Copyright © 2009 by Richard A. Grossman, Ph.D. · All Rights reserved · E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
If parents do not enter a young child's world, but instead require him or her to enter theirs to make contact, the resulting damage can last a lifetime. In "Voicelessness: Narcissism," I presented one way adults react having experienced this scenario in childhood: they constantly try to re-inflate their leaky "self." However, different temperaments spawn different adjustments: some children, by their very nature, are incapable of aggressively seeking attention. If no one is entering their world, they unconsciously employ a different strategy. They diminish their voice, make as few demands as possible, and bend themselves like a pretzel to fit their parents world.
To secure their place in the family, these children often become expert in intuiting their parents' feelings and moods and automatically responding in ways they deem helpful. In effect, they become good parents to their own parents.
What happens when these children enter adulthood? Depending on personality and history, there are different possibilities. Here are two:
Some become gentle, sensitive, and non-assuming adults. They are also generous and caring, often volunteering for charitable organizