Category Archives: Relationships

Why Does Family Conflict Harm Some Children More Than Others?

Professor Gordon Harold and his colleagues have conducted a research study that helps to cast light upon why some children appear to be more resilient to the adverse psychological and behavioural effects of living in a household in which there exists family conflict than others. The findings of the research suggested that key to such resilience is related to how the child interprets the situation and the meaning that s/he attaches to it, especially in relation to the parents’ behaviours and what actually underlies the conflict (main foundations of conflicts within the families studied included adversarial relationships between parents, strained and problematic relationships between the parent/s and the child and maternal depression).

If the child interprets the situation as his / her own fault (this is, sadly, a typical, unwarranted response) s/he is at higher risk of developing behavioural problems (e.g. anti-social tendencies).

Notwithstanding the above, however, overall and on average girls are more likely to respond to conflict within the home by displaying emotional problems (internalisation) while boys are more likely to respond by displaying behavioural difficulties (externalisation), according to Professor Harold. (In relation to this, you may be interested in reading my previously published article entitled: ‘Why Girls Are More Likely To Report Suffering From Depression Than Boys).’

On the other hand, according to the research, if the child interprets the conflict as dangerous and as a threat to his/her wellbeing or is fearful it will lead to the breakdown and disintegration of the family, s/he is at increased risk of developing psychological problems such as depression and anxiety. Depression was also more likely to manifest itself in girls, the research suggested, if the parents’ relationship was volatile or if interpersonal relations between the daughter and mother were strained and stressful.

Professor Harold has also stated that for family conflict which is poorly resolved to adversely affect the child’s mental health, it does not necessarily have to be ‘high intensity’ conflict but may involve parents being very withdrawn from one another or using what has been termed ‘the silent treatment‘ as a means of inflicting psychological punishment. Furthermore, he has drawn attention to research that suggests that living in households in which there exists longterm, ongoing conflict between the parents can adversely affect children physiologically (for example, by increasing their risk of suffering from tachycardia, hypervigilance and/or impairment of normal brain development).

According to the researchers, interventions most likely to help families living in conflict are those that concentrate upon solutions that enable parents to resolve or reduce their day-to-day conflicts with one another and that also focus on encouraging and improving techniques of positive and nurturing parenting. Professor Harold has stressed that importance of effective interventions due to the risk that bad relationships between parents may get passed down the generations in a self-perpetuating cycle (concerning this, you may be interested in reading my previously published article on the topic of so-called transgenerational trauma).

Professor Harold stresses that occasional arguments between parents are reasonable and, if the parents resolve these successfully, this can set a positive example to the child that may help him/her resolve his/her disputes in future relationships. He also points out that supportive, positive relationships that the child has beyond that with his/her parents, such as with grandparents, teachers and siblings, can have a substantial impact on his/her psychological resilience, though warns that the quality of the child’s relationship with his/her parents can affect these negatively as well as positively.

Finally, it is worth emphasizing that, according to Professor Harold, often the most damaging aspect of parents’ divorce upon the child may be the chronic, unresolved conflict (arguments, confrontations etc.) which may occur before, during and after the separation. Certainly, as a young child, I can remember sitting at the top of the stairs listening to my parents screaming at each other downstairs, shaking with fear (and then being shouted at by my mother – ‘that sodding kid’s eavesdropping again!’ – if I was discovered). An all too common experience, I imagine.

 

To read the paper by Professor Harold et al. (PDF format) entitled: WHAT WORKS TO ENHANCE INTER-PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS AND IMPROVES OUTCOMES FOR CHILDREN, click here.

 

RESOURCE:

BE LESS CONFRONTATIONAL | SELF HYPNOSIS DOWNLOADS

 

RELATED ARTICLES :

Divorce: Signs Children Are Being Used As Pawns Or Weapons.

Acrimonious Divorce May Damage Children’s Immune Systems

Effects Of Divorce On Children Under Five

Combined Effects Of Divorce And Emotional Abuse On Children.

 

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

 

 

 

Childhood Trauma Can Make Us Terrified Of Accepting Love In Adulthood.

It is well documented that severe and protracted childhood trauma greatly increases our risk of experiencing relationship difficulties in our adult lives (see my article : How Our Adult Relationships Are Ruined). In some cases, this can result in a fear, or even terror, of close, loving relationships in our adult lives. Many reasons have been put forward in an attempt to explain this not uncommon phenomenon and I summarize many of the main ones below :

SELF-HATRED :

If we were unloved, abused, rejected, abandoned or treated with disdain and contempt as children by our primary care-taker we may have internalized this negative view of ourselves which, in turn, can lead to an enduring state of irrational self-hatred.

