The Association Between Childhood Trauma and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

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relationship-between-childhood-trauma-and-borderline-personality-disorder

THE ASSOCIATION BETWEEN CHILDHOOD TRAUMA AND BORDELINE PERSONALITY DISORDER.

 

Many research studies have shown that individuals who have suffered childhood trauma and/or neglect are very considerably more likely to develop borderline personality disorder (BPD) as adults than those who were fortunate enough to have experienced a relatively stable childhood.

it is thought marilyn munroe suffered from BPD

It is thought Marilyn Monroe suffered from BPD

 

WHAT IS BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER (BPD)?

 

BPD sufferers experience a range of symptoms which are split into 9 categories. These are:

1) Extreme swings in emotions
2) Explosive anger
3) Intense fear of rejection/abandonment sometimes leading to frantic efforts to maintain a relationship
4) Impulsiveness
5) Self-harm
6) Unstable self-concept (not really knowing ‘who one is’)
7) Chronic feelings of ‘emptiness’ (often leading to excessive drinking/eating etc ‘to fill the vacuum’)
8) Dissociation ( a feeling of being ‘disconnected from reality’)
9) Intense and highly volatile relationships

For a diagnosis of BPD to be given, the individual needs to suffer from at least 5 of the above.

frequently rejected in childhood, BPD sufferers live in terror of abandoment

frequently rejected in childhood, BPD sufferers live in terror of abandonment

A person’s childhood experiences has an enormous effect on his/her mental health in adult life. How parents treat their children is, therefore, of paramount importance.

BPD is an even more likely outcome, if, as well as suffering trauma through invidious parenting, the individual also has a BIOLOGICAL VULNERABILITY.

In relation to an individual’s childhood, research suggests that the 3 major risk factors are:

– trauma/abuse
– damaging parenting styles
– early separation or loss (eg due to parental divorce or the death of the parent/s)

Of course, more than one of these can befall the child. Indeed, in my own case, I was unlucky enough to be affected by all three. And, given my mother was highly unstable, it is very likely I also inherited a biological/genetic vulnerability.

 

EXAMPLES OF DAMAGING PARENTING STYLES:

 

1) Dysfunctional and disorganized – this can occur when there is a high level of marital discord or conflict. It is important, here, to point out that even if parents attempt to hide their disharmony, children are still likely to be adversely affected as they tend to pick up on subtle signs of tension.

Chaotic environments can also impact very badly on children. Examples are:

– constant house moves
– parental alcoholism/illicit drug use
– parental mental illness and instability/verbal aggression

 

2) Emotional invalidation. Examples include:

– a parent telling their child they wish he/she could be more like his/her brother/sister/cousin etc.
– a parent telling the child he is ‘just like his father’ (meant disparagingly). This invalidates the child’s unique identity.
– telling a child s/he shouldn’t be upset/crying over something, therefore invalidating the child’s reaction and implying the child’s having such feelings is inappropriate.
– telling the child he/she is exaggerating about how bad something is. Again, this invalidates the child’s perception of how something is adversely affecting him/her.
– a parent telling a child to stop feeling sorry for him/herself and think about good things instead. Again, this invalidates the child’s sadness and encourages him/her to suppress emotions.

Invalidation of a child’s emotions, and undermining the authenticity of their feelings, can lead the child to start demonstrating his/her emotions in a very extreme way in order to gain the recognition he/she previously failed to elicit.

 

3) Trauma and abuse – people with BPD have very frequently been abused. However, not all children who are abused develop BPD due to having a biological/genetic RESILIENCE and/or having good emotional support and validation in other areas of their lives (eg at school or through a counselor).

Trauma inflicted by a family member has been shown by research to have a greater adverse impact on the child than abuse by a stranger. Also, as would be expected, the longer the traumatic situation lasts, the more likely it is that the child will develop BPD in adult life.

 

4) Separation and loss – here, the trauma is caused, in large part, due to the child’s bonding process development being disrupted. Children who suffer this are much more likely to become anxious and develop ATTACHMENT DISORDERS as adults which can disrupt adult relationships and cause the sufferer to have an intense fear of abandoment in adult life. They may, too, become very ‘clingy’, fearful of relationships, or a distressing mixture of the two.

