LOVE TO BE NEEDED, OR NEED TO BE LOVED?
By Shari Schreiber,
How often have you heard yourself
say, "I'm a giver, not a taker"? Have you experienced
discomfort when receiving something from another~ whether it's a
gift, a compliment or a kind gesture? Have you ever known what it
feels like to be in a reciprocal relationship?
If these questions trigger memories of awkward, familiar sensations,
it means you were programmed as a small child to believe that receiving
vital supplies of attention, affection and emotional support came
at a substantial cost to your parent(s). Very young, you learned
to accommodate and normalize these painful deficits and started
putting the needs of others ahead of your own, because doing otherwise
meant you'd have to endure feelings of guilt or shame.
You might identify yourself
as a 'rescuer type' personality, but you were not born with this
trait. It was cultivated in you from an early age, and it's directly
due to faulty relationship dynamics with an impaired parent (or
Were you raised in a home
where everything you did was closely monitored or controlled? Did
you grow up feeling as if you had to be perfect, to please your
mother or father? What was the cost to you, if (God forbid) you
ever failed to perform well enough for them? Might you have feared
the loss of their affection, approval or love?
you read through this material, you might experience sudden sleepiness
or a little sadness. This is a somatic (biological)
response in your body, which indicates that a facet of you is relating
to various issues being discussed or explained here, and they have
very important meaning for you. While you may choose to take a short
break, rest assured that there's nothing to fear from these uneasy
feelings, and I encourage you to continue.
the sake of continuity and cohesiveness, you'll get the most value
from this information, if you return to the hyperlinks
that take you to other pages after you've finished reading
this entire piece. Treat it like a self-help book. Give yourself
several weeks to absorb this material from start to finish.
LIVING CREATURES HAVE NEEDS~ EVEN YOU!
A fairly large number of clients
have reported that throughout their life, their mother commented
on what a 'good baby' they'd been; "you never cried" is
what they were repeatedly told while growing up. All babies have
substantial needs, and they cry to alert their parent to
what's required concerning food, diapering, holding/comforting,
warmth, etc. If the baby never cries, we must ask why.
Did it feel unsafe to express these vital needs? Did we sense we
might not survive, if we inconvenienced our mother by having
any needs? As this child grows, could he mistakenly presume his
utter silence and refusal to have needs, is an admirable and good
None of us grew up being perfectly
parented--in fact it's virtually impossible to anticipate that this
could even happen. Alas, we are all products of our experiences,
which have impacted us to one degree or another, and that's what
this piece attempts to address. There will likely be parts of this
article that you'll relate to, and other parts you won't--but if
any of this material opens a doorway to greater self-awareness,
healing might begin for you, your child, parent or spouse~ and that's
is extraordinarily dense with meaning, and must
be absorbed very slowly, to help you understand why your love affairs
haven't worked out the way you've wanted them to. It's best that
you read no more than a few paragraphs per day--then ask yourself;
what's this segment trying to teach me about myself? so
that you can learn, and actually benefit from it. With every review
of this piece, you will gain deeper understanding of yourself, and
be able to emotionally integrate far more of it~ so why stop with
only one reading?
When you're a self-proclaimed
"giver," it means you were raised in a home where vital
and important emotional needs were not acknowledged or adequately
responded to, and you've attempted to compensate for this
deficit, by becoming a caregiver. Even if you saw
that your parents were overburdened in some way, you might have
tried to become an 'invisible' child, so as not to place
more demand on them, or risk incurring painful repercussion for
having any needs of your own.
Perhaps you had a parent who
always put the needs of a spouse, neighbor or friend far ahead of
their own (and yours), and as this was the example set for you,
it's what you've emulated. It's just what 'good people' do~ or so
you've been taught.
As a small child, you may
have discovered that taking care of another's feelings or needs
provided vicarious satisfaction, and a sense of self-worth, empowerment,
and well-being or safety. As an adult, whether you've promoted another's
dependency on you emotionally, physically or financially, feeling
needed has fortified your self-esteem~ but it has also
eased abandonment anxiety, which is central to
your compulsive giving or 'fixing' behaviors and disappointing or
disastrous relationship experiences.
AS THE TWIG IS BENT,
SO GROWS THE TREE.
to one's sense of Self throughout infancy and early childhood, are
often referred to as core damage/trauma or narcissistic
injury, within the body of this text. In simple terms, having core
issues means that the 'hub' of your wheel has been broken or damaged
in some manner. When the very center of your being is compromised,
all the spokes which emanate from this point will be weak, and susceptible
to breaking under any amount of strain or pressure. Core trauma
impacts every aspect of our existence, as it shapes self-worth,
and influences how we think about and take care of ourselves, within
professional and personal relationships.
small child has no way of relating to or making sense of the words,
"I love you." These words literally mean nothing, if they
aren't consistently and simultaneously backed up with parental gestures
of affection and warmth, which are congruent with their meaning.
core damaged child might ask his mom or dad, "do you love me?"
The parent's response may be, "of course I do, you're my
kid!" but a child who's looking for confirmation
that he is loved, is one who cannot actually feel or believe that
he is! This adult child will go through life feeling dependent on
verbal validation and confirmation from others. From infancy onward,
he's lacked vital supplies of affection and praise, from which he
would have learned beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he was valuable
and lovable~ and from that, gained the capacity to self-validate.
core trauma results from poor or inadequate parenting from the onset
of life, this kind of wounding inhibits a child from feeling lovable
or worthy of receiving care, which inevitably causes attachment
struggles in adulthood. Unfortunately, no amount of 'insight' on
this topic can mend core issues, for what's needed is solid re-parenting
to replace the faulty original template we grew up accepting
as 'normal' throughout childhood.
injuries are literally maintained as a relationship
problem, which requires healing resolution within a corrective,
therapeutic relational bond. We cannot resolve core wounding without
highly specialized care and guidance, along with the unique opportunity
to acquire specific, effective self-worth building tools.
modalities of treatment (i.e. psychotherapy, analysis, cognitive-behavioral
work, etc.) may not dismantle core trauma, for resolution requires
healing the Heart that's been damaged in infancy
and throughout childhood~ not the head.
THE CLONE CONSPIRACY
Narcissism in parents is the
primary cause of psychopathology in our society. The narcissistic
parent wants a child who's exactly like him or her~ a carbon
copy or clone so to speak. If this kid has different
values and personality features than the parent, he's regarded with
disappointment and disdain or disapproval, and criticized or punished.
It's challenging for any
parent to bond with a child who's unlike him/herself, but the narcissistic
mother or father treats it like a sin, and their 'prodigy' grows
up never feeling good enough or lovable, just for being himself.
This issue is typically passed
along generation to generation, which is why so many talented young
people are urged (often against their will) to echo the parent's
career choice or take over the family business, even if they have
no natural ability in that arena, or passionate desire to follow
a parent's path.
Depression in teenagers and
young adults is most often due to feeling like they can never live
up to a parent's expectations, if they have wishes and dreams that
aren't congruent with Father's or Mother's. Hence, pleasing one's
parent routinely takes precedence over pleasing oneself, and core
issues having to do with this child's diminished sense of worth
Sadly, a parent might attach
more fully to the child who echoes his/her own more favorable traits~
but reject or criticize a child's less favorable features like depression,
inertia or anger for example, that the parent has failed to recognize
and accept in him or herself.
The narcissistic parent is
insecure. God help the adult child who surpasses his parent's
achievements, for this can easily inspire malicious competition
from the envious parent toward his/her offspring.
A cloned child gets set-up
for feeling damned if he accomplishes, and damned if he fails~ which
often catalyzes self-sabotaging behaviors, as it's somewhat easier
to accept a parent's dismay or disappointment in our imperfect performance,
than to incur his or her resentment and jealousy, if we excel. On
a subconscious level, we'd essentially prefer our parent to be 'right'
about us, rather than risk becoming empowered and truly well.
