Parents who Systematically Psychologically Dismantle their Children

Parents who Systematically Psychologically Dismantle their Children

About this Podcast:

A 3 part series (in one episode) talking through the type of parent who constantly sabotages, abuses and controls their child and then plays the long suffering parent who must heal or put up with a mentally ill child. I have been referring to it as the Emotional Version of Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy.

Episode Transcript:

Good morning, everybody. I'm going to do one that's going to take me two or three videos. And I got to tell you right now that this one is complex. And it's a little touchy. It involves discussions of gender differences between mothers and fathers, some things that I've been reticent to actually excuse me to get into. But at the heart of it, it's not really about gender. Some of it gets filtered through differences between mothers and fathers. And I don't know whether this is environmental or biological and that you're above my pay grade. So I'm not getting into that discussion. But I am just discussing something that all therapists have seen and dealt with. So let's just start with the context. Everyone, or maybe not everyone, but people may be familiar with something called Muncheusen’s syndrome by proxy. This is a case in which a, again, usually mothers, but not always a heavily, heavily wounded and damaged parent begins poisoning or harming or neglecting or withholding food for a child. And they will unconsciously or consciously, nobody really knows, will intentionally make their child sick. And then their child is in and out of doctor's offices, hospitals, and then the parents again often a mother will play this, you know, very saintly loving mother and everyone gives her a lot of attention and. And is like, oh my goodness, this must be so difficult. And you're such a saint of a mother, I can't believe how attentive you are. You know, your child is lucky to have you as a parent. The truth is, is that person is actually poisoning their child. And once doctors sort of start figuring out what's going on when this child is showing up with this weird sort of medical issues repeatedly, doctors and nurses who are hip to it sort of figure out like, oh, this is actually being inflicted on this child. The mother will remove the child and disappear, sometimes even moving out of the state to escape the repercussions of actually harming her child. So that's a pretty clear example. And everyone would say, wow, like, you know, that doesn't happen a lot, but it happens. And it's its a parent that's really, really psychologically damaged. And they desperately need the attention, and they need the super clear role where they play this good person because of the complexity of being a parent and screwing up and doing poorly and sometimes feeling ashamed. That complexity is just too overwhelming for that parent. However, all therapists have seen a version of this that's just emotional and psychological. And to my knowledge, you know, we talk about this as complex trauma, and we talk about these parents being invested, and we talk about their child being the identified patient. When we say the identified patient, we don't mean that that person's sick. We just mean that that's the child in the family system that the parents have dumped their own sickness on and gone, oh, this child is a problem. They're sick. They need to be fixed. Therapists fix my child. But in really extreme cases, This can show up in a way that can be baffling for the therapist. So let me give you a little more concrete behavior so that I'm not just speaking theoretically. And you may even know people like this who have some touch of this where they're deeply invested in their child being dysfunctional. The parent will come in as the client, but they will spend 100% of their time talking about their child. Often their child is somewhere between 16 and 30, maybe 35. And they'll talk about this adult child and the therapist is like, wow, I mean, this, this sounds extreme. Like this child sounds like deeply mentally ill. There can be things like they refuse to feed themselves. They won't get up until two in the afternoon. They're constantly having conflicts with people that the parent has to sort out. Furthermore, they won't sign themselves up for college classes. Furthermore, they won't drive themselves anywhere. Um, things like, oh, you know, he just gets up any peas all over the bathroom floor and then refuses to clean it up. He won't get up and make himself a sandwich. So I ended up making a sandwich because I'm worried about him. And so this sounds pretty serious. Like, wow, this is a, you know, I'm a therapist. This is a real mental health challenge. Something's really going on. I'm quite concerned about your child. But when you begin taking it seriously and saying, Hey, like, I'm quite worried that. And you spend some time working with the parent with boundaries. Like, hey, let's look at, don't make a sandwich. Don't do it. Like he's capable of making a sandwich. Just stop making a sandwich. Set some boundaries and say, hey, you can live here without paying rent for a year. But in that year, you're going to be in school. And at the end of that year, you're going to get a part-time job, and you're going to start paying rent. And you can start gradually teaching some independence and setting some boundaries. What happens then is the parent will suddenly come back and tell you why this is so impossible, and they'll act really, really scared, and they'll be like, I can't do that. He or she won't listen to me, or they just start using, or my child becomes verbally abusive and violent, and I'm afraid of them. And when you start going, well, this sounds like really like a serious mental health. Issue, what you're describing to me is someone who cannot manage activities of daily living, which in the state