E-Course, Class 3

Adult Children of Abusive Parents—When Parents Are Pathological

This is the third installment of The Institute’s E-courses we have been offering the past few weeks. ‘Why’ women have ended up in pathological love relationships is a widely debated topic. After 20+ years in the field, our view is that the reason(s) are often a mixture of several issues. We find most of the ‘simplistic’ ideas about ‘why’ are not based on the dynamics of the womens lives or relationships. This is a complex issue and we have been looking at ‘various’ reasons why. Any ‘one’ explanation is probably not the total explanation. I think for many women, their patterns of selection have to do with a number of complex inter-weavings, not to mention, the ‘mask’ of pathology itself and how it hides, lures, and cons.  Today, we are looking at the possible influence of pathological parenting. This may not apply to all who have ended up in pathological love relationships. But for those who have had pathological parents, this too ‘may’ have been a factor. Just like in the 12 Steps “take what works, and leave the rest.” If this is not applicable to your past, it’s probably not applicable to your pathological relationships. For those that it is applicable for, here is another consideration

Sometimes our dangerous male choices, bad boy selections, and addictive relationships are really just manifestations of the parenting we endured when young. If we were unfortunate enough to live in homes in which one or both of our parents were abusive, addicted, or pathological our choices could be reflecting what did or did not happen in our own emotional development because of our pathological parenting. Pathological parenting, often referred to as self-absorbed parenting, can have significant and deep-seated effects on children and these effects often persist into adulthood.Sometimes our choosing of dangerous men comes from replicating our own childhoods. Some women pick men that subconsciously ‘feel’ like early childhood dynamics. This is not a conscious decision but is driven by primitive and familial feelings and unmet needs. The dynamic is further re-enacted by women being victimized again in similar ways as she was in the home where a parent was abusive or pathological.Pathological parenting involves:

  •   Being non-responsive to anothers needs
  •   Being self-absorbed, self-focused, and self-referencing
  •    Being indifferent about other people
  •    Having a lack of empathy for others
  •    A lack of a core self (deep as Formica)
  •    Shallow and quickly fleeting emotions
  •    Doesn’t relate well to others
  •    Wants constant admiration and attention
  •    Feels special and unique
  •    Is grandiose and arrogant

The result is pathological parents typically display the following kinds of parenting types and behaviors:

  •    Blaming the child and others
  •    Criticizing the child and others
  •    Demeaning, devaluing, and demoralizing the child

Since the child has only known this kind of parenting, it is often difficult for the child to know there is something wrong with their parents. The child grows into adulthood still not knowing their parent is pathological.  The result is the child/adult now has learned how to ‘normalize abnormal’ behavior because healthy behavior was never role modeled.

Typical of abusive and pathological parents is when the parents make the child ‘take care of them emotionally.’ This is often referred to as ‘emotional incest’ or ‘parent-ifying the child.’ In a healthy home, the parent emotionally meets the needs of a child and supports the child through the developmental process of becoming a separate individual and teen and ‘individuating’ or ‘separating enough to be your own self.’ In addictive, abusive, and pathological families children are not supported through these developmental periods. Instead, the parent expects for the child to meet their needs.

Were you a parent-ified child?

  •     Were you made to feel responsible for your parent’s feelings, well-being and/or general welfare?
  •    Did your parent seem to be indifferent or ignore your feelings much of the time?
  •    Were you frequently blamed, criticized, devalued or demeaned?
  •    When your parent was upset or displeased, were you the target of his or her negative feelings?
  •    Did you feel that you were constantly trying to please your parent only to fall short?

Do you remember hearing a parent say:

* Don’t you want me to feel good?

* You make me feel like a failure when you do ____

* You ought to care about me

* I feel like a good parent when someone praises you

* If you cared about me you would do what I want you to do

Child who were parent-ified or were victims of emotional incest or raised by abusive/addictive/pathological parents often have one of two reactions to their parenting. One is ‘compliance’. Do you have the following symptoms:

  •    Spends a great deal of time taking care of others
  •    Are constantly alert about acting in a way to please other or are very conforming
  •    Feels responsible for the feelings, needs, and welfare of others
  •    Tends to be self-depreciating
  •    Rushes to maintain harmony and to soothe other’s feelings
  •    Doesn’t get their needs met

The second reaction to this type of parenting is ‘rebellion.’
Often the adult child is defiant, withdrawn and insensitive to the needs of others. They build a wall around themselves to avoid being manipulated by others. They avoid responsibility resembling the kind of responsibility they had as children.

Adult children of Abusive/Addictive/Pathological parents normally have lives that consist of:

  •     They are dissatisfied with them selves and the course of their lives
  •    They are trying to be in emotional sync with others but find they are not successful at it
  •    They are constantly looking a their own flaws, incompetence, and other faults they perceive in themselves
  •    They do not have meaningful relationships in their lives
  •    They do not allow people to become emotionally close to them—they keep people at arms-length
  •     They feel like they lack meaning and purpose in their lives
  •    They have continuing relationship problems with family, friends, and work
  •    They feel isolated and disconnected from others
  •    They are often overwhelmed by other people’s expectations of them

People who were raised in these types of families often go on to develop relationships with people who resemble the dynamics they grew up with. Unconsciously, women often pick men who demonstrate on some level the kinds of behaviors their abusive parent did.

Women who do not recognize that they have grown up to ‘normalize abnormal behavior’ perpetuate the pattern of choosing dangerous and pathological men over and over again. They are stuck in a terrible cycle of self sabotage. (Read more about this in ‘How to Spot a Dangerous Man Before You Get Involved or Women Who Love Psychopaths books.’)

(Thanks to the article Parental Destructive Narcissism by Nina W. Brown for information on pathological parenting.)

In Closing,

The only defense is self defense. And the only self defense is knowledge. This E-course will teach help you realize your potential need (or not) for future insight into the area of dangerousness. Perhaps it will illuminate areas that you need more knowledge about, more insight, or just information. If after reading this installment of the E-course, you recognize your own patterns, please avail yourself to more information through our products, or through your local women’s organizations and counseling programs.

Our hope is that this information is used for a woman’s relational harm reduction and education for healthier relationships. Please pass this on to other women who need this life-saving information. Be the beacon to other women…

This information is companion and support material to the media-attracting book ‘How To Spot a Dangerous Man BEFORE You Get Involved.’ You can order the book, our companion work book and our ‘How To Break Up With a Dangerous Man e-Book’ at www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com.

**Workbooks are on back order. In the meantime, you can order them at Amazon.com or HunterHouse.com

Or gather information about The Intensity of Attachment in our book Women Who Love Psychopaths.


Stay TUNED for the next installment Class 4 of our E-course coming to you next week!