This site examines possible therapeutic interventions for BPD and ways the BPD sufferer can help himself or herself to reduce BPD symptoms. It also discusses many other topics related to the experience and effects of childhood trauma (see CATEGORIES in sidebar).

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

 

PTSD Symptoms : Effect on the PTSD Sufferer’s Intimate Relationships

PTSD_effects_on_relationships

I have written elsewhere on this site of the connection between the experience of childhood trauma and the later development of complex post traumatic stress syndrome (eg click here).

In this article, however, I want to examine how a person’s PTSD symptoms affect the lives of their intimate partners.

Individuals who develop PTSD are likely to undergo extreme changes in their personalities. These changes may include:

– becoming emotionally withdrawn/shutting down emotionally/becoming emotionally detached

– becoming generally taciturn and non-communicative (especially in relation to ‘clamming up’ if asked to talk about their traumatic experiences that have led to the development of PTSD).

– becoming prone to dramatic mood fluctuations (often this may include outbursts of rage, anger, aggression and sometimes physical violence)

– developing a desire to avoid social interaction/loss of interest in social activity

– developing a fear of leaving the house

– developing a fear of being left alone

– developing a pattern of drug/alcohol abuse

– a change in sex drive (such as a loss of sexual desire).

effect of PTSD on relationships

Many PTSD sufferers express similar sentiments to those shown above.

EFFECTS OF ABOVE SYMPTOMS ON THE PTSD SUFFERER’S INTIMATE PARTNERS:

The partner of the PTSD sufferer may feel helpless and impotent, angry and/or fearful (especially if the symptoms include proneness to aggression/violence).

S/he may, too, become resentful if s/he is forced to stay in with the partner (due to his/her fear of being left alone) and become socially isolated him/herself.

This in turn can lead to depression and anxiety and, in a desperate attempt by the partner to try to cope, an unhealthy, excessive reliance upon alcohol and/or drugs

If the PTSD sufferer has lost interest in sex, this can make the partner feel unloved, rejected and undesirable, particularly as the loss of interest in sex is likely to be accompanied by emotional withdrawal/’shutting down’ by the individual with PTSD.

Indeed, research has shown that those living with individuals who are suffering from PTSD can sometimes, as a result, develop PTSD symptoms themselves.

As would be expected, the research has also shown that the more severe an individual’s PTSD symptoms are, the more the intimate partner’s own psychological condition is likely to be damaged.

Finally, further research has also shown that men with PTSD are more likely than others (all else being equal) to have marital problems and are more likely to contribute to the whole family of which he is a part becoming dysfunctional.

Resources:

For expert advice about PTSD, click here to visit the relevant page of NICE.ORG

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 

Narcissism : The Sub-types.

 

 narcissism-subtypes

I have already written several articles on the possible adverse effects of having been brought up by a narcissistic parent, including the fact that this may lead us ourselves to develop narcissistic tendencies. In this article, I want to look at narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) in rather more detail by examining its subtypes.

 

1) ACQUIRED SITUATIONAL NARCISSISM – this type of narcissism can develop as a result of an individual acquiring great wealth , celebrity and/or status.

In the case of celebrities, for example, their narcissistic tendencies may be encouraged due to the adoring, sometimes worshipful, behaviour of fans, attention from the media, the sycophantic manner in which they are treated by deferential and submissive assistants, and the obsequiousness of general hangers- on and ‘Yes-men.’

If the person had incipient narcissistic traits prior to achieving celebrity status, these may become exacerbated by his/her new station in life leading to the development of full- blown narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

2) AGGRESSIVE NARCISSISM – a person with this type of narcissism has a grandiose view of him/herself, is prone to pathological lying, lacks empathy, lacks the ability to feel remorse, is cunning and manipulative and, not uncommonly, will display a superficial charm (it overlaps – ie. has features in common with – antisocial personality disorder.

3) CODEPENDENT/INVERTED NARCISSISM – the individual who suffers from this psychological condition is drawn towards/attracted to classical narcissists, feeding their emotional needs and becoming codependent upon them

4) COLLECTIVE/GROUP NARCISSISM – this syndrome entails an individual developing a grandiose, highly superior and elevated view of both him/herself and the group to which s/he belongs.

When all group members view themselves and their group in this elitist manner the group itself may morph into a narcissistic entity.

