to a tee. Below I will use the abandonment/inundation character styles to examine my own personality tendencies:

  1. Automatic no: Nobody can tell me what to do: If someone tries to tell me what to do I instantly stop them and act like I know-it-all. This is a childhood protective measure to cover the fact that I don’t know what to do. Children in this situation cannot admit to having problems because of fear of exposure to the outside world.
  2. Have an idea of how things should be and cling to it: I have a set of preconceived ideas of how things should be and will fight to the death to keep those ideas intact, even if they are destructive and/or wrong.
  3. Treat self as object, treat others the same way: overwork, work-a-holic, ignoring self needs, dismissing self-love - unable to take compliments, unwilling to give the same.
  4. Authenticity gap (lying) tend to lie up or lie down (make things bigger or smaller): Adult children lie to cover the bad things up by making things seem smaller or less important - they also lie up to make things seem better, bigger and more important. This is a hellacious balancing act and the entire being becomes a series of little lies.
  5. Intimate relationships are not too close and not too far away: straddling the line between abandonment and inundation, relationships become another balancing act where the love is scary and overwhelming, closeness a wave that drowns you. In this case I would push someone away if they get too close from fear that they will take over my life and leave me no alone time. On the contrary, if this same person was to get too far away panic would set in and a clingyness would take over where I would then smother the other person. This balancing act is incredibly hard on me and the object of my affection (being torn in two.)
  6. Feels split off from feelings, aliveness, self, body soul (dissociation): adult children learn early on to ‘wander’ away in their minds to escape terrible situations (violence, abandonment, etc). Because of this ability to wander away (dissociation) when faced with emotional situations, I was always pretty much ‘outside’ my body and thus cut off from bodily feelings and physical warnings signs and pleasurable sensations. Staying present with the moment becomes a epic task and feeling something simple as sadness or glee becomes a foriegn endeavor.

Being able to see the patterns that made up my behavior allowed me to start to change those behaviors and step outside the hell that is being a emotional child, an adult child. With these markers I was able to see what triggers were affecting me and the balancing act I was failing at miserably trying to stay in the middle between abandonment fears and inundation fears.

Coming next: Good Parent Messages (how to clear the fragmentation and dissociation that piles up in layers and makes these little things become huge.)