I posted an article on facebook, which I’ll attach here. I thought my reflection and introductory comments were worth sharing. I hope they are helpful.
Emotional Incest. What is it? It is a form of emotional abuse. I see this play out not with just young adults but with those much older who struggle deeply to manage multiple attachments. We all have them. What makes it hard and even distressing for some to deal with them?
Usually, in this cultural and when we “adult” we shift from having our parents be the most intense and the primary attachment bond to a partners or lovers and even friends with ease. This is considered normal development and it is okay for us to form new, lasting and deep bonds with others apart from our parents and family or origin. It shouldn’t upset our parents or cause us internal distress. We still remain connected and bonded to our parents but they often are not our primary and major attachment figures anymore.
When there has been emotional incest this process gets truncated. Don’t get me wrong. We need to be securely attached and will always need our parents in some manner. And when they become elderly, they may need us more than we need them. But, this shouldn’t happen too soon. If we are securely attached, we can freely love others as well as our parents without the risk and fear of retaliation or rejection. We can also freely move into being their caregivers as they age. With emotion incest, the adult child can’t give to the new primary person or persons fully. There is a deep internal struggle and a feeling of disloyalty to the parent or parents and the family of origin. The partner often feels left out, second and not important. Relationship distress ensues. There is massive struggle within the person who has been a victim of this type of abuse and over involvement. It is real. It is terrifying for them to bond to anyone but the parent. They have internalized a rule that says, “Thou shall not love or bond to anyone else or I’ll abandon you.”
In therapy, we help individuals and couples understand, process and grow past this type of abuse. We help them honor all connections with proper balance and boundaries. But, it has to be understood first. Hope this article is enlightening! And, of course, healing. Check it out.
Evelyn Schmechtig Cochran