When Children Are Used to Meet the Needs of their Parents
About Covert Incest from “Silently Seduced” by Kenneth Adams.
From pages 11 - 12:
Since the parent-child relationship is used to meet the needs of the parent in the psychological marriage, the child feels ashamed of legitimate needs. A child seeking to have those needs met by the parent fears loss of the parent. As unhealthy as it is, the child has no choice but to actively participate in meeting the parent's needs. The child already feels emotionally abandoned, and expressing needs raises the fear of more abandonment. Children do not have the cognitive capacity to see the situation as it is. They are trapped.
As the children become adults, this entrapment continues as long as the reality of being a covert incest victim continues to be denied. Adults continue to feel ashamed of their dependency needs and seek to fulfill parents' needs at a continued cost to their own ability to be intimate. One important ingredient in learning to be intimate is to accept one's own personal dependency needs. The silent seduction, if not faced directly, continues to sabotage the desire to reap the benefits of intimacy and love with another.
From page 33 - 35:
When Peter came for therapy, he complained of feeling burned out and lethargic. He was a successful therapist who, in spite of his thorough understanding of himself, was unable to stop over committing and overextending himself. His life primarily consisted of helping, pleasing and being there for others. He complained of having no sense of identity and not having any free time for himself. Peter felt unappreciated and that others took advantage of him. He reluctantly acknowledged that for some time he had resented his wife. He complained he was always there to listen to the multitude of problems she had, but he never felt he got equal time. Yet Peter claimed to be going out of his way to be there for his wife even more than he had done previously. He felt crazy. He was sexually shut down and had lost all interest in being intimate with his wife...
Peter's story is not unlike those of other helping professionals: doctors, therapists, ministers or nurses. On the outside is a mask of competence supported by a proficiency in helping others by always being there for them. These individuals gain their self-esteem through pleasing and helping others. But this sense of esteem is false. Feelings of worthlessness and shame generally prevail underneath the exterior of “being so together.” A compulsion and desperation to help others usually consumes the lives of individuals like Peter. They hope that soon they will feel worthy and have their own needs met. This never happens and the desperation grows.
When Parents Make Children Their Partners
~ Understanding Covert Incest"
Health Communications, 1991