Saturday, February 2, 2008

Psychological Incest - Parental Roles

Emotional Incest: Everybody’s Favorite Topic is a great blog post that was done a couple of years ago. It's actually has some better material than I found on the professional sites. I guess I could categorize this post as a synopsis and review of a book on the subject of psychological (or emotional) incest, The Emotional Incest Syndrome: What to do when a parent’s love rules your life by Patricia Love and Jo Robinson,

I'm going to recap some of that information here. Then I'm going to try to broaden that information with some instances that I believe suit each category. The hopes is that adding the human dimension (story) will help the reader to understand the roles better and maybe even make it so the reader can see similarities in other circumstances.

There are fiver different roles identified that the incestuous parent can take in seducing a child. The parent can take on this role with one or all of the children in the family. These roles are the invasive parent, the romancing parent, the neglectful parent, the critical/abusive parent, and the sexualizing parent.

The invasive parent has no boundaries with the child. The child is allowed no privacy for her/his possessions or even over her/his own body. It is a clear message that the child is the parents to do with as the parent sees fit.

One of my very best friends from high school's mother was an invasive parent. The woman had no respect for her daughtes boundaries at all. Well, actually my friend had NO boundaries when it came to her mother. She felt absolutely powerless to stop her mother from doing anything to her or her room or anything to do with her. Her mother was all powerful and my friend was totally powerless.

The ritual of bathing in that house was sick. While a parent must bathe an infant, it is appropriate for the parent to teach the child to bather her/himself but that didn't ever happen in this home. Even when my friend was in college her mother would bathe her and wash her hair. When I say bathe her, I mean all over her body, not respecting my friends need for privacy at all.

How did this affect my friend? She is in her sixties and has never been married and is still a virgin. She has never maintained any relationship for more than a few dates and there have been very few of those. She is completely crippled as far as intimacy is concerned. A really sad truth about a wonderful, sincere woman.

The romancing parent treats the child as an adult partner. This parent shares intimacies with the child, like one would with a lover. The parent may turn the child for emotional comfort and support in lieu of a participating partner. That partner may be present but inaccessible for a variety of reasons.

The friend I wrote of above, her father took this role with her. He took her camping and fishing and shared all of his hobbies with her because the mother couldn't be bothered with that stuff and supposedly to give the child a break from her mother. He confided in the child about the coldness of his wife and how lonely he was. The father and daughter were practically joined at the hip.

This child's father was the love of her life. No man could ever compare to him. No man could ever have the kind of relationship with her that she had with her father. If you think about it, the relationship was based on the triangulation between the three individuals. A one on one relationship would always be lacking in that dynamic. And again, as I said, this friend has never been able to maintain any kind of an emotional relationship with a partner.

The family unit with a neglectful parent has children who pick up the slack left by that parent's lack of participation in the family. The child may take care of her/himself, sometimes their siblings and even their parents.

In my family, my father was dying of cancer and my mother had to work to support us kids. As early as I can remember I was cooking, cleaning and doing laundry for six kids. I went along on grocery shopping trips and learned to be an expert at finding bargains so we could be well fed and have clothes. Speaking of clothes I even made clothing for my mother and my siblings.

I made sure the other kids (there were six of us) did their choirs and their homework. Heck, I even gave them parties on their birthdays. I love those siblings like they are my own kids. They resent me like I was their mother. We have no relationships today and, I believe, never will.

The abusive/critical parent is the easiest to identify. I think most of us can relate to a parent like this. The abusive part is easy to see so I won't get into that here. It is the critical parent that can be illusive to define.

The expectations the critical parent has for the child are impossible to reach for an adult, let alone a child. The child can never be successful not matter what she/he does. The critical parent may expect the child to fulfill whatever disappointments the parent had in her/his own life. Of the parent may think it is the child's responsibility to fulfill the parent's hopes and dreams.

There are many critical parents out there. You see them at soccer games yelling at their kids to play better, calling them stupid because they missed a play. They can be seen behind the scenes with child stars pushing infants in front of the cameras, hoping to gain the spotlight through their child.

Certainly the driving force behind Michael Jackson and his brothers was a critical parent. The movie about his life clearly shows the dynamic of psychological incest. Is it no wonder that Michael Jackson's relationship with young children is a confused mess.

Then we come to the sexualizing parent that I referred to in my first post. That is the one that brags about how beautiful the child is. Making such a big deal of physical appearance the child feels different from others and up on a pedestal. This parent takes the child out on "dates" as if an adult partner.

Sometimes this abuse will lead to sexual contact, although that is not the norm. However, professionals agree that victims of the sexualizing parent have really suffered long term low level sexual abuse.

I have met a number of women who have experienced this scenario. The friend from school was definitely sexualized by her father. Her father took her to social functions in the place of his wife.

The beautiful woman from group was, of course, told by her father she was so beautiful that other women all envied her. He also took her places on his arm to show her off when he should have been escorted by his wife.

As with other categories of behavior, there can be overlaps between the different types. Some parents may exhibit parts of all of the behaviors with one being dominant and traces of the other. The end result is all the same. A devastating abuse that the victim has trouble identifying and even more problem healing.


Gecko said...

I've just tagged you, for a "meme"...I was also tagged, so check out my blog for the rules.

jumpinginpuddles said...

we are trying to figure out why after all we read and respond to this is so hard for us to get past teh first paragraph, we will keep trying

Kahless said...

I thought I'd share with you my reaction as I read this post. I surprised myself really. I was a little angry and really defensive towards my parents. I can't believe it really. I really can't.
A confused

Enola said...

Too many of us have experienced all of these types.

Patches said...

This scares me because I can not believe it and it makes sense too. I want to defend the mother. I thought this was normal and i still think maybe it is. I am confused about what a mother should do.

Raine Patches

Marj aka Thriver said...

This is an excellent series. We really do need more awareness on the more covert forms of abuse. I forget sometimes that I experienced these things, as I have spent a lot more therapy time on the more overt forms of abuse I endured.

Cheesemeister said...

There wasn't emotional incest in my family but the boundaries weren't good. My brother and I had to keep the doors to our respective bedrooms open even when we were in our late teens, I think because our parents were afraid we might masturbate and that was seen as a really huge sin. Also my father thought nothing of doing something like popping into the bathroom to grab a nail clipper or something of that nature while someone else was sitting on the toilet. He wasn't trying to catch some sort of a perverted peek, he was just oblivious. He needed the nail clipper or what have you. And he didn't understand when the person seated in the precarious position got upset.
When I was sixteen my mother once told me that she got tired of my father's need for sex several times a week. I think she had held it in for so long and we were talking about some pretty personal stuff and she just let it all out, not thinking about the fact that I really, really, really would NOT want to hear that from my mother whether I was 16 or 60! But my parents do not believe in counseling. So I was the port in the storm.
I hope it's ok that I comment on things. I don't have DID so sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't be because I haven't experienced the same things.

Rising Rainbow said...

gecko, I think I missed this tag, I'm going to have to go back and double check. I was tagged with this so many times, I can't even keep track anymore.

jip, sometimes things hit me that way too.

kahless, interesting response. What does that tell you?

enola, that is the truth.

patches, ya I so understand that response.

marj aka thriver, yes it's definitely easy to push this covert stuff to the background but it causes lots of problems.

cheesemeister, you are totally welcome here. We all have the same issues and the same feelings. And we all heal the same way. A diagnosis doesn't mean that much to me, it's just another label.

Angel said...

Wow, I have a feeling I will be returning to your blog again and again to read your series,Rising Rainbow. Your posts are illuminating and I think there is more to be gleaned from them.