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Children’s experience of a parent with an overwhelmingly strong personality.

30 October 2012

[This is the third post in a series. Consider starting with the first.]

The Overwhelmingly Strong Personality may already be familiar to you. Many of us might recognise or have experience of an awkward work colleague or a family member who is interpersonally rigid, easily offended, self-absorbed, blaming and finds it difficult to empathise with others. However kind, generous and supportive we are towards them, the atmosphere increasingly becomes permeated with resentment, anxiety and stress as those around them split into two camps; those who support (and are supported by) the Overwhelmingly Strong Personality and those who do not.

We may realise that something is wrong, but seldom manage to put our finger on what it is.

In order to sustain some self esteem, self image and control in their lives – and to get others to give them some loyalty and respect – such people employ a whole range of powerful, emotional and manipulative means in an attempt to control others’ behaviour and views of them. Some of this may be consciously intentional, but much of it may be unconscious habitual responses, motivations and strategies. Contrary to their powerful presentation and appearance, they are desperately coping with an inner core of low self esteem; of vulnerability; of being (they firmly believe) unloved and unloveable should their inner truth be known to anyone else. They often fear and presume that people will judge and reject or give up on them if they ever discover what they’re really like. They may privately believe others are more loveable, more effective and more attractive than they are.

In cases where one parent is determined to completely erase the other parent from the life of a child, it’s not difficult to imagine their intransigence being driven by fear that the other parent is actually a more effective parent than they are.

If you’ve ever had to work with someone like this – even for a short time – you’ll appreciate what a distressing and unpleasant experience it can be. Despite their confident, often charming presentation to the outside world, it’s difficult to imagine they’re happy people when everyone around them has been press-ganged into their service. Imagine then what it must be like to have someone like this as a parent. How do their children cope and what effect does it have on them?

The sense of who we are as individuals is something we develop and refine throughout our lives. The “terrible twos” and adolescence are important stages we’re all familiar with in that process. What’s perhaps less familiar, is what can happen if that process is derailed along the way.

Dr Sandy Hotchkiss provides a very clear explanation of this process in chapter 8 of her book “Why is it Always About You”, which is summarised here:

Until they’ve come out the other side of the “terrible twos” (and threes), children go through a stage where omnipotence and grandiosity are perfectly normal ways of thinking and the sense of entitlement that goes with that can trigger rage when they don’t get their own way. Shame is not something they experience initially but it becomes a powerful and challenging force for them to contend with on their journey though emotional development. Starting to form a healthy sense of self – as distinct from their caregiver – is an early stage in the process psychologists call separation-individuation; establishing boundaries between self and other and gaining the ability to distinguish between what is Me and what is You. The Overwhelmingly Strong Personality may lack these clear boundaries, but we all started out that way.

When children become mobile they’re scarcely aware of their vulnerability as they delight in their capacity to explore the world. They have tremendous confidence as they set off with an inflated sense of self that’s linked to an equally inflated sense of their primary caregiver, even when that person is momentarily out of view. What enables them to progress beyond this stage is the gradual development of real competence. With each new skill acquired they become less dependent on such inflated fantasies to sustain their sense of efficacy and self-esteem.

As their adored caregiver becomes the person who says “No” the child can feel deflated, even injured as that beloved face shifts from smile to gentle frown. This painful but essential lesson must be inflicted gently, but it teaches little ones they’re not always going to be placed on a pedestal and that their caregiver is separate and different.

Shame is a heavy burden for children to bear and they need sensitivity and responsiveness from an emotionally available caregiver to soothe them. With a gentle response, each brief journey from elation to shame and on to recovery becomes a positive experience of managing shame that leads to the development of a healthy sense of self. The youngster learns that hurt feelings can be mended; that he is effective and his caregiver can be trusted. If this doesn’t happen he may perceive that his needs and feelings are shameful and unacceptable: that he is bad. Children need compassionate help to manage their emotions and protection from feelings that might overwhelm them until they reach a stage where they’re able to do this on their own.

Shame inhibits the natural egotism that flourishes during this period, helping prepare youngsters to interact with others. It’s really important for them to learn not just that they’re unique and important but that everyone else is too. Without humiliating or overwhelming them, these small doses of shame – accompanied by their caregiver’s soothing guidance – allow children to learn the skills they need to recognise themselves and appreciate the autonomy of others. Once through the phase marked by clinging and opposition, the healthy child emerges with solid foundations for a whole and separate sense of Me.