This clone issue has far reaching
ramifications with respect to our adult relationship choices. It
clouds our judgment, in terms of how much criticism and rejection
we will accommodate from romantic partners, as this is what feels
normal, based on faulty programming we received
as kids. No matter how much abusive treatment our partner dishes
out, it doesn't hold a candle to how critical and shaming we've
learned to be to ourselves!
We believe this lover/spouse
is our "soul mate" and a perfect fit for us, because they
treat us as dreadfully as we treat our Self. They
seem to share our opinion of what we've been programmed since infancy
to think we deserve, which feels like a match! Still, we desperately
try to change their mind, please them and win their approval and
affection as we undoubtedly had to do during childhood, which can
exhaust us or make us physically ill~ and literally, cause our premature
Unfortunately, our painful
inner torment that's long associated with unresolved childhood entitlement
issues ("I'm not worthy or deserving of receiving what I need
and want"), regularly inserts itself into our professional
life, as well~ and blocks our ability to manifest prosperity and
success. This present day obstacle feels agonizing to us, because
it confirms every shameful deficit we were programmed to believe
about ourselves, as children.
PAINFUL INNER CONFLICT OF THE TOO GOOD CHILD
child who's grown up believing they have to behave perfectly
in order to receive attention, affirmation or praise, has acquired
a distorted definition of love. For this
child, Love means painful longing and yearning for that which cannot
be gratified. Thus, this same type of emotional experience
is intoxicating in his/her adult attachments, for their present
anguish is literally identical to feelings that he/she experienced
throughout childhood, which are now interpreted as 'the
real deal,' or True Love.
means, lovers who are capable of reciprocating their care
and affection, are rejected out of hand. It's boring and doesn't
feel like a fit, because this dynamic doesn't trigger the
dramatic inner pain that was consistently associated with loving,
as a kid.
children grow into needful adults, but they could fear that if they
let themselves love somebody as intensely as they want to, that
person will freak out, run off into the night, and abandon them.
Their sense of need feels gigantic, and often very painful. It presumes
that someone on the receiving end won't be able to handle it--which
triggers shame for being "so needy."
shame makes one want to shut-down/kill off their needs (or control
them), which is a defense that has one giving to
others, what he/she is starving to receive. It also has them choosing
emotionally unavailable partners who reactivate chaotic, painful
sensations that reinforce childhood abandonment and/or
abuse trauma, and the core shame they've carried lifelong.
core injured adult child has to live with the tormenting, inescapable
question: "Am I good enough to be loved by you?"
disordered individuals have worked especially hard since childhood,
to convince themselves they're lovable. They've honed their talents,
abilities and seduction skills to compensate for a shame
based inner sense that they're defective, which has resulted from
years of inadequate or unwholesome parenting.
issues emanate from poor self-worth, and our inability to feel deserving
or worthy of receiving what we need and want. Having healthy self-esteem
means that we're equally as comfortable 'getting' as giving.
Our desperate, unrelenting quest to gain acceptance and approval
from others so that we can feel good about ourselves, is
central to compulsive giving, fixing and rescuing behaviors. A lack
of Self keeps us trying to fill the hole in our soul at
any cost, with unsuitable partners who highlight core insecurities
we've retained since we were toddlers.
'Wounded Bird Syndrome' is
an intricate relationship problem. It involves our subconscious
need to select and remain with someone who's impaired in some manner,
and isn't likely to leave us for someone better. It's driven by
our deep sense of inadequacy, and accompanying wish to avert abandonment.
This poor self-worth issue is implanted in early childhood, by a
needy parent who required our concern and comfort for their
feelings, but wasn't capable of giving that kind of attention to
The act of
taking care of another, helps you access emotions like sympathy
and compassion for someone else that you've never had opportunity
to receive, nor have you permitted yourself to
feel these emotions toward yourself without shaming criticism and
self-judgment. Displacement of an emotion (like sympathy) onto another
when it's a disowned or destroyed feeling inside of you, is called
Maybe you grew up with a depressed
mother or father, and you did whatever you could to ease their sadness
or cheer them up, with the secret hope that you might eventually
get the affection, care and playfulness you required.
Perhaps this parent felt over-burdened by their spouse or one of
your siblings, who acted-out their painful inner despair
by getting into trouble a lot~ and by contrast, you tried to be
"the good child."
Your efforts to please and
excel in school mostly went unnoticed and unrewarded, and if your
parent eventually became sick and died or they committed suicide,
you might have grown up feeling guilty/responsible for not having
prevented it, and your Savior Complex was born.
are 'easy marks' for individuals with personality
disorder features, mostly because they grew up with an impaired
parent who was incapable of meeting their needs for bonding. Their
inability to recognize, respect or honor their own feelings,
instincts and needs leaves them highly susceptible to engaging relationships
that lack emotional reciprocity.
GRASS ROOTS OF AN INTRICATE, ANCIENT GARDEN
child who experiences deficits in nurturant care, attention, encouragement,
affection, positive mirroring, etc., from his parent, presumes it's
his/her fault, and experiences shame ("I'm
not good enough or lovable"). This child grows up with the
belief that if he/she tries just a little harder to gain these emotional
supplies, they will be forthcoming. Up to a point, this has them
efforting to be perfectly helpful and useful~ but acknowledgment
and appreciation are never forthcoming. The parent might praise
an accomplishment, but does not convey the intrinsic lovability
of this child, which reinforces his ideation that he must 'do,'
in order to receive acceptance and love.
of these kids experience performance fatigue, and give-up
trying to get parental acceptance and recognition needs met~ but
carry the very same behaviors into their adult associations! Their
painful hope that someone, someday will find them worthy
of loving has them chasing after it often against all odds,
in romantic partnerships. If they manage to find a partner who can
initially mirror their worth, it concretizes that it might
not have been their fault they
lacked love during childhood, after all.
problem with this subconsciously driven need for validation, is
that they're prone to remaining with lovers who are cut from the
same cloth as the people who raised them~ so their end result is
consistent and identical. These partnerships reconstitute their
original shame from parental neglect and/or abuse. Their
constant need to flee this awful feeling of shame, perpetuates
an unrelenting compulsion to obtain love from partners who are as
incapable of supplying it as their parents had
been, as this is what feels natural and 'normal.'
issue is exacerbated, when harsh
treatment from one of our parents is not only permitted, but
is sanctioned by the other with; "he/she really
does love you." This is terribly confusing for a small
child, for he/she experiences pain at
the hands of Mom or Dad, but is repeatedly told that "it's
skewed definition of what love is, taints our perceptions and sets
us up for a lifetime of accepting that pain in a relationship is
to be expected~ and that anguish is a normal part of loving!
Any parent who's whitewashed the other's abusiveness, has
screwed up their child for life~ for he will always lack common
sense and distrust his instincts, unless/until solid, core healing
intervention is obtained.
a client tells me they had a "perfect childhood," or that
his/her parents had an ideal, long-term marriage, I know
we've got challenging work ahead. The reality is, if this were true,
they would not be struggling to form healthy attachments--and they
definitely wouldn't be needing My help! Denial keeps us
trapped in self-blame for our failings, instead of putting the blame
where it actually belongs. It also keeps us addicted to
dramatic, painful relationship experiences.
no such thing as "love addiction." What exists instead,
is an addictive compulsion to catalyze feelings of infatuation,
which are about one's capacity to fall in love with him/herself,
under the adoring gaze of a desirable other. This sensation is fleeting
and transient, and has nothing whatsoever to do with genuine feelings
of love for someone else.
may have convinced yourself that your parents "did the best
they could" but if that's so, why are you
having to invest all this time, money and effort in therapeutic
treatment and a litany of self-help venues, just to feel okay about
hear all the time, from people who say "I know my
mom or dad loved me!" How did you know this? What evidence
do you have to support beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you were
loved by your parent? How much physical affection do you recall
receiving when You (not your parent) needed to experience closeness?
child needs to feel valued by his/her parent. He
needs to see welcome on the parent's face when he enters
a room, and feel like he really matters, and is adored. Very few
of us ever got to experience this--in fact, what we consistently
saw instead, were expressions of indifference or annoyance, and
this shaped how we grew up feeling about ourselves!
reality, your parents showed you a distorted reflection
of yourself, and you've trusted it as accurate: "How could
Mom and Dad be wrong about me~ don't they know me better
than anyone else does??"
we repeatedly feel confusion, disappointment or distress in childhood,
we have to normalize those experiences in order to survive
them! We typically stow away these difficult feelings or make them
not matter, so we're able to coexist with a variety of upsets
and the impaired parents who're responsible for them.
childhood survival strategies remain intact throughout
our adulthood, which can spawn serious clinical issues like Anxiety
Disorder, obsessive-compulsive features, attachment difficulties,
bad partner selection, addictions,
personality disorder traits, etc.
feelings are put away in childhood, our emotional growth is stunted.
