It has been my experience that by the time a child being raised in an addictive family reaches the age of nine, he has a well-developed denial system about his feelings and his perceptions of what is happening in the home. Children do whatever they possibly can to bring stability and consistency into their lives. They will behave in any manner if it makes it easier for them to cope and survive. Learning to focus on the environment, or on other people, or learning to detach oneself from the family, assists children in not feeling.
Children learn not to share and, inevitably, deny their feelings. Family members frequently discount and invalidate their feelings. “You have nothing to be afraid of.” … when in fact they may very well have something to be afraid of. “You have nothing to be angry about.”… when there are often many reasons to be angry, leading to emotional isolation. Being alone with feelings of fear, worry, embarrassment, guilt, anger, loneliness, etc., leads to a state of desperation or being overwhelmed. Such a state of being does not lend itself to survival, so children learn other ways to cope. Some learn how to discount and repress feelings, while others learn simply not to feel. These children do have access to their feelings, but only with the help of a trusted person. For the majority of children growing up with addiction, however, trust and trusted persons are not a consistent part of their lives.