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Active And Passive Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse of children (sometimes referred to as psychological abuse) by their parents / primary caregivers can be divided into two types :

  1. PASSIVE EMOTIONAL ABUSE
  2. ACTIVE EMOTIONAL ABUSE

Let’s look at each of these in turn :

PASSIVE EMOTIONAL ABUSE :

Passive emotional abuse tends to be less obvious and more subtle than active emotional abuse and may therefore operate ‘below the radar‘ and be difficult to precisely identify ; however, its insidious nature can have a devastating effect upon the child’s emotional development. Specific types of passive emotional abuse, as proposed by Barlow, et al., (2010), are shown below :

DEVELOPMENTALLY INAPPROPRIATE INTERACTION WITH THE CHILD :

This can involve expecting the child to do things that s.he is not emotionally equipped to carry out. It can also involve the parent talking about, or doing things, in the presence of the child which s/he (i.e. the child) is not emotionally mature enough to deal with.

EMOTIONAL UNAVAILABILITY :

This refers to the parent / primary carer being very emotionally detached, distant and cold towards the child, displaying no love or affection (see my article : Effects Of The Emotionally Distant Parent On Their Child’).

NEGATIVE ATTITUDES :

This includes the parent not offering the child praise or encouragement and conveying the attitude that they have a low opinion of the child or that the child is ‘bad’ leading the child to internalize such negative views(in relation to this, you may wish to read my article : ‘How The Child’s View Of Their Own ‘Badness’ Is Perpetuated‘).

NOT TREATING THE CHILD AS AN INDIVIDUAL :

This can happen when a parent parentifies their child, treats the child, in emotional terms, as a ‘surrogate partner’ (see article on emotional incest‘) or exploits their child as as emotional caretaker’. It involves the parent exploiting the child to fulfil his/her own emotional needs while ignoring the child’s emotional needs.

ACTIVE EMOTIONAL ABUSE :

According to Barlow et al., 2010 and Cawson et al., 2000, active emotional abuse may involve :

 

  • isolating : the parent may isolate the child physically, socially or emotionally to increase his/her (i.e. the parent’s) level of control over him/her  (i.e. the child) – in relation to this, you may wish to read my article : CONTROLLING PARENTS : THEIR EFFECT ON THEIR CHILDREN.This reduces the child’s ability to compare his/her situation to that of others and to get help. The parent may increase the child’s level of disorientation by also using the technique of ‘gaslighting.’

 

  • corrupting / exploiting : this involves the parent encouraging the child to behave in antisocial and self-destructive ways thereby reducing his/her ability to socially integrate in an acceptable way

 

 

ALL OTHER ARTICLES ON EMOTIONAL ABUSE AND NEGLECT :

 

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

Vast Majority Of Parental Maltreatment Of Children Unacknowledged

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Parental Maltreatment Of Children :

Except in very extreme cases, such as severe physical abuse, the vast majority of parental mistreatment of children not only goes unreported, but is unacknowledged and, essentially, ignored (although this situation is gradually improving as people become more educated about the potentially devastating effects of bad parenting).

Emotional Abuse :

In particular, emotional abuse can be very subtle yet profoundly insidious and damaging (more so, even, than physical or sexual abuse) and very frequently goes ‘under the radar’. However, the UK government have recently started to take steps to rectify this travesty (in connection with this, you may wish to read my previously published article entitled : EMOTIONAL ABUSE AND THE LAW).

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Examples Of Unacknowledged/Ignored Parental Maltreatment Of Children :

The above list, of course, is not exhaustive.

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

Dysfunctional Ways Parents May Seek To Over-Control Children

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Controlling Parents

I outline some of the most common ways in which parents may attempt to exert excessive control over their children below :

Emotional Enmeshment :

This occurs when a parent is intensely and overwhelmingly emotionally involved with his/her child so that, rather than seeing the child as an individual with his/her own thoughts, feelings, likes and dislikes, views him/her as an extension of him/herself.

The parent who emotionally enmeshes the child may be over-dependent on him/her :

  • in relation to seeking advice that the child is not mature enough to give (e.g. a parent asking a ten year old for advice on romantic relationships),
  • for companionship,
  • for psychological counselling.