Children are destined to let go of this normal childhood narcissistic position marked by grandiosity, omnipotence, magical thinking, shame sensitivity and the inability to appreciate interpersonal boundaries, so long as their parents tolerate, love and guide them as they develop self-reliance on their journey towards psychological independence. Over time their parents help them to see and respect the unmarked boundaries; to begin to realise who they are and have the potential to become in their own right; to learn how to manage shame and rage and how to live harmoniously with others in the world. Most important of all is that children become confident about their parents’ unconditional love for them based on their own intrinsic value.

When a parent is not equipped to guide and sustain a child through that journey, the child can become stuck; struggling to effect separation-individuation.

The “Pseudomature” Child

The “pseudomature” child is the one who seems to have skipped right over childhood. If you could travel back in time to observe such individuals from about the age of two or three, you might see a “little man” or “little mother” who, accommodating to a parent’s narcissistic proclivities, essentially raised him- or herself while trying to meet nearly impossible parental demands.

Researchers have shown that [parents] of such children discourage them from “acting like a baby” and push them to behave more like a “grown-up,” even in early childhood. They want words instead of physical contact and dislike it when their children act out anger. The kids are not supposed to make [their parent feel bad if they’re left] in someone else’s care, nor are they supposed to feel – let alone express – rage, humiliation and powerlessness that are normal in young childhood.

Not surprisingly, children who have been given these messages and have not been helped to develop skills for managing their shame, rage, and aggression turn out to be very appealing to adults on the one hand, but on the other, they’re more emotionally fragile than they initially appear. Their craving for admiration makes them clever at capturing the spotlight, but they need to be “the best,” in command, winners of any competition. They are precociously self-sufficient and adept at avoiding frustration, but when they can’t they fall apart, screaming, sobbing, even lashing out aggressively. They hate being helped by anyone, especially other kids, whom they tend to dominate. They are far too charming to be called “spoiled brats,” but they have considerable unresolved infantile narcissism, and they desperately need to be in control to maintain their self-esteem.

Both the “pseudomature” child and the “entitlement monster” are products of narcissistic parenting. The latter is held captive in a parent’s narcissistic bubble, while the former is forced out prematurely and forms a false Self that appears more competent than it actually is. Both fail to separate from their emotionally [unavailable caregiver], and they become what Mother, or Father, needs them to be rather than who they truly are. Their fragile self-esteem depends on the validation of others, but they also fear dependency and intimacy, which threaten to expose their weakness and intolerable shame. They strive to be recognized as superior and may envy those who have what they do not. While they may be superficially charming, they often have a deep cold streak or powerful hunger that comes from never having known empathic love. Those who are least able to tolerate shame and who have had their infantile grandiosity and omnipotence amplified will become Narcissists, while a larger group remain shame-driven, curiously drawn to those who resemble a narcissistic parent, and confused about what’s real and what isn’t.

From: Why is it Always About You? by Dr. Sandy Hotchkiss (Chapter 8)

Why some children are curiously drawn to those resembling a narcissistic parent; why families of alienating parents often support counter-intuitive responses to a child losing a parent after separation (see previous post); and why many rejected parents were attracted to their partners in the first place, are often closely linked. In his concise paper Co-Narcissism: How We Accommodate to Narcissistic Parents, Alan Rappoport, Ph.D. examines the coping mechanisms children and family members adopt and the profound impact their experience can have on their lives and down through the generations. Rappoport’s paper demonstates why it’s essential to look at the family and not just the child to understand why a child demonstrating extreme loyalty to one parent might reject the other parent, post-separation, when that’s disproportionate to the child’s actual experience with the parent being rejected.

The Co-Narcissism paper above is a key element of this blog post, not just a reference. I’d like to encourage you to click here to download it.

Terms such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder dominate the professional literature about parents of children who resist post-separation contact with their other parent, yet in more widely available material such potentially inflammatory terms are seldom used. Where they are included it’s often for the benefit of professionals who already understand those concepts, so they can apply them helpfully in context. In Scotland as in other parts of the UK there are very few mental health professionals actively engaged in this field because the issue is so widely regarded as a matter for the courts alone to resolve. The inclusion of these terms here serves two purposes: to highlight the urgent need for the involvement of the caring professions in these cases; and to provide signposts for meaningful engagement with them.

