Over 600 high quality articles all written by psychologist, writer, researcher and educator David Hosier MSc, Founder of childhoodtraumarecovery.com.

Manipulative Parents: Techniques They May Use To Gain Power.

In this article, I want to look at five examples of psychological techniques a manipulative parent might make use of in order to gain power and control over his/ her offspring (there are many more than five of these techniques, but I will cover those in later articles).

Five Techniques That Manipulative Parents May Use:

1) Preventing the victim from expressing negative emotions:

With this technique, the parent maintains that it is not what they themselves have done that is the problem – according to them, the ‘real’ problem is the offspring’s reaction to what they have done.

For example, according to the manipulative parent, if the offspring is distressed and upset by what the parent has done then this is due to the ‘fact’ that the offspring is oversensitive.

Or, if the offspring is angry about how s/he has been treated by the parent, the parent may say that the offspring’s anger is caused by him/her being so unforgiving.

A final example: if the offspring feels a desperate need to express how hurt s/he is by the parent’s behaviour, and so keeps bringing the subject up in an attempt to understand and process what has happened, the parent may high-handedly dismiss the victim as ‘sounding like a broken record’.

In such cases, then, it can be seen that the manipulative parent can be skilfully adept at redirecting blame onto the victim and invalidating his/ her claims.

In this way, the offspring is forced to suppress powerful emotions at the expense of his/ her mental health – such suppression actually has the effect of intensifying the emotions, and, therefore, it is only a matter of time before they burst out again, their vigour redoubled. This process will frequently lead to the development of a vicious cycle.

2) Blaming the victim :

For example, a father who hits his son may claim that it was the son’s behaviour that ‘drove him to it’

Or a drunk parent may blame his/ her habitual drinking on the stress of bringing up the offspring.

In my own case, my mother threw me out of the home when I was thirteen. Due to my ‘behaviour’, apparently. And, whenever I cried (pretty much a daily occurrence around this age, admittedly), her favourite cutting, demeaning and belittling response (and the contemptuous tone in which it was delivered is still ringing in my ears, decades later) was that I should ‘turn off the waterworks.’

3) Inappropriate personal disclosure:

Prior to my forced eviction when I had only just become a teenager, my mother had essentially used me as her personal counsellor; indeed, she used to refer to me as her ‘Little Psychiatrist’. During these, for want of a better term, ‘counselling sessions’ she would very frequently discuss with me the problems she was invariably experiencing with the latest man she was seeing (particularly one who was highly unstable and frequently in and out of jail and lived with us for two years, but that’s another story).

She would also discuss her sex-life. She once told me, for example, that, despite the fact that she had been married to my father for about fifteen years (before they divorced when I was eight), she had only ever had sex with him twice. As she has two children (I have an older brother) this was highly unlikely (and subsequently transpired to be a falsehood). Manipulators often disclose such inappropriately intimate details to encourage the other person to feel close to them, which, in turn, makes the victim easier to take advantage of and exploit.

4) Empty words (talk is cheap):

Examples of this include:

I’d make any sacrifice for you.’

or

Your happiness is my number one priority.’

or

I think about you all the time.’

However, the manipulator’s actions fail to substantiate these claims time and time again. Indeed, the contrast between his/her words and actions is depressingly stark. Empty words, of course, cost the manipulative parent nothing but s/he knows that by using them s/he can gain great power and control over the offspring, even making the victim feel ungrateful and indebted to him/her. It can also cause mental illness in the victim by invalidating his/her own perceptions and making him/ her question his/her very sense of reality. Indeed, it places the victim in a double bind (click here to read my article about this).

5) Minimising :

For example, I was always told I was overstating the negative effect my childhood had on my psychological well-being (I have since discovered, however, that I was dramatically understating it).

Minimisation, then, involves the manipulative parent telling the offspring that they are essentially ‘making mountains out of molehills’, even ( or, indeed, especially), when the accusation is grotesquely inaccurate.

Resources:

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hypnotherapy_guilt   Dealing With The Guilt Tripper. 