Such parents may also interfere inappropriately in the child’s life and fail to respect his/her boundaries.

Divorced / single parents may even expect their child to serve as a kind of ‘spouse substitute’ (most frequently in emotional terms).

You can read mt article on EMOTIONAL INCEST, which is closely related to the above, by clicking here.

Parentification :

Emotionally immature parents may expect their child to act as a kind of substitute parent – you can read my article about how parents may ‘parentify’ their child by clicking here.

 

Perfectionism :

Perfectionist parents may constantly insist upon laying down myriad petty, unnecessary and, perhaps, seemingly arbitrary rules and regulations (for example, my father used to be obsessed with making sure I held my cutlery in precisely the right way – apparently I would ‘mistakenly’ hold my knife ‘like a pen’ which would cause my father an absurdly disproportionate level of unnecessary angst more appropriate to me holding a live grenade in a way that would allow it imminently to detonate.

Living in such a household can put the child into a constant state of tension, or, even, hypervigilence, leading him/her constantly to anticipate the next shaming and disheartening criticism.

Perfectionist parents may also psychologically damage their children by expecting them to achieve in sports, academia, music etc in ways that are unreasonable and unrealistic. In relation to this, they may only offer their children love and approval when they excel, withholding such love and approval the rest of the time.

These types of parents may, too, strongly disapprove of their children expressing particular emotions such as anger or sadness, perhaps to the extent that they even ridicule their children for doing so.

Micromanagement :

The parent who micromanages their child may be unnecessarily and inappropriately involved in what a child eats or how a child dresses. Such parents may also interfere in superfluous and counter-productive ways with the child’s school life (e.g. visiting the school to complain to teachers about the child’s grades or about the child not making a particular school sport’s team). Or they may not respect their child’s privacy (e.g. constantly checking their child’s room for no good reason, looking through their diary or unnecessarily texting their child whilst s/he is at school to ‘check up’ on him/her in a way the child finds oppressive).

Such parenting is also sometimes referred to as ‘helicopter parenting’, a term originally coined by Dr. Haim Ginott in the late 1960s.

Coercive Control :

The term ‘coercive control’ was first coined by the Duluth Abuse Intervention Project (DAIP) but the concept can also be applicable to the parent-child relationship. The DAIP propose that coercive control can take many forms which include :

  • intimidation (including threatening body language and facial expressions)
  • humiliation
  • isolation
  • minimizing the level of abuse
  • denying any abuse has taken place
  • blaming the victim for the perpetrator’s abuse
  • homophobia
  • coercion and threats

Parents Who Use Their Child For ‘Narcissistic Supply’ :

The concept of narcissistic supply stems from psychoanalytic theory. A parent in need of narcissistic supply may emotionally exploit his/her children by overly depending upon them to express their admiration of the him/her (the parent), to emotionally support him/her and to bolster his/her self-esteem. To read my article about narcissistic parents, click here.

 

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

 

The Manipulative Parent

There are many ways in which the manipulative parent may manipulate their offspring, including:

  • emotional blackmail
  • threats (explicit or implicit) / verbal aggression
  • deceit
  • use of the silent treatment’
  • control through money/material goods
  • positive reinforcement of a behavior which is damaging to the child
  • coercion
  • behaving in a passive-aggressive manner
  • projection
  • denial of obviously destructive behavior / gaslighting
  • causing the child to believe that s/he will only be loved by complying with the parent’s wishes at all times; in other words, there is an ABSENCE of unconditional love (indeed, some parents are emotionally ill-equipped to love their children).
  • causing the child to feel excessive guilt and ashamed for failing to live up to the parent’s expectations/demands
  • with-holding love as a form of punishment to cause emotional distress
  • direct or implied threats of physical punishment
  • making the child feel s/he is ‘intrinsically bad’ for not always bending to the parent’s will
  • manipulative parents and money : some parents may manipulate their child using money for a who;e host of reasons, including – spoiling the child and then accusing him/her of ingratitude ;  as a tacit way of ‘keeping the child quiet’ about abuse ; to ‘compensate’ the child for emotional neglect and ameliorate feelings of guilt ; to make the child feel indebted ; to increase the child’s dependence ; to induce feelings of guilt in the child either explicitly or implicitly ; as a tool to regulate the child’s behavior ; as an expression of the parent’s ‘superiority’ and contempt for the child ; as a superficial way of acting ‘the good parent.’
  • making the child believe s/he is ‘uncaring’ for not fully meeting the parent’s needs