of California is the point at which the state is willing to step in and do a 5150 and say this person can't sustain themselves. There, they may be a danger to self and others, and you take away their rights to autonomy, because they're just failing to sustain themselves as a human being. And something very serious is going on, they may have psychosis, or there may be undiagnosed bipolar one, something that's challenging enough that it needs to be treated in order for that person to function. Now is when the interesting thing happens. You get scared as a therapist and go, I think we should talk seriously about your child needing treatment or really needing some intervention. If this is really impossible to deal with, and we worked with trying to set boundaries, and you're telling me you're afraid your child is going to commit suicide or whatever, we need to really take this seriously. I'm really worried. Suddenly, this parent will turn around and tell you, oh, all of these amazing things that they've done, and they actually have so many friends and their friends love them. And they're literally the smartest person ever. And they've done so many things, and actually they could just totally light the world up if they just went out and all they need is a bit of this and a bit of that. Now this might sound like a parent who's just scared. And it's true that they're scared, right? This parent is scared. But after you do this roundabout two or three times over the course of a year, as a therapist, you begin to realize that what's going on is this young adult or maybe not, so young adult did not get into this condition on their own. They didn't invent this. What you have is the parent themselves is the most serious client. They are your client, and they have a deep, deep, maybe unconscious, deep investment in that adult child being a mess. And if you begin to really read between the lines and ask questions and explore, you begin to realize that any time that child showed any independence or independent thought or attempted to individuate, that parent punished it and would instantly begin sabotaging and criticizing and micromanaging and destroying that child's autonomy to the point that they just give up and become angry, narcissistic, victims who say nothing works and to a certain extent they're telling the truth because their parent has sabotaged them. You get caught as a therapist in this round and round with this parent where first they're just frustrated, and they're suffering with their adult child. And it gets worse and worse and worse. As you push the parent to set boundaries, the parent will tell you more and more severe things to say, I can't set boundaries. And ultimately they'll stop you with, I'm afraid they're going to kill themselves. No therapist is going to push a parent. Risking that they might be telling the truth. Their adult child might kill themselves. That's a very serious thing, and we're always going to take it seriously. So suddenly you're trapped in like, oh my goodness, this young adult or this teen is really having some mental health challenges. I need to help. I need to do my job. And see if there's something that can be done. But the moment you do that and say, let's clinically take this seriously, the parent immediately backs out and is like, no, actually, they're amazing, and they'll be fine and blah, blah, blah. So I'm going to end this video with this because there's no way I can talk through all the complexities. In the next video, I'll get into more concretely the types of things this parent says and what this relationship is. But I want to leave you with this, that as a therapist who deals with complex and developmental trauma, this is the most common and most stubborn and difficult thing to treat in either the parent or the adult child of that parent. The complex traumas that people come in, that take the longest and are the most difficult to treat are not sexual assault. It is not violent assault. It is not beating. Furthermore, it is not neglect, starvation, cold. The most difficult mental health challenges and confusions and struggles that people have existentially as a human being is being raised by a parent who does that to them. 70% of all the really serious challenge and people who really, really struggle for years to sort of align with themselves and learn to be independent and to learn to trust themselves comes from that kind of parenting. So I'm going to end the video here. And get more concretely into what that behavior looks like, how that parent evolves and what can be done with that adult child or what they can do to really recognize that they have a very, very serious challenge in front of them. So I leave that with you and I hope you guys have a great day. Take care. Good morning, everybody. This is part two to a complicated conversation around what I have been calling emotional version of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, which is a horrible name, but I just haven't thought it through any further than that. And just to do a quick review, Munchhausen syndrome by proxy is a case which is more common with mothers than fathers, but it is when a heavily damaged and wounded parent begins to actually poison or starve or hurt medically their child. And then their child is in and out of doctor's offices and hospitals getting treatment. And in this way, the parent sets themselves up as this long-suffering, beautiful, loving, caring parent that gets all of this attention and sympathy from doctors and nurses and friends about what this amazing job that they're doing, caring for the sick child. And it usually takes medical personnel a while to figure out, you know, there's something weird going on with this child. And then they start figuring out like, Hey, this parent is actually intentionally sickening this child, sometimes even poisoning them, sometimes they actually kill them. And so part one, I