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EBook:

 

 

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).


Three Critical Brain Regions Harmed By Childhood Trauma

Three critical brain regions that may be adversely affected by significant and chronic childhood trauma are :

1) The thalamus

2) The amygdala

3) The hippocampus

Below, I will briefly describe the main functions of each of these three crucial regions of the brain, together with providing a summary of the damage they may sustain to their development due early adverse experiences.

1) Possible Adverse Effects Of Childhood Trauma On The Development Of The Thalamus :

The thalamus is the part of the brain that assesses all incoming sensory data (ie. information from sound, vision, touch,  smell and taste) and then sends this information on to the appropriate, higher region of the brain for further analysis.

If a child constantly experiences trauma (for example, by frequently witnessing domestic violence perpetrated by a drunken father) the child’s thalamus can become so overwhelmed by the intensity and quantity of sense data it needs to process that it is no longer able to process it properly.

This can lead to the child’s memories of trauma becoming very fragmented.

Another effect of the thalamus being overloaded with traumatic sensory data is to shut down the cortex, resulting in impairment of rational thinking processes. Also, due to the shutting down of the cortex, many of the traumatic experiences are stored without awareness (so that they become unconscious memories).

 

Above : diagram showing the position of the thalamus, amygdala and hippocampus (together with other brain regions).

 

2) Possible Adverse Effects Of Childhood Trauma On The Development Of The Amygdala :

The amygdala is the brain region that responds to fear, threat and danger.

If a child experiences frequent fear due to childhood abuse the amygdala becomes overwhelmed by the need to process too much information. This can damage it in two main ways :

a) the amygdala becomes overactive and remains constantly ‘stuck on red alert’, leading the individual feeling constantly anxious and fearful, even at times when there is no need to feel this way, objectively speaking. An oversensitive amygdala is also thought to be a major feature of borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious psychiatric condition.

b) the amygdala shuts down as a way of protecting the individual from intolerable feelings of being in danger, which can have the effect of leaving the him/her feeling numb, empty, emotionally dead and dissociated.

3)  Possible Adverse Effects Of Childhood Trauma On The Development Of The Hippocampus:

The hippocampus is the part of the brain responsible for long-term storage of memories. If trauma is severe, the consequential production by the body of stress hormones can have a toxic effect upon this brain area, reducing its capacity by as much as 25℅.

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).


Koro (Or The Incredible Shrinking Manhood).

It has taken me a very long time indeed to pluck up the courage to write this post, such was my embarrassment; you may understand why when you read what follows below.

Male readers will be familiar with the fact that when it is very cold, or when one is extremely anxious or fearful, the penis can partially retract.

Whilst I know this now, I didn’t know it when I was ten years old.

One day, whilst staying at my father’s home for the weekend (my parents were divorced) when I was around this age, I noticed, whilst in the bathroom, that my penis seemed smaller – whether due to the bathroom being cold, or high anxiety, I don’t recall.

Immediately, I went into a terrible panic which had the effect of causing my penis to retract further into my body, thus setting up a vicious cycle.

As some readers will be aware from other posts that I have published on this site, I had already developed clear psychological problems by this age and became hysterical with fear due to the ‘fact’, as I perceived it at the time, that my penis was about to permanently disappear.

Koro_fear of penis disappearing

Terror stricken, and crying uncontrollably, I begged my father to drive me to the doctor’s. At first he refused, but, when it became abundantly clear that my hysterical condition was intensifying rather than abating, he reluctantly relented.

During the ten minute drive there, I remember, sitting in the back seat, I kept the flies of my jeans open, allowing me monitor the situation, fully expecting my penis to disappear altogether; my older brother was in the front seat, mocking me and sneering at me, absolutely true to form.

When we finally arrived at the surgery, we found that it was closed.

At this point, my memory of the incident shuts down. However, I do know I never did get to see a doctor about the incident, nor did my father ever arrange counselling for me as a result (typically) perhaps due to the fact that this might have obliged him to admit to any such counsellor that he had left me living with a highly disturbed, unbalanced and psychologically abusive mother.