Therefore, with a rock-bottom view of ourselves as adults, we may be convinced that we are undeserving of love and that anyone showing us love is either doing so out of pity or, alternatively, because they are a terrible judge of others’ characters and have failed to see us for the ‘appalling person’ we are due to some inexplicable deficit of their own.

In short, we develop a kind of ‘I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member‘ attitude to potential relationships.

As such, we may, as an unconscious defense mechanism, find ourselves only attracted to people who are not, and never will be, intersted in us as a romantic partner as, on some level, we are, paradoxically, more psychologically comfortable with rejection than we are with unconditional, loving acceptance – something we have never experienced and which represents a foreign, potentially dangerous, territoty.

IDENTITY CRISIS :

Related to the above, being cast in the role of a ‘lovable person’ when we have a deeply ingrained, core belief that we are essentially and fundamentally unlovable can serve to threaten our sense of identity ; we have become so familiar with the feeling of being unlovable, and the feeling has become so central to our very identity and sense of who we are, that to start viewing ourselves as lovable would throw us into such a state of psychological confusion, and entail such enormous reappraisal of our way of interacting with the world, our habitual behaviors and attitudes, that we may well prefer to maintain the psychological status quo which feels, in ways we may find hard to articulate, somehow safer and more comfortable.

VULNERABILITY TO EXPERIENCING SIMILAR PSYCHOLOGICAL PAIN WE EXPERIENCED AS CHILDREN.

If we experienced rejection or abandonment as children (including emotional abandonment) we may be terrified (on a conscious or unconscious level) that accepting love from another person and forming a loving relationship with them will make us emotionally dependent upon them and,therefore, vulnerable to being hurt by them in the event that they, too, reject or abandon us in way that is reminiscent of our traumatic childhood experiences.

Indeed, in some cases, traumatic childhood experiences can significantly increase our risk of developing avoidant personalirt disorder (which operates as a defense mechanism to prevent us forming close relationships with others which could make us emotionally vulnerable).

Alternatively, being in a relationship may make us so fearful of being rejected or abandoned (as we were as children) that we become intensely possessive because perpetually and obsessively terrified that we will be cruelly betrayed.

FEAR OF BEING INADEQUATE AND DISILLUSIONING OUR PARTNER

We may have such a low opinion of ourselves that we believe, if we became emotionally involved with anyone who professed to love us, the scales would soon drop from their eyes and they would see us as the ‘despicable person’ we really are. As such. we may believe that to become part of another person’s life would be to infect and pollute it. In short, we fear may we cannot live up to what we perceive to be the other person’s idealized version of us and that they would quickly become disillusioned with us in the event we let them get close to us.

INTRUSION INTO PRIVACY

We may have experienced things as a child that we do not wish anyone else to know about and fear that a close emotional relationship with another may expose us to having our past enquired into too closely for comfort.

FEAR OF BEING CONTOLLED

If we were brought up by very controlling parents then, as adults, we may feat that a relationship may again expose us to the danger of having how we live our lives dictated by another,

FEAR OF EXPLOITATION

If we were exploited as a child by a parent (e.g. the parent used us to gain ‘narcissistic supply’, parentified us or used us as an emotional caretaker) we may equate any close emotionally union with another as exposing us to the risk of further exploitation.

FEAR OF ENGULFMENT

If our parents created with us a relationship that was inappropriately emotionally close (see my article on ’emotional incest’) we may fear that forming a close bond with another will expose us to the possibility of a similar fate of being ’emotionally engulfed’ (i.e. ‘invaded’ and having our lives ‘taken over’). This fear of engulfment is particularly common amongst sufferers of borderline personality disorder (a condition strongly linked to childhood trauma) and can lead to an unconscious drive in us to sabotage our relationships.

RESOURCES :

Overcome Fear of Rejection

Overcome Fear of Commitment

How to Stop Self Hate

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

Early Life Bonds With Parents Parallel Adult Bonds With Romantic Partner.

According to Shaver’s research, which is based upon Bowlby’s attachment theory but extends it into the realms of adult romantic relationships, the type of relationship we had with our primary carer (usually the mother) in terms of the quality of the bond that we developed with her during early life (or, to use Bowlby’s phraseology, the type of ‘attachment style’ we formed with her), is reflected in the types of attachments / relationships that we form with romantic partners in our adult lives.

