This faulty thought pattern then becomes ingrained in the child as the child matures into adolescence and then adulthood. The child grows in a family environment that reinforces their perception of inadequacy through loudly silent implied messages conveyed through the family.
This is the first part of a three part series exploring these messages and their long-term effects.
Common message in dysfunctional families is “It is not okay to talk about problems and keep your feelings to yourself.” This is also referred to as “ignoring the elephant in the living room.” In families that convey this message, there is often something major affecting the family, such as illness, abuse, or addiction and the family considers discussion of the issue taboo. Young children, especially ages 0-3, view the world as revolving around them; as a result, they tend to view the emotions of others as caused by them. A child who experiences a parent or other family member as constantly angry, depressed, or anxious tends to think, “I did something wrong. Mummy or Daddy will feel better if I was better.” If this thought pattern continues, the child will believe they are the cause of the family’s problems because they are “not good enough.” As the child matures, they often seek the company of people they see as successful and will attempt to bond with them in the hope their “goodness” will rub off on them. This is the start of the lifelong pattern of clinging to others, which is one of the fundamental characteristics of co-dependency.
Another dysfunctional family pattern that breeds co-dependency occurs when family members use the child to act as a messenger among the adults in the family. This pattern is especially prevalent in families where the parents are having marital difficulties or are already divorced. Most everyone has heard the cliché, “Don’t kill the messenger,” since it is typical the person delivering bad news will incur the brunt of emotional fall-out of the person receiving the bad news. Often the child will perceived the rage or sadness as directed at them, and think they are the cause of the emotional outburst. Again, as described above, the child internalizes the message and the seeds of co-dependency are sown.
© 2011 by David Gharat Personal Life Coach. All rights reserved