 

Such parents may also be very controlling ; if our parents were overly controlling the characteristics they may have displayed include the following :

 

  • Did not show respect for, or value, our reasonable ideas and opinions
  • Imposed over-exacting demands on us and refused to listen to even the most reasonable and considered objections
  • Were preoccupied with criticizing us, whilst minimizing or ignoring our good points
  • Were excessively concerned about our table manners (e.g. failing to hold a knife and fork ‘ correctly’)
  • Were excessively rigid about what we eat
  • Discouraged us from developing independence of thought,especially if it led to a mismatch between our opinions, views and values and those of the parent
  • Imposed excessive demands on us regarding household rules/duties/regulations which we were not permitted negotiate even if any reasonable person would regard them as inappropriate
  • The parent/s would never admit to being in the wrong, even in very clear-cut circumstances
  • Were excessively and unreasonably controlling regarding our appearance; not respecting our wishes to express our individuality (e.g choosing all our clothes without any interest in our opinion about them)
  • Did not respect our choice of career and made demands on us to reconsider and instead pursue a career the parent/s regarded as more ‘suitable’ even when this would make us very unhappy
  • Expected us to reach standards which were impossible to attain and berated us when we inevitably, in their eyes,’failed’.
  • Did not allow us to voice reasonable objections (e.g. about the family dynamics and how they caused us unhappiness)
  • Were unnecessarily rigid regarding who we ‘ought’ to associate with in a way that reflected prejudice and discrimination against individuals we wished to associate with
  • Tried to make us suppress perfectly normal emotions such as anger, fear and unhappiness
  • Violated our privacy (e.g. searched our bedroom for our personal diary without a good cause)
  • Tried to control us with emotional blackmail, psychological manipulation, intimidation and threats

Whilst some parental attempts to manipulate and control are fairly blatant, as can be seen from the above examples, some are far mote subtle. This means that when we were young we may not have been aware that we were being manipulated; we may only come to realize it, in retrospect, with the extra knowledge we have gained as adults.

 

POSSIBLE EFFECTS OF THE MANIPULATIVE PARENT:

If we have been significantly manipulated, it can give rise to various negative feelings such as :

self-doubt

resentment/anger (which may sometimes serve, on an unconscious level, to sooth emotional pain).

shame/guilt

– a deep and painful sense of having been betrayed

 

WHY DO SOME PARENTS BEHAVE MANIPULATIVELY?

The reasons a parent manipulates his/her offspring are often subtle and complex. However, explanations may include

– the parent is narcissistic

– the parent has a grandiose self-view (often linked to above)

– the parent has low self-esteem/feelings of inadequacy and so abuses the power they do have as a form of overcompensation for own shortcomings

– failure of the parent to view the child as a separate, distinct and unique individual, but, rather, to view him/her as an ‘extension of themselves’ so that the child feels responsible for the parent and becomes ‘enmeshed’ in the relationship.

 

DEALING WITH A MANIPULATIVE MOTHER OR FATHER :

The effects of having been significantly manipulated by a parent in early life can have serious negative consequences in terms of our emotional development ; these consequences may be very long -lasting.

As adults, if we are still in contact with the parent, it is likely that the relationship remains problematic. We may have pointed out their propensity to manipulate, but to no avail – indeed, perhaps only making things worse.

 

So, what is the best way to cope with the manipulative relationship?

