Childhood Trauma - Effects And Recovery

Depression, Thinking Styles And Hypnotherapy

Hypnosis for Depression – Natural Treatment | Self Hypnosis Downloads : Try Introduction And First Module FREE.

We have seen from other articles published on this site that those who have experienced severe and protracted childhood trauma are, as adults, at an elevated risk of suffering from depression. We have also seen how hypnotherapy can benefit trauma survivors (in fact, research has shown that those suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are, overall, more responsive to hypnotherapy than is the average person).

Depression And How People Think :

Those who are depressed tend to be, quite understandably, self-focused and self-absorbed, not least because they are in a great deal of mental anguish and turmoil (just as anyone suffering from excruciating tooth ache will inevitably be self-focused and self-absorbed). This is why it is unfair to accuse those who experience this extremely serious condition as ‘choosing’ to be ‘selfish’.

Another very common feature of depression is that it causes the person who is suffering from it to (falsely) believe that there is no hope of recovery.

A third hallmark of depressive thinking is that the afflicted individual tends to be extremely focused on the past, as opposed to on the present or the future.

Fourth. depressive thinking tends to be ‘ruminative’ as opposed to ‘experiential’.

Ruminative thinking is generalized and abstract and involves dwelling on distressing matters ; depressive rumination has been defined as ‘thoughts that focus one’s attention on one’s depressive symptoms and their implications’ (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1991). It is also decontextualized and self-evaluative. Such rumination has been found to be a major contributory factor to the onset of depression and its maintenance.

‘Experiential’ thinking, on the other hand, is specific to a current task being undertaken.

Traditionally, ‘rumination’ has been regarded as a negative style of thinking, whereas ‘experiential’ thinking has been regarded as positive. Herman et al., 2008 suggested that the tendency to over-generalize when indulging in ruminative thinking (e.g. by thinking things like : ‘I’ve never done anything right in my entire life’, or. ‘everybody has always hated me and always will’) is the strongest predictor of the severity and duration of depression, as well as of the likelihood of relapse ; in other words, the more prone one is to ruminative-style thinking, the worse, and longer lasting, one’s depression is likely to be ; furthermore, the greater one’s chances of relapsing after recovery are likely to be.

It is important, then, that we attempt to adopt a far more ‘experienttial’ style of thinking and keep to a minimum our negative, ruminating-style thinking if we wish to reduce our feelings of depression or to prevent ourselves from relapsing into further depressive episodes.

HOW HYPNOTHERAPY CAN HELP IN RELATION TO THE ABOVE :

Hypnotherapy can :

  • encourage us to think ‘experientially’ e.g by thinking about and planning achievable tasks and goals as well as motivating us to carry out such tasks
  • focus on the present and future rather than on the past
  • help us to feel more positive
  • reduce distressing, intrusive thoughts
  • help us to reduce dysfunctional, generalized thinking
  • reduce self-crticism
  • reduce the judgmental, internal dialogues we have with ourselves
  • increase our ability to recall traumatic memories without attributing to them self-blame
  • increase our ability to change out thinking style from ‘ruminative’ to ‘experiential.’
  • calm the brain’s amygdala which, in turn, puts us in a much better position to resolve traumatic events from the past.

RESOURCE :

If you are interested in how hypnosis can help with all of the above and much more, you may wish to visit the affiliated site, hypnosisdownloads.com, which I have used to aid my own recovery.

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


BPD And Genetic Heritability

Studies have been conducted that suggest that parents suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD) may pass on certain genes to their children that predispose them to impulsive behavior and emotional volatility.

For example, a study conducted by Distel et al. (2007) suggested that the genetic component (heritability) of BPD is about 42%, whilst a study conducted by Torgersen (2000) put them figure even higher, at 69%.

Of course, this does not mean there is a ‘gene for BPD’, but, rather, the findings suggest that certain temperamental features of an individual that are passed on genetically may increase a person’s RISK of developing BPD in later life. However, whether or not this person does develop it will depend upon the QUALITY OF THE ENVIRONMENT, WITH PARTICULAR REFERENCE TO TREATMENT BY PRIMARY CARERS, IN WHICH S/HE GROWS UP and how this INTERACTS with any genetic vulnerability to the disorder s/he has inherited.

Clearly, too, it should be noted that, as the disparity between the two percentages shows (42% and 69%), trying to quantify the heritability of disorders like BPD is a far cry from being an exact science.