talked about the emotional version of that, which is way more common, which therapists see all the time, but we don't really name, we sometimes call it The child, we call the child that identified patient. When a family system takes all of their dysfunction and dumps it on one child, and they're like, oh, they're dysfunctional. They need therapy. They send the child to therapy. But the truth is, is the family system is really dysfunctional. And that child is just the one receiving the heavy lifting. So I talked through that theoretically, but I wanted to get a little more concrete and get a little more under the hood. Of what the emotional mechanisms are that this parent is using. So we talked about the fact that in many cases, and I'm just taking an amalgam of experiences I've had, so I'm not referring to any specific experience that would be a violation of a client's confidentiality. But you see this in many cases, you'll see a parent who gets their child up, their child will sleep till two in the morning. Ah sorry two in the afternoon makes every meal they clean up they do all the laundry. This could be a 27-year-old child still living at home adult child refusing to go to school not getting a job and the parent comes in and all they do is complain and complain and complain. All of their work really is to sit there and complain and be the victim of who their child is. And when you begin exploring that relationship, you begin to realize that this parent is deeply, deeply invested in that child staying that way and that though they complain about it all the time, the parent desperately needs that adult child to be a mess or that teen to be a mess. So I'm going to be glancing over because I have some notes written in a document to talk a little more about specifically what that is and what it looks like. So the therapist gets caught in this cycle where the parent complains and complains and complains until the therapist is like, wow, I'm really worried about your child. And I think clinically your child might need a much higher level. You've worked with boundaries. The parents are like, oh, it doesn't work. My child is going to kill themselves. You have no idea. And the therapist gets really concerned, and they're like, Hey, this sounds like possible hospitalization, maybe 5150. It sounds like you're describing something really serious. And then the parent will turn around and be like, Oh, but you know, they're amazing, and they're so smart. And if they just did, and suddenly the therapist is trapped in the situation where. Who is this adult child? Are they this amazing, talented, smart person who the world and bad luck has done all these terrible things to? And if they had the same chance every other person had, they would just become President of the United States Or are they this incredibly dysfunctional person who desperately needs the parent and nothing would go right, and they would kill themselves if the parents set any boundaries? And so the therapist is now trapped. But the important thing to recognize is that what the therapist is experiencing, that trap that the parent is setting up the therapist for, is exactly what that child has been raised in. Every time they asserted autonomy, that parent was controlling and controlling and sabotaging and then telling them that it doesn't work, and you're a mess. And why does everything go wrong for you and the world is unfair to you, blah, blah, blah. And then flipping, as soon as the child truly becomes dependent then flipping and saying, Oh, you're amazing. You can do all these things and creating sort of a narcissistic, unrealistic persona for the child to reach for, which they're going to fail because that's not realistic either. And so the notes that I had here is when you talk about the first scenario where they're talking about what a mess their child is. This parent, the parent's codependency has a message in it. The message is, I am a very special, selfless caregiver, a victim of my child's clinical suffering. The subtext massage for the therapist is, help me make my child recognize that they're sick, help me carry the burden of this cross, sympathize with me, all this terrible burden that I'm carrying. The message to their child or their adult child is, you're helpless, you're vulnerable, you're mentally ill, you're in constant crisis, you depend on me to get through each moment of the day. This has always been true about you and since it is clinical and my therapist says it's clinical, It will always be true in some significant way, so you should probably give up until I get tired of picking up after you, and then you should be brilliant. When the therapist encourages the client to set boundaries and then that fails and then the therapist moves to like, is this a 5150? I'm very, very concerned about your child's ability to function. Suddenly the message flips and the parent is like, oh, they've done this, they've done that. They all, all of these friends and they get straight A's, and they're so talented. And really if they just do this or that, like they're going to do amazing things. So here's the function of that, the message of that, that this child has received since they were a baby. My child is brilliant, talented and misunderstood. They are capable of almost anything. They just need me to coax them into it. So the parent's codependency is, I'm a very special caregiver. I'm the inspiration. I'm the guidance to my child's success. Control. Credit to me. It's all about me. I need the credit. The subtext for the therapist is, help me convince my wayward child of how brilliant my parenting is and convince them that my advice and my presence in their life is going to unlock this narcissistic, shiny, amazing intelligence. But it still comes back to the parent is using their child to validate themselves. And the child's brilliant is this extension of the parent. It's this credit to the parent. The