Just because we are now adults, it does not necessarily follow that we will be completely free of emotional abuse by our parent, perhaps because s/he suffers from borderline personality disorder (BPD), narcissism or some other disorder of personality.
This is especially true if our relationship with our parent is still operating according to a parent-child dynamic because it has become ‘stuck’ at this stage due to its dysfunctionality.
THE EMOTIONAL INSULATION STRATEGY :
The EMOTIONAL INSULATION STRATEGY involves creating a mental ‘barrier’ to protect ourselves from the potentially devastating effects of our parent’s psychological assaults on us. By putting up this ‘barrier’, it reduces the chances that our parent will be able to manipulate us and hurt us.
Before I describe the technique, it is worth giving a word of warning : it is important to remember that we should not use the technique indiscriminately (i.e. in situations with people other than our parent who are not prone to being psychologically abusive) as this would have the undesirable effect of limiting our ability to empathize with such people.
Below I give some suggestions about how to ‘build’ an emotional ‘barrier’ and thereby achieve emotional insulation. However, the particular strategy that you personally employ should be determined by what you feel works best for you :
STEP ONE – THE USE OF VISUALIZATION :
The first step is to use VISUALIZATION to ‘construct’ a barrier that will serve to protect you from anything threatening from ‘outside’ (e.g. a parent’s verbal abuse). Types of barriers that people mentally construct often include, for example :
– a wall of mirrors which reflect back onto the abuser what is being said
– a thick, concrete wall
– bullet proof glass
– a force field
– a large, steel shield
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, and you may well have other ideas which you think will work better for you
STEP TWO : PRACTICING VISUALIZING THE BARRIER :
To use this strategy effectively, it is very helpful to invest some time practicing the visualization technique you are going to use prior to when you think you will need it. This is because, simply, the more you practice it the easier and more effective the technique will be for you.
NB You are more likely to be able to use this technique effectively if you incorporate detail into the image you choose to visualize, such as its shape, colour, texture etc.
It is also very helpful to imagine the image of the barrier (and ‘put it in place’) just before the start of your interaction with the difficult parent as it is more difficult to initiate the strategy in the middle of a conversation which is becoming/has already become unpleasant.
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)