MOTHERS WITH BPD :

Of course, if the mother of a child has been diagnosed with BPD, not only may her child have inherited certain temperamental characteristics (see above) that predispose him/her to developing the same disorder in later life, but, additionally, the mother may also create an environment for the developing child that compounds any genetically inherited propensity s/he may be harbouring for later being diagnosed with BPD him/herself.

genes

Dysfunctional maternal behaviors towards the child that may increase his/her risk of developing psychopathology in later life include rejection, inconsistency (e.g oscillating between idealizing and demonizing the child) , hostility, invalidation, ’emotional incest’ and other forms of emotional abuse.

And, if the child is, by temperament, emotionally labile, his/her responses to the BPD mother’s unstable and unpredictable behavior may serve to create a vicious-cycle of mother-child interaction.

As a result of this, the child may start displaying severe problems relating to mood (e.g. depression and anxiety) and behavior (e.g. aggression, self-harm and hypervigilance).

PROTECTIVE FACTORS :

Children who may have inherited personality traits which increase their risk of developing BPD in later life may be protected from this most undesirable fate by consistently receiving affectionate, loving and accepting nurturing. If this is not forthcoming, therapeutic intervention (e.g. family therapy or dialectical behavior therapy) can be of substantial benefit.

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

Ten Ways To Build Resilience

Different people respond in different ways to trauma. One of the reasons for this is that some people are more resilient to its adverse effects than others and even manage to grow and develop as a person in positive ways (a phenomenon known as posttraumatic growth) that would not have occurred had they not experienced the traumatic event/s.

However, resilience is not something that a person either has or does not have, rather, it is something that we can build and develop. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), there are TEN MAIN WAYS WE CAN INCREASE OUR RESILIENCE and these are as follows :

resilience
  1. Develop social connections : e.g. with supportive family members, friends, community support groups (in general, the more social / emotional support we have, the more psychologically resilient we are likely to be. Research has also found that working as a volunteer and helping others is another good strategy for resilience-building.
  2. If changes have occurred which are irreversible, accept that this is just part of what life involves and direct energy towards things that can be positively changed.
  3. Take decisive action : when one has suffered trauma it is easy to fall into the trap of endlessly ruminating upon what has gone wrong and feel helpless ; it is necessary to avoid this, and, instead, take decisive action to change things for the better (see my previously published article on childhood trauma and depression which includes information on LEARNED HELPLESSNESS AND BEHAVIORAL ACTIVATION).
  4. Try to keep an optimistic outlook – rather than negatively ruminate, attempt to visualize solutions / how you would like the future to turn out.
  5. Try to maintain perspective by seeing things in the context of the ‘bigger picture’ / taking a long-term view.
  6. Self-care : Treat yourself with compassion, do things you enjoy (or used to enjoy), exercise, eat well and generally look after your needs and feelings (especially by avoiding stress as far as possible.
  7. Consider if the trauma may, in some respects, help develop you as a person ; there may be opportunities for posttraumatic growth – for example, some trauma survivors report improved relationships, increased inner strength / coping ability, spiritual growth, a greater sense of self-worth (knowing they can survive great difficulties, for example) and increased empathy for the suffering of others as a result of their adverse experiences.
  8. Focus upon maintaining a positive self-view, especially in relation to your problem solving abilities.
  9. Try to set goals each day that help you to move forward, however small, so that at the end of the day you can know you have done at least one positive thing.
  10. Avoid ‘catastrophizing’ (seeing crises as insurmountable problems) – cognitive behavioral therapy can help with this, as well as with other so-called ‘thinking errors’).

RESOURCES :

Develop Powerful Resilience | Self Hypnosis Downloads

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

Childhood Rejection Leading To Possessive Behavior In Adult Relationships

If we were rejected when we were children by parents / primary carers this can have a profound effect upon our adult, intimate relationships, causing them to be ruined by a perpetual, intense fear of losing our partner and re-experiencing the intolerable emotional pain that was generated by our experience of rejection and abandonment when young. This deeply entrenched insecurity can then, in turn, lead us to behave in ways driven by feelings of JEALOUSY and POSSESSIVENESS.

However, it is important to point out that many individuals who are prone to jealous and possessive behaviors in relation to how they interact with their partners (or those they wish to be their partners) are not consciously aware that these (invariably self-defeating) behaviors are related to their adverse childhood experiences. In other words, their jealousy and possessiveness is driven, largely, by unconscious forces.