As an adult, I was surprised to learn that this fear of the penis disappearing is a recognised psychological condition (referred to as Koro) related to extreme anxiety, which, for those who are interested, can be read about by clicking here

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).


Michael Jackson, Projective Identification And Childhood Trauma

projective _identification

 

It is well documented that Michael Jackson suffered childhood trauma. In interviews he described how his father would beat him when he made mistakes rehearsing with his brothers (together they made up the Jackson Five).

Such was Jackson’s fear of his father that he described how he would sometimes become physically nauseous, and actually regurgitate, when he (Michael) encountered him.

Jackson also stated in interviews how lonely he felt in his childhood, cut off from other children as he was always rehearsing or performing, and, of course, isolated by the stratospheric level of his fame.

We are, of course, all aware of the allegations that were made against Jackson, and of the ensuing public and media hysteria that surrounded them at the time.

Projective_identification

Some claim, wrongly in this case, I believe, that there is ‘no smoke without fire.’ However, he was cleared of all charges and, in the time that has passed since, evidence has emerged that this was indeed the correct outcome.

But, people still ask, why did he always wish to be friends with, and in the company of, children? Well, the answer to this may be explained by a psychological defense mechanism known as PROJECTIVE IDENTIFICATION ; I elaborate on this below :

What is meant by the term projective identification?

Projective identification is a complex psychological defense mechanism ( first described by Melanie Klein) but, in simple terms, it involves:

First, being unable to accept an aspect of oneself (and, therefore, unconsciously repressing it)

Second, seeing this part of oneself as actually being a part of another person (unconsciously projecting it onto the other person as a psychological defense mechanism)

Third, feeling an emotional connection, rapport and/or other forms of relatedness to this other person (identifying with him/her) and, unconsciously, seeing that person as a part of oneself

 

How Does This Three Stage Process Of Projective Identification Apply To Michael Jackson?

First, Jackson may have repressed from consciousness the extent of his need for love, affection and protection in early life, brought on by his abusive childhood, as the intensity of these needs was too emotionally painful to be permitted to fully permeate his consciousness.

Second, he unconsciously projected this repressed emotional neediness as a boy onto boys he met in his adult life (these boys unconsciously represented to Jackson his former, unhappy, childhood self)

 Third, he felt tenderness, affection and protectiveness towards these boys, which his former self was so cruelly denied.

In short, on an unconscious psychological level, he was trying to give his former self (represented by the boys he befriended) the parental love he missed out on as a child, the quality of which was primarily emotional, even spiritual ; not sexual.

emotional abusebrain damage caused by childhood trauma

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 


BPD And Objects Relations Theory

 childhood_trauma-bpd
What Is Meant By Objects Relations Theory?
In broad terms, it is the theory of how people interact and relate to others, especially within the family and, more especially still, how the child and mother relate to one another. 
The theory stresses how dysfunctional relationships, especially in early life, can lead to the development of psychological disorders in later life.
Kohout’s Theory:
Kohout (1971), theorised that Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) had its primary origin in the way the mother related to, and interacted with, her baby/toddler between the ages of approximately 18 months and 3 years of age.
In particular, Kohout proposed, the baby/toddler is put at high risk of developing BPD in later life if s/he is brought up by a mother who does not allow him/her to psychologically separate from her, thus depriving him/her of the opportunity to develop and assert his own unique individuality.
For example, a child brought up by a mother with BPD may develop a high risk of developing the same psychiatric condition himself in later life. This is because such mothers tend to view their child as an extension of themselves, whose purpose is to fulfil her emotional needs, rather than allowing the child to psychologically differentiate him/herself from her, develop his/her own individuality and unique identity, and to learn to tend effectively to his/her own emotional needs. It is as if the mother sucks the life out of her child for her own emotional nourishment.
BPD,_objects_relations_theory
Such mothers, Kohout suggests, can interact adequately with their baby/toddler when s/he (the baby/toddler) is in a state of neediness, but will become cold and rejecting when the child attempts to psychologically separate from her to try to develop independence and a proper, clearly defined, sense of self.
Kohout goes on to describe his theory that such a dysfunctional early upbringing leads to the child, in later life, developing a psychological defense mechanism known as ‘splitting’. I will describe what is meant by psychologists when they use the term ‘splitting’ in my next post.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

The Trauma Of Being An Adopted Child

childhood_trauma

Children who become adopted have usually previously been orphaned or seriously abused prior to the adoption. Often, too, they will have spent time in an institution such as a children’s home. Also, they may have lived for temporary periods with various foster carers.