As we can't help but be drawn to partners who echo our earliest
life experiences and match our level of emotional development,
we're naturally attracted to others who are as underdeveloped and
damaged as we, which sets us up for failure in our love life. These
unions seem familiar and 'normal' to us, so there's an
exciting and compelling drive to maintain them. This element is
discussed in greater depth toward the end of this literature--but
the following will help you better understand why you've landed
always astonished, when I work with clients who have any
trust in God or sense of spirituality, after they've survived horrible
neglect or cruelty at the hands of their parents. To a small child,
the parent IS a god--someone
he/she instinctively trusts implicitly, to protect and care for
them. The stories I hear of the pain these adult children have endured
are heartbreaking, and I'm utterly amazed by their willingness and
capacity to even approach trusting me.
A few of my
clients have chosen to share this material with their parent. If
You are a parent, and your grown child has gifted you this material
or you've found it by chance, there's a strong likelihood
they're needing your apology for painful childhood issues they've
struggled to surmount. If you're wanting to build a closer bond
with him or her, any attempts to make amends must be heartfelt--and
made without explanations or excuses! The reasons you weren't
'equipped' to do it differently or better, are of no use in context
of easing the pain they still carry. In short, this effort can't
become about you and your struggles, for while they may
have empathy and compassion for your plight, they're still wrestling
with unresolved wounds and trust issues that you
only possible, when someone you've hurt (even
unwittingly) can feel your sincere remorse. While this
process won't be easy, it can go a long way toward helping you repair
any relationship where trust has been undermined.
CAREGIVER PERSONALTY EQUATES BEING NEEDED, WITH BEING LOVED.
Your caregiving nature
is drawn to codependent relationship dynamics with friends or lovers
who are either handicapped, in crisis, emotionally/sexually underdeveloped,
substance addicted or in recovery/rehab. You've unwittingly selected
partners whose self-esteem is flagging, or whom in some way need
rescuing or extreme amounts of support or nurturing.
often, feelings of boredom or emptiness will prompt phone calls
to friends who allow you to fuel/fix them with 'pep talks' that
include emotional or psychological bolstering, and you
feel lighter and/or revitalized afterward. Occasionally,
you might romantically connect with someone who initially
shows promise or "potential," only to be disappointed
and angry at the end of this relationship, having carried the financial
and/or emotional weight for both of you! The subconscious theme
that underlies this predestined pairing process is: "If
you NEED me, you'll never leave me."
In the rare event a selected
lover presents as self-sufficient and non-needy, a Caregiver type
is still compelled to encourage some level of dependency.
This may be demonstrated by attempts to subtly undermine a partner's
confidence in wardrobe preference, body image, eating or dietary habits,
work proficiency, sexual adequacy, etc. Basically, if there's opportunity
to create at least the illusion of being indispensable and
needed, our abandonment concerns are averted. This behavior is driven
by a subconscious determination to maintain inequity within all our
relationships, for the one who needs the least is always
the one in power.
Partners may unwittingly undermine
themselves by losing jobs, getting sick or injured, etc., to be complicit
with the 'one-up' dynamic you've needed to maintain
in the relationship. There's always a payoff in this--as the unspoken
agreement or 'contract' that was created when you two first joined
remains unchanged, and neither of you has to budge
from your established role, or comfort zone.
When a mate/partner is perceived
as diminished (or less than) you feel more secure, in that
you can control the relationship dynamic and manipulate its
emotional climate to suit internal comfort levels. In truth, feeling
needed is enhancing to your self-image,
and reinforces a sense of well-being/safety; but if a lover gains
some genuine empowerment and develops a more equal
footing, your Caregiver prowess is suddenly diluted. This is when
your emotional equilibrium feels compromised and abandonment anxiety
surfaces~ which prompts either sabotaging or clinging behaviors.
Selection strategy insures against
this unfavorable outcome, as you will turn away from lovers or friends
who are capable of meeting you on a more balanced playing field. Healthier
choices require authentic self-esteem, which you may never
have had opportunity to develop. You'll naturally guard against anybody
discovering this secret, as covert shame, a remnant from your childhood,
steers you away from more viable, fully-integrated people who might
notice your fragility and/or shortcomings, and find you as
unworthy of their love as you do. This is not true,
incidentally~ it's just your own sense of inadequacy that's being
projected onto them. It's how you assume they'll view you.
at the core of this issue?? Being
loved in totality is something that Caregivers do not fundamentally
believe is possible, as "negative" or less appealing traits
and feelings have been suppressed since infancy, in effort to gain
more affection or care, and mitigate fears of rejection or abandonment.
this kind of child has been emotionally blackmailed into responding
to the needs of his/her mother, and personality aspects that were
difficult or inconvenient for her to tolerate,
have been surrendered or discarded. Even if Mom just wanted to shield
her spouse/pertner from any form of agitation, her child is conditioned
to accept/believe that specific facets and feelings are unacceptable,
wrong and bad.
As he matures,
he will internalize and adopt this attitude toward himself. Even subtle
awareness of the presence of these aspects or feelings makes
him feel unlovable and "bad," so he virtually amputates
them out of his personality and becomes a People Pleaser,
which can cause serious health repercussions.
Various cancers, stomach/intestinal
issues, glandular difficulties, rheumatism, migraine headaches, Anxiety/Panic
Disorders and adult acne are only a few of the ailments that are
triggered by long-held resentment and repressed rage. It's not that
anger is bad--but it's harshly self-judged, and eradicated
from one's persona. Non-acceptance of any type of human emotion
has one forging and maintaining a partial personality,
instead of a whole one.
are attracted to dimensions and aspects in others, that are absent
in themselves. Think of a jigsaw puzzle searching for its own missing
pieces in another, that houses a greater variety of shapes and colors,
which is key to why they attach themselves to lovers who
possess volatile, cruel or fragile personality facets.
In short, our
natural human desire for a sense of completeness has us drawn
to traits in others that we can't/won't own--rather
than shooting for developing an autonomous, multi-dimensional and
healthy, fully actualized Self.
ONE MAN'S CEILING IS
ANOTHER MAN'S FLOOR.
Caregiver personalities learned
to mitigate their emotional pain in childhood, by noticing others
who were less fortunate. If they could observe another child's far
worse plight, it affirmed by contrast, that theirs wasn't
so bad after all--and their own pain seemed more palatable. We've
all grown up with platitudes; "I cried when I had no shoes,
until I met a man who had no legs." You couldn't feel compassion
for yourself, because according to your parents, there was
always someone else who had it a lot worse, and besides,
"pity-parties" weren't allowed in your home!
If our parents judged or invalidated
our pain, we learned to treat ourselves precisely the same way when
uncomfortable emotions emerged. Core shame is experienced by the child
whose anguish or emptiness is trivialized by a dad or mom who's disconnected
from his/her own emotions and needs. This parent treats the
child's painful feelings as bad or wrong, and admonishes him to "snap
out of it," while assuring that others are far less
fortunate than he, and he should be grateful for
what he has! This kid will grow up invalidating his own anguish, needs
and wants, for it triggers core shame in him for desiring anything
beyond mere survival.
