- Codependency in other relationships
- Weak sense of self
- Poor interpersonal boundaries and inability to say “no”
- Chronic guilt or shame
- Trust issues
- Inability to express or handle emotions
- Anxiety or depression
- Being a people-pleaser
This list identifies a certain type of parent. Recognize them?
1. They tried to control you through codependency
In other words, you were told by your parent/s, “Don’t leave me. I need you. I can’t live without you.” This made it impossible for you to live an autonomous life or establish independent priorities other than catering to the needs of your parent/s.
2. They laid on the guilt thick
Another method of controlling you was to constantly guilt trip you into doing what they wanted. They may have told you, “I’ve done so much for you, I’ve sacrificed everything for you.” As a result, you felt indebted to them and as though you “owed” them complete obedience.
3. They only loved you when you did what THEY wanted
Your parent/s withdrew love very easily. If you failed to do what they wanted, they would either punish you severely, or give you the silent treatment. You had the impression that they only loved you when you PROVED your worth to them.
4. They liked to “get even” with you
When you did something “wrong” or against their will — even in the smallest way — they made sure they punished you. This petty and childish way of “getting even” may have been subtle or very obvious. For instance, they may have deliberately sabotaged something you cared about, broke something of yours, or hid something to get back at you.
5. They never respected your boundaries
There wasn’t any “private” space to call your own growing up. Your parent/s would go through your room and private belongings, without a thought, sometimes even using what they found against you.
6. They competed with you
If you ever got something nice, they took it from you, or got something nicer to “out-do” you.
7. They “owned” your accomplishments
Whenever someone complimented your achievements, your parent/s would instantly jump in and shift the attention to themselves. For example, if someone congratulated you for winning a soccer trophy, your parent/s would butt in and say something along the lines of, “Yes, she gets it from me. I was always athletic as a child.” They love the spotlight and frequently stole it from you.
8. They constantly lied to you
Your parent/s lied to manipulate, control and take advantage of you in some way, shape or form. You never knew what you could trust was “real” or truthful around them, or whether they were setting up a hidden trap for you to fall into.
9. They never listened to (or cared) about your feelings
You felt that you could never share your feelings with your parent/s because they would either make fun of you, or talk about themselves instead. Somehow, whatever issue you faced as a child was spun into a pity party for them, not you.
10. They constantly insulted you
Your parent/s berated, demeaned and harassed you on a constant basis. They may have even latched onto an insecurity of yours and used it to humiliate you.
11. They exerted explicit control over you
In other words, when you didn’t obey them, they would punish you. The message was very clear, “Obey me, or I’ll punish you.” You were punished through emotional or physical abuse including emotional blackmail, hitting or beating.
12. They gaslighted you
In order to control you, they used a psychological manipulation tactic known as gaslighting. What this means is that they would deliberately make you feel crazy, or cause you to doubt your sanity, in order to gain the upper hand. This led to the development of constant self-doubt during your childhood, adolescence and present life.
13. They “parentified” you
As a child, you were expected to “parent” your parent, or behave as a surrogate parent to cater for their needs, instead of them catering to yours.
14. They had a “favorite” or “golden” child
In your family there was the “golden” child and the “scapegoat” child. In other words, one child was seen as perfect and capable of doing no harm. The other child was seen as the black sheep, and the cause of all issues (this is also known as an identified patient). These roles could have also switched frequently.
15. They reacted intensely to any form of criticism
Did you ever criticise your mother or father? What was their general reaction? If your mother and/or father was a narcissist, they likely reacted in an extreme way. They would scream at you and likely physically hurt you through smacking, or some other method.
16. They projected their bad behavior onto you
For example, if you were in an argument, they would hysterically scream at you, “ How dare you talk to your mother that way. Go to your room. We’ll talk after you stop screaming at me.”
17. They never displayed any empathy
They never asked about your feelings, sympathized with you, or cared. They seemed to be solely interested in their own feelings.
18. They were infallibly correct and never wrong
Even when they made a mistake or treated you in an unfair, or unjust way, they never apologized for their mistake. When you confronted them about it, they denied all accusations and tried to spin the blame onto you.
19. They liked to present a perfect family image to outsiders
Your parent/s went to great lengths to ensure that others perceived you as a loving/successful/enviable family. Likely, you were very aware of this ploy, but kept silent for fear of wrath from your parent/s.
We have all heard of a straw-man argument: represent your opponents case as weakly as possible, then knock it down.
I'm now a big fan of strongman arguments: start any argument by representing your opponent as strongly as you can. The first thing it says is you take your opponent seriously. And that you take your own thoughts on the matter seriously, too. You have thought it over deeply, looked sharply at both sides, and have cogent and expressible reasons why you believe as you do. It lifts the argument, and creates a aura of respect sorely lacking in ideological arguments these days.
My process of healing (sorry, this is long):
These are the events and books, in the order I found them, which had the greatest impact on understanding who I was and teaching me how to heal:
I grew up as well as any kid could, was smart, and thought I had a pretty good life. I didn't seem lonely, though I was always alone.
I had a very poor interaction with a woman, and began to realize there was something seriously wrong with me. I had no idea what, but it was big enough and so painful that I said the most heartfelt and honest prayer of my life: "GOD, FIX ME!" That was five years ago.