Because of such histories, most children who are adopted will have been extremely traumatized during their early lives and, therefore, arrive at their new adoptive parents’ home with serious emotional, psychological and behavioural difficulties.

If , as alluded to above, these children have suffered significant abuse by their parents, they are likely to have developed psychologically difficulties. The same is true of children who have become orphaned. But what about the children who have come from care homes or a series of foster parents? I look at how these experiences, too, may have caused them emotional difficulties.

Possible Adverse Effects On The Child Of Living In A Care Home:

These include :

– lack of funds/resources

– effects of staff leaving if a bond has developed between him/her and the child

– effects of friends leaving (eg due to age or moving to another institution)

– being bullied at school for being ‘different’

 – lack of consistency of care due to staff shift work and the employment of temporary staff from agencies

– inexperienced staff

– failure of staff/management to prevent bullying within the care home

– effects of having to leave the care home to be adopted; this can also be highly distressing if the child has built up strong emotional bonds with care home staff and/or care home child residents

institutionalisation, making it very hard for the child to cope outside of the care home environment

– the child may feel irrational shame for being ‘exhaustive

 

NB These are just examples; the above list is not exhaustive

adoption_problems

Possible Adverse Effects Of The Child Having Previously Experienced Foster Care:

If the child comes to the adoptive home having experienced living with foster parents s/he may:

– have felt rejected and unwanted by the foster home/s s/he had lived in

– may have wanted to stay with the foster parents, causing a form a grief when s/he found out she had to leave

– inconsistency of care, if constantly moving from one foster family to another

– related to above, inconsistency of schooling and friendship groups if moves from one foster home to another involve constantly changing geographical locations

– experiencing bullying at school for being ‘different’

– the child may feel irrational shame for being ‘different’

Stress And Conflict:

Because the child who arrives at the homes of the people who intend to adopt him/her may well have been seriously emotionally damaged in ways such as those described above, their is often potential for significant conflict to develop between the intended adoptee and his/her intended adoptive parents. I explain why below:

In the new adoptive home, because of the previous stress the child has been under, perhaps causing damage to such brain areas as the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, the child may act out his/her emotional disturbance. 

In so doing, s/he may, for example, regress, spend long spells crying, self-harm, behave destructively, be prone to out bursts of extreme rage, withdraw or act violently. And, if the child is not very young, may start drinking, smoking and taking drugs.

Indeed, if the brain’s development has been disrupted, s/he is likely to be neurologically immature leading to an inability to control his/her emotions or calm down easily when experiencing stress related anger or anxiety.

Indeed, studies reveal that those who have been adopted have higher than average concentrations of cortisol (a hormone related to stress) in their blood streams. This makes such individuals particularly vulnerable to depression, anxiety, uncontrollable emotions and fear.

The adoptive parents too, perhaps feeling they can’t cope, may also develop stress related problems. With both the child and the adoptive parents under such stress, this situation can, sadly, lead to very high levels of conflict between the two parties.

It is essential, therefore, that both the adopted child and the adoptive parents have in place the best social/practical/medical/psychological support systems in place as possible. Indeed, the importance of this is difficult to overstate.

 

Resources:

Issues With Being Adopted? Help From Hypnosis Downloads. Click here.

eBook:

brain damage caused by childhood trauma

Above eBook now available from Amazon for INSTANT DOWNLOAD. Click here

NHS :

Post Adoption Support And Services. Click here.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).