Ethnocentrism is an example of this; it involves a whole culture or ethnic group regarding itself as far superior to others, rather like many of those who oversaw the building of the British Empire.

5) CONVERSATIONAL NARCISSISM – in the case of this form of narcissism the individual has a great need to talk about him/herself and, if the conversation diverts from this topic, s/he is likely to make efforts to revert it back to being about him/herself.

6) CORPORATE NARCISSISM – this refers to an individual who runs a corporation and is obsessed with profits to the extent of being prepared to act morally unscrupulously and even criminally.  S/he is not adverse to exploiting those who can help him/her achieve this goal (eg. employees).

Whilst such a strategy can be effective in the short-term, in the long term it tends to alienate employees and the general public.

corporate_narcissism

Mr Burns : The ultimate corporate narcissist. Excellent.

7) CROSS-CULTURAL NARCISSISM – this refers to individuals who are immigrants but are also fiercely and aggressively of the view that the original culture from which they came is vastly superior to the new culture which imbues his/her new geographically location.

8) MALIGNANT NARCISSISM – the malignant narcissist can be regarded as a hybrid of a classical narcissist and someone suffering from antisocial personality disorder. Additionally, s/he frequently displays paranoid traits.

Such individuals often go to extreme lengths to gain, and hold onto, power over, and control of, others.

They are likely, too, to despise, ridicule and display general contempt and disdain for anyone who has authority over them.

If it comes to the choice between another person liking them or being afraid of them, they will tend to prefer the latter scenario.

Their lust for power and success leads them to becoming trapped on a treadmill, forever chasing more of these things and never being satisfied with the extent to which they already have them.

Because of the obsessive nature of the condition, and the individual’s inability to ever feel satisfied, it often leads to psychological breakdown and illness, hence its name: malignant narcissism.

9) MEDICAL NARCISSISM – this refers to people in the medical profession, such as surgeons, who have an unhealthy, powerful drive to appear utterly competent and infallible at all times; it is unhealthy as it can lead such individuals to hide and cover up their errors so that their patients and colleagues are not made aware of them. This is a form of negligence which may, of course, lead to suboptimal treatment of patients, or, in extreme cases, serious harm to them.

Those who suffer from this syndrome are sometimes referred to as having a ‘god-complex’.

10) PHALLIC NARCISSISM – those who suffer from this hold themselves in extremely high regard, tend to have great social aspirations (a desperate desire to ascend the ‘social ladder’), are desperate to obtain the admiration of others, are self-promoting, prone to boastfulness, vain and highly sensitive in relation to how they are perceived by others. They are, too, often reckless.

Whilst determined to achieve their goals and outwardly self-assured, their condition arises from a drive to overcompensate for inner feelings of deep, personal inadequacy.

11) SEXUAL NARCISSISM – individuals with this condition perceive themselves as having great sexual prowess and also have a strong sense of entitlement regarding having sex with others, as if it were their natural right and due. This can lead to sexually predatory behaviour.

Again, this type of narcissism is a form of overcompensation for having low self-esteem and those afflicted by it usually have problems with experiencing emotional and psychological closeness/intimacy with others.

12) SPIRITUAL NARCISSISM – people with this condition are of the view that their religious/spiritual beliefs make them superior (especially morally) to others. Essentially, their religious beliefs feed their ego (and, again, this is likely to be a compensatory measure caused by an inner sense of inadequacy).

13) UNPRINCIPLED NARCISSISM – people with this condition have very little or no conscience, are unempathetic and uninterested in the feelings and needs of others, are duplicitous, devious, dishonest, unscrupulous, amoral, interpersonally exploitative and regard life as a game that must be won at almost any cost. Highly competitive, the quote ( I forget from whom):

‘It is not enough for me to succeed, my friends must fail’

is, perhaps, a not altogether inaccurate summation of their attitude to life.

14) AMOUROUS NARCISSIST – individuals with this type of narcissism view themselves as highly sexually desirable and use their sexuality to manipulate and control others. Seduction, for them, is a game and they need to make sexual conquests to give themselves a sense of self-worth.

They tend to exploit their partners and can often be what are colloquially referred to as ‘heartbreakers’.