Those professional terms should not be used to label individual adults or children because it fuels a culture of blame and suggests a level of hostility that’s unlikely to be regarded as compatible with the best interests of the children involved. It’s important to gather objective information, find professional support and look for effective measures to deal with unhealthy behaviours rather than set out to label and eliminate “bad” people. All the elements in this pattern of behaviour are also found in normal relationships of all kinds. Recognising these in relationships does not mean that someone has a personality disorder. It’s the quality and quantity of the effects on others that marks out the pattern for special concern.

In this TED talk Brené Brown demonstrates for everyone just how important is our capacity to deal with shame and vulnerability because it relates to how we make the most fundamental connection in our lives:

In a subsequent TED talk Brené Brown carefully explains the distinction between shame (I am bad) and guilt (I did something bad) and why they can be seen as opposites. She concludes that [inability to deal with] shame is an epidemic in our culture and to get out from beneath it – to find our way back to each other – we have to understand how it affects us and how it affects the way we’re parenting; the way we’re working; the way we’re looking at each other.

The relevance of Brené Brown’s presentation for everyone – perhaps especially children in high conflict families – can best be seen in her Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto shown below. (Click the image to download poster; for more posters & additional resources see brenebrown.com).

The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto: © Brené Brown 2012

The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto: © Brené Brown 2012

If the Manifesto shows what children need most from their parenting, it also shows why this alienating pattern is so destructive.

It’s shown here to contrast with the picture of ideal parenting – of blissful happiness – some alienated children present.

It’s shown here, because children still need these things from their rejected parent.

It’s shown here to remind professionals that they do.

It’s the careful and persistent attending to these things – even in very small ways and even from a distance – that may be key to successful reunification.

 

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. Kat permalink
    25 November 2012 22:41

    Another good post and thanks for posting the link to the Rappoport article, which I found very interesting.
    I am sure you have seen the article on PA in the telegraph this weekend:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/sex/divorce/9699890/Divorcing-parents-turn-to-brainwashing-children-in-custody-battles.html
    I think it is worth distinguishing between different types of alienators, as how the alienation is dealt with will depend on its cause. What you are describing in your posts so far is what I consider “hardcore” alienators, where the alienation arises from deep within the personality of the alienator. The Telegraph article covers what is probably more common alienation that originates from a reaction of one or both parents to a stressfull situation. In many cases it probably dies down again given time for the emotions surounding the separation to die down again, hopefully but not always before too much damage is done to the children.

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    • 26 November 2012 02:30

      Thank you Kat. I did see the Telegraph article though I’ve not yet read through all the many comments it generated.

      The point you raise is a very valid one and I hope to address it more fully in a future post. I offered some indication in my last post that the examples given were near one end of the spectrum:

      “It’s not always so severe and in some cases it can be short lived until the heat and pain of a break up starts to subside, or the parents are worn down by or come to accept some inevitable consequence of the legal process.”

      Equally, I thought it was important to stress that most parents actually do put their children first even despite the considerable stress they experience, when I wrote:

      “Most parents who separate, manage that well by putting their children first. Even when circumstances mean it’s really difficult for them; as parents they work hard at that too. Many would much prefer to leave the past behind them and move on with their lives, often with good reason; be it guilt or anger or pain, but they resolve this dilemma well away from their children; taking care to infect them only with contagious reasonable behaviour.”

      My view is if that’s what most separating parents do – without alienating behaviour – it’s not the origin of the alienation although those same stressful events do trigger it in other people. I find it helpful to view this in terms of the narcissistic elements that are a fundamental part of everyone’s make up. In the main that’s simply a normal part of healthy behaviour, but it forms part of a spectrum. In some people it can become problematic without that meaning they have a “disordered” personality, but it’s still the quality and quantity of the effects on others that’s significant. I think of it in the following way. It’s easy to imagine almost anyone making an inappropriate remark to or about an ex-partner in front of a child in a really stressful moment, but most reasonable people will see that (or have it pointed out to them) and they’ll regret it and be quick to tell the child that they were wrong to have said it. Essentially, it can happen, but the majority of parents put it right and try to avoid it in future. It becomes problematic and damaging to children when one or both parents are reluctant or simply refuse to accept that what they’ve said is inappropriate (because they have difficulty with the distinction or boundary between their own feelings and needs and those of the child). It’s also common in such cases for those around the alienating parent to know that pointing this out will immediately lead to them being put firmly in their place: so they don’t (often despite feeling they ought to).