Shaver points out the following parallels between our early life relationship with our primary carer and our adult relationships with our romantic partners :

  • Just as, in early life, our primary carer was our main attachment figure, so too, in adulthood, our romantic partner becomes our main attachment figure.
  • Just as, in early life, we relied on our primary carer as our secure base, so too, in adulthood, we rely on our romantic partner as our secure base.
  • Just as, in early life, we relied on our primary carer as our safe haven, so too, in adulthood, we rely on our romantic partner as our safe haven.
  • Jn adulthood, our responses to separation from, or loss of, our romantic partners resemble our responses to separation from, or loss of, our primary carer in early life. And, in relation to separation and loss, Shaver suggests that it is sometimes only when our relationship with our romantic partner breaks down that we become fully aware of the emotional bond that exists between us and our him / her (relecting the adage that you only understand the true value of something when you lose it).

Adult Romantic Relationships Tend To Mirror Early Life Attachment To Primary Carer

Shaver also states that there exist fundamental similarities between our adult romantic relationships and our early life attachment to our primary carer. For example, both types of relationship involve : ‘eye contact, holding, touching, caressing, smiling, crying, clinging, a desire to be comforted by one’s primary carer / partner when distressed, the experience of anger, anxiety and sorrow following separation or loss and the experience of happiness upon reunion.’

Shaver’s research also suggests that individuals who have had a secure and emotionally healthy bond (or, in Bowlby’s phrase, ‘attachment’ ) to their primary carer in early life tend to have long-lasting relationships as adults, whereas those who have had a problematic, less emotionally healthy and more insecure bond with their primary carer in early life tend to have more relationship difficulties as adults, are more likely to divorce and have a generally more cynical attitude towards the concept of love than those who had enjoyed a secure bond (attachment) to their primary carer in early life.

RESOURCE :

TEN STEPS TO OVERCOME INSECURITY IN RELATIONSHIPS | SELF HYPNOSIS DOWNLOADS.

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

BPD And Resolving Conflict With Others

If we suffered severe and chronic childhood trauma, particularly if, as a result, we have gone on to develop borderline personality disorder, it is likely that, without appropriate therapy, we frequently find ourselves in heated conflict with others, especially those others to whom we are emotionally attached such as partners or family members.

Indeed, one of the hallmarks symptoms of BPD is the experiencing of difficulties with interpersonal relationships.

We may have relationship problems for a variety of reasons that include :

And, when a relationship ends, sufferers of BPD are liable to take it particularly hard, especially if rejected in such a way as to trigger reminders of childhood rejection (on either a conscious or unconscious level). Indeed, the emotional pain of such rejection can be as excruciating as severe physical pain.

Because of the frequent ‘love-hate’ relationships BPD sufferers are prone to creating, the nature of the conflict between the sufferer and his / her partner tends to be cyclical and the first step is to become aware of the cycle and recognize its futility and destructiveness.

We also need to recognize the damage it is doing to our relationship ; conflict leaves both us and the person with whom we are in conflict feeling bad. Indeed, following outbursts of anger and rage, BPD sufferers tend to experience overwhelming feelings of profound shame. So, in essence, everyone loses and the relationship is undermined (and is likely to collapse altogether in the absence of effective, remedial action being taken).

Once we have become aware of this destructive cycle, we next need to make a definite commitment to trying our best to break it.

Obviously, though, if one has had a long history of getting into high conflict situations with others, the process of change is likely to take time and cannot, of course, be expected to work instantaneously ; one needs to learn and practice new social skills until they, in an ideal situation, become ‘second-nature’ and there will inevitably be setbacks along the way, paricularly when one is under intense stress, is deliberately provoked or is facing rejection.

Of course, each individual will have their own set of personal triggers which put them at high risk of entering into conflict with another so the next step is to try to IDENTIFY SUCH TRIGGERS.

Not letting potential triggers set off undesirable behaviors also entails controlling impulsivity ; you can read my previously published article entitled : Control Impulsive Behavior by clicking here. Also, you may wish to read my articles : Impulse Control : Study Showing Its Vital Importance and Childhood Trauma And The Development Of Impulse Control Disorders.

Once triggers have been identified, the next step is to rehearse in the mind how one will respond in such a way as not to create conflict or in a way that de-escalates any conflict that already exists. Using visualization techniques to aid mental rehearsal of one’s new, positive ways of dealing with situations that would have previously led to conflict can be particularly effective.

In his excellent book : The High Conflict Couple : A Dialectical Behavior Therapy Guide To Finding Peace, Intimacy And Validation (see image below to view on Amazon), Fruzzetti PhD endorses the above techniques and suggests using the acronym SET to help us to remember more constructive ways of dealing with conflict than we may used in the past ; SET stands for utilizing sympathy, empathy and truthfulness.

