Undermining in the family is a process that is seen quite often. It happens in environments where one or more people create a kind of insane dynamic that destroys the child’s self-esteem. It makes use of denigration, passive-aggressive communication, emotional manipulation and invisible abuse. This can leave a permanent imprint.
Experts in systemic family therapy say that all undermined children are at risk of becoming invisible adults in the future. They are people who from a young age believe that their needs are not important. Their identities have become so diluted that they have not even managed to form an authentic sense of themselves.
“Everyone has some painful wounds buried in their heart. If they can move on, that’s fine. But even if they can not, they are still alive. They become numb over time. ”
-Kim Bok Joo-
An example of family undermining
We are dealing with a problem that is very serious and yet neglected by many parents. Here is an example. Anna is 9 years old and spends the day having fun with, nibbling and pushing her younger sister, Carla. While Anna is restless and noisy, Carla is withdrawn and shy.
Carla goes to her mother in tears, to ask for help. She always gets the same answer: ” You have to take care of yourself, mother is busy and can not always take care of you” . This situation, which can seem very innocent, hides many nuances. The parents’ undermining in the family is double in this case, and the consequences are quite serious.
First, because the mother does not take into account the feelings of the younger daughter. Secondly, because the message to this little girl is simple and direct: ” I’m in a hurry, so you’re alone, fix your problems yourself. ” A childhood marked by this kind of disabling dynamics can leave a deep imprint in adulthood.
From family undermining to personal undermining
Undermining in the family is a form of emotional neglect and is therefore one of the most dangerous forms of subtle neglect. Marsha Linehan, a well-known expert on mental disorders and behavioral dialectical therapy, explains in her books that these types of interactions create very serious conflicts in the infant mind.
Let’s think, for example, of a baby who never got attention at night every time they cried. Now imagine the same two-year-old child making a horrible scene in front of annoyed parents who do not know how to handle them. A few years later, they scold the child for not knowing how to tie their laces. Or because they dress, eat, or express themselves slowly… “You are clumsy and you always cry over nothing” are the two phrases that this child heard most in their first six years of life.
Consequences that last
This situation crystallizes in the child’s personality in different ways. Dr. Linehan explains that undermining the family creates personal undermining. If the child’s emotional needs were ignored from the start and they are the child who “always cries over nothing”, they will undermine themselves. They will interpret that emotions are negative. That it is best to hide them and swallow them by force.
What happens in many cases is that the prophecy is self-fulfilling. If people tell us repeatedly as children that we will not achieve anything, that this is not for us, that something is too difficult for us, that we will play the worst role in the talent show, it is likely that we will end up with to internalize this as a toxic mantra.
However, it is not only possible to break the effect of undermining in the family, but also necessary. It can be survived by validating ourselves as we deserve, as others should have done in their time.
To validate ourselves as adults: the internal dialogue
Systemic and familial therapies owe much to the human communication theory of Paul Watzlawick. Both he and other experts from the “Mental Research Institute” gave shape to an unusual approach. This was the key to the future of family therapy and a better understanding of these complex dynamics.
Within this framework, he referred to the techniques of degradation. This is an empty, harmful and sometimes even aggressive form of communication. The message to the other person helps to invalidate them and cause disruption. But some psychologists like Dr. Lineham believes that children who were undermined in their childhood create an inner dialogue as adults that is based on undermining themselves.
Self-criticism, limiting attitudes, obscenity, guilt, constant fear, and the repeated monologue where there is no love all contribute to perpetuating this invalidity. It’s almost like a fire that destroys us even more…
It’s not worth it. If others formed this whole series of gaps in our identity and self-esteem, then let us not inherit this dynamic . Let us not be our own worst enemies.
Validation of ourselves is possible, but to achieve this, we need to change the internal dialogue. We should speak with respect and kindness. We should treat ourselves as worthy beings. As people who have a lot in front of us and who do not believe in “you can not, you do not know or you do not deserve”…
It’s time to do everything.