      Although there are undoubtedly lots of different personal circumstances and a variety of alienating strategies, I wonder if it’s more helpful to think of there being a spectrum of alienating behaviour (in terms of quality, quantity and effect on others) than different types of alienators, because alienating behaviour can be seen to stem from narcissistic behaviour (which itself ranges from “normal” to extreme), or the extent to which the parent’s view of everything is filtered through a lens focussed on themself rather than the child.

      As you point out, distinctions are important because of how readily alienating parents can/will accept help and be able/prepared to modify their behaviour. It’s fairly widely accepted that those at the extreme end of the spectrum (who might be diagnosed with a personality disorder) will largely be unable to change even with a great deal of support, and that’s what can lead to conclusions that the only effective way to stop the child being exposed to alienating behaviour is to effect a change of residence. You’ll also have seen from the Rappaport paper that narcissistic people will do almost anything to avoid being helped or diagnosed because they do not feel free or safe enough to examine their own behaviour let alone go near someone who might recognise the internal turmoil they’re struggling to contain. Conversely, this also means a great many parents can be helped to see just how damaging this behaviour is for their children and be given the support, help and encouragement to manage their post-separation relationship with the other parent differently for the childrens’ benefit. It also becomes more readily apparent why programmes like Putting Children First are so desperately needed yet at the same time are likely to be resisted by those parents who need them the most. Yet that in itself becomes a helpful indicator and important reason for the authority and watching brief of the courts in a more integrated system that we can aspire to.

      Although there are oblique references to narcissism in the general literature about alienated children, with the lack of engagement by the caring professions in the UK, I thought it important to try to offer a brief but fuller exploration of the issue here because it’s so fundamental to understanding what’s actually happening, and to highlight how vital it is that we seek out those professionals so they can explain what might be done to help these children.

      If you haven’t heard it, you might also find that this recent BBC Radio 4 clip entitled The “Me” Generation offers an interesting wider perspective (begins at 09 min 30 secs).

      I’m so pleased to have your thoughtful comments here Kat.

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      • Kat permalink
        13 December 2012 10:19

        I finally got around to listening to the radio interview about the “me” generation – very interesting. I looked up the narcissistic personality inventory that is discussed and it does raise questions about how you test personality traits. It seems to me to be the kind of test that will only work if the people tested do not know the real purpose of the test. People I have come across whom I believe to have narcissistic tendencies are generally very good at hiding this. It seems to me almost as if they try to copy behaviour they observe in others. Yet the behaviour has a different motivation (not quite the right word) to other people, which can only be picked up when looking very closely and seeing that they “get it slightly wrong” or it is inconsistent with other behaviour.
        An example I came across a little while ago was a child in early teenage years, who wanted to engage in an activity common amongst children of this age group. The activity represents a move towards independence and depends on being able to get around town alone. One of the parents voiced concerns about safety in traffic. To a third person looking at the situation from the outside this is a rational concern, given the age maybe a bit overprotective but quite normal for a caring parent. When looking more closely it is clear that this parent is not usually concerned about traffic safety and indeed was happy for this child to walk to school situated on a busy road unaccompanied from a young age. However, third person will not have that knowledge and is potentially then deceived by the portrayal of concerned parent.

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      • 13 December 2012 13:17

        I think that they “get it slightly wrong” is an extremely good description. It seems to me that when you’re around someone like this it’s often just a feeling you’re left with; but pinning it down, as you have, is much more difficult because they are so effective at masking the real intent behind their behaviour and also quick to put down any suggestion that shows signs of accurately identifying it. They are often in fact masters of manipulation and misdirection. You’re other observations, such as: “they try to copy behaviour they observe in others” are similarly astute.

        What I find really disconcerting is what’s behind these behaviours and subconscious strategies. It seems they can be largely explained by an (almost complete in extreme cases) inability to empathise with others. Perhaps this also makes better sense of the “bad boundaries” issue – where they are unable to appreciate that others have different views, feelings and needs to their own – because they only view the world around them through a lens that’s focused on “Me”. When that’s how they perceive their environment it becomes apparent why they do not seem to “get it” so much of the time because it’s largely through our consideration of and concern for others that we gain the instinct and intuition that informs so much of what we do. To compensate for that, they do something else (that we all tend to do, although not to the same extent); they carefully observe and analyse the behaviour of others in order to try to understand what they do (perhaps even to establish what most might consider “normal” behaviour), however they are still largely unable to understand the “why”. So rather than behaving intuitively – to often just “know” or “feel” what’s right in most day to day situations – their behaviour is based on something more like an intellectual analysis of what they see. It’s perhaps easier from that perspective to see why the road safety explanation – in your example – might be offered in a way that works only in the immediate context but not in a wider one that, for others, would be informed by the concept of concern for a child’s safety at all times. One problem, I think, with them having to do everything on the basis of intellectual analysis rather than intuitive understanding of situations is that when they also view everything through the “Me” lens, what strikes them most is just how many opportunities there are to exploit the “inexplicable” altruistic behaviours and trusting nature they observe in others.