message to the adult child is you're mistreated by everyone but me. People are not fair to you. You have unseen, uncanny talents, uncommon intelligence, but you don't understand the world, and you will never be able to succeed without me directing, micromanaging and choosing for you. You're brilliant, but you're too weird to be trusted with and in the world on your own. So this is what the therapist experiences in these cases. And these are the messages being sent. And what's really crucial is to acknowledge that that adult child or that teen has been raised in that environment with those messages sent to them since they were infants. But the subtext always comes back to how long-suffering the parent is. that the parent should be in control, that the child will have amazing success, that the child is amazingly intelligent and capable, but only if they listen to how the parent will tell them how to be amazing and capable. So all of this comes down to a fierce, intense need for control. You can succeed if you first acknowledge that all success flows through me, the parent. If you begin to succeed on your own, to assert your autonomy, I'm going to sabotage you. I'm going to manipulate. I'm going to take ownership of your psychology, of your emotions. Furthermore, I'm going to go to a therapist. Furthermore, I'm going to send you to a therapist, and I'm going to go to a therapist, and I'm going to set you up and describe how sick you are. And then I'm going to come home with messages that my therapist thinks you should do this. And the therapist is really worried about you, et cetera, et cetera. But all of it comes down to a parent who is so deeply, deeply damaged that they've chosen this child, and they've chosen to have a parasitic relationship. They are using this child. They're using this child's attempts at autonomy. Furthermore, they're using this child's newness and curiosity and desire to thrive in the world and to grow up. And they're sort of feeding off of that and feeding it back into themselves to try to give themselves a feeling of meaning and a feeling of purpose and a feeling that they're important. But because that parent is so damaged, they're never going to internalize it. So that child caught in that, if they never recognize how parasitic and how codependent that is, and if therapists or teachers or people around you see that something's going wrong, don't recognize that the parent is the primary problem. That can go on forever. And I've seen cases where I've worked with clients who are in their 40s or 50s, still completely in the control of their parents. The parents paying their cell phone bill, and they're complaining about, you know, my parent like looks at my texts and blah, blah, blah. Like how is your parent looking at your texts if you're like 48? Oh, they pay the bill. I'm on my parents’ plan. So there's this deep clinical enmeshment that neither the parent nor the adult child is ever going to be okay if they don't recognize this and cut this off. And that's an extreme example, but it can look subtle. It can be subtle. And so there are teachers and coaches and therapists and psychologists and people who don't get enough information or have not had proper training or have not been exposed to this level of this dynamic, who sometimes don't recognize it at first or never recognize it. They'll even get sort of authoritative with the child, and they'll say, I want you to bring them in. And they think, well, I'm going to assert my authority and this adult child is going to see that, you know, it's like, no, no, no, no. This child, this adult child has been horribly brainwashed by that parent. The parent is the cause of that dynamic and the creator of that dynamic. We may need to work with that adult child and get them to recognize that that parent is never going to sign off on their autonomy. They cannot go back to that parent and go, I want to share my life with you. I want you to be a part of my life and to be proud. That's never going to happen. So that's maybe a little more of the subtext, and it gets a little psychological and a little deeper. This is part two of what I'm calling emotional version of Munchhausen syndrome by proxy. It is the most damaging relationship any parent can have with a child, and it takes the longest and is most difficult for a therapist to treat because it is a basically brainwashing. Since that child is an infant, since before they even understood language, they're being brainwashed by that parent into those two messages, a narcissistic, unrealistic, detached expectation of what they're supposed to do and the underlying message that they're a mess, and they just can't do anything without the parent signing off on it. So I'm going to leave that there. I realized that that's not super positive, but in part three, I'm going to come back and talk to you about how healthy and how beautiful it is when a therapist or anyone can help. That adult child achieve autonomy and independence. And maybe what can be done with that parent, but what the things are that can be done and that this doesn't have to be super destructive. And I want to talk about and advocate for women and mothers, given that you see this way more with mothers. And I want to talk about how powerful women and mothers are. And this is the reason why this can be such a destructive relationship, but that also means that we need to really, really credit how powerful women and mothers are in shaping society and in shaping autonomous, healthy, independent, contributing human beings. So I'm going to leave you with that and say that in part three, we'll get a bit more positive, less clinical and talk about where you can go with that. All right. Thanks so much. I hope you guys have a good morning and take care. Good morning all. So this is part three of what I've been calling the emotional Muncheusan’s syndrome by proxy, the emotional version. And as I've