SIGNS OF POSSESSIVENESS TOWARDS A PARTNER OR PERSON ONE WISHES TO BE ONE’S PARTNER :

Signs that an individual is possessive include the following :

  • believing life is meaningless and futile without the person
  • believing the other person is the only one who can make one happy
  • making an excessive number of calls to the person (or texts / social media contacts etc.)
  • sending the other person gifts, despite this person having made it clear that s/he has no wish to receive them
  • finding it very hard to stop thinking about the other person, possibly to the degree that it adversely affects sleep, work performance and eating behavior
  • believing oneself to be a victim if the other does not agree to fulfil one’s needs
  • believing one’s love of the other to be so powerful that it will eventually ‘win the other over’, despite, objectively speaking, clear signs to the contrary
  • turning up at the other person’s home, place of work etc. without invitation
  • spending a lot of time in a state of tortured and agitated hope / expectation that the other will make contact via phone / text / social media etc. whilst simultaneously dreading s/he won’t
  • spending a lot of time concerned about where the other person is, what s/he is doing and who s/he is with etc., possibly including checking up that the other isn’t lying about these things or spying on the other person to check the veracity of his/her claims and generally treating him/her as a perpetual ‘suspect’
  • trying to dominate the other person and failing to respect their personal boundaries.
  • becoming angry when the other person tries to do something (e.g. see own friends) that doesn’t involve one
  • trying to prevent the other from seeing his/her family / personal friends so that s/he becomes isolated and therefore easier to control and dominate.

HOW DOES POSSESSIVENESS DIFFER FROM HEALTHY AFFECTION / LOVE?

Essentially, possessiveness involves not trusting the other person and denying him/her space, freedom and independence in direct contrast to what is necessary to maintain a healthily loving and affectionate relationship ; also, possessiveness is essentially selfish, concentrating on the needs of the one being possessive as opposed to the needs of the partner / desired partner.

Whilst the recipient of healthy affection / love is helped to feel safe and secure, the recipient of possessive behavior is made to feel smothered, oppressed, anxious and uncomfortable, or, in more extreme cases, fearful.

possessiveness

OVERCOMING A POSSESSIVE MENTALITY :

There are several things we can do to reduce possessive attitudes and behaviors ; these include :

  1. Maintain own independence – having one’s own life, independent of partner’s, is often preferable to ‘living in one another’s pocket’ and being together 24/7, not least because it can prevent the relationship from stagnating and keep a couple interesting to each other.
  2. Don’t allow past experiences to make self overly cynical about present relationships or to destroy ability to trust.
  3. Remember that being ‘needy’, ‘clingy,‘ suspicious and anxiously insecure around one’s partner is frequently counterproductive.
  4. Don’t unreasonably curtail partner’s freedom (e.g. by stopping them having own friends and social life if this is desired).
  5. Work on improving self-worth and self-esteem if worrying about about a partner leaving one is based on feelings of ‘not being good enough,’ especially as such negative beliefs about oneself can become a self-fulfilling prophecy (because this is often the root of the problem, more detail about this is provided below).
  6. Allow partner to maintain own identity, as opposed to trying to mould him/her into an ‘ideal’ to suit own needs.
  7. Resist urges to neurotically ‘spy’ on partner which may serve only to maintain an irrationally suspicious / paranoid mindset (not to mention freak out the spied upon).
  8. Try to discover the primary source of the possessive behavior and then address it. For example, if the root of the problem lies in having been betrayed, rejected or abandoned by a parent / primary carer in childhood, consider seeking therapy (e.g. cognitive behavioral therapy to help correct self-defeating ‘thinking errors’). N.B. Numbers 8 and 6 are frequently, closely interconnected.
  9. If we feel we have a problem with a propensity to treat our partner in a possessive way and intend to try to correct it, openly discussing the problem can be a constructive way forward (e.g. by addressing the root cause of the problem – see above), make one’s own and one’s partner’s life less stressful, and encourage him / her to be more understanding of our anxieties and supportive of our planned endeavours to rectify the situation.

MORE ON HOW CHILDHOOD CAN PROFOUNDLY UNDERMINE OUR SELF-IMAGE AND ADVERSELY AFFECT OUR ADULT RELATIONSHIPS :

Our ability to love and our ability to express love as an adult is very substantially learned in childhood by observing our parents / primary carers, and, as I have already alluded to above, if, as children, such role models abused us, neglected us, or rejected us, we may have (both consciously and unconsciously) internalized their negative attitudes towards us and, as a consequence, developed a profound, core belief that we are essentially unlovable, inadequate and ‘bad.’