        Another similar trait that’s often apparent in dealings with an overpoweringly strong personality arises when there’s an argument or debate, and is most effective when it’s also associated with high intelligence. Since they are so adept – through practice – at intellectualising human interaction, it’s often apparent as you’re making your point that they are almost simultaneously framing an intellectual response and are even able to anticipate what you’ll say before you’ve fully expressed it. Their response can then be immediate, often cutting you off before you’re finished, but it really can be very noticeable because it’s so disconcerting – like a “put-down” – and often gives the impression they really know and are quite certain of what they’re saying, although when you later unpick what was said you find it was actually rather odd. This is one of the things that makes them so very effective in court, because it’s just so convincing, and by the time everyone else gets to the point (if they ever do) that it didn’t really stack up, the decision has long since been made.

        Of course when we find this so difficult, it’s perfectly clear that children are simply unable to unpick all that in any meaningful way. Yet they will still have that sense of unease because the bigger picture does not ring true, not least because it’s so different from what they observe in the experience of their peers. What’s perhaps worse, is that these intellectual responses are so devoid of empathic “feeling” they give children a sense the parent does not genuinely care about them. I suspect many alienated parents will recognise those same feelings from their own experience with their ex-partners but may never have realised that the children have a similar experience; one that’s so difficult for any child to cope with. However parents are very strong authority figures for children, especially when they are so powerfully – perhaps even alarmingly – convincing with their delivery and when they so often claim to be doing what they do because they’re adults and therefore know what’s best for their child. Some of these children might be all too familiar with the concept of “tough love”, indeed may be openly told – even at a young age – it’s good for them to fend for themselves: to browse from the kitchen; to be responsible for their own laundry; to always remember their lunch money and bus fares without anyone checking, or to learn to take the consequences too; though I suspect they might not feel there’s much care coming their way. This then brings us back to the opening passage of the pseudomature child quote in this post.

        I was wondering what you’d make of the “Me” generation radio interview. I’m glad you found it interesting. I found the “fake paparazzi” both hilarious and disturbing. I’m sure you’re absolutely right about the inventory, but in the context of the study it was possibly not disclosed in a very specific way and may anyway have been intended only to take a broad view of traits in the general student population with awareness that more extreme cases would quickly self de-select.

        I’d better say that the traits as described here refer to the more extreme end of the spectrum, but many of the same things can still be observed with most narcissistic behaviour.

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  2. karenwoodall permalink
    11 December 2012 11:56

    Reblogged this on Karen Woodall and commented:
    i am reblogging this because it is such a beautifully written expose of what is going on in so many families where alienation is arising in children. i am excited by the way in which the bigger conversation is starting and how many people (some of whom are parents affected by alienation issues, some of whom are professionals) are starting to do the necessary work to build new thinking and evidence based strategies. I am delighted to have met expofunction recently and find this blog to be entirely complimentary to my own work adding to my thinking and prompting me to consider further how we can get the messages out there and the support to help parents who are in this terrible place come through it and survive, for their children’s sake as well as their own. Thank you expofunction, I look forward to collaboration and creation of something new and exciting in 2013 and beyond. K

    Like

    • Kat permalink
      11 December 2012 12:30

      Really pleased to see this – this blog deserves a bigger exposure!

      Like

  3. 11 December 2012 14:11

    I found reading this intersting but disconcerting. I shall tell you why… I had a wonderful close relationship with my 10 year old son, I was his main carer from birth while my partner worked, so we become very close. I was never overbearing with him and always allowed him freedom to express his own ideas and tried to allow him the room to develop his own character and personality. I always gave him my time, no matter how tired I was, he came to me with every problem and we gently talked about them and how to iron them out. We were as close as close could be. My partner was and still is the type to always want her own way, and there was never ever any arguing with her on any subject or in any decision making, I always just gave it, I didnt see the point, she was just to over bearing.