Essentially, we are less likely to be manipulated if we :

– develop good self-esteem

develop a strong self-concept/sense of identity

developing strong assertiveness skills

– being confident enough to refuse to do what we don’t want to do

– being confident enough to ask for what we do want

have the confidence to act according to our own values and convictions

RESOURCE : 

Recover from a Manipulative Relationship | Self Hypnosis Downloads

RELATED POST :

Manipulative Parents : Techniques They Use To Gain Power.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

When Parents Threaten Their Child With Violence

I have written elsewhere about how my mother was prone to unpredictable, unprovoked outbursts of extreme hostility when I was very young but it is only now I feel I want to be a little more specific – something has prevented me from going into detail up until now, although that ‘something’ is very hard to define, despite the fact I have (I hope!) gained a fair amount of insight into my past and its effects upon me.

When she was angry my mother’s verbal rage knew no limits ; her frequently repeated threats or hurtful statements included :

  • ‘I feel evil towards you! Evil!’ (The second ‘evil’ delivered in a particularly melodramatic, emphatic and malevolent tone)
  • ‘I feel I could knife you!’
  • ‘I feel murderous towards you!’  (or, if I was ‘lucky’, she’d be slightly more restrained and scream at me the rather more banal phrase, ‘I wish to Christ I’d never bloody had you!’ (though delivered in a tone of devastating conviction and palpable authenticity; one could almost feel the hot waves of hatred emanating from her).

(There may well be still worse examples which I have either repressed or which occurred when I was too young for them to form long-term memories – I simply can’t know; but this, of course, is true of everyone).

At the time, being on the receiving end of these, how shall I put it, rather less than maternally loving statements, I think I felt very little; just numb, in fact, as if everything had gone hazy and foggy. It seems I must have mentally shut down as a form of self-preservation; this is a psychological defense mechanism I now know to be called ‘dissociation‘).

For years, even decades, I kept these memories at the very back of my mind, so to speak, but, of course, that will have only worsened their psychological effect.

It is only now, decades later (I was about twelve-years-old when my mother’s verbal aggression was at its most vehement, just as I was entering puberty) that I feel ready to attempt to mentally process such experiences. However, painful this may be, avoiding doing so is likely to be even more so.

Very few of the articles I publish on this site are so personal and I apologize for, once again, indulging myself. However, my next post will be more objective and its topic directly related this one : ‘The Effects Of Parental Threats Of Violence Upon The Child.’

 

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

Parental Alienation Syndrome

In simple terms, parental alienation syndrome (Gardner, 1985), refers to the psychological effects on the child when one parent (in custody of the child) manipulates this child into rejecting the other parent (not in custody of the child) during or after separation and/or divorce proceedings.

At its worst, it involves the parent with custody of the child actively and maliciously attempting to programme and brainwash the child into hating the other parent.

At the other end of the scale, however, it can be that the parent with custody does not realise the effect their negative comments about their ex-partner are having on the child (i.e. causing the child, too, to develop a negative attitude towards the non custodial parent).

In any event, the result is, according to parental alienation theory, that the child internalises the custodial parent’s negative view of the non-custodial parent.

In extreme cases, the custodial parent may even brainwash the child into believing that the non-custodial parent is guilty of having abused him/her (the child) even when this is untrue. A famous example of this is American writer/director Woody Allen’s allegation that his ex-partner, Mia Farrow, was guilty of such malicious manipulation of their daughter.

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What Are The Effects Of Such Manipulation Upon The Child?

Gardner suggests the manipulated child who develops parental alienation syndrome may be affected in the following ways:

– idealisation of the custodial parent

– demonization of the non-custodial parent

– belief that his/her (the child’s) feelings of unequivocally hatred towards the non-custodial parent stem from his/her own judgement alone and have not been influenced by the custodial parent

– absence of any feelings of guilt about his/her (the child’s) expressions of hatred towards the non-custodial parent

 

Initially, Gardner proposed that, in the vast majority of cases, it was the mother who alienated the child from the father. However, he later retracted this hypothesis and stated that both mothers and fathers were equally likely to practice such malicious manipulation of the child’s feelings, beliefs and behaviour.

Gardner also stressed that parental alienation syndrome only applies when the castigated parent is not guilty of any child abuse.

Controversy:

It should be noted, however, that the validity of Gardner’s theory of parental alienation syndrome is disputed amongst mainstream psychologists and is not an officially recognized childhood psychological disorder at the time of writing.