This, frequently, highly irrational belief, in turn, can pervade and poison our adult relationships as our deep insecurities can make us believe that it is only a matter of time before our partner realizes what a hopeless, worthless creature we are and leave us for good. This prospect terrifies us, as, in our minds, this would ‘confirm’ our unlovability, ‘hopelessness’ ‘badness’ and ‘worthlessness,’ re-triggering the adverse emotional effects of our mistreatment in childhood.

Therefore, we develop a frame of mind which perceives preventing our partner from leaving us as indispensable to our very psychological survival and as crucial to maintaining our tenuous grip on any positive elements of our self-image that our relationship with the partner has allowed us to tentatively develop. This, in turn, makes us liable to overcompensate for our self-perceived ‘inadequacies’ by practising the kind of dysfunctional, self-defeating, possessive behaviors described above.

Therefore, in order to create healthily loving and affectionate bonds with others in our adult lives, it is necessary for us to develop a self-image which is NOT determined by our unfortunate, early-life experiences.

Improving one’s self-image is best started by, first of all, accepting the kind of person we are at present. However, if we (at present) view ourselves as a ‘bad’ person we need to consider whether this view has been distorted by our internalization of how our parents / primary carers behaved towards us during our childhood. And if, after consideration, we still view ourselves as a ‘bad’ person, we need to change this way of thinking about ourselves and, instead, tell ourselves we may have done things of which we are not proud, and which we regret, in the past, but that these things don’t define who we are now or who we can be tomorrow and in the future.

So, if we have been possessive in the past, this does not mean we will be a possessive person from now on, and, to make progress, it is necessary to accept our past mistakes without getting caught up in feelings of shame because tsuch feelings will serve only to hinder our psychological recovery and make us less able to help ourselves.

We also need to understand that it is most likely to be how we feel about ourselves that makes us behave possessively, rather than having much to do with our partner. Indeed, our dysfunctional behavior is frequently driven by our negative thinking about ourselves. Examples of these negative thoughts include :

‘I am not good enough for my partner and s/he will leave me the second s/he finds someone better,’ or, ‘My partner’s bound to leave me for someone with more money.’

Finally, as I alluded to above, cognitive behavioral therapy can help to correct our self-defeating thought processes. So, too, can hypnotherapy, cognitive hypnotherapy and counselling / marriage counselling or other forms of psychotherapy.

You may also be interested in reading my previously published posts :

RESOURCES :

Develop a Positive Self Image | Self Hypnosis Downloads

Overcome Jealousy with Hypnosis & Hypnotherapy | Self Hypnosis Downloads

Stop Snooping on Your Partner | Self Hypnosis Downloads

Get Over Your Partner’s Sexual History | Self Hypnosis Downloads

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

Childhood Trauma And Tachycardia

tachycardia

My own resting heart rate, which is usually at least 105 beats per minute, according to my GP, ‘is nothing to worry about.’

Since a resting heart rate of above is technically classified as ‘tachycardia’ (an abnormally fast beating heart), it seems to me it is something to worry about – presumably my GP’s intent was to play things down so that I did not become anxious about it as this, in turn, perhaps, could have raised it further still.

Anyway, I suggested I started taking beta-blockers and she kindly acquiesced to this modest request (though, not untypically, they appear not to work on me). 

tachycardia

CHILDHOOD TRAUMA AND TACHYCARDIA :

Studies show that children who have been so badly mistreated so as to go on to develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have increased nervous system reactivity which is associated with being in a state of hypervigilance, as if perpetually trapped in the ‘fight / flight’ response.

In order to investigate this phenomenon further, Perry conducted a study of 34 children who had an average age of ten years and had been diagnosed as suffering from PTSD.

FINDINGS FROM THE STUDY :

Perry found that 85% of the children in this study (whom, as described above,  had been diagnosed with PTSD) had an average resting heart rate of 94 beats per minute. This is significantly higher than the resting heart rate of the average ten-year-old child, which is only 84 beats per minute.

This established, the children were then required to undertake a simple task : they were required to lie down for 9 minutes and then stand up for a further 10 minutes.

RESULTS :

Amongst the whole group of children who took part in this simple experiment, two distinct patterns of heart rate emerged.

PATTERN ONE :

  • A higher-than-control basal heart rate whilst lying down.
  • A dramatic increase in heart rate upon standing up.
  • A slow return, during the ten minute period of standing up, to the baseline heart rate.

