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  • Christie Pearl, LMHC, LPC

Why ACOAs struggle with setting goals (and how an EMDR Intensive can help)

It’s that time of year. The time when we all think about how we want to improve ourselves and set our goals for the coming year.


You know the old saying - "Failing to plan is planning to fail." But for Adult Children of Alcoholics & Dysfunctional Families (ACOAs), setting goals or making plans can sometimes bring up some old baggage that interferes with our ability to succeed.


Today I want to share some of the most common reasons why ACOAs struggle with goal setting and how an EMDR Intensive can help you stop sabotaging your own success once and for all.


Many ACOAs struggle with perfectionism, so the idea that we aren't already great at everything and need to set a goal to improve can bring up feelings of shame. Setting goals only serves to highlight perceived flaws, so some ACOAs avoid thinking about goals out of a need to preserve themselves from that pain.


Other ACOAs don't set goals because they don't know how. These tend to be the ACOAs who played the Lost Child role in their families. The Lost Child usually flies under the radar, tries to stay largely invisible and not need anything from anyone. The Lost Child struggles to know who they are or what they want, so they tend to wander through life just getting by on whatever comes their way. The idea of being proactive and planning for something seems foreign to them.


Some ACOAs struggle with goal setting because they are overfocused on goals and overly attached to certain outcomes, are too rigid in their need to plan and control, and don't leave themselves room for the learning process.


All of these approaches are rooted in old survival strategies that are wired into our nervous systems from childhood.


We can certainly use the thinking and cognitive part of our brain to take a fresh look at this ritual of setting intentions for the new year. We can shift away from making promises to ourselves out of a sense of obligation to change or feeling like we are somehow less than. We can give ourselves room to notice what is already working and be more gentle with ourselves. We can practice gratitude and use affirmations and give ourselves credit for the wins we've had. We can tell ourselves we are worthy no matter what we achieve or don't achieve.


These are wonderful ways to support ourselves. They are not bad or wrong. They are just insufficient for many people.


What do we do when trying to think ourselves into being more successful doesn't work?


A large part of our brain is subconscious. This is the part of our brain that exists alongside the thinking parts of our brain. The brain holds information in different ways, and not all of it is concrete and conscious. Those old survival strategies that are wired in from our early experience are still operating in our subconscious - until we do the work to heal them.


That perfectionism, that shame, that fear of being visible and taking action, that fear of not taking action and needing to control - all of that is unconsciously driving you to stay stuck. Until you heal this aspect of your experience, your most authentic self will likely struggle with reaching your goals - or even setting goals in the first place.


EMDR therapy in general - and EMDR Intensives in particular - give you the ability to access that unconscious material and resolve old emotional patterns that are sabotaging your ability to be your most authentic self. We are basically teaching your brain that you don't need to feel shame anymore, that you don't need to be controlling anymore, that you don't need to be afraid to be visible anymore - and giving you a path forward from those old feelings that you needed to survive back then but don't need in the here and now.


Don't spend another year wrestling with yourself on the inside and ending up in the same place as you are now this time next year.


If you are an ACOA who wants to finally break through the barriers between you and success, click here to schedule a connection call with me.


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