However, that does not change the fact that such manipulation of children, and such manipulation’s deleterious psychological effects, are very far from uncommon.

Resource:

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

Emotionally Immature Parents : Effects On Their Children.

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The Emotionally Immature Parent:

Emotionally immature parents fail to connect with their children on an emotional level.

This can leave their children feeling emotionally insecure, existentially lonely, empty and hollow.

The emotions these children feel remain invalidated by the emotionally immature parent; indeed, the parent is frequently so self-obsessed that s/he fails to notice the child’s feelings and emotional needs.

However, as the child generally has no point of comparison, s/he may remain oblivious to the fact that s/he is being emotionally neglected.

As a result, the child might feel that s/he is somehow very different from his/her peers (perhaps s/he is depressed, anxious, severely lacking in confidence  and withdrawn) without understanding why this is. Very sadly, such a child may, wrongly, blame him/herself, believing him/herself to be somehow intrinsically unlikeable.

When such a child becomes an adult, s/he may continue to be severely lacking in confidence, particularly with regard to his/her ability to form relationships. In fact, s/he may develop a powerful fear of relationships, believing that the rejection s/he experienced as a child would be quickly repeated in any incipient adult relationship s/he managed to develop.

Due to this avoidance of relationships, the individual can perpetuate his/her feelings of emotional loneliness indefinitely throughout adulthood.

 

Some Typical Characteristics Of Emotionally Immature Parents:

– egocentrism

– poor ability to empathise with / understand emotional experiences their children

– may focus on physical needs of child at expense of his/her emotional needs

– shallow, but intense, emotions

– may parentify their children

– may have a tendency to over-intellectualize

– may keep others shut out emotionally, however hard they try to make an emotional connction

– may induce anger and rage in their child, due to the frustration and hurt the child feels in response to ‘being kept at arm’s length’ (The child may internalize such anger (is re-direct it at him/herself giving rise to depression, anxiety and irrational self-blame)

– may create what has been termed by psychologists ‘emotional contagion.’ ( i.e when the parent is upset s/he upsets everyone else to the point where they feel personally responsible for making him/ her feel better – this may take the form, for example, of protracted sulking)

– may be very adept at turning the blame on others. For example, if the child criticised him/ her it is the child who s/he defensively accuses as being the real ‘wrong-doer’ (e.g .s/he may accuse the child of being ‘judgmental’ and ‘unforgiving’).

– the emotionally immature parent may be so self-absorbed and focused on his/her own needs at the expense of the child’s that the child fails to form a strong sense of his/her own identity. To use an expression coined by the psychologist Bowen (1976) the child may become psychologically ‘de-selfed’.

Types Of Emotionally Immature Parents:

 

According to Gibson, PhD, an expert in this field, there are four main types of emotionally immature parents. I provide a very brief description of each of these below:

A) Emotionally Volatile:

Such a parent can exhibit dramatic mood swings and may vacillate, unpredictably, between being too involved with the child’s life and being too remote and withdrawn from him/her. Such a parent may also be prone to extreme over-reactions e.g .becoming excessively, and utterly disproportionately, angry when a child makes a small, innocent mistake.

B) Driven:

For example, such a parent may be a workaholic, obsessed with pursuing his own goals, controlling and a perfectionist’

C) Passive:

This type of parent, according to Gibson, minimises (thus largely invalidating) the child’s emotional problems. If the child is being abused by the other parent, this type of parent might even turn a blind eye to this, preferring not to ‘rock the boat.’ Indeed, such a parent generally takes the ‘line of least resistance’

D) Rejecting:

This type of parent may come to view his/her children as a burden, getting in the way of him/her pursuing his/her own life goals. In this way, the child is both resented and essentially rejected.

Therapy:

Individuals who have been adversely affected by having been brought up by an emotionally immature parent and have developed problems such as anxiety, depression, lack of identity and poor confidence can be helped by various types of psychotherapy; in particular, numerous studies have been conducted showing the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

 

You may also be interested in my article entitled :  EMOTIONAL DETACHMENT DISORDER AND CHILDHOOD TRAUMA

 

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