There is no opportunity for
this child to receive an empathic response to his pain, nor grow up
with any capacity to respect his own feelings, and learn to self-soothe.
He becomes an empty, robotic shell of an adult, for this is who he
is schooled to become. His genuine feeling self has effectively
been submerged and killed off.
When various feelings are disposed
of during childhood, our extra-sensory aspects (instinct and intuition)
cannot function properly. This puts us at high risk for professional
and personal setbacks, because rather than relying on our innate senses
or built-in survival guide to direct us, we make choices based on
what we think is right, rather than sensing
what will best serve us (or our children). This leaves us second-guessing
important decisions or choices~ and worst of all, distrusting ourselves.
Your instincts will never
lie to you. If you find it difficult to trust others, it's because
you're so dissociated from your feelings, you can't/won't
trust your senses to help you determine whom you can trust, and who
DEFENSES, DENIAL AND
DEATH OF THE REAL SELF.
is grandiose, to compensate for its inherent human frailty. It's constructed
from defenses and denial of true feelings, which keeps the real
Self protected. This mighty, invincible aspect we construct early
in life helps us surmount painful emotional deficits in childhood--but
when we're grown, there's a heavy price to pay for maintaining
it. We're afraid to let that mask drop, for fear we'll be viewed as
incidental or useless, and be rejected. We've learned that our
survival depends on being strong/indispensable, and there's no
room for 'weakness' of any kind--but the truth is, to really
love someone, means to need them, and let
our vulnerability co-exist with our strengths within a trusted, deeply
As touched on earlier, entrenched
childhood coping strategies taint our
perceptions in adulthood. They have us feeling sorry for another~
even when they've caused us
great harm. The sympathetic feelings we give to somebody
else are frequently triggered by our own long-discarded sense
of fragility that's projected
onto them! This reflex is automatic, if you've attached to a partner
who has Borderline Personality Disorder.
Rather than feeling your
anguish and licking fresh wounds, you will find ways to "forgive"
~but you're constantly obsessing,
and can't forget! You'll make allowances and excuses for others,
but never yourself, which is maintained as an absurd and dangerous
double standard. Genuine empowerment has remained elusive, but your
self-protective, survival defenses have all stayed intact, which derails
your ability to forge wholesome, healthy reciprocal attachments.
THE BLIND LEADING THE
resolving core trauma gives birth to arrogance. It has us giving to
those who crave our attention, but don't actually want to feel better.
Maybe you've provided a patient ear and offered sound support to a
friend over the course of months or years, but nothing ever changes
for him or her. You're addicted to the effort though, as it invigorates
feelings of aliveness in you!
compulsions are typically heightened, with friends who have Borderline
Personality Disorder features. They'll complain about issues with
a friend or lover, yet will not seek therapeutic help for those concerns.
Why should they? You're their enabler who loves being
needed~ and your payoff, is keeping them as impaired and hapless as
they are. Ask yourself, "what else
would I be doing with all my spare time, if I halted this behavior??"
friends try to piggy-back onto your inner work. Therapy 'by
proxy' never helps someone. You are not equipped to assist them, even
if you feel you're making solid gains in treatment~ besides, it's
the blind leading the blind, for rather than enduring your own
difficult feelings, you still want to distract yourself with trying
to relieve another of theirs! This behavior fortifies your rescuing
compulsions, and forestalls any emotional expansion or healing, for
which you are paying large sums of money.
great at fixing, rescuing, teaching and advising, but authentic
intimacy/closeness is unsustainable and avoided, given their
deep seated abandonment concerns. Caregivers are usually attracted
to borderline disordered individuals who match their
own emotional deficits and attachment fears.
powerful individuals are attracted to others like themselves. They
don't prey on the weak or needy, and they do not
need to be needed.
ENMESHMENT MEANS, "WHERE
DO YOU END, AND I BEGIN?"
Caregivers can't allow others
to struggle with difficult feelings, because they're unable to respect
and hang out with their own. When a friend is sad, caregiver personalities
feel an irrepressible need to micro-manage or mitigate the other's
emotions, because permitting their own has always been too
challenging. When you learn to tolerate your uncomfortable
feelings, you'll start letting others have theirs.
has developed an idealized notion of how he must be perceived
in order to be loved--so each giving gesture literally provides
a self-image payoff. While this emotional 'reward'
may be satisfying on some level, the compulsion to take care of others
consistently overrides personal needs and underdeveloped
feelings, and perpetuates an issue of "Giving 'till
it hurts," because sensations of emptiness and
guilt are experienced when he doesn't.
Humans are like chickens. We
have light parts and dark ones. If you haven't come to fully accept
yourself with both light and dark facets and feelings, how can you
possibly like and respect yourself? This issue keeps self-loathing
alive, and sets you up for having to buy
another's love to make up for your insecurities with
generous gifts, gestures and behaviors that consistently put another's
desires and needs before your own. These actions are always automatic
and reflexive, because your needs have never mattered, and
you've not learned to discern, honor or sanction them.
The Pleaser so hungrily seeks
approval, he'll happily work longer hours, take on extra
tasks that aren't part of his job description, never take vacations,
never ask for a raise in salary, etc. He secretly wants his contributions
to be noticed and rewarded--but fear keeps him from asking
for any compensation! He would literally prefer that his employer
intuit his needs or desires and grant what's never spoken
of or requested--as deep down, he doesn't feel worthy
of receiving. This entitlement
issue usually begins during infancy, due to the lack of adequate care
and emotional bonding with our birth mother, and having had little
ability to acquire trust that our basic needs are acceptable,
and can be met.
Unmet needs spawn painful, frustrating
sensations. It's natural for a child to decide that it's easier not
to have needs, than to keep feeling anguish from not having
his needs responded to and honored. This difficulty gives rise to
emotional autism which has us living in a sort of bubble that seals
us off from more pain, while reinforcing the non-needing, codependent
we've grown up making ourselves wrong for
having any needs (one of the core tenets of codependency), it's easy
to feel like it's our fault, when we feel bad in a relationship
because we're not getting our needs responded to. As adults, our reflex
to bury personal needs and make allowances and excuses for others,
is automatic. It motivates us to keep striving in the face of any/all
obstacles and odds, no matter what the cost to our own comfort, peace
impulse stems from archaic sensations of shame which
are codified by a parent's distorted confirmation that we're
defective or unlovable. Our subconscious mind presumes during childhood
that if we were truly lovable, we would get far more affection and
attention, and feel happy and content: It never takes
into account another's inability to love him/herself, or
Lurking beneath the surface
of every Caregiver's attachments is often the question; "when's
it gonna be my turn?" They erroneously
presume that the more they give, the more they'll eventually/some
day get back--but that cannot happen, due to the type of
person they've chosen to love. This issue is never resolved, because
reciprocal relationships actually make him/her feel uneasy, and are
I once dated a guy who was the
quintessential codependent. I'm certain our relationship would have
fizzled immediately, had I not been forced to move out of my home
just two weeks into our dance. I felt some depression about it, but
he was 'Johnny on the spot' working overtime, to keep me in his life
against my better judgment (I'd known and kept stating this wasn't
a great time for me to get involved). He was very helpful during those
months, but the instant I found a new abode and settled-in, he started
acting-out his abandonment fears by retreating sexually.
So I was finally feeling much lighter, and desiring him more
than ever~ and he played sexual retreat games and rejected me (as
he assumed I would him, once I'd rebalanced,
and he wasn't 'needed' anymore). Poor
THE FEAR OF GOD FACTOR
Judeo-Christian principles have
fueled faulty beliefs about what constitutes "a good person."
We may be programmed from early in life, to accept that selflessly
doing for others will bring us happiness--but if that were so, why
would so many folks who subscribe to this ideation be suicidally depressed,
and staying in joyless, unproductive relationships? Should we turn
the other cheek, no matter how poorly someone treats us? Is this really
spirituality--or just martyrdom and masochism?
