What “Infantilizing” Does

When 27-year-old Pamela left overseas, she felt crippled. She’s unable to run a washer and dryer, iron her clothes, cook simple foods, or reconcile her budget. Back home, she never learned to do chores around the house or other basic practical stuffs. Her Mom did all for her and she got used to it.

“Infantilize” is a psychological term which means what you may be thinking now. In less technical terms, it refers to a parent’s act to “baby” his or her child even past an appropriate age.

Parents, mostly mothers, who overprotect their children have been found to produce fearful, dysfunctional kids.

As Dr. Sylvia Rimm, author of “Smart Parenting: How to Parent so Children Will Learn,” wrote of the power wielded by children who are too dependent as a result of overprotection. She writes:

“Because they are kind and caring and the children’s symptoms of power (tears and requests for pity) are very persuasive, parents … continue to protect them, unintentionally stealing from them their opportunities to cope with challenge.”

Of course, parents often mean well. They certainly don’t intend to harm their children. But despite good intentions, their “infantilizing” paralyzes the children. It robs them of the joys of struggle and achievement.

Struggle is psychologically and emotionally good. Resistance, delaying of gratification, and challenges are good. When our children don’t have to struggle or experience obstacles, they don’t grow up. A child crippled with such will find life cruel and depressing.

It’s not our children’s fault! They were not brought into the world to raise Mom and Dad! We parents influenced them first. We made the family rules while they’re growing up. We may say our “infantilized” children didn’t do anything wrong. We did.

Next step? We parents begin with courage, honor, determination. Resolute spirit. Bountiful wisdom and faith to take corrective action before it’s too late. Let our children learn to tie their own shoes. Don’t bail them out every time.

Are your kids (still) running the show? Are they truly growing up or regressing?
Posted by Dr. Angelo Subida at 8:20 PM No comments: Links to this post

A Secret to Survive Trauma

Surviving any trauma or crisis involves the ability to “withstand painful feelings.” I know it can be so difficult to do.

That holds true especially when you’re going through deep, wounding emotional experiences, such as betrayal, infidelity, rejection, or abandonment.

Yet if you’re to survive, you do need to be a person of this essential ability within you.

I’m reminded of lawyer Wendy, an excellent example of such a person. When she saw me, she was in much pain and humiliation because of her husband’s infidelity and lack of remorse.

Yet she endured these painful, uncomfortable feelings. She sought help and counsel, took vacation breaks, enlarged her circle of support, and was able to resume her responsibilities as a working mother to her children.

The ability to “withstand painful feelings” means learning to live with such feelings without being overwhelmed ot immobilized by rage, depression, or anxiety.

That involves objectively understanding what happened, facing issues raised, and integrating the event in your life. A survivor puts the trauma or crisis into perspective, think the issues through, and learn to charge neutral or be less emotionally reactive so he can get to the “other side.”

Therapy is usually geared towards helping you through the process of integrating the trauma, crisis, or event in your life. Knowing and developing cognitive skills will lessen the toxicity of emotions produced by thinking distortions.

Such is crucial so you can be detached enough to problem solve.

Treatment and You

In my assessment, most problems or individual dysfunctions are a disease of “core pain,” “lost selfhood,” or “false self.” Recovery needs to be complete, addressing the whole person – cognitive (the “head”), the emotional and experiential (the “heart” and “spiritual”), the physical (organic health), and personality (with learned and constitutional factors).

To treat and heal the “psychological wounding,” a process can be started requiring several action steps. These actions are closely related and generally occur in a circular fashion, with work in one area a link to another area. The “Treatment Plan,” which includes tools, vehicles, methods or techniques that help in the healing and recovery, include taking action on the following:

1.) Complete physical examination (to rule out any medical causation)

* Unless there is some major brain or organic damage, I don’t recommend drug therapy or taking any kind of synthetic drugs for psychotherapy/counseling. Have a right diagnosis to rule out any physical/medical causes of your psychological/emotional distress.

2.) Abstinence, detachment, or detoxification

* … from whatever person, place, thing, activity, behavior, chemical, or experience that pollute, block, or distract the treatment/recovery plan

3.) Individual counseling and psychotherapy

* Regular and adequate attendance and workups, which may include psychological first aid, couple or extended family work, with a therapist/counselor.

* Process is usually composed of three pillars: diagnostics, treatment plan, relapse prevention.

* Psychotherapy is mostly internal work to finish “unfinished business” or unprocessed pain, which includes areas such as grieving, original pain work, working through the core issues, doing “personality” work, completing developmental tasks, setting healthy boundaries, among others.

4.) Group therapy or support group

* … that is specific for type of wounding being treated, such as depression, dysfunctional family, affairs, divorce, alcoholism, drug addiction, sex addiction etc. and depending on person’s needs

* Group therapy or support group provides emotional and social support. Here, you can hear others’ stories, increase your awareness about what happened, and begin working a 12-step or healing-is-a-choice program.

5.) Expanding circle of support

* Regular contact and sharing with one or more trusted and safe friends etc.

* Starting and cultivating new, healthy friendships, and choosing to connect to a safe community for volunteer opportunities or community involvement.

6.) Inpatient or other intensive recovery experiences, such as workshops/seminars, weekend retreats etc.

7.) Adequate self-care

* “Food therapy” or healthy diet, which includes fruits, vegetables, and natural supplements.

* Taking up an exercise program, such as running or jogging, to boost brain power and the immune system.

8.) Self-education on area of psychological/emotional wounding, such as depression, infidelity/ divorce wound recovery, anger management, wounder inner child, toxic parents etc.

9.) Beginning and/or continuing, conscious contact in a relationship with a Higher Power.

