Monday, July 7, 2008

When Children are Made Responsible for Parents

From “Silently Seducedby Kenneth Adams. Exploring the dynamics of covert (emotional or non-sexual but gender-related) incest.

From pages 13 -14:

The covertly incestuous relationship system continues to affect one's choice of partners, decisions about separation and divorce, sexuality and all attempted at emotional fulfillment until the truth is faceted and resolved. This is not about blaming or accusing parents. It is about assigning responsibility where it belongs: the parents' relationship with the child. Children do not choose this relationship; it is created for them. Even as adults we do not gain freedom of choice until we see the past clearly and experience our feelings about it. Relationships continue to be dictated by the sense of entrapment, experienced as a surrogate partner to one's parent. Assigning responsibility where it rightfully belongs is the first crucial step in gaining access to one's true feelings, needs and wants.

I think it's important to understand that parents recreate their own family systems. Most parents are not malicious and are not aware of the effect they have on their children because a part of their own childhood is buried within. Sadly, if one's own childhood is not seen for what it really was, the pain of these incestuous relationships gets passed on from one generation to the next. If parents never recover their own lost childhoods, their grief deepens. They continue to expect their children to be there for them in ways they hoped their parents would have been. When this expectation goes unmet, parents see their children as ungrateful, unloving and ungiving. The result is heightened struggles between adult children and aging parents. Willpower or the right set of moral standards aren't enough to produce lasting, healthy changes. Only by facing one's past can one take responsibility for oneself and reclaim the vitality surrendered by being a parent's surrogate partner.

From page 19 – 20:

Many men and women have grown up in families where there is no alcoholic or chemically dependent parent, yet the struggles for love and intimacy are similar. In fact, many of these families appear well put together, almost the ideal or perfect family on the outside. This makes it much more difficult to confront the past in the effort to find the roots of one's current struggles to grow and become healthy. These dysfunctional families have been described as co-dependent.

In “Co-Dependency And Family Rules: A Paradoxical Dependency,” Robert Subby and John Friel offer this definition:

Co-dependency is a dysfunctional pattern of living and problem-solving which is kept in place by a set of the rules within the family system. These rules make healthy growth and change very difficult.

These rules are described by Subby and Friel as follows:

  1. It's not okay to talk about problems.

  2. Feelings should not be expressed openly.

  3. Communications is best if indirect, with one person acting as messenger between the other two (triangulation).

  4. Be strong, good, right, perfect. Make us proud. (Unrealistic expectations.)

  5. Don't be “selfish.”

  6. Do as I say, not as I do.

  7. It is not good to play or be playful.

  8. Don't rock the boat.

Excerpts from

Kenneth Adams

"Silently Seduced:

When Parents Make Their Children Partners

~Understanding Covert Incest"

Health Communications, 1991