No More Mr. Nice Guy by Robert A. Glover
This book validated the feeling I had that in some fundamental way I was "broken." No particular way to heal, though. Before this I thought I had a good upbringing and my problems were my fault, like the inability to talk to people, especially girls. I had elaborate daydreams/fantasies which I used a lot to aswage bad feelings. I also had long experience of finding distractions (hobbies, mostly, I could throw myself into). This book helped me understand the covert deals I'd make with people: if I do you a favor by going out of my way to help you without complaining, you'll see how I was helpful and return love to me. No one but me knew this was the deal I was making, and of course I was continually disappointed, so I'd fantasize more about being loved and go back to my hobbies.
I had two very revealing dreams. One taught me very early on that there was a major part of me that I didn't know about. I saw a big, sleek black cat, a disembodied old cat's head that was still alive, but could not talk, and a small dog waiting to have fun. They were all parts of me, though I was only aware of the old cat's head, the intellectual part of me which could not really communicate.
Another dream was very revealing. I saw myself as twin babies, both sleeping. One I could see, the other was wild and I didn't look at it. I witnessed the dream from my grown up point of view, in charge of the infants. Then a devil came in through the front door: short, black, wispy, dread, sucking the light out of it's vicinity. It started toward the babies, and to protect them I moved to the side, toward the couch, to attract it away from them. I sat, and pulled my knees up like I was giving birth (I'm a guy, so that was strange to me). The devil surrounded me and I was filled with despair. Then a being of light emerged from within the house, bright, good, loving, with an effortless light that immediately lightened and loved all around, dispelling the darkness. It went to the babies to protect them with love, as the devil settled around me, engulfing me, and I had no protection against it. It took me years to understand all the parts of it, as you'll see below.
Articles at https://www.theschooloflife.com/thebookoflife/
These are great articles, most by philosopher Alain de Botton. It was here I read about the work of child psychologist Donald Winnicott, who identified the development in some children of a "false self," constructed by the child to respond to the emotionally distant adults around him, and the suppression of the true self. This idea resonated strongly with me, though I had no idea how to deal with my false self. I could then acknowledge my true self, but by false self was still in charge. I began to develop confidence in being true to myself, I was just very bad at it. The big black cat of my dream was my true self. The being of light was my true self, and my point of view was my false self, powerless to resist evil, powerless to protect, could not love, it could only follow orders and obey or disobey.
I got married to a fantastic woman. She has problems she's mostly dealt with, and her kids have problems, but we have a house with love in it, which makes the process of healing better.
Secret Attachments by Peter Michaelson
A minor book centering on the idea that the way we were raised sets the standard for how we recognize love, and that standard can change.
Running on Empty by Jonice Webb
This is the book that opened everything up to my understanding. It explained me. It explained that puzzling halo of symptoms of childhood emotional neglect that I could never put together myself. The advice the author gives didn't help me to the end of my healing, but it was a very good start for someone with loving people around. Everyone who is shy should read this. It's important, with the best set of explanations I've read so far.
The Emotionally Absent Mother by Jasmine Lee Cori
Another of the great CEN books. Essential reading. This book recommends journaling and using sentence roots to open your inner world to you. Very effective for me. The idea of the Good Mother is explained in this book. That was the figure of light in my dream. It was that part of me which knows and understands love. Love dispels the darkness, not through any effort it takes, but just because of the nature of love.
Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson
The third of the essential CEN books. The author makes two big points that really struck home to me: CEN victims entertain elaborate healing fantasies invented by us to give us hope of feeling loved, and that we all take on self-roles. these self roles are behavioral roles we invented as children to earn love. Mine was that I'd do things for those around me, and they would see and respond with love. It never happened, but these are the same covert deals that nice guys use. The really interesting thing is that once I knew what these fantasies were about, they had no more audience and dissipated as soon as they started. I am now far more in the moment now.
I'm not completely healed, but happiness has returned to my life. God is fixing me.
So there are two very well-written books on emotional neglect and the big consequences out there, clear, concise, different ways of thinking about it and dealing with it:
The Emotionally Absent Mother by Jasmin Lee Cosi
Running on Empty by Jonice Webb
Worth a read.
I realize, reading the posts in the Childhood Emotional Neglect Survivors group on Facebook that I'm in an almost unique situation: I'm healing well and fast.
Maybe it's because I went through a sequence of realizations that worked really well for me:
I realized I suffered from "Nice Guy" syndrome.
I saw, in a dream, three parts of me: a grey cat's head (my false self, I realized later), a big black cat (my emotional self) and a small quiet dog who was patiently waiting to play (an aspect of my true self).
I realized I had a false self, when meant there was a true self buried down inside me somewhere.
I "saw" my false self in a moment of realization/revelation, sitting quietly in a chair beside my dresser.
I got married to an extraordinarily supportive and wise woman, which is the best part of this list.
I realized I was a highly sensitive person, and felt things more intensely than most.
I realized that my emotional self had been neglected as a child, and that's why I suppressed my false self.
I am healing fast. Lots of grief and mourning to go, sure, but lots of fun, too. But an important part in all this is how clear my True Self is to me, how vivid he is to me. That's important, I think. It's given me a very certain framework to describe what's been going on, with few self-doubts.
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