said before, I wish I had a different name for it. I would like to come up with a different name for it. It's already complicated enough as Munchausen syndrome by proxy, but it is this condition more often mothers than fathers in which a mother will physically, medically make her child sick so that she can receive all the sympathy. And she has this very focused directed life where people are paying attention and helping care for her as well as her child. And in really sad cases, a mother may accidentally or maybe even intentionally kill her child. And then I've been talking about how that presents emotionally, psychologically, this is way more common than emotional, than Muncheusen’s syndrome by proxy, the medical version is actually very, very common. In fact, I would say that the largest portion of clients who come through my office really, really struggling with developmental trauma are struggling with behavior on the part of their mother. When she has gotten inside their head, taken ownership of their psychology, of their behaviors, is deeply, deeply enmeshed, but enmeshed in a way that does not allow that human being, that child or that adult child to individuate. So I wanted to take a moment and say, it's uncomfortable anytime you address something where there's gender that comes up. This is a touchy subject, and I'm not an expert on gender and what's environment and what's biological and what's cultural. And what is a trauma response? Because we mistreated women or we mistreated men. So I'm not pretending that I really know how that works. I only know that this shows up more often with mothers than it does with fathers. Fathers abuse in their own ways. And it's just their luck that maybe fathers don't have as much impact on early childhood development, that it's a little easier for people to get over. It's a little easier for people to work through. It's a little more obvious. So to advocate for women, if we're maybe historically seeing an uptick in mothers abusing their children or enmeshing with their children or controlling their children psychologically and emotionally and setting incredibly unrealistic expectations and then alternating that with constantly being obsessed with how sick their child is and well their child needs this and if I don't do this and if I don't do that, this sort of energy that unfortunately I think we've normalized, and we act like, well, you know, like your mother loves you. It's like, no, that is an incredibly destructive, incredibly unhealthy behavior. But what I want to acknowledge first is that if we're seeing an uptick in that, or if it's always been that way, this is a result of women being abused and women not being supported. In fact, society barely paying lip service to how incredibly crucial mothers are to end women who play roles as mothers, teachers, aunties, whatever, how incredibly important they are into shaping the success and power and how a society thrives. Again, when I see clients come in who are totally locked up and just struggling to move life forward, 90% of the time, well, I shouldn't say a number, right? I'm speaking anecdotally. But way more often than not, there's a really, really controlling mother who has done this move that I'm calling the emotional version of Munchhausen syndrome by proxy, where that parent is so intensely deeply invested in their child being sick. And it becomes more destructive, right? When fathers are abusive, generally it's something that society recognizes, like, oh my God, your dad has anger issues, he's violent, he's cold, he's cut off, he doesn't show up and everyone goes, oh man, what a jerk. Like, I feel so sorry. I'm so sorry that that happened to you. You know, let me introduce you to my uncle who's a super loving person, and he can mentor you or etc. Like, we can see the thing. But when mothers do this, they pitch it, and they sell it to that child as love. Well, I just love you. I just worry about you. And society and therapists often sign off on this and don't just say no this is deeply, deeply abusive it's incredibly destructive. It is one of the most difficult things to get over. And so this is a result when we do not support humans who are girls, women, who then grow up to be mothers, who then grow up to raise children. And we send them tons and tons of abusive messages, messages that they're only the value of their body. That people don't want to listen to them because they don't have the intellect that men have or that their voice, politically speaking, is of no value or that in business, the way they think is of no value, the way they relate is of no value. So if we systematically take women apart culturally, well, this is the result. This is what you're going to see. So as a therapist, I advocate for these people who come into therapy because they're my clients and I want them to survive. And often what they've experienced makes me very angry. And I feel very angry at the human being who often happens to be a mother who did those things to them. But also as a therapist, I know we're all responsible for this. This is not to let this human being off the hook and go, well, you know, abusive fathers are jerks. Like they should go to jail, or they should have their rights taken away. But abusive mothers are always meant with love. No, no, no, no. I hold them equally responsible. When they are my client, I very gently attempt to push and to be really honest, there's like, Hey, you're abusing your child. Like this is not, this isn't, let's not pretend that you're doing this out of love. This is, this is out of your own desperation and your own trauma. And I'm a therapist and I empathize. So I don't even think it's healthy that we sign off on this as like, well, it's a mother's love, and it's very difficult to be a mother because we are once again, talking down to women. And acting as if, well, when women are abused and mistreated and sort of their personalities