15) FANATIC NARCISSISM – individuals of this type have low self-esteem which is usually due to having experienced significant childhood trauma. They compensate for lack of success in their lives through living a rich fantasy life in which they may imagine achieving great things and gaining unlimited social admiration. They also tend to have paranoid traits.

16) COMPENSATORY NARCISSISM – this type overlaps with/underpins many of the above types of narcissism. Those suffering from the condition have feelings of inadequacy stemming from traumatic childhood experiences and retreat into a fantasy world in which they can compensate for their failure in real life by being a great success in their internal, imaginative worlds.

They are often passive a aggressive and, because they are very concerned about what others think ofthem, are prone to experiencing high levels of social anxiety.

17) CEREBRAL NARCISSISM – with this type, the person holds themselves in excessively high regard, and views him/herself as superior to others, for the intellectual abilities of which s/he perceives him/herself to be in possession.

18) SOMATIC NARCISSISM – a person with this condition is besotted by his/her own body/body image and highly physically self-admiring. S/he regards his/her deeply attractive body ( according to his/her own estimations) as bestowing upon him/herself superior status compared to those cruelly devoid of similar physical attributes.

Resources:

Hypnotherapy MP3/Instant download. DEALING WITH NARCISSISTS : click here.

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Above eBook now available on Amazon for instant download. Click here. (Other titles available).

 

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

 

Childhood Trauma : Its Link With Future Self-sabotaging Behaviour.

narcissistic-rage

I have already published on this site several articles explaining how, if we have suffered significant childhood trauma, we are far more likely than the average person (all else being equal) to behave in a self-sabotaging manner and to become, to use the colloquial term, ‘our own worst enemy.’ Certainly, that was true of me for more years than I care to recollect.

stop_self_sabotaging

A recent study, carried out by the researcher Van der Kolk and his colleagues, looked at this link between having suffered childhood trauma and the subsequent development of self-destructive and self-damaging behaviour.

Each person in the sample of 74 individuals who participated in the study had a diagnosable psychiatric condition (either bipolar disorder or a personality disorder such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) and each were monitored over various lengths of time (the average length of time and that a participant in the study was monitored was four years).

During the period of time that each individual was monitored the researchers recorded all instances of self-destructive/self-sabotaging behaviour (such as substance misuse, bulimia, anorexia, deliberate self-injury and suicide attempts).

The extent to which each of these individuals had experienced childhood trauma was measured by their own self-reports of their childhood experiences.

stop_self_sabotaging

RESULTS:

It was found that those who had suffered childhood trauma (including neglect and separation from the primary carer) were far more likely than average to self-injure (by cutting self), to attempt suicide and to behave, in general, in self-destructive ways.

It was also found that those who cut themselves did so in order achieve a dissociative state (in this case, the dissociative state is induced to distract the self from unbearable mental anguish by inducing physical pain which is more tolerable and, therefore, preferable to the mental pain. (To read my article about dissociation, click here).

 

FURTHER FINDINGS FROM THE STUDY:

Individuals who participated in the study were least likely to recover from their proneness to behave in self-destructive ways if, as a result of their childhood trauma, they had developed problems forming and maintaining relationships with others in their adult lives (click here to read my article on how these two things can be inter-related).

It has been suggested that those individuals who have a propensity to self-cut and/or attempt suicide find stress extremely difficult to cope with as adults as it triggers memories and feelings associated with their particular childhood trauma.

Resources :

Stop Self-sabotaging Hypnosis MP3 available for immediate download. Click here.

 

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

The Narcissistic Defence (And Why It Is Self-Defeating).

rp_childhood-trauma-fact-sheet9.png

If we frequently felt threatened when we were growing up, it is likely we have developed a dysfunctional response to perceived danger, threat and stress now that we are adults. Many of us may find we react in a more volatile way to such experiences compared to the average person (all else being equal).

This is likely to be because our childhood experiences have caused us to have difficulty regulating (controlling) our emotions ( in some cases this can be because our childhood experiences have adversely affected the development of a brain region involved in the processing of our emotions ; this brain region is called the AMYGDALA – click here to read my article on this).

In relation to this, not untypically, we may find we have an exaggerated and augmented fight response  to perceived danger (both physical and psychological). If this is the case, it is possible, too, that we have developed commensurate narcissistic traits as a psychological defence mechanism : the narcissistic defence.

