On the post What If It just Doesn't Seem That Bad to Me? I referred to psychological incest as a particularly insidious form of abuse. Because this abuse is psychological in nature it is much harder to understand the impact it has upon its victims. Victims have enough trouble accepting the fact that physical and sexual abuse ARE bad even with physical elements of trauma present. The damage caused by this more covert abuse is so hard for victims to identify, thus making it all the more powerful.
The use of this term pushed a button with some of my readers. I promised I would address this subject in a post. My guess is this will take many more posts than one. But I'm going to get started and open the door on this big can of worms.
Please, ask all the questions you need. The only way we'll ever get through all the aspects of this abuse is by you guys pushing my buttons for a change. It is just such a vast subject. I know I would probably leave lots of things out. I'm going to start off with giving you a professional accessment. Then I'm going to add a personal antedote on the subject. Don't rule out the subject because this antedote is not your scenario, this is just one of many. I will post more as we go along.
When I was in therapy this abuse was referred to as psychological incest but it is more commonly known as emotional incest or covert incest
Let me start off with a few basic facts. Many of the aspects of this abuse will be present in other forms of abuse. These behaviors are not unique to psychological incest. I think what identifies this abuse is that the child is elevated to the status of the adult on some level.
From the website, CovertIncest.org
Why It Happens
Covert incest typically occurs in families where one parent (the shadow parent) does not actively participate in family affairs, thus setting the stage for the other parent (the invasive parent) to turn to a child for emotional support. The invasive parent in effect makes the child a surrogate spouse who is forced to take on the responsibilities of the shadow parent. The roles are essentially reversed; instead of the parent looking after the child, the child is responsible for the parent's well being. This is a terrible burden for a
child to carry, as a child is incapable of meeting the emotional needs of an adult.
I would add to this it can take place in families where one parent is very sick or absent. Depending on the reason for the absence, death, work, alcholol or drug addiction, extensive travel, military, etc, there can be a million different scenarios that make this possible within the family system.
What stands out the strongest for me is that this particular abuse can set a victim up to believe that they are somehow special. This "specialness" acts as a wedge to seperate the victim from peers and siblings. That dynamic alone is so damaging that many victims never realize its affects.
I remember a woman from one of my groups who used to go on and on about how burdened she was by her great beauty. While she was a beautiful woman, I'm no slouch in that department myself. I've always turned heads but have never felt burdened by it. Actually I found it difficult to even accept that I was beautiful. I really had trouble understand where this woman was coming from. And while we were friends, I was always aware of how hard she worked to push me away.
Frankly her constant insistance that no one could possibly understand how isolated she felt because of her beauty was in actuality the aftermath of psychological incest. Her alcoholic father had put her up on that pedestal and her mother worked the angle to her advantage to manipulate the father. All the while the child was caught in the middle between her parents feeling like somehow she had power over this whole situation.
While this woman was in therapy to deal with the sexual abuse at the hands of a cousin, she had no clue of the phychological incest that had happeded within her own immediate family. She left group thinking she had resolved her sexual abuse issues when in actuality she hadn't even identified the more insidious abuse she had suffered at the hands of both parents.
to be continued............
Anyone reading this Be AWARE! in the comments I have moderated a very explicit comment. I am going to post it because I think it will be very helpful to some. This form of abuse is so difficult for victims to identify, details such as this will be helpful. If you are worried about triggers Do Not Read. The comment starts off with the writer saying she would respect my choice to post or not post so use that as a warning that this is the explicit comment.
multiple personality disorder MPD covert incest emotional incest psychological incest