Assertiveness training can also help to ensure that a gentler approach to dealing with potential conflict does not lead to being taken advantage of.

RESOURCE :

Fruzzetti PhD’s Book :

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

Why Rejection Is So Painful : An Evolutionary Explanation.

Due to the forces of evolution, our brains have developed, first and foremost, to keep us alive, irrespective of whether the emotions that drive us to do cause us pleasure or pain ; in this sense, the process of evolution is entirely indifferent as to whether or not we are happy ; indeed, his is why our brains have a negative bias : to help ensure our survival, our brains are wired to focus on threats, dangers and that which can harm us rather than on more positive things (which could seduce us into a state of dangerous complacency and vulnerability). The principle at play here is that it’s better to be in an unpleasant state of anxiety and fear, but alive, than it is to be in a state of peace and serenity whilst being gobbled up by a lion.

One of the main operations of our brains to evolve in order to help ensure our survival is the ability to detect threat. This is because, in the case of our ancestors, such threats were frequently life endangering (such as being attacked by a wild animal, as alluded to above).

Today, however, the threats we tend to encounter are very rarely life threatening. However, because evolution is such a glacially slow process, our brains have not had time to readjust to this fact and, therefore, will still respond to certain threats that would have been life threatening to our ancestors as if they are STILL life endangering today.

herd mentaliy

One threat that was life endangering to our ancestors was social rejection ; this is because living in groups made it more likely we would survive and, of course, it logically follows from this, if we were rejected from the group (and even more so if they were rejected by our parents when young) we would be at greater risk of death.

So, the crucial point is that our modern day brains react to rejection by significant others today as our ancestors’ brains did in the distant past i.e. as if the rejection were life-threatening. That is why, say, rejection by a parent or partner can drive us to despair or even suicide (the latter response is particularly ironic as, in such a case, our death would be brought about, ultimately, by an overly assiduous survival instinct).

In objective terms, then, we over-react to rejection in the modern day due to a trick our mind is playing on us that has its origin in millions of years of evolutionary history. It must be recognized, nevertheless, that for many of us, this is cold comfort indeed.

Overcome Fear Of Rejection | Self Hypnosis Downloads

You may also like to read :

The Long-Term Effects Of Parental Rejection

Childhood Trauma : Coping With Rejection

Childhood Rejection Leading To Possessive Behavior In Adult Relationships

BPD Sufferers May Avoid Mentalization Due To Parental Rejection

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

Maternal Reinforcement Of Passive Dependency In Future BPD Sufferers

When I was young, my mother seemed to derive an odd sense of satisfaction (one hesitates to use the word ‘pleasure’) from my emotional distress. At such times, I see now, her fundamental motivation to comfort me (by talking to me, never in a tactile way by hugging etc.) was to make herself feel needed, of value, powerful, in control and superior to my own ‘inadequacy’.

Indeed, I can now see that she would deliberately induce states of distress in me so that she could then play the role of a nurturing mother ; she seemed to enjoy, and derive satisfaction from, toying with my emotions – repeatedly ‘breaking’ me in order to afford herself the opportunity of ‘fixing’ me – rather as a cat might enjoy and derive satisfaction from toying with a mouse by repeatedly catching it and letting it go only so it could catch it again…and so on…and so on…

This gave her complete control and absolute power over me ; once she had reduced me to a desperate and pleading display of tears by subjecting me to her unbounded rage and name-calling, and then left me to suffer for a while (often by giving me the silent treatment ),

I would be pathetically grateful, submissive and pliable when, at a time of her choosing, she deigned to ‘forgive’ me and play (for short while until the cycle repeated itself) the ‘magnanimous’ mother (on more than one occasion, it comes back to me now while writing this) by administering to me whisky in warm milk and half of one of her valium).

In short, playing the nurturing’ mother wasn’t about making me feel good – it was about making herself feel good about herself.

However, I have never mentioned this particular aspect of my mother’s behavior to anyone for fear of sounding ungrateful and cynical. After all, as many who have suffered childhood trauma will know all too well, even our most patently reasonable and self-evidently justifiable objections to our upbringing can be, and frequently are, invalidated by others (for myriad reasons – e,g. see my articles How Narcissistic Mothers Can Invalidate Us ; my article, BPD, Effects Of Biparental Dysfunction And Invalidation and also my article about gaslighting) compunding the effects of our trauma and intensifying our irrational feelings of shame.