The individual who uses the narcissistic defence is, usually on an unconscious level, using power and control to prevent abandonment and secure love; s/he is responding to the threat of abandonment with anger. As already stated, this can be as a result of having felt frequently threatened as a child, but, also, especially, if too, we were spoiled and given insufficient limits during our childhood or were allowed to imitate an aggressive, narcissistic parent.

Individuals using the narcissistic defence may frequently display contempt for others, intimidating them for the purposes of their own psychological needs. They may, too, see others less as individuals in their own right and more as extensions of themselves.

Often, too, they will form relationships with subservient and submissive types in order to more easily dominate and control them. As a result, the dominated party may lose all sense of his/her identity and lose touch with his/her own needs, preoccupied as s/he is in catering to the endless psychological demands and needs of the narcissistic partner.

However, such individuals who have developed this narcissistic defence are frequently not true, full-blown, card carrying narcissists (ie. they would not meet the diagnostic threshold to be diagnosed as suffering from narcissistic personality disorder).

Whilst full-blown narcissists are very hard to treat, the type described above is amenable to therapeutic intervention. They can be helped to understand that their criticisms, intimidation of, and contempt for others alienates potential intimates.

narcissistic_defence

Their demanding, over-cotrolling behaviour leads to a vicious cycle: feelings of abandonment leads them to making excessive use of power tactics and controlling behaviour; this,  in turn, causes the person so treated to be scared away and to, in effect, emotionally withdraw; this then leads to feelings of even greater abandonment leading to even more extreme controlling behaviour and so on as infinitum…

THERAPY :

The individual who uses the narcissistic defence needs to redirect hishis/her anger, which s/he displaces on to undeserving others, onto how his/her childhood was managed resulting in his/her intimacy-destroying behaviour. His/her misdirected anger is an acting out of his/her sadness and hurt in relation to his/her childhood. Such individuals need to allow themselves to be sad about their childhood. It may also be necessary for them to work at developing their empathetic skills.

childhood_emotional_abuse

Above eBook now available from Amazon. Click here.

(Other titles available).

 

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

 

Are You A Narcissist?

 

rp_childhood-trauma-fact-sheet13.png

I was born into the Jewish faith but I converted to Naricissism’

- Woody Allen

If we were brought up by a narcissistic parent, it is possible that we ourselves have developed narcissistic traits by the processes of modelling and learning.

If you want to get an indication of whether this may be true of you, read through the following statements. The statements do NOT make up a diagnostic tool, but narcissists tend to answer AGREE with the following statements:

1)  I regard myself as an extraordinary person

2) I can easily make people believe anything I say

3) I like to be complimented

4) People are always interested in my stories

5) I like to show off

6) It’s important to me that I amount to something in the eyes of the world

7) I regard myself as having very good leadership potential

8) I like to look at/show off my body.

9) I regard myself as a special person

10) I am extremely concerned that others perceive me as a great success

nacissism test

Above – The Ancient Greek Mythological Youth – Narcissus

11) I am very concerned that I achieve wordly success

12) I know that I’m destined to be successful

13) If someone dares me to do something, it’s very likely that I’ll do it

14) If I get into trouble I can almost always talk my way out of it

15) I enjoy being the centre of attention

16) If I ruled the world, I’d be able to make it a better place for people to live in

17) I enjoy being in authority over others

18) I am a good manipulator and am capable of manipulating others when necessary

19) Respect from others is my due and I insist upon getting it

20) I must get all I deserve and will not rest until I get it

21) I very much desire to be a powerful person

22) I believe that I am a natural leader and very much wish to be one

23) It is my right to live my life precisely as I choose

24) I think I would make an excellent subject for a biography and would like it if, one day, someone wrote it.

25) When I am in public I like to be the centre of attention and resent it if people fail to notice me

26) I am a far more capable person than average.

 

THE ACTUAL DIAGNOSTIC CRITERIA FOR NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER, FROM THE DSM V (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V) ARE AS FOLLOWS:

– grandiose sense of self-importance

– expects to be seen as superior (though lacks commensurate achievements)

– preoccupied with fantasies of enormous success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love

– sees self as ‘special’ and as someone who should only associate with other special/high status individuals

– has a strong sense of ‘entitlement’/expects others to treat him/her especially favourably

– interpersonally exploitative

– lacks empathy (does not identifwith/recognize needs/feelings of others)

– frequently envies others but also imagines others envy him/her

– fequently displays arrogant behaviour

Above adapted from DSM V.