My Humiliating Psychosomatic Response To Childhood Trauma

childhood_trauma

I have thought about writing this article previously on many occasions but have been prevented by what I realize is an irrational sense of shame. This helps to illustrate, I think you will see, how pervasive and enduring the legacy of such irrational shame, stemming from a traumatic childhood and universally felt by those who experienced it, can be.

The story I am about to recount relates to the phenomenon of children experiencing psychosomatic symptoms (such as headaches and, in this particular case, stomach complaints) as a result of intense stress and anxiety.

I have mentioned before that when I was about ten years old (about two years after my parents’ divorce) my mother started a relationship with a schizophrenic who was frequently in and out of prison (for things like drink driving – whilst already banned from driving for the same offence – and car theft; he stole cars to visit his family in Scotland – a family we did not know existed at the time of the incident I am just about to relate.

When he came to live with us, he told us his name was Iain McDonald; after about a year, however, this was revealed to be an alias; his real name transpired to be John Lee.

One day (when I was still about ten years old), I was sitting in the back seat of our car with my mother driving and Iain McDonald (as he was at this time still styling himself) sitting in the front passenger seat.

My mother and ‘Iain’ were involved in one of their terrifying rows and, after a while, I started to feel sharp, excruciatingly painful stomach cramps.

Due to an very urgent need to use the bathroom, I pleaded with my mother to drive me home as quickly as possible, as you might well imagine.

However, ‘Iain’ insisted my mother first drivee him to a shop, involving a time consuming and, for me, agonizing detour, to buy cigarettes.

I protested, screaming my need to get back to our house and its urgently required bathroom post haste (although I did not use that particular expression at the time, of course).

To whom did my mother defer? You guessed it, her deranged, criminal, alcoholic live-in lover (if I may be permitted to employ an expression popular at the time).

The result? Predictable : let’s just say, euphemistically, that on the way to get the cigarettes I had a deeply humiliating ‘accident

Actually, having written this, I feel a strong sense of relief. A relief I was prevented from feeling at the time, sadly.

DH. 16.5.2016.


Behavioural Activation Can Effectively Alleviate Depression.

childhood_trauma

We know that those of us who suffered severe childhood trauma are at an elevated risk of developing clinical depression as adults. Indeed, my own depression necessitated hospital admissions and electro-convulsive shock therapy as I’ve written about elsewhere on this site.

One of the hallmarks of serious, clinical depression is reduced ability to perform everyday tasks and activities. Again, in my own case, I was often confined to my bed for much of the day, stopped washing, rarely shaved and stopped brushing my teeth.

I know, therefore, that when very ill with depression, even basic tasks can feel impossible to undertake – indeed, even contemplating having to carry them out can, when one is so ill, create severe anxiety and distress. For those who have not experienced clinical depression, this is almost impossible to imagine or comprehend; such lack of empathy leaves one feeling devastatingly alone and terrifyingly emotionally imprisoned, compounding the problem.

Sadly, this loss of ability to carry out everyday tasks and activities tends to perpetuate and even intensify one’s depressive state, thus creating a vicious cycle.

behavioural_activation

Above : Avoidant behaviour can set off a vicious circle, whilst behavioural reactivation can set off a virtuous circle.

 

Behavioural Activation :

The psychologist Lewisohn has carried out research showing how, by reactivating the behaviours we used to carry out before severe depressive illness struck, we can alleviate our depressive symptoms, or, indeed, rid ourselves of the condition entirely.

Lewisohn suggests changing our behaviours may be more effective in treating depression even than changing our thinking style (as occurs in cognitive therapy). In other words, he postulates that:

Behaviour Therapy (changing the way we behave)

may be a more effective way of treating depression than:

Cognitive Therapy (changing the way we think)

 

In order to test this hypothesis, Lewisohn carried out the following research study:

– 200 hundred hospital outpatients suffering from clinical depression were recruited into the study.

