Are you an adaptive child?
I am the child who had to adapt to the crazy dysfunctional family I grew up in. I did a great job of negotiating the narcissistic parenting I received. I made sure my parent’s sibling, or pet came before me. This seemed to calm the stormy waters which were a regular event, especially if alcohol or substances were involved. I had to figure out when one of my parents was about to rage on me, attack me, or bully me. I was pretty good at figuring out what the raging parent needed, and I was pretty good at staying away or staying two steps ahead of the next storm. Sometimes I couldn’t figure it out, and I paid a price which taught me to get better at reading other people especially my parents. My other parent was vacant. My other parent didn’t know how to take care of me. They were too busy trying to protect their self from the rager.
Today I struggle because I am an adult. I would like to be a functional adult, but often my adaptive child part of me is in charge of my daily affairs. This usually doesn’t work out very well because my adaptive child is immature and doesn’t understand how to live in an adult world. I get accused of overreacting or shutting down. I have difficulty in my relationships because I am still stuck back in my dysfunctional family relating to partner and friends as if they were my dysfunctional parents.
Are you a functional adult?
I am a functional adult who operates from a mature state. I now know how to take care of myself, even when I don’t feel like it. I can distinguish my needs from my wants. I understand that I alone am responsible for meeting my basic needs: sleep, healthy eating, connection with others and self-care. I can set proper internal and external boundaries. But I haven’t forgotten that my adaptive child is still with me – trapped in the past. Even when my adaptive child is triggered and wants to rage against the world, I have the skills to stay in the present and make rational rather than reactive choices. As a functional adult, I can maintain control of myself in the present even though my adaptive child is triggered in trauma-time.
Adaptive Child and Functional Adult Term is coined by Pia Melody and Terry Real.