I was heartened, therefore, to come across the work of Masterson and Rinsley (1975). They theorize that mothers can cause psychopathology in their children, later leading to the development of borderline personality disorder (BPD), by preventing them from undergoing the separation-individuation process (see also my article on ‘enmeshment’).

They prevent their children going through this process, according to Masterson and Riley, by encouraging them to be dependent. They encourage this dependency, according to the theory, as it gives them (i.e. the mothers) a sense of pride, satisfaction , gratification and self-esteem. It is further theorized that they achieve this by positively reinforcing the child’s ‘needy’ and ‘clingy‘ behavior whilst discouraging any signs of the child creating an independent, autonomous life for him/self. This then has the effect of preventing him/her from breaking away from her and forming his/her own idenity

passive-dependence

Indeed, tangetially related to the idea of certain types of mothers (especially narcissistic mothers) not wanting their child to form his/her own sense of identity, I recall that my own mother would frequently take it as almost a personal affront if ever I tried to change the subject from talking about her life (normally her ‘boyfriend troubles’) to talk, even for a short while, about any of my own intersests (at the time these were meteorology and magic tricks ; I often think now that it is no co-incidence that the former involved trying to understand a chaotic and difficult to predict system, whilst the latter involved developing ‘special powers’ to make the ‘impossible’ happen, like making things ‘disappear’ – no prizes for guessing what these things almost certainly symbolized in my unconscious).

But back to Masterson and Risley. The researchers state that such maternal behavior (i.e. rewarding the child’s dependence whilst punishing him/her – or, at least, withdrawing approval – when s/he attempts to gain mastery, independence and self-sufficiency) is frequently most prevalent during the developmental stage of the child when psychological and social influences are at their most potent in relation to instilling in him/her a need to become independent, thus creating maximum conflict in the child’s mind.

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

Effects Of Interpersonal Childhood Trauma On Sexuality

According to the traumagenic dynamics model (Finkelhor and Browne), severe and protracted childhood interpersonal childhood trauma (interpersonal trauma refers to types of trauma that occur between the child and significant others e,g, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and witnessing domestic violence) can give rise to pervasive feelings of betrayal, powerlessness, stigmatization and traumatic sexualization, which in turn, can have extremely adverse effects upon self-image, one’s view of the world and one’s emotional responses.

This can then lead to two contrasting negative effects upon the individual’s sexuality :

  • some may respond by becoming sexually compulsive

  • others may respond by becoming sexually avoidant

Sexual compulsion is sometimes referred to as hypersexuality and involves the individual being preoccupied (to the extent that it causes the individual distress and / or negatively impacts important parts of his / her life such as physical health, vocation and relationships) with urges, fantasies and / or activities that are hard to keep under control ; these may include excessive promiscuity, risky sex, masturbation, paying for prostitutes, pornography and cybersex.

The term ‘sexual avoidance,’ on the other hand, refers to chronic lack of sexual desire which has serious adverse effects upon the individual’s quality of life ; if the extent of sexual avoidance and related symptoms meet a certain threshold, it can be diagnosed as sexual aversion disorder. A person suffering from this disorder may avoid sex due to feelings of fear, revulsion and disgust in relation to sexual activity and suffer panic attacks at the thought of participating in it ; this, in turn, can, of course, seriously damage intimate relationships.

Both sexual avoidance and sexual compulsion are thought to be defense mechanisms (albeit dysfunctional ones) serving to protect the individual from intrusive, traumatic memories and flashbacks, or to reduce feelings of low self-esteem related to the devastating effects of the original childhood, interpersonal trauma. For example, a person with very low self-esteem may compulsively try to attract sexual partners to help him / her feel ‘desired’, ‘wanted’ or ‘loved’, however illusory, fleeting and superficial such faux-feelings may be.

Such promiscuity undertaken in a (futile) attempt to bolster self-esteem can, of course, ultimately serve only exacerbate feelings of loneliness, emptiness, guilt and shame ; indeed, it should be noted that some individuals alternate between periods of sexual compulsion and periods of avoidance. This ambivalence towards the concept of sexual activity reflects how individuals can be prone to switch between sexually compulsive behavior – in a desperate attempt to feel better – and sexually avoidant behavior – when they realize such behavior has left them feeling even worse).

Finally, it should be stated that research suggests sexual dysfunctional behavior not only can affect those who have experienced interpersonal trauma through sexual abuse, but also through physical and psychological abuse, as well.

RESOURCE :

How to Overcome Sexual Addiction | Self Hypnosis Downloads. CLICK HERE.

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