If God needed you to be devoid of all dark or "negative"
emotions, wouldn't he have created you without the ability to feel
While Buddhism promotes the
belief that 'chanting' will bring us everything we want, it takes
a dim view of emotions and actions that aren't considered congruent
with "being in service" to another--once again,
de-prioritizing our feelings and needs, and putting
them on the back-burner to simmer, and rob energy from more productive
This nonsense is underscored
by fears of karmic retribution, if we entertain a hateful, retaliatory
or vengeful thought toward someone who's intentionally done us wrong,
and suggests that we surely must have done something despicable during
a past life to have deserved these parents,
siblings or friends who've treated us abominably. Christ, no
wonder Buddha was fat! If our core belief
from childhood is that we don't deserve abundance
and love, chanting can't work for us, because feelings of shame and
guilt from early life deficits block our willingness to receive! That's
not "Karma" ~it's just basic, metaphysical law.
and other twelve-step programs actually reinforce and perpetuate
addictions, by urging folks to "let go of their anger."
Transferring an addiction from one substance to another is very common--because
12-Steps don't teach you to accept, honor and function
from all your emotions, rather than a select
and personality aspects must be discarded in AA, in order to "work
the program." Making amends is lovely--but when it comes to apologizing
to a parent or friend who's been neglectful or abusive, aren't we
seeking forgiveness for crimes we didn't commit?? How can this help
us--and doesn't it further our shame, if we continue
to wrestle with bad feelings in those relationships?
Anger is a passionate
emotion that's energizing and enlivening. It's virtually impossible
to feel sad, when we're mad. Judging anger as "wrong" and
turning it against ourselves for feeling it, keeps depression, anxiety
and emptiness alive~ and there's just no way around that, which is
why addicts never truly recover.
In my view,
the single most damaging element of Twelve-Step programs, is they
force you to integrate the faulty belief that you're "powerless"
against your addiction~ but how could they keep you "coming
back" decade to decade, if you believed full
recovery was an option?! Powerlessness is something you had to
accept and adapt to as a small child--because there'd be hell to pay,
if you didn't! Sadly, learned helplessness is the inevitable outcome
of your childhood programming, which AA perpetuates.
ruthless parents can make a kid feel helpless and hopeless, causing
far too many child suicides, which adult 'caregivers' prefer to call
"accidents." If you credit AA or NA with saving your life,
that's fine~ but does your notion of really living
mean thriving--or merely surviving? You presumably
left home as a young adult to become autonomous and in-charge of your
own life. Have you accomplished his aim yet~ or are you still dependent
on a system that constantly reiterates that you can't
make it on your own?? Does misery love company--or is there some other
payoff in this paradigm that I'm missing?
Throwing the baby out with the
bath water isn't what I'm proposing here, but we need to challenge
the merits of these ideologies with some independent, rational thinking~
while respecting their real reparative value for providing
an anchor, a support structure, and a sense of family and belonging
that many of us have tragically, never known.
This 'sense of family' can unfortunately
catalyze detrimental consequences, as well. It might
have us remaining in a toxic, abusive relationship or work environment,
out of an odd sense of loyalty--never realizing our well-being
is dependent on our ability to flee that excruciating situation! Having
missed-out on any healthy sense of 'acceptable' treatment
in our childhood, this pain we're tolerating simply feels normal
I'm a proof's in the pudding
kind of person. If a behavior brings you glee and contentment, it's
worth maintaining. If it doesn't, you'd better ask yourself whether
it makes sense to keep doing the same thing over and over again, expecting
a different result!
Fear is what keeps societies
trapped in systems that repeatedly fail them. These systems are promoted
by people who've needed to control you, not by God--who
wants for you, what you want for yourself.
have grown up under such stringent control by their parents, it's
impossible for them to have adopted alternate, loving/accepting ways
to treat themselves. Their 'critical inner parent' (Freud termed this
the Super-ego) is overdeveloped, they're constantly judging themselves,
and there's no inner peace if they can't perform "perfectly,"
according to the unreasonable standards they've set for themselves!
This element spawns self-loathing in individuals who have sadly fallen
prey to narcissistic and borderline personality traits. The
Black Swan is a 2010 film that exemplifies pathological
TERROR AND DREAD OF CONFRONTATION
is extremely common within this personality type, for there's substantial
difficulty with identifying feelings and needs. Having learned
to obliterate vital emotions in order to survive, recognizing and
conveying them in a direct, straightforward manner not only feels
foreign, it forces one to confront long-dreaded vulnerability, and
challenges or threatens one's entrenched non-needing identity.
Resentment is typically
cumulative for someone who's unable to acknowledge feelings and for
whom experiencing and expressing needs produces deep discomfort. Therefore,
a series of minor infractions that could be unwitting on another's
part, are initially glossed over, and internalized as "trivial
Mounting resentment can easily
erupt in explosive outbursts, but is more often acted-out
in a passive/non-direct
fashion, which can include physical, sexual or emotional withdrawal,
sarcasm, bitchiness, infidelities, delaying or "forgetting"
specific requests made by the lover, not following through with promises
or commitments, etc.
This faulty style of interplay
was learned by the adult child while growing up, as his parents were
incapable of engaging him in healthier, more constructive interactions.
The outcome of this kind of parenting is a deeply fractured sense
of worthiness, and diminished trust in oneself and others:
We learn how to love ourselves and others, by how
we were treated as children.
SHOW ME WHERE YOU ARE,
AND I'LL KNOW WHERE YOU'VE BEEN.
Childhood experiences always
predict the nature of adult relationships. An extraordinary number
of males who've grown up without fathers or in homes where
the father was ill, abusive or just emotionally/physically unavailable,
have developed powerful inclinations to fix/rescue
When a mother's relationship
with her spouse or partner is lacking in emotional resources or
she's unattached, her children must often assume the very complex
adult role of filling her emotional void. While the eldest or male
child is typically chosen for this task, any child who's felt responsible
for meeting his/her mother's needs, will likely develop rescuing compulsions.
These relationship dynamics
are usually kept in place for the duration of one's life, or the life
of the mother and beyond~ if there are siblings for whom he or she
feels responsible. This enmeshment
issue acutely interferes with a Caregiver's ability to create a sound,
independent, emotionally gratifying and successful lifestyle for him/herself,
without significant feelings of remorse, shame or guilt over "inadequate"
attention/support to his parent or siblings, no matter how much
has been offered or provided.
Since these attitudes and behaviors
were essentially implanted during the earliest part of his formative
years, they tend to remain alive indefinitely. If help is not engaged
to dismantle these core constructs, they are projected onto all his
romantic liaisons, which spawns emotional ambivalence. Hence, a male
who appears to "fear commitment" is more likely trying to
avoid engulfment, because he has lacked
a positive and wholesome frame of reference for what it means to experience
closeness. Sadly, for this adult child, bonding means bondage.
fears of Abandonment and Engulfment (or loss of Self), combine with
difficult feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness that catalyze destructive,
compensatory behaviors. Control issues and addictions help
compulsive caregivers defend against painful ambivalence that's characterized
by deep longing but fear of needing,
and further undermine their personal strivings and attachment endeavors.
This personality type might
routinely pursue relationships with borderline
disordered partners, who are incapable of sustaining genuine
intimacy or ongoing connection. Under these conditions of
course, the task of maintaining 'safe' emotional proximity becomes
a non-issue. It should be noted that long-distance
romances conveniently inhibit authentic affectional bonds, and assuage
one's dreaded, long-held engulfment
anxiety, as well.
IF I CAN JUST STAY BUSY
ENOUGH, I'LL BE FINE.
frequently construct and maintain fast-paced, highly stressful lifestyles,
to avoid difficult sensations (like emptiness or depression) that
can surface when they slow down enough to feel.