    Coming to the point here, me and my partner eventually broke up and agreed a shared care arrangment with our son when he was six years old. This went very well for 2 years after our breaking up. However, the time came when she met another man and things began to change from that point on. She tried to cut me out of my sons life and the matter ended up in court. We were both sent to see a psychologist, and to my amazment I was the one that was labelled with the personality disorder of being a Narcissist, the very thing my partner had! What the psychologist interpretated as narcissism was my anger, yes I was angry at being parted from the child I loved for a period of 4 years, who the hell wouldnt be angry? Can you explain this one please? And the evidence that she has alienated my son is plain to see, but her actions seem to go unchallenged in court. Im confused to say the least.

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    • 11 December 2012 14:30

      I notice only a few readers have clicked on the link I provided to Alan Rappaport’s Co-Narcissism article (perhaps because the default link colours didn’t make it obvious they are clickable links, so I’ve now changed that). Rappoport’s article really is interesting and challenging too, so you might like to have a look at that first – if you’ve not read it – to see if it helps make more sense. That article really forms an integral part of what I’m hoping people will explore and think carefully about when they read this post.

      It’s perfectly understandable that you feel angry in this situation, but it can often be counter-productive too. It’s certainly not what children should be picking up from the parents yet most people’s first port of call is their lawyer, so anger and frustration can quickly become amplified in an adversarial legal system that’s ill equipped to deal with this situation.

      Karen Woodall (linked on the right) has begun to develop the UK services that are needed and it would be wonderful if we could simply clone her. But things are changing and what Karen does so brilliantly is at the very heart of that, and will be instantly recognisable to the best caring professionals if we draw their attention to it. Not all caring professionals might be as receptive as we would like, but there are a few who will be.

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  4. Kat permalink
    4 January 2013 16:49

    If you haven’t seen it this might interest you: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20756247
    It covers much the same as the radio program referred to above

    Like

    • 17 January 2013 21:49

      I hadn’t seen it Kat, thanks for posting the link.

      Many UK readers will have seen the Channel 4 documentary Sharing Mum and Dad on Monday evening. It had a greater than usual focus on childen and was a good introduction to the general issues of separation. However, what I found much more interesting (and relevant to the issue under discussion in this series of blog posts) was the BBC Radio Scotland programme Call Kaye the following morning. It featured Tim Lovejoy, the presenter of the previous night’s Channel 4 documentary, talking to Kaye Adams, with compelling contributions from parents, children and professionals. Readers might be interested to hear that too and the audio clip has now been added midway through the previous post on this blog:

      Imagine: a child you know loses a parent through illness, accident or military conflict. What would you expect to see?

      The audio clip gives a positive reminder of how the majority of parents sort out their post-separation arrangements for the benefit of the children – despite how they too find it incredibly difficult – and how much of a difference that really does make to childrens’ lives.

      Like

  5. 30 December 2013 16:02

    Reblogged this on Moms' Hearts Unsilenced and commented:
    I see where I’ve failed my children — I allowed abuse to crush me & leave me less effective as a parent. I am sorry, but I have compassion when I look back at how every big decision I made was always about them, but I was in an impossible situation. When a woman is put in a financially & psychologically dependent situation, & the man treats her like a child & undermines her & models disrespect, it makes for a difficult parenting situation, at best. A wife wanting love from her husband and happy, healthy children, but constantly thwarted… it can become a survival just to understand who you are, your worth, & your role. May all women & men keep their sense of self & choose partners where there is mutual respect & not psychological games.

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    • 30 December 2013 16:36

      I think it’s really important to remember in this situation that one parent typically puts everyone else in the family first and the other acts in manipulative, deceptive and controlling self-interest. The patterns in both parents’ upbringing are probably what prepared them so well for each other so it’s incredibly important to focus on breaking this intergenerational pattern.

      What we need is understanding and support to do that, and most of all cool, clear-headed and hard thinking about the cases of individual families who’re caught up in this. It’s not a gender issue – both mothers and fathers inflict this on their children – and the partner abuse can be physical and/or emotional.

      Parents who’ve been through this – and have the benefit of hindsight – are probably stronger and better prepared than anyone to help do what’s right for their children in the long term. It’s the recognition and acceptance of our own vulnerability which is perhaps the greatest enabler. Brené Brown recently gave another excellent talk at the RSA in London which was made into a very popular < 3 minute 'Animated Short':

      You can see a fuller version here:

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  6. 30 December 2013 16:46

    Yes, I can’t relate to what it is like to be a man in this situation, but I can see how a man could be blindsided & emotionally abused. I do know my own vulnerability because staying home with little ones & the logistics with school & after school obviously had an impact on my career. Thank you for the great resources!

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