– these 200 individuals were the randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups

– these four treatment groups were as follows :

1) individuals were treated with anti-depressants

2) individuals were treated with a placebo

3) individuals were treated with cognitive therapy (to change their thinking styles)

4) individuals were treated with behavioural therapy (to change how they behaved each day)

Results of above research study :

It was found that those in the behaviour therapy group, on average :

– gained more benefit than those in the cognitive therapy group and placebo group

– gained a benefit equal to the benefit those treated with antidepressants derived

Other studies have produced similar results.

In relation to this study, Lewiston devised a therapy known as ‘behaviour activation.’

What Is Behaviour Activation Therapy?

In basic terms, this therapy involves the depressed person :

a) listing how his/her illness has changed his/her behaviour. For example :

– stopped socializing

– stopped exercising

– spend far more time in bed

– stopped doing housework

– reduced self-catering

b) Then, in relation to list, set goals s/he would ideally achieve. For example :

– socialize as much as before the illness struck

– go to gym for an hour, every other day

– limit self to eight hours a day in bed

– keep house reasonably clean

– care for self in same way as prior to becoming ill

Once these goals have been identified, it is necessary to undertake behaviours that help one achieve them.

Now, clearly, achieving all these goals cannot happen immediately!

Therefore, it is usually necessary to take small steps. For example, if trying to attain the goal of going to the gym, for an hour, every other day, one may start off by going to the gym for twenty minutes once per week, then very gradually increase this rate.

The importance of adjusting our behaviour positively and increasing our activity levels to help improve our mood seems hard to overstate. Even by starting with tiny steps, a powerfully therapeutic virtuous cycle may be set in motion.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).


BPD – A Masked Illness : And Why It’s Hard To Identify

Bpd_and_childhood_trauma

We have seen from other posts how childhood trauma, especially multiple and cumulative trauma, is strongly associated with the development of borderline personality disorder (BPD) in adult life.

However, many BPD sufferers are at risk of going undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

The reason for this is that BPD can generate a number of symptoms associated with other conditions that mask the underlying illness (BPD).

Sadly, because of this, BPD can go undiagnosed for years, decades or a whole lifetime. This means many go without the proper treatment they require.

When one considers that approximately ten per cent of those diagnosed with BPD end their lives by suicide, the full, tragic implications of this failure of accurate diagnosis can be appreciated.

What Symptoms Of BPD Can Mask It, Thus Making It Less Likely To Be Accurately Diagnosed?

They include :

– excessive use of alcohol, leading to a diagnosis of alcoholism

self-harm / suicidal thoughts, leading to a diagnosis of depression

instability of mood, leading to diagnosis of cyclothymic or bipolar disorder

aggression/violence, leading to diagnosis of sociopathy (sometimes still referred to as psychopathy)

eating problems, leading to diagnosis of anorexia nervosa or bulimia

Whilst this list is not exhaustive, it represents some of the ways in which BPD can seemingly, upon preliminary invetigations, present itself as other psychological conditions, leading to misdiagnosis or incomplete/partial diagnosis.

bpd

Because, too, many with BPD are able to work successfully, and/or socially integrate successfully, much of the time without displaying blatant signs of psychological pathology, identifying BPD in individuals becomes trickier still.

However, such individuals are still likely to display tell-tale signs of the disorder due to sudden, dramatic and unpredictable shifts in mood (such as explosions of rage) which may, by the layman (or even the professional) be put down to ‘a difficult temperament’.

In order to correctly diagnose BPD it is necessary to look at the whole tapestry of the interplay of the individual’s behaviours and emotions in the context of their lives as a whole, with a particular focus on their relationship history (tends to be tumultuous), mood stability/instability, drug/alcohol use, sexual history (tends to be promiscuous and high risk), internal/mental life (often marked by feelings of chronic emptiness and lack of identity), emotional reactiveness/liability, and, vitally, of course, experience of childhood trauma.

In short, accurate diagnosis calls for a holistic approach; only then will all BPD sufferers get the treatment they both desperately need and deserve.

Resources:

 

BPD

Above eBook now available on Amazon for instant download. Click here.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).


Over 600 high quality articles all written by psychologist, writer, researcher and educator David Hosier MSc, Founder of childhoodtraumarecovery.com.