Busily responding to the needs and crises of others, reliably bolsters
a tenuous self-image that fits very neatly into their Avoidant Syndrome.
behaviors help compulsive Caregivers side-step having to confront
personal issues and challenges, and distract from emotional
pain or dissatisfaction. This is a spectacular form of self-medication--but
relief is only temporary, which reinforces the addictive cycle of
focusing attention outside oneself, rather than looking more
was once a child who required love and affection to mirror his intrinsic
value and lovability. Since this was never properly reflected, he
has ingeniously invented various methods by which to gain
a sense of Self, by over-achieving, publicly performing, rescuing
or constantly responding to the needs of others. In essence, he's
been programmed to feel worthless, empty and invisible unless he's
actively doing, so the simple act of being
can invoke guilt and self-loathing.
To avert these
painful feelings, even caregiving professionals are compelled
by "fixer-uppers" in romantic relationships, as well as
needful, physically and/or emotionally compromised friends who depend
on them for support and refueling. Healthy/whole people are attracted
to balanced interpersonal relationship dynamics, not
I had a close collegial friendship
for many years with a gal whose husband so frequently contracted The
Disease du Jour, she was utterly terrified every month or
so, that his demise could be imminent! Since this pattern existed
throughout the thirteen years we'd been good friends, I couldn't help
but wonder what underlying issues supported and perpetuated it. In
short, what was the subconscious payoff for his getting sick
so often, and diagnosing himself with each dreaded disease?
I finally asked my friend what
changes occurred in their day-to-day dynamic
when hubby was supposedly critically ill~ and her reply was predictable;
she gave him a
lot more attention and tender concern!
For a guy who'd grown up with a mother who'd encouraged him
to play in the streets and had little regard for his safety or well-being,
I presumed this extra attention from his overly-busy, psychotherapist
wife felt pretty darned good. As far as I know, they're still doing
that dance--it's really just simple, emotional mathematics.
This same "friend"
would only return my calls, when she could discern I was
struggling--but I'd have to wait a week or two to hear back from her,
if I just wanted a few minutes of simple, friendly phone interchange.
She would offer to take me to non-emergent medical appointments which
to me, but we'd often have to plan weeks in advance, for a social
It seemed as if friendship was
foreign to her, if she couldn't be in the control seat. Given
that I only got attention if I needed her, I started feeling
pathologized or less-than in our relationship. I'd occasionally find
myself wishing that I were one of her therapy clients, because they
received the lion's share of her attention. Did I speak with her about
these issues? Numerous times, but positive change
was always temporary~ and while my affection for her ran very deep,
I ultimately felt the need to withdraw from this undersatisfying and
Too many people
grow up believing that deep, dramatic feelings of longing, yearning
and craving for someone are what "love" is supposed to feel
like~ but genuine love feels reciprocal, steady, nourishing,
consistent and safe. It never produces anguish.
The sensation of deeply craving
someone's affection or attention can be agonizing for us. It drudges
up unmet emotional needs from infancy onward, which we've presumed
is our fault because of imagined shortcomings or "flaws"
~but they're really due to inadequate mothering.
If someone invokes these sensations
in you, it means they're not capable of meeting your needs
for closeness and connection, and the relationship isn't a solid fit
for you. I have zero tolerance for these sensations because they feel
bad, and force me to accept that the individual who's triggering them
isn't a good or healthy choice for me, no matter how much
adoration I've felt for him or her.
THE DOOR TO WHOLENESS, BY HONORING EMPTINESS.
a child experiences aloneness, it hurts! He lacks a sense
of belonging, or feeling like he actually matters to anyone. These
difficult sensations can feel like emptiness/deadness, and trigger
deep despair. Given these children presume it's their fault
for feeling this way, they attempt to be more useful, helpful and
other-oriented, to keep the dreaded deadness at bay.
child turns into an observer who's always outside
himself hyper-judging his every word and action in the hope that others
might respond favorably to him, rather than living inside
his body and noticing, trusting and honoring his own perceptions,
feelings and senses.
Caregiver personalities are
'busy-bodies' who compulsively keep themselves running--despite sensations
of tiredness, sickness, injury, etc. If your entire sense of identity
is contingent on how well you take care of everybody else, how is
it ever possible to slow down, and respond to your personal
feelings and needs?
Busy-bodies are typically unable
to distinguish between feelings and thoughts. These folks are accustomed
to thinking their way through life, as opposed to feeling
their way along. Instincts and intuitions are disregarded along with
other vital sensations, that function as our inner compass or GPS.
Their absence can leave us shooting in the dark romantically and professionally,
and have us settling for harmful relationship dymanics, just to flee
inner emptiness that feels worse than most types of pain.
live with a powerful compulsion to give what they've
never received. There's a dire, inescapable need to take care of everyone
else in a manner that's completely foreign to their own childhood
experiences. They'll never fully relax for fear that they're not performing
perfectly enough and have let someone/anyone down, if they
can't! These nagging sensations feel shameful, and reinvigorate their
disease to please~ which perpetuates controlling,
codependent behaviors. Selflessness is just a lofty euphemism for
and it's dysfunctional.
When Caregivers construct elaborate
defenses like crisis/chaos addictions,
they're running from internal distress. Constantly responding to the
needs of others enables them to circumvent their own uncomfortable
feelings (anger, sadness, loneliness, deadness, etc.), and maintain
denial of deep, unhealed trauma.
Descending into their personal
anguish within a solid therapeutic alliance is typically avoided,
because the notion of allowing a supportive, nourishing, ongoing relationship
(essential to helping them mend) feels threatening to their
non-needing or 'false-self.' Thus, friendships and professional or
social connections that lack reciprocity
due to inherent limitations or deficits, are subconsciously ratified
and perpetuated. Whether you are a therapist or patient, one salient
truth exists: Feeling creates opportunity and capacity
HEAL THYSELF - THE WALKING WOUNDED PRACTITIONER
Individuals who've not addressed
and healed their core wounds at a primal/foundational level, are especially
attracted to jobs or careers that involve psychological or medical
Psychotherapists, doctors and
nurses are all drawn to helping or "fixing" people, as this
forms the foundation of their self-worth, and provides opportunities
to change someone in ways that were never possible to accomplish
with their parent. The caregiver's appetite
for omnipotence has germinated from early childhood. It was originally
bourn out of a need to construct a more powerful, invincible and somewhat
grandiose ego structure, to compensate for archaic deficits
that left him/her feeling a sense of disempowerment or fragility.
The painful inner craving that
stems from this emotionally under-nourished period during
childhood, fuels addictions to alcohol/drugs,
over-work, excessive exercise, scholastic or professional over-achievement,
gambling, sex, high conflict relationships, etc. One's drive to alter,
elevate or numb his/her mood with substances or compulsive
behaviors, is a desperate attempt to fill his/her core
void. This void or sense of nothingness/emptiness,
represents the most prominent piece of every addict's fractured inner
mosaic--and profound terror exists for them in this space.
Caregivers are way too tough
on themselves due to self-loathing, which is a learned response to
abuse and/or neglect during childhood. Maybe they left home to flee
shaming criticisms, but continue beating-up on themselves
for failings or imperfections. It's imperative you
seek specialized help to stop this self-destructive habit!
is frighteningly common among helping professionals. Reluctant to
acknowledge or experience personal needs, even psychotherapists may
neglect to confront their own core disturbances, which leaves
them ill-suited to recognize and empathically respond to their patients'
most distressing feelings, struggles and self-sabotaging patterns--but
is it even possible to effectively walk someone else through a dark,
scary tunnel that you've been unable or unwilling
are invested in keeping their patients/clients in treatment far
longer than necessary, to fortify their own sense of Self, and
gratify an unquenchable need to feel needed. Sadly, one's client base
might actually function as a sort of surrogate family for
the core injured therapist who has always yearned for but lacked
meaningful, secure attachments within his/her family of origin. This
means, their 'unfinished business' from childhood can extend
your length of treatment indefinitely.
caregivers are likely to have struggled with individuating from Mother
during early development. Not having made this crossing when it was
age appropriate to do so, has many of them feeling forever obliged
to take care of the parent's needs, which can cause them to unwittingly
anticipate a similar 'loyalty' from those who are dependent on them.