As previously noted, these “treatment plan” steps or actions interact and merge with one another. They are not necessarily distinct or separate areas of the the healing and recovery process.

Why Does A Child Disrespect His or Her Parent?

A mother once spoke to me about her disrespectful children. During their childhood onwards, she handled the children by pushing them into a friendship with her.

Instead of being a parent to them, she’d converse with them as if she’s just a friend or companion and not an authoritative figure.

The side effect of her parenting style is conditioning the children to take disrespectful liberties with her.

It’s psychological abuse when a parent handles children inappropriately. In this instance, the mother denied the children the parenting they needed because she allowed her role to be compromised by her need for companionship and friendship.

It’s a thin line of parenting behavior. Crossing it leaves a child with an undefined and empty view of himself.

Perhaps, the children would be accommodating to your unmet need as a parent. But only for a short while. In their hearts and minds, it stretches them.

The role reversal does strain what their parent-child relationship was meant to be.

A parent forcing water from their children that should come from someone else or other adult sources is a relevant parenting lesson.

Wisdom is called for parents with growing children. Make sure we don’t make their tender, immature frame handle undue weight prematurely.

Eventually, time will arrive when our children could handle adult weight or issues.

But prematurely, the weight becomes a source of potential psychopathology. Even a curse.

Janet

When a wounded person is too powerless or too young to help heal himself or herself, something “unconscious” often happens. Psychologists call it “mirroring the injury.”

People who are abandoned abandon others. People who were lied to or verbally abused lie and verbally abuse others. The wounded, in other words, wound.

One patient, Janet, whose husband committed infidelity, was a victim of a broken home. Her father physically abused and abandoned her mother for another woman when she was in grade school.

When her equally wounded husband chose her and repented from his unfaithfulness, Janet both physically abused and verbally shamed him in front of relatives, friends, and in public. It’s her pattern in the marriage even prior to her husband’s affair.

I’ve witnessed and heard countless times in my sessions wounded individuals like Janet. The wounded person, with unhealed wounds, repeats his or her own injury. Only this time, he or she becomes the harmer.

The more self destructive, the more punishing, the more “bad.” In a sense, “mirroring the injury” is like war. It’s ebb and flow leave everyone around injured. Injured and injurers become one.

When a wounded person wounds back by wounding others, it’s better for him to have people around to “catch” him or her. People who can love and help him or her sort it out to heal.

People who can support him or her to understand that there are more positive, healthy ways to retrieve personal power and self esteem. There are better ways.

Wesley’s Story

A few years ago, I met 23-year-old Filipino chess grandmaster, Wesley So, during a Meralco tournament where I was a participant. I found him friendly and accomodating. I didn’t imagine his meteoric rise where he is now.

Recently, he won the 2017 US Chess Championship, accompanied by his foster mother, Lotis Key, Wesley is one of the world’s youngest grandmasters, no. 2 in the world. He is now dubbed as the strongest contender to the World Chess Championship.

Once, I received hints of Wesley’s Story from his FB open letter to his mother. Wesley said hurtful words to his Mom, such as:

“Leny So, I was NOT HAPPY that you suddenly showed up in my life, unannounced, at the biggest tournament of the year, and that you came with Susan Leonard whom I hardly know. In the last six years I’ve only see you once a year for about a week, I hardly know you either … I am uncomfortable around you. You want me to respect you but you have never respected me. You left me when I was sixteen, telling me to become a man and find my life. Well I have found it, you just don’t like it.”

I felt sad about this for it has already gone public. Those of us, like myself, who are behind Wesley in his world chess campaign, may miss all the truths or details of the mother-son attachment injury and disconnection.

What I know is, a prodigal was not a prodigal before he becomes a prodigal. Something must have wounded Wesley’s mind and heart over the years that so traumatize him.

I also realize that most parents who have broken/insecure attachments with their children do love and care about their children. They’re simply unaware of the effects of their absence on the emotional states of their children.

Affirmation of the Self

When Bobby saw me, he would rather not look at me in the eye. His head was either bowed or hanged somehow. He slouched. He breathed shallowly. He appeared so unsteady on his feet while seated. When talked to, I could hardly hear the sound of his voice.

Bobby almost stayed silent during our session. He only had a few words. Upon patient prodding, he began to respond better. When I asked what he feels or why he is silent, he told me that he feels unimportant. If possible, he just wanted not to be talked to.

Such a self manifestation on the part of Bobby betrays a serious lack of self-affirmation. A person who affirms himself instead can breathe calmly, has a good posture, an expressive look, a firm audible voice, feet firmly planted on the ground, and an open countenance.

Self-affirmation is an external expression of our inner life. It consists of verbal and non-verbal behaviors: words, physical appearance, clothing, posture, tone of voice, attitudes, eye contact, gestures, and so on. We cannot isolate self-affirmation from our communication and relating with others.

Albert Camus once wrote, “To know our selves better, we must affirm our selves more.” Affirmation of the self, an expression of our mental health or inner life, requires us to be positive, honest, and spontaneous with our life experience in community with others.

I’m reminded of Marissa, one of my patients. In response to her “gains” in therapy, she started to take her place in her family and society. She taught herself self-affirmation: daring to share her ideas and needs to her husband and children, negotiating when there is conflict, being more accepting and giving of affection and attention.

Before, she preferred to disappear into the background and not to ask for what she needs. She was always quiet and unnoticed. She confided that when she was a little girl, her mother treated her like one of their maids and forbidden her to speak in front of adults. Her repressed feelings resulted in damaged self and interferences in her relationships.

Yes, once you checked your “roots” and summon the courage to affirm your self, you’ll feel proud of your self. This can be done!