are taken apart, and their power is taken apart and removed from them, we act as if they can't come back from that. And they can and they do. And I've worked with many of those human beings too, and they become incredibly powerful when they heal the trauma, and they come back from that. They become unstoppable as people. So there's a lot of complexity here. I apologize if I've offended anyone. I mean to advocate for all human beings, whether male, female, or somewhere in the spectrum in between, whatever that is. Furthermore, I'm not an expert. Furthermore, I don't have an opinion. But what I'm saying is this thing that I'm describing comes more often from mothers and that we need to acknowledge how incredibly powerful mothers are when it comes to shaping society. And psychology has a long history of blaming mothers and going like, well, you know, there was a time when schizophrenia was, it's like, well, it is a cold, distant mother. And it's like, we know that that's not true. And mothers get blamed a lot. So there's enormous amount of pressure. And unfairly, that pressure is because they are in a very powerful position. So it's unfair that the pressure is on them, but they are in a very powerful position. Just as if you talk about physical speed, violence, the ability to make things move forward in a sort of way that requires dense muscle mass. It's like, well, look, most of the time we're going to have to look at men and go, look, if physical violence happened in this situation, you know, testosterone has everything to do with it or a lot to do with it, right? So it might be unfair that men have testosterone and that interacts with us in that way that we have a stronger tendency to physical aggression. But the fact is, is that the burden is upon us as men to own the fact that that's our biology. And there are people who have less and there are women who have high testosterone. So again, let's not get super binary. I'm not super binary about it. But there's something happening there. So I said that in this part three that I would sort of address the gender piece in it, which I did not super satisfactorily, but just sort of like frame it. And to say that mothers are incredibly powerful and especially in the first five, eight years of a child's life. And so this is one of the most challenging things any therapist will see. Is a client, an adult client who has been owned and controlled by a mother who sold it to them as love. I do this because I love you. I do this because I want the best for you. And it's a lie. No, that is not. A father who comes home and beats their child, that's not for the child. Well, guess what? A mother who is intensely controlling and takes ownership of her child or adult child's inner world, their psychology is constantly controlling, constantly sending the message that that child is mentally ill. That mother is doing a horrible emotional violence to that person. And it's very, very difficult to get over because it's hidden underneath the idea of a mother's love. So what to do? This could be very complex. There are therapists who specialize in this. I'm just going to talk more to the general population and say, there's a way to approach this. There really is. a way to approach this when we really acknowledge what has been taken from this child or this adult child. There are a number of obvious things that therapists deal with healing. One is actual love was taken away. Actually being seen by their parent was taken away. Actually feeling safe was taken away. That parent will lie and say, oh, I do everything to make you safe, but they're lying. They're not. They're creating an incredibly unsafe, chaotic, confusing environment for that child. That child never feels safe in that environment. Okay, but therapists deal with those things all the time. And it is our job to help people heal from that and recognize that they didn't feel safe, they didn't feel seen, they didn't feel loved, etc. But I'm going to tell you the most crucial lever and where you if you were a victim of this or if you realize that as a mother that you had some part in this or if your father who played this role had some part in this the strongest lever, the thing that was truly taken away and the thing that therapists can do or anybody who's supporting can do is to recognize that this person had no reliable reality testing. They might have really high IQ, they might be really talented, they might not, they might be any number of personalities, they might be an introvert, they might be an extrovert, they might be really athletic, they might have been very quiet and academic, but none of those things will really matter for them. They will not be able to leverage them. You'll see people like this, incredibly talented who have done almost nothing with their lives accomplish nothing. They just seem totally locked up. It is because the most crucial thing that parents give to their children is reality testing. Not the reality I impose on you, but this is how the world works. And I'm going to gently introduce you to it. And when you get into trouble, or you struggle with the outcomes, I'm just going to very gently without judging you, without taking ownership of your psychology and going like, well, you were always anxious. You have such a hard time with this and all of that sort of stuff, just saying, oh yeah, this can kind of happen. And you kind of have this personality which I really enjoy, but this can sometimes happen when you interact with people. Maybe let's try it this way. I can even do it with you.". So that healthy parent is helping that child reality test and to explore what reality is like, what society is like, what I'm like. And they're doing it without shame. They're doing it without guilting that person. They're doing that without insulting that person and saying, well, you have this mental health issue, and you always do this or without setting them