A friend is going through her own ACON-ish situation right now, although in her case, her mother probably has borderline personality disorder. The two disorders are very similar, and my friend's family dynamics are startlingly similar to mine. For that reason, she has been talking to me a lot lately, because she knows that I've BTDT (been there, done that) as far as crazy mothers go. Hey, at least there's some benefit to a crazy family - you can support other people with crazy families and all of you can reassure each other that you're not all alone. Yay!
The other day she was talking about a therapist she visits, and shared a visualization that the therapist had described to her. Caution: not for the squeamish.
Imagine looking down at yourself and realizing that your body is covered with hooks and tentacles. These things didn't all latch onto you at once; they were attached to you one at a time, over many, many years. You didn't ask to have these hooks put into your flesh. You didn't put them into yourself. The suckers clinging to your skin restrain you and prevent you from moving about comfortably.
Picture yourself removing them one at a time. You have to work slowly. Some of the hooks go quite deep and you carefully detach them while trying not to cause more harm. It takes a long time, but you finally pry every last sucker off of yourself, and you throw them all away.
It's not the most perfect analogy, but I do think there's something to the idea of the things dysfunctional parents do to their children being like barbs that stay embedded in their skin, causing more harm the longer they stay attached. To think of their tentacles holding their children back. We ACONs must work slowly, gently to undo the years of harm. Some of the hooks and suckers take longer to remove than others. Some come away easily, and some are quite painful to extract. Some have been inflicted more deeply than others - we may carry some like shrapnel, buried within us for the rest of our lives. We may have to heal around them if we can't excise them.
Going no-contact helped me tremendously in getting enough time without new hooks being thrown at me so that I could start to remove the hooks that were already there. I don't know if I'll ever be hook-and-sucker-free, but I do know that I've removed enough of them to move about much more easily. And if I ever have to be around that hook-slinging octopus ever again, I'll remember to wear armor and be ready to duck.
octopus illustration via The Graphics Fairyfish hooks via Clip Art ETC