in treatment with these clinicians may grapple with the challenge
of moving on from therapy, for it's a subtle
abandonment trigger for the clinician who has unresolved issues pertaining
to their own derailed attempts to separate/individuate from Mother,
in order to construct an independent, autonomous sense of Self during
childhood. The ugly truth is, your recovery process could become compromised,
so that you may never feel 'well enough' to leave them.
are treatment-resistant. They have never spent one hour on someone
else's couch, and need to fuel their belief that they've "got
it all together," given their professional accomplishments--but
such is rarely true. I've observed a great deal of borderline
pathology, codependency and other active
addictions in the psychotherapeutic community--and my sense is,
their grandiose defenses are just a by-product of unresolved core
When I was a
teen, my dad once said; "make sure you clean up the mess in your
own backyard, before you start on someone else's." This little
piece of wisdom has had me holding my feet to the fire, with respect
to healing and growth. Perhaps it can serve as a helpful reminder,
for you too. The truth is, we're not ready to take on passengers,
if we haven't plugged up the holes in our own boat. Many people lead
lives of quiet desperation, because they're drowning in an ocean of
unfinished business from their childhood, and have unwittingly chosen
mates who rip the scabs off old, unhealed injuries.
All my clients
have been core trauma survivors. Most have geographically distanced
themselves as far as possible from their parental home, in order to
establish a degree of emotional autonomy. Over time, the issue of
enmeshment (inability to discern and separate feelings belonging
to either the parent or the Self) is resolved. At this juncture, one's
relationship endeavors can start to become more balanced, productive
and gratifying. One's mother figures most prominently within
this enmeshment scheme, as she is the first object of attachment,
and the mother/child bond is intricate and profound.
TRUST, AND OTHER SUCH ANOMALIES
A developing fetus constantly
hears his mother's heartbeat and breathing, and shares her blood and
oxygen supply. He learns to recognize and become familiar with her
voice, language style, the cadence of her speech and how she uniquely
enunciates her words. Add to this, he co-experiences her emotional
states right along with her, so everything she feels, he
does too. From this, he forms a loving, intimate bond with her in-utero,
and believes they are one, and there is no separation between them~
as far as he's concerned, she is him, and he is her.
This of course, has far
reaching repercussions for children given away at birth ('adoptees'),
and imprints them with feelings of abandonment that are almost impossible
for them to identify or articulate without sensitive, highly specialized
care. Pre-verbal sensations of guilt, unworthiness and shame, which
result from having been given up for adoption or abandoned by a mother's
untimely death or physical/emotional withholding, make them feel "unwanted,
defective and discarded," and drive a deep need to avert
this kind of trauma from ever occurring again.
issues can inhibit connections that might become more than casual/superficial,
or cause one to retain relationships that feel unfulfilling
or abusive. Under these conditions, any connection might
seem better than no connection at all. Many of these folks compulsively
strive for perfection
in adulthood, to ameliorate their ever-present terror of rejection,
or being left.
Whether physical loss of the
mother constitutes part of this core deficit or not, enmeshment issues
stemming from emotional abandonment triggers are easily implanted
during infancy and early childhood. Again,
when a woman's needs are not met by her spouse or partner, they're
usually transferred to her child, which fosters an unhealthy, fused/enmeshed
bonding that conditions him to feel responsible for her survival and
If the child's attempts to
form an autonomous ego are thwarted when he begins to separate
and individuate from her as a toddler, he remains fixated on the needs
of his mother~ and on every attachment thereafter, to his great detriment.
Very early on, he begins to sense that only a modicum of personal
need fulfillment is available to him, which undermines
his sense of worth and viability.
During this child's impaired
post-natal attachment experiences, he acquires a subtle anxiety that
cannot help but question, "if something should happen to
you, what will become of me?" This
deep concern prompts Herculean measures to rescue, fix/repair or normalize
his beloved parent and their interactions, to ameliorate his abandonment
fears. At his own expense, he may even adopt the mother's depressive
or dysfunctional features, to retain some semblance of connection
with her. These rescuing impulses are automatically carried into his
adult dynamics, and are the root cause of codependency issues.
As previously stated, the basis
of this disturbance is intricate, and begins very early. When separation
is attempted by a toddler with a core-damaged mother, this necessary
aspect of his development virtually reactivates the mother's
original abandonment trauma (carried over from her infancy),
and re-awakens insidious primal rage that's projected
onto her child.
Prior to his individuation phase,
this infant's mother might have begun experiencing a sense of wholeness,
connection and purpose she's never known before, and these richly
pleasurable sensations fostered her determined efforts to remain attached.
Henceforth, the consistent, underlying message in her facial expressions,
verbal tone and behaviors toward him throughout this vital and essential
emotional growth period, could convey; "don't
you dare separate and cease existing for me and my
needs, or I will abandon/annihilate you."
This event echoes
her own frustrated efforts to retain affection and approval,
while attempting to forge an autonomous, healthy Ego, distinctly separate/apart
from her mother as a young child.
Core emptiness can drive a woman's
psychic/emotional need to give birth to a lot of babies in
very close succession; think of Nadya Sulemon (The Octomom), for she
literally thrives on their dependency. A Borderline
mother may physically harm her children or make them sick in order
to keep them dependent, as with Munchausen's Syndrome by
Proxy~ or she might murder them, as they develop beyond their dependency
stage. In either case, this child's spirit is killed
off, which spawns a sense of despair and deadness or emptiness that
without core trauma
recovery, can last an entire lifetime.
primal needs (from infancy) will always
take precedence over adult needs! Comforting/soothing physical connection
and touching can trap people in frustrating relational dynamics that
are lacking in adult emotional, cerebral, spiritual and financial
females often fall prey to relationships with males they think
have "potential," only to be disappointed when their practical
adult needs cannot be responded to. They remain angry or dissatisfied--yet
are unable to leave, if their little girl needs for comfort/closeness
are being met. At the heart of this issue is enmeshment
~and grown woman needs are typically forfeited
within a romantic interplay that reinforces her dependency.
enmeshment issues are especially common among men who attach to Borderline
women. A Borderline's clinginess and neediness can at first feel suffocating
and engulfing~ but at the same time, comforting, as they can replicate
an adult male's earliest bonding experiences (even before birth)
imprint is potent/heady, and is often retained as a sense memory;
the way she smells, the nature of her touch or sound of her voice,
etc., make him think that he's unwittingly found what he's truly needed
his whole life! The loss of this type of attachment typically
sends a man spiraling into perilous pain and
longing, which feels unmatched by any other (remembered) life
It should be noted, that if
a nourishing symbiosis
with Mother isn't possible during infancy, and a far more attentive/loving
attachment is forged with the father, an emotionally sound adult might
eventually emerge. But if the father should leave
through divorce, death or remarriage, the abandonment trauma
this invokes will significantly impact all future relationships. Anxiety
surrounding potential loss of another who might have substantial
meaning and value, can exacerbate personality disorder features and
inhibit or destroy healthy, gratifying adult connections.
LOVE HAS BECOME ENTWINED WITH PAIN
The cost of
not resolving core wounds is reflected in every decision and life
choice we make professionally and personally, and it crucially impacts
romantic endeavors. A caring, mutually nurturing
and enhancing relational experience is completely foreign to most
Caregivers. They've seldom (if ever) received affection, support and
positive mirroring from a non-abandoning source, nor have
they experienced loving, that's unaccompanied by pain.
repeatedly welcomes relationships that reactivate dramatic/painful
sensations associated with maternal attachment difficulties, while
routinely rejecting those who are actually equipped to meet his/her
emotional needs. There's little capacity to respond passionately
to a healthier more rewarding dynamic, because the familiar ache of
intense longing and yearning, which has come to be interpreted
as "Love," isn't present
with an available partner! One's
perception of such a relationship is that "something's missing,"
as it cannot trigger feelings that parallel the disappointing/unrequited
attachment experiences he had to endure throughout infancy and childhood.
lover who's elusive, cruel, or just emotionally and/or physically
unavailable can trigger painful sensations that replicate
what the Caregiver experienced as a child, seeking a loving/responsive
parent when he needed that attention. This emotionally inadequate,
yet dramatically felt kind of episode functions as a powerful catalyst,
that inspires a tenacious (and vaguely familiar) pursuit to seduce
the object of desire into returning his attention and ardor.