up for a narcissistic, unrealistic expectation. You're so much smarter than other people. You could do anything you want. Furthermore, you're so smart, or you're so this, you're so that. That destroys reality testing. So this parent, this exact kind of parent I'm describing, slams back and forth from these two extremes and neither one helps that human being navigate reality. So if you suffered this, work with a therapist or work with someone to work on self-esteem and loving yourself and feeling seen, et cetera, et cetera, choosing partners who see you and acknowledge you. But the most important thing that was taken from you is reality testing. Even if you're 40, if you haven't dealt with that, You haven't learned what a 15-year-old or 20-year-old has learned. If you're a therapist or someone helping someone like this, the most important thing, what these people crave, and they know it at a gut level, they know that they don't have something that other people have, and it's infuriating, and it contributes more to shame and more to struggle. They understand that they don't have, they might not be able to name it, but they don't have reality testing. They know they're as good as anyone else. Furthermore, they know they're as smart as anyone else, and they can't figure out why nothing works for me. So they'll retreat into, I'm mentally ill, or they'll retreat into this narcissistic, the world was unfair to me. But in the end, the middle road is where they need healing. I'm a normal human being. I never had reality testing. No one ever just without shame and humiliation or without building some unrealistic, narcissistic, grandiose personality for me just introduced me to me. Who am I? How does my personality interact with the world? What can I do to mitigate some things about me that are not the best for other people? And how can I augment the things that really contribute to the world? And how can I leverage that in a way that's realistic, that ends up building a beautiful life for me where I feel seen because society goes, oh, wow, this guy has something to contribute. This gal has something to contribute. Like this person really figured out how to integrate. So reality testing. Realistic exposure to the world of like, this is how the world works, right? That parent emotional version of Munchhausen syndrome by proxy is constantly imposing this insane version of reality generated by the parent of an extremely narcissistic, unrealistic present personality for the child, or you're mentally ill. You'll never make it without my help. And all of it comes down to aggrandizing and attempting to heal the parent's wound. My perfect child who can do anything is a reflection of me. This is what I wish about me. This reflects on me as a parent that I have this perfect child, or I'm this long-suffering parent and I have this sick child and I have to work so hard and people should sympathize with me. But it all comes down to that's about the parent. So that child has grown up with a parent who is incapable of making anything about the child. Everything was about the parent. So that was not super concrete, but at risk at going on for too long. I wanted to give you something concrete that the victim of that kind of parenting experiences. And what can be done about it is they themselves need to come to the realization that I had no reality testing. It doesn't matter if I'm 50 or if I'm 20, this one crucial thing, all the messages that were sent to me had nothing to do with how and who I am and how I can interact with the world in a healthy, realistic way. And so I need to start testing that and building that. I need to reality test. I'm going to try this. Furthermore, I'm going to try to let go of my shame and guilt and my fear, and I'm just going to try it. And maybe it'll go terribly. Maybe that's not the thing that's for me. It doesn't mean anything about me. It's just not the thing that's for me. That person will have a tendency when that thing goes badly to dive back into I'm mentally ill, I'm this, I'm that, or to dive into the narcissistic response of like, oh, they were horrible people and this is why I didn't get the job, blah, blah, blah. No, no, no. Just maybe that's not the right thing for you. It's okay. Let's try something else. So you'll see victims of this kind of parenting have a really hard time experimenting because the moment they have an outcome that's less than perfect, they get slammed back into this brainwashing that they're deeply sick and incapable of functioning in the world. And if it does go right, they snap into this narcissistic, I'm perfect, I'm God's gift to the world, which is going to piss people off, and then they're going to get negative behaviors, which confirms for them that I was amazing, but these people are complete assholes. Right. And so they need a therapist, or they need someone, or they need to see themselves that I need reality testing. It's not that. And it's not that it's somewhere in the middle. So that's what I have to say for today. Again, it's a very complex issue, and it does lean towards mothers more than fathers. That means we need to advocate for women who become mothers and women who are mothers and to protect them and support them more, while at the same time acknowledging that they are responsible for their behavior and that it's condescending and infantilizing when we say, Well, an abusive father is an asshole who needs to be held responsible for his behavior. But an abusive mother, well, she really means well. That's not nice for mothers. That's not nice to women. And that is definitely not nice to the victim of that abuse because it is abuse. All right, guys, I hope you have a great day. If you have any questions, you can post them and I will attempt to get to them. Thanks a lot. Take care.

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Jon Sorensen


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