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SEE ACRONYM page for abbrev.
WOUNDED CHILD (the WIC)
Invisibility is a basic protective mechanism for any abused child.
• Physical: kids in dangerous homes will often try to make themselves invisible by hiding in their room, under tables or beds, in closets… or spend a lot of time out of the house, at the library, in sports, at a neighbor or friend…..
• Psychological: damaged parents often give their children a strong message – spoken or not: “DO NOT BE YOURSELF” – only be what we are, what we want you to be, what we can tolerate, what we believe is right.
ACoAs, having experienced both kinds of harm, learned early on to hide and then try to erase our True Self, so much so that we end up not knowing that we even have one! They threw our essence on the trash heap, & so we learned to do the same. We needed to protects ourselves from family, school, church & neighborhood because they:
• used our weaknesses/ feelings/ desires / sensitivity – against us
• made fun of & teased us, played mean or cruel ‘jokes’ on us
• punished us unfairly or unnecessarily
• ignored or belittled our skills & gifts (often out of jealousy)
• didn’t back us up, take our side, anywhere (at home, at school…)
• physically hurt us (abused for not being perfect – or just being there)
• expected too much of us (be a little adult, take care of them…)
• never gave us the right info to function successfully in the world..
Bad mirroring: The more severe the parent’s self-absorption the less they provide their children with positive mirroring, which kids must have in order to forge a sense of Self as it relates to other people. Without this pure feed-back from the beginning (“I get who you are, exactly the way you are”) it’s very hard to develop a true image of ourselves. Our family’s narcissism created a kind of childhood black magic: “If they don’t see me then I must not exist!”
No matter at what age, when we are in the presence of a severe narcissist we are actually alone, since N. only recognize themselves as having reality or viability. We are in fact INVISIBLE to them as separate entities.
• For a healthy adult, being with someone & still feeling ‘alone’ is at best boring, at worst aggravating.
• For a child, when it’s our parents – it’s life-&-death terrifying. We come into the world helpless & are totally reliant on our caretakers to provide all the basic needs, as well as safety, information & emotional connections.
• The only way a pre-verbal infant has of communicating is thru their emotions. If the adults cannot tune into the child on that wavelength, the baby experiences such aloneness & frustration that it creates intense anxiety
• The baby then tries to ‘manage’ that anxiety in any
way it can, with extremely limited options – sucking it’s thumb, crying a lot, clinging to mother / doll / blanket, not responding to stimuli, being afraid of strangers …..
✓ Studies in orphanages have shown how great the toll is on children who only get the minimum of care & are neglected mentally, psychologically & emotionally. Not being held, touched & comforted creates permanent personality damage. A common reaction is continual heads banging & compulsive rocking, & they never develop the ability to bond with others.
• For an infant, being left physically alone for too long is a death sentence.
• For ACoAs, growing up with adults who were supposed to be nurturing YET were NOT, was overwhelming to the point of powerless rage! It felt like we might not survive. They made us feel so worthless & unlovable that we assumed they wanted us to be dead. Some parents even said so! (One narcissistic mother would say: “You’ll be the death of me yet!” – so even that was about her! but the child heard the implication: ‘You’re a murderer, you don’t deserve to live!’)
EXP: In doing early childhood visualizations, Tamara had a specific image of herself at 15 months old, sitting alone on bare earth in a big yard, only wearing diapers & a tiny top. Some distance away her mother was hanging the wash on a clothes line, talking & laughing with another women, paying no attention to her little daughter. It was as if there was an infinitely large sheet of plexiglass between Tamara & her mother – they could see, but not hear each other.
The infant sat there alone, unnoticed, neglected, unable to get thru to her mother – bewildered & scared! She had not created the wall, so she couldn’t tear it down & it was too vast to be gotten around. She WAS utterly alone!
✓ This image represented her daily emotional experience growing up with a narcissistic mother, who was controlling & over-protective, while at the same time accused the child of being ‘difficult’, distant & disrespectful. Tamara’s mother had made her feel invisible & then blamed her for the result!
NEXT: ACoAs & being Visible (Part 2)