If we were significantly maltreated by our parent/s when we were children we may well, as a psychological defense against the intolerable dilemma this put us in, have unconsciously developed a ‘love-hate’ relationship with them.
In such cases, feelings of love and hate for the parent are compartmentalized / separated because the state of mind required to both love and hate the parent simultaneously is an impossible, contradictory and paradoxical concept that the child does not have the emotional resources to materialize.
Therefore, in order to allow an emotional attachment with the parent develop that will allow his/her (i.e. the child’s) psychological survival, the child has no choice but to hold the feelings of love and hate for the parent in ‘separate mental compartments’). This leads the child to perceiving his parents in terms of ‘black and white’ rather than in ‘shades of grey’. Indeed, this was a psychological defense I unconsciously developed as a result of my own childhood experiences, vacillating between idealizing my parents and demonizing them. It is only now that I understand more completely why this occurred that I am able, I hope, to hold a rather more balanced view (although, admittedly, I still don’t always succeed in this ; however, the psychological warfare, borne of profound, emotional conflict, that rages on is, these days, restricted to the confines of my still grievously injured, but recovering, mind).
Anger Turned Inwards :
Often, the anger and hatred that the child feels towards the parent may, as another psychological defense, be turned INWARDS, leading to the child experiencing self-hatred and self-loathing ; this defense mechanism occurs when the child perceives (on a conscious or unconscious level) that feelings and expressions of anger and hatred towards the parent would lead to the him/her (i.e. the child) being put in danger (e.g. liable to incur severe psychological and/or physical damage). And, as Freud pointed out, anger turned inwards may lead to serious depression (as well as numerous other undesirable psychological conditions).
Goal Of Therapy :
According to this theory, in order to help the individual overcome his/her love-hate conflict, it is necessary for the therapist to help him/her to integrate the two ‘separate compartments’ of his/her mind (i.e. the ‘compartment’ that holds feelings of love for the parent needs to be integrated with the ‘compartment’ that holds feelings of hatred for, and resentment of, the parent) so that s/he may start to see his/her parent, more realistically, in ‘shades of grey’ rather than in terms of either ‘black’ or ‘white'(See above). Individuals, too, are likely to require help with understanding how and why their negative feelings towards the parent have arisen and why such feelings may have been hitherto largely repressed / dissociated.
This is usually a long process and often does not occur until near the end of the course of therapy.
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).
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