 PATTERN TWO :

  • A normal increase in heart rate upon standing up.
  • A sluggish return to the baseline heart rate.

FURTHER STUDY :

Perry (1999) later built upon this study by carrying out the following experiment :

  • Children were interviewed about their experiences of abuse.
  • Throughout the interview, their heart rates were continuously monitored.

RESULTS OF FURTHER STUDY :

  • Certain children (who were mainly female and many of whom suffered from symptoms of dissociation) showed a REDUCTION in heart rate during the interview (when compared to their heart rate during a period of free play).
  • However, another group of children from the study (who suffered from symptoms of hyperarousal) showed an INCREASED heart rate during the interview (when compared to their heart rate during a period of free play).

 CONCLUSION :

From these findings, it was concluded that children may respond to their experiences of trauma in one of two ways :

  1. By ‘shutting down’ emotionally, resulting in physiological under-reactions to stress.
  2. By becoming emotionally hyperaroused, resulting in physiological over-reactions in response to stress.

You can read more about these two contrasting traumatic responses in my previously published article entitled : Two Opposite Ways The Child Responds To Stress : Hyperarousal And Dissociation.

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

 

 

Childhood Trauma And Body Language

In this article I will look at how body language is relevant to the topic of childhood trauma in two particular ways :

  1. The effect of the body language of the parents upon the child.
  2. How the experience of chronic childhood trauma can negatively impact upon the child’s body language.

Let’s look at each of these in turn :

  1. The Effect Of The Body Language Of The Parents Upon The Child :

The majority of communication between human beings occurs not through language and the words people use but, instead, via NON-VERBAL / BODY LANGUAGE. This includes :

  • facial expressions (including micro expressions which are extremely fleeting signs of emotions that the individual tries to hide)
  • intonation
  • posture
  • autonomic arousal
  • movement
  • gestures
  • muscular tension

In other words, when someone speaks to us, we interpret the information that they are conveying to us not just upon the meaning of the words they use, but also with recourse (both consciously and unconsciously) to the non-verbal / body language indicators and signals listed above.

Another way to explain this is to say that the actual words used represent the text, whereas the non-verbal / body language represents the sub-text (which is often a much more profound level of communication through which the speaker may – often inadvertently – reveal his / her true feelings).

For example, when I was a child, my father generally spoke to me in a formal, polite, superficial way which barely concealed his deeper feelings towards me of disdain, disapproval and irritation ; indeed, on some occasions, he almost seemed to ooze disgust merely as a result of having the misfortune to be in the same room as me.

Such a scenario can, of course, be extremely confusing and upsetting for the child. If, for example, the child is very sensitive and detects such inconsistencies between the parent’s words and his / her (i.e. the parent’s) non-verbal / body language and draws attention to the discrepancy, the parent may well (even more confusingly, perhaps, in an angry and irritated tone) deny that any such contradiction between the ‘text’ and the ‘sub-text’ exists.

This, in turn, can place the child in a no-win situation regarding his / her (i.e. the child’s) interactions with his / her parent because :

If s/he interacts with the parent according to the ‘text’, this will be undermined by the ‘sub-text’. However, if s/he interacts with the parent according to the ‘sub-text’, this will be undermined by the ‘text.’

Indeed, if this form of dysfunctional communication becomes chronic, so that the child grows up receiving mixed messages, this can result in him / her being perpetually trapped in a ‘DOUBLE-BIND, leaving him / her in a state whereby s/he starts to question his / her very sense of reality.

Some theorists are of the view that such upbringings greatly increase the child’s risk of developing schizophrenia in later life. (It is particularly confusing for the child if s/he only perceives the parent’s negative ‘sub-texts’ on an unconscious level, as this will lead him/her to distrust and resent the parent / primary carer without being aware as to why this is).

2) How childhood experiences can negatively impact upon the child’s body language.

A child who is brought up in a dysfunctional way by his / her parents can be affected on a physiological level and this may manifest itself in the child’s habitual body language.

For example, a child who is made to feel by his/her parents that s/he is never good enough, is a disappointment and constantly falls short of their expectations may develop a mindset whereby s/he feels constantly compelled to strive to live up to his/her parents’ exacting, always out of reach, standards, and this mental attitude may then give rise to an habitual type of body language, affecting movement and posture, which reflects a deeply pervasive muscular tension ; this is sometimes referred to as the ‘BRACE RESPONSE’ key features of which include tightened and tensed up muscles in neck, shoulders, face and jaw.

