Cross Talk (BRB s. 573-578)
Some groups incorporate a definition of cross talk into their meeting format. This definition is usually read just before the group begins a discussion on the meeting topic. The term “cross talk” means interrupting, referring to, commenting on, or using the contents of what another person has said during the meeting. Cross talk also refers to any type of dialog that occurs as the meeting is in process as well. Members talking to one another or discussing what someone has just said is cross talk.
Many ACA members come from family backgrounds where feelings and perceptions were judged as wrong or defective. In ACA, each person may share his or her feelings and perceptions without fear of judgment or interruption. In ACA, we create a safe place to open up and share. As part of creating that safety, cross talk is not permitted.
We respect these boundaries for two reasons: First, when we were growing up no one listened to us; they told us that our feelings were wrong. Second, as adults we are accustomed to taking care of other people and not taking responsibility for our lives. In ACA, we speak about our own experiences and feelings; we accept without comment what others say because it is true for them. We also work toward taking more responsibility in our lives rather than giving advice to others. Here are various forms of cross talk:
Each member of ACA should be able to share, free from interruption. When someone is sharing, all others should refrain from speaking, including side conversations with a neighbor. Gestures, noise, or movement could also be considered interruption if it were grossly distracting.
In ACA we keep the focus on our lives and our feelings. We do not make reference to the shares of others except as a transition into our own sharing. A very general “what’s been brought up for me is…” or the occasional “thank you for sharing” is fine, but please do not make more detailed references to another person´s share.
In ACA we accept what each person shares as true for them. We go to great lengths to avoid creating the climate of shame that enforced the three primary rules of a dysfunctional family: don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t feel. In ACA, we simply do not make comments either positive or negative about another person’s share before, during, or after a meeting. In like manner, we never speak about the contents of another person’s share. Everything that is shared in an ACA meeting is considered privileged and confidential and must be treated with the utmost of respect. Unsolicited advice can be a form of commentary and should be avoided.
In ACA, we do not touch, hug or attempt to comfort others when they become emotional during an ACA meeting. If someone begins to cry or weep during a meeting, we allow them to feel their feelings. We support them by refraining from touching them or interrupting their tears with something we might say. To touch or hug the person is known as “fixing”. As children we tried to fix our parents or to control them with our behavior. In ACA, we are learning to take care of ourselves and not attempt to fix others. We support others by accepting them into our meetings and listening to them while they face their pain. We learn to listen, which is often the greatest support of all.
Cross Talk and Group Conscience
The guidelines listed above are what keep ACA safe, allowing us to heal from our past. Most adult children want to cooperate with meeting rules and guidelines. Many new members may not understand the cross talk rule or other meeting guidelines for several meetings. Under these circumstances, we can quietly explain the rules after the meeting.
However, any group member who believes he or she has been cross talked can ask the chairman of the meeting to restate the cross talk rule. This can be done during the meeting when the cross talk has occurred. If the chairperson is asked to restate the cross talk rule by someone in the meeting, the chairperson has a choice to restate the rule or to talk with the cross talking person after the meeting.
If the cross talk is more serious or a nuisance, the chairperson or the person who has been cross talked can ask for an immediate group conscience vote. Under this scenario the person or chairperson would stop the meeting and say: “I would like to have a group conscience vote at this time. Would the group members like the cross talk to discontinue?”
A group vote can strengthen the group’s resolve to stop cross talk. Each cross talk situation can be different. We want to balance keeping our groups safe from cross talk with our own responsibility to educate new members about group decorum. In most cases, a gentle reminder works.
More Information on Sharing at ACA Meetings
Sharing or talking at ACA meetings can be intimidating for some while it is confusing to others. At the same time, some adult children seem to talk freely at ACA meetings without making progress toward recovery. Our recovery is gauged by the changes we make in our lives and the progress we make in working the ACA Twelve Steps. Some ACA members may be using their talking skills to avoid focused Twelve Step work or about ACA dynamics. But they tend to avoid Step work and miss out on the benefits of the program. We do not say this to discourage anyone from sharing or talking in meetings; however, real change comes with working the Steps, using a sponsor, and associating with other recovering adult children. We must also be consistent in meeting attendance.
Other adult children can be timid about sharing in meetings. They believe they are being disloyal to the family. This is not the case. There is a difference between being disloyal and seeking help by talking about our lives in an ACA meeting. For some of us this is the first time we have challenged authority. Our dysfunctional family is an authority of sorts. We challenge the family secrets and rules by talking about our childhood and teen years.
It is important that we balance our sharing. We share details about our family history and living as codependent adults. We constantly sought love and affirmation from people who could not give it. We also share details about living in the moment through the Twelve Steps, self-acceptance, and hope for the future. We can talk about our past and balance that with what is happening now.
In the beginning, some of us lack Twelve Step knowledge unless we have been active in another Twelve Step fellowship. When we are new, we listen to other group members sharing about how we are powerless over the effects of family dysfunction in Step One. We hear others share about a Higher Power in Step Two and doing a personal inventory in Step Four. In the latter Steps, we learn about ineffectual behaviors, making an amends list, daily inventory, and having a spiritual awakening. We also hear about focusing on ourselves and living one day at a time. Group members share about using the telephone and a sponsor to ask for help.
When we arrive here, we usually have an “abuse-logue” or codependent story, but little recovery. This is common. We start from where we are.
Our “abuse-logue” is a similar concept of the “drunk-a-logue”, which is the qualifying portion of an AA story. During this portion of the story, the AA member will “qualify” as an AA member by detailing his or her drinking history. In ACA, we qualify as well by detailing our dysfunctional family history and the traits we developed to survive. It is important that we share the details of our family roles, inner messages, and feelings of fear and loss. Knowing our family history and labeling it properly without denial is critical to staying focused on recovery. We learn this detail and find our loss by talking about it.
As we listen to others and as we work the Steps, our story becomes more balanced between what happened in the past and what we are doing in the moment to change. We begin to have more than stories of abuse or neglect to talk about. When sharing in meetings, we mix reflections of our past with the changes that are occurring in our daily lives. We realize we are growing emotionally and spiritually. We are changing. We are beginning to see that we have choices.
One’s sharing or talking in ACA meetings can evolve through various stages. The following phases are a guide to assist group members on the path to learning their story. Simply recounting our abuse or neglect history without feelings and without balance is not our true story. We must take time to learn the effects of growing up in a dysfunctional home and then reflect upon how ACA can help us change. It is then that we find our loss and our purpose in life.
The timelines of these phases are flexible. Some members may be in a certain phase for a longer or shorter amount of time.