A previous post introduced clinical psychologist Lindsay C. Gibson‘s Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents in which four types of difficult parents are described: emotional, driven, passive, and rejecting. Below are selected quotes from her book that may be of further interest:
Certain cultural tenets also keep us from seeing our parents clearly. Most of us are instilled with beliefs such as these: All parents love their children. A parent is the one person you can trust. A parent will always be there for you. You can tell your parents anything. Your parents will love you no matter what. You can always go back home. Your parents only want what’s best for you. Your parents know more than you do. Whatever your parents do, they’re doing it for your own good. But if your parents were emotionally immature, many of these statements may not be true.
If you grew up with emotionally immature parents, you may face your own challenges with reciprocity, having learned to give either too much or not enough. Your parents’ self-preoccupied demands may have distorted your natural instincts about fairness. If you were an internalizer, you learned that in order to be loved or desirable, you need to give more than you get; otherwise you’ll be of no value to others. If you were an externalizer, you may have the false belief that others don’t really love you unless they prove it by always putting you first and repeatedly overextending themselves for you.
No child can be good enough to evoke love from a highly self-involved parent. Nevertheless, these children come to believe that the price of making a connection is to put other people first and treat them as more important. They think they can keep relationships by being the giver. Children who try to be good enough to win their parents’ love have no way of knowing that unconditional love cannot be bought with conditional behavior.
Emotional loneliness is so distressing that a child who experiences it will do whatever is necessary to make some kind of connection with the parent. These children may learn to put other people’s needs first as the price of admission to a relationship. Instead of expecting others to provide support or show interest in them, they may take on the role of helping others, convincing everyone that they have few emotional needs of their own. Unfortunately, this tends to create even more loneliness, since covering up your deepest needs prevents genuine connection with others.
Emotional neglect can make premature independence feel like a virtue. Many people who were neglected as children don’t realize that their independence was a necessity, not a choice.
Remember, your goodness as a person isn’t based on how much you give in relationships, and it isn’t selfish to set limits on people who keep on taking.
Successful marital therapy often involves exposing how people’s healing fantasies try to force their partners to give them the loving childhood they always wished for.