From “The Emotional Incest Syndrome” by Patricia Love with Jo Robinson.
Please take time to read the previous post if you have not already done so. I will expand a bit upon each one of these issues in subsequent posts.
Consider these questions until for a day or so until the posts describing these characteristics in depth, and ask yourself in your heart of hearts, “Could this possibly apply to me and my life?” If it doesn't fit, for you and your experience, that's fine. But I ask all here would read this and sleep on it, being honest with yourself. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth, anointing your eyes and your ears and your heart so that you would know truth from error in a powerful way. Prepare your heart as you prepare to read the next post. May you hear only the sound of the Lord in your heart, the voice of the Good Shepherd, for the voice of another you will not follow.
The posts to follow list of the emotional problems that Love identifies as common issues for adult children who experienced enmeshment with a parent or caretaker. If you experience cognitive dissonance (that feeling of confusion and discomfort because you feel challenged or are considering a contradictory idea), consider that God promises to lead and guide us into all truth through the Power of the Holy Spirit. I know, because I was challenged by this material when I read about these things for the first time, now nearly 20 years ago. It was uncomfortable, but I also could not deny the truth of the words on the page that pierced me like a compassionate surgeon's scalpel in order to bring healing.
Answering these types of questions concerning the truth about the many unmet needs that I experienced as a child is still very difficult for me and has been my greatest setback. I try to mitigate and downplay the injustice of it all by making excuses or by rationalizing things away. “I was depressed as a child, but so did my parents, so what happened to me can be dismissed because it was not intentional.” I can attest personally how difficult and terrifying it has been for me to admit the truth about my own family myths and to face the emotions that accompany that truth. Avoidance sometimes seems to be the actual function and great work of my life because this process is so intimidating. So I will ask you to pray about what you've read thus far and sleep peacefully tonight. Read the next installment tomorrow. Make sure your feet are shed with the Gospel of the preparation of peace, and prepare your heart with prayer.
From page 33 - 55:
As you read the following material on emotional problems of the Chosen Child, be alert for the possibility of denial. And remember that you may be experiencing denial on two separate levels:
You may be blocking out some painful aspects of your childhood.
You may be blind to some of the coping mechanisms you developed to diminish your pain.
While reading one section you may be blocking how it relates to your past. For example, you may read the section on low self-esteem and find yourself thinking, “Yes, I often have low self-esteem, but unlike this example, it's not because my parents criticized or abused me. They were always nice to me.” Consider the fact that you may be unwittingly perpetuating a family mythology. Ask yourself: “Could it be possible that my parents were more abusive or neglectful that I would like to believe? Was there a subtle way they put me down? Did they praise me, but five me the hidden message that I didn't measure up? Did they say they loved me but paid little attention to my needs?”
Later, you may identify with a particular description of family life, but not the attending emotional difficulties. For example, you may read the section on grandiosity and say to yourself “My father may have openly preferred me to both my brothers, but that didn't make me grandiose. I'm always humble and level-headed.” In this case, test the validity of your self-perception. Ask yourself: “Do people ever accuse me of being arrogant? Has a friend indicated that I'm a bit full of myself? Have I ever had problems at work that might be attributed to grandiosity?” If you keep an open mind as you venture into this chapter, you may make considerable progress on your road to recovery.
Emotional Challenges of the Adult Child of Enmeshment
(The “Chosen Child”)
Guilt and Anxiety
Chronic Low-Level Anxiety
Fear of Rejection
Feelings of Inferiority
Denial of Needs
A Compulsive Need to Succeed
A Diffuse Sense of Identity
An Inability to Separate from the Parent
Personal Boundary Problems
Fear of Commitment
Lack of Romantic Attraction
Conflicts Between the Spouse and the Parent
Attraction to Self-Centered Partners