Since the intense feelings
that are invoked by such a relationship are compelling and addictive,
any individual who awakens
them, is presumed to be addictive as well. In the rare event an
attachment is successfully formed, rejection by the lover
can set in motion an internal re-creation of his earliest abandonment
experience, and drudge up excruciating feelings of inadequacy and
shame, which are nearly impossible to tolerate. Punishment of the
Self, such as compulsive, addictive reflexes or destructive acting-out
behavior, usually accompanies or follows this kind of setback.
Perhaps the most tragic part
of this issue, is that core-wounded individuals unwittingly
seek lovers who are no more equipped to respond to their needs, than
their unavailable parent was! They continue to embrace the notion
that they'll one day find someone who excites them, and whom they
can train or teach to love them in ways they've always wanted--but
this is a child's fantasy that will never be realized. Still, if these
inexhaustible efforts should yield even marginal success, they could
feel encouraged to remain, and continue striving for that which cannot
It's crucial to realize, that
if one could become responsive to a partner's needs, he'd
be discarded because of other perceived shortcomings or "flaws"
that would suddenly seem untenable; again, an emotionally available
lover doesn't provoke an intense visceral response.
In truth, the thrill
is in pursuit and seduction, which perpetuates an endless re-enactment
of a child's most fervent wish for a closer bond with his/her parent,
while defending against a more palpable fear of losing a
deeply meaningful and nourishing attachment. This often means, that
individuals who are actually capable of loving/caring interactions
are distanced, punished or rejected, so that anxiety surrounding devastating
abandonment, is kept at bay. This
is the Borderline's crucible.
The narcissistically injured
Caregiver may repeatedly convince herself that she is capable
of intimacy, by practicing relationship skills with partners who are
incapable of fully responding to her. Thus,
she continues to refuel the notion that she is "available"
by taking calculated emotional risks--the rewards of which, are false
reflections of her actual capacity to bond.
I'm reminded of a colleague
who routinely resuscitated discarded relationships. During brief episodes
of re-engagement, she was utterly convinced she loved and wanted these
men, but always admitted that if the current lover pursued commitment,
she'd beat a hasty retreat~ and enumerated his "deficits"
to sanction her stance. When one of these former boyfriends finally
gained closure and attached to another, this gal pal descended into
a severe depression. Unable to re seduce this man, she appeared
to re-experience her childhood abandonment despair, in having to surrender
this intensely felt, yet under-satisfying connection. My sense was
that profound core sensations of loss, shame and unworthiness,
paralleled acute, long-denied pain from unhealed archaic wounds perpetrated
by her alcoholic, acutely borderline disordered mother.
trauma can create a virtual minefield, in context
of romantic endeavors. Sadly, the partner of an abandoned (adult)
child cannot help but step on emotional land mines that have lain
dormant, perhaps for decades. Self-esteem injuries that have existed
since the primal rejection experience are reactivated--which
triggers intense anguish and rage. It is this
mechanism which elicits volatile/violent reactivity from BPD individuals
toward anyone who has gotten close to them.
As this early
painful material is almost never held on a conscious level in terms
of its emotional impact, repercussions from a lover's unwitting
slights are very difficult to rebalance from, and often bring about
a couple's relational demise.
Many of us grew up observing
our parents doing battle, and as children learn from example, this
became our definition for what 'marriage' meant. If we're
somehow lucky enough to have found a copasetic, nourishing relationship,
we might need to upset that balance, just to feel like things are
normal. In short, we've gotta throw a monkey wrench
into the works, because harmony and peace feel foreign--and therefore,
uncomfortable. We could even have become somewhat like the
parent we most feared or hated.
CAN'T BUILD YOUR CASTLE ON A CRUMBLING FOUNDATION, AND EXPECT IT TO
What's critical to understand,
is that many of us lacked a healthy, consistent symbiotic
bond during infancy with our birth mothers. As a result, our search
for 'perfect attunement' with romantic partners (for
which we have no suitable frame of reference)
can easily continue indefinitely. The compelling drive to manufacture
this nourishing/satisfying primal experience (and heal), propels us
toward intense, unstable relationships that echo familiar, but defective
interpersonal styles that were imprinted on us throughout infancy
and childhood. Stated more simply, our model for
meaningful adult attachments has been constructed from a relationship
blueprint, which consisted of painful, anxiety provoking, under-nourishing
This early blueprint continues
to influence self-worth and partner selection, unless/until
a solid, nourishing therapeutic alliance can provide a sturdier foundation
built on supportive, empathic, yet wholesomely boundaried interactions.
WHOLE, HEALTHY PEOPLE DO NOT ATTACH THEMSELVES TO LOVERS WHO AREN'T.
The person you choose to love
and partner with, mirrors your own level
of emotional development. If you are truly seeking an authentic and
intimate relationship, you won't attach to or remain with someone
who's not, because he/she isn't a 'match' for your fundamental needs
If you think there's been a
pattern in your romantic life that consistently feels lacking,
disappointing and/or painful, you might ask yourself why you're attracted
to this type of individual. More importantly, try to discern the feelings
or fears that emerge within you, when you
contemplate deeply loving someone, who could actually respond
to you the way you've always wanted, and needed
to be loved.
This is my keystone piece, from
which nearly all other material on this site emanates. It was originally
conceived and written for psychotherapists. More on core injury can
be found within other Articles
and various Forum
discussions. Archived questions and answers relating specifically
to these concerns, are available in my Codependency
Forum. If you're a practitioner with a desire to integrate healing
work into your practice, private guidance is available.
your group or organization would like me to speak on this topic, feel
free to contact
me. The following forum letter should provide further insight about
transformational inner work:
Q. Your article hit home for me,
and I was amazed at the profound power of knowledge. But how do you
change all those "familiar" patterns, and stop rejecting
good people who could be loving/giving to you? What is the recovery
or hope of changing all that early programming, as who had a chance
when they were an infant?
Trust is (ideally) established in the first year of life with our
mothers. As an infant, you may have begun sensing
you couldn't depend on her to respond sufficiently
to your needs, and started moving toward emotional self-reliance in
order to survive. This has served you in some ways, but not in others,
as it's kept you from getting help with
forming healthier, more gratifying attachments! Effective therapeutic
support assists you in healing early deficits, by providing corrective
emotional experiences that are qualitatively different than what you've
been exposed to in your past. These therapeutic opportunities allow
you to receive nurturing, attentive (re)parenting, and assist you
in feeling more worthy (and desirous) of nourishing, loving experiences
within your interpersonal world. Early emotional trauma can be overcome
with the help of a professional who understands how profoundly these
wounds have affected you, and hindered your capacity to accept and
trust an ongoing, nurturing,
supportive relationship. Most 'therapy' doesn't tap into this material.
Seek help from someone who's well-versed in treating narcissistic
injury (or core issues). Additional insights can be gained via the
writings of Alice Miller; search for this author
you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod this app will let you hear
here, to determine if you're in an abusive relationship!
'TILL DEATH DO US PART - BPD and The Marriage Crucible
TO BE A GOOD-ENOUGH PARENT
GOOD WIFE - Who's helping You, when his Ex is a Borderline?
WE MET BEFORE? The Borderline/Narcissist Couple.
The Drama of the Gifted
Child, by Alice Miller (and/or any other books from
"I Don't Want to Talk
About It": Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male
Depression, by Terrance Real.
by David Schnarch, Ph.D.
PsychSavant at Twitter.com
Copyright © 2004 -
2017, Shari Schreiber, M.A. All Rights Reserved.