NB. Proper diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder can ONLY be made by a suitably qualified professional. 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc: PGDE(FAHE)

Why Parents Emotionally Abuse and Its Effects

 

Alice miller

To begin this article, it is worth revisiting what is meant by parental emotional abuse. According to the psychologist, Barlow (2010), emotional abuse of children by parents may take the following forms:

– the parent is emotionally unavailable to the child (click here to read my article on emotionally unavailable parents).

– the parent interacts with the child in a manner that is inappropriate to the child’s developmental stage. This may mean expecting the child TO COPE WITH THINGS/BEHAVE IN WAYS s/he is not emotionally mature enough to or speaking and acting in ways in front of the child that are inappropriate given the child’s stage of emotional development.

– not regarding the child as an individual with his/her own unique needs – eg. by instead treating the child as a kind of ‘extension of the self’ to meet own (ie parent’s) selfish needs such as emotional support (this is sometimes known as ‘parentifying’ the child- click here to read my article on this).

–  failure to encourage the child to become emotionally adaptive (eg to make friends and socialise positively with peers)

– intentionally scaring, demeaning, verbally abusing, terrorising, rejecting, isolating, exploiting, corrupting, ignoring the child

 

WHY EMOTIONAL ABUSE OF CHILDREN BY PARENTS TAKES PLACE.

Reasons for this include:

– the parent does not understand the normal developmental stages of the child

– poor bonding has taken place between the child and the parent

– the parent is to exhausted by work/too involved with own life to be emotionally available to the child

– parent forgets to give the child praise and encouragement or is not aware of the importance of doing so

– the parent expects the child to act as his/her carer (either emotionally or practically)

– parents take out their own anger and frustration on the child

– the parent is suffering from stress (eg because of financial worries caused by unemployment

– the parents themselves were brought up by poor role models

 

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS THAT A CHILD IS BEING EMOTIONALLY ABUSED?

The child may be:

– withdrawn

– prone to dramatic behavioural changes

– anxious

– clingy

– depressed

– aggressive

– suffer from sleep problems (insomnia, nightmares, night terrors)

– suffer from an eating disorder

– wet the bed

– soil clothes

– take dangerous risks

– miss school

– develop obsessive behaviours

– become dependent upon drugs and/or alcohol

– start to self-harm

– develop suicidal ideation

– bully other children

– mistreat animals

– suffer impaired language development

– have problems controlling emotions

– develop inappropriate emotional responses

– develop problems and expressing emotions

– become prone to intense, angry outbursts (especially if ridiculed/berated at home)

– become unable to form healthy relationships with others (particularly if deprived of love/care/affection at home)

– have low life I satisfaction

– develop physical/psychosomatic health problems

– lose self-respect/not care how they act/not care how they are perceived by others

– not care what happens to them

– intentionally (or due to subconscious motivation) alienate themselves from others/self-isolate by behaving in ways that make others dislike them

 

effects_of_child_abuse

Above eBook now available on Amazon for INSTANT DOWNLOAD. Other titles available. Click HERE.

 

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

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Alice Miller: The Link Between Childhood Trauma and Later Violent Behaviour

Alice miller

World renowned expert in child psychology, Alice Miller, drew strong attention to the fact that emotional and psychological abuse could have just as dramatically adverse effect on a person’s life as other forms of abuse.

She was also of the view that most individuals’ mental health conditions were as a result of being treated abusively by their parents/primary caregivers.

She also believed that people developed addiction problems and/or turned to crime due to having experienced significant parental abuse.

Emotional and psychological abuse is sometimes blatant and obvious; however, often it is subtle, insidious, hard to precisely identify or pin down. For example, much of human communication is conducted through non-verbal means such as tone of voice/intonation, facial expression and body language. The power of nonverbal communication should not be underestimated – its effects can be psychologically devastating.

alice-miller

Above: Alice Miller, psychologist. 1923-2010.