Likewise, a child who is constantly undermined by his/her parents and made to feel inadequate and lacking in confidence may develop an habitual type of body language that belies inner feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘COLLAPSE RESPONSE,’ the hallmarks of which include rounded shoulders, sighing, looking down at the floor and failing to meet the eyes of others and retracted chest.

Children who have grown up in a threatening environment may develop ‘defensive’ body language, sometimes referred to as the ‘ARMOUR RESPONSE’ ; such individuals may be unconsciously driven to become obese as a form of self-protection or they may become obsessed with body-building.

Children with rapid, shallow breathing and who are prone to hyperventilating  (caused by chronic feelings of panic, anxiety and vulnerability) may develop body language that is sometimes referred to as the ‘STARTLE RESPONSE,’ signs of which include a slight frame, quick, darting movements and a wide-eyed expression.

Such body language, as described in the examples above, and reflected in the child’s habitual postural and movement patterns can reinforce the child’s negative self-perception, making it more likely that his/her dysfunctional beliefs relating to the self will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is because, just as how we feel about ourselves affects our body language (i.e. how we move, our posture etc.) so, too, does our body language affect how we feel, and what we believe, about ourselves – in short, it is a two-way street.

Implications For Therapy :

It is now being increasingly recognized that one vital route to treating the effects of trauma is through therapies which focus on the body ; such treatments are known as SOMATIC PSYCHOTHERAPY.

In relation to this, recent research conducted by Cuddy et al. has shown that certain, what are ‘power poses (e.g. standing with hands on hips or sitting down while leaning back in the chair with outstretched arms) have a significant , positive effect upon the body’s regulation of stress hormones. The same research also showed that sitting in a cramped body posture (i.e. hunched up with arms and legs crossed) had the reverse effect.

Many suffering from the adverse effects of trauma also respond well to yoga.

RESOURCE :

IMPROVE POSTURE : SELF HYPNOSIS DOWNLOADS

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

Two Main Ways Narcissistic Parents May Use Their Children.

We have seen from other articles that I have previously published on this site that narcissistic parents tend to see their children as possessions and as extensions of themselves, as opposed to individuals in their own right (this can lead to the child growing up to develop serious identity problems).

They also lack empathy for their child (and for other people in general), tend to transgress his / her (i.e. the child’s) personal boundaries and view his / her (i.e. the child’s) sole purpose in life as being to serve their (i.e. the narcissistic parents’) needs.

Two main ways in which narcissistic parents tend to use and exploit their child is to treat him / her (i.e. the child) as both a source of emotional support, and an emotional punch bag.

Being Used As A Punch Bag :

Narcissistic parents tend to be unhappy, unfulfilled, frustrated, thin-skinned and hypersensitive to criticism and disapproval (real or imagined). This makes them very prone to feelings of anger and resentment and they are liable to displace and redirect such feelings onto their child in the form of aggression (verbal, physical or both), thus, in effect, using the child as a punch bag on which to vent their vitriol.

But this is not the only reason why narcissistic parents may use their child as a punch bag – it also serves to keep the child ‘in his / her place’ and also to ensure that his / her self-esteem and confidence remain resolutely low, thus making him / her easier to control and manipulate.

This parental betrayal of the child may also be amplified further by the fact that such parents, too, may also rely on the child to provide him / her (i.e. the narcissistic parent) with constant emotional support, resulting in the child becoming not only the parent’s emotional punch bag, but, also, his / her (i.e. the parent’s) emotional caretaker (sometimes referred to as ‘parentifying’ the child).

The Narcissistic Parent’s Binary View Of The World :

The behavior of the narcissistic parent described above, oscillating between using the child for emotional support and using him / her as an emotional ‘punch bag’ is elucidated in part by the fact that narcissists tend to view the world in a binary fashion, by which is meant in terms of ‘all good’ or ‘all bad,’ or ‘black and white,’ rather than in a more nuanced manner which also acknowledges the shades of grey inbetween. In line with this, then, narcissistic parents tend to oscillate between, at times, demonizing their child whilst, at other times, idealizing him /her.

It is extremely hard to correct this hurtful behavior in the narcissistic parents as they tend to be incapable of empathy and love – not only for people in general, but for their own children ; indeed, in the case of narcissistic mothers, they seem to lack the normal maternal extinct to nurture the child.

It is for this reason that some adult children sever connections with their narcissistic parent altogether. Others however, do not take such drastic action but, instead, attempt to reduce the dysfunctionality of the relationship by learning to incorporate appropriate personal boundaries into it.

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