Indeed, I recall, more vividly than I would wish to, how, not yet a teenager, I would return home from school and, as I approached the front door, would sometimes catch the eye of my mother standing at the kitchen window doing the washing up. The look she would give me I can only describe as a mixture of hostility, contempt and disgust. When I rang the doorbell she would open it only ajar an inch and beat a hasty retreat, her back to me as I entered the house to be met with stoney silence and seething, palpable resentment.

Another reason why emotional and psychological abuse can be hard to identify is that the child (or, indeed, the adult reflecting upon his/her childhood) may, as a means of psychological, unconscious self-defence, be in a state of denial in regarding the abuse s/he suffered. Such a state of denial may persist well into adulthood or even for a lifetime.

This situation is tragic as the individual who is in denial may have experienced severe emotional and behavioural problems throughout his/her whole life, but, not knowing the true cause, was unable to effectively deal with his/her difficulties.

The situation is complicated further by the fact that many psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors and therapists are themselves parents and may, therefore, be reluctant to support the idea that parents are almost always the cause of their offsprings’ psychological condition as they would then have to blame themselves for any psychiatric problems their own children had.

Controversially, Miller was against the idea of adult children forgiving their parents. She felt this would lead to the repressed anger the individual felt towards his/her parent/s being DISPLACED onto SCAPEGOATS. This repressed anger may be acted out in the form of physical violence.

Indeed, she went so far as to suggest that Adolf Hitler displaced the rage he felt towards his abusive father onto Jews, homosexuals, the mentally ill and other victims of the Holocaust; and that many wars started due to world leaders displacing their own rage, acquired during their own childhoods, onto the enemy.

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

Emotional Incest

emotional-incest

Emotional incest, also sometimes referred to as covert incest or psychic incest, occurs when a parent expects/forces the child to take on the emotional role of an adult/spouse.

Although it does NOT involve sexual intimacy between the child and the parent, it does involve intense emotional intimacy which would far more usually be expected to take place between sexually involved, adult partners.

In my own case, my mother used me to act as her ‘counsellor’ from when I was very young (about 11 years old) and would reinforce this behaviour by referring to me as her ‘Little Psychiatrist.’

emotional- incest

The child, then, is used to satisfy the parent’s needs. I provide examples of such needs below:

– advice

– companionship

– ego fulfillment (especially if the parent is narcissistic – click here to read my article about the effects of narcissistic parents on their children)

– counselling

– intimacy

– the need to have a confidante

– the need to have a ‘best friend’

– the need to have a substitute spouse

– the need to have a substitute parent (indeed, some parents ‘parentify’ their own children – click to read my article about this

– emotional support

Because the focus within the family dynamic is on the child meeting the needs of the parent, the child’s own needs are likely to be neglected. Examples of such neglected needs include:

– protection

– guidance

– nurturance

– affection

– affirmation

– discipline

– structure

ADVERSE EFFECTS ON CHILD OF BEING FORCED TO PARTICIPATE IN AN EMOTIONALLY INCESTUOUS RELATIONSHIP:

– crisis in identity – may vacillate between seeing self as talented and worthless/having high and low self-esteem

-isolation from peers – this can mean the child grows up without developing necessary social skills

– learns to repress/suppress own needs

– development of a compulsion to be ‘special’/excel – as it was learnt in childhood being ‘special’ was the only way to gain the parent’s approval

– become out of touch with own feelings

– personal boundaries fluctuate between being too strong and too weak

– a fear of intimacy and personal commitment (due to unconscious fear of being exploited in the same way as was exploited by the ‘needy’ parent or due to fear that any such relationship will become ‘suffocating’ like the childhood relationship with the parent

– a compulsion may develop to recreate another intense relationship in adulthood (repetition compulsion) or a relationship with a selfish/self-absorbed person (again, repetition compulsion)

– anger

– guilt

– addictions ( eg alcohol, drugs, gambling)

– problems with emotional intimacy

– problems with sexual intimacy

WHICH PARENTS ARE AT GREATEST RISK OF ENMESHING THEIR CHILD INTO AN EMOTIONALLY INCESTUOUS RELATIONSHIP?

– single parents

– divorced parents

– unhappily married parents

– isolated parents with little social support from other adults

– narcissistic parents ( click here to read my article on this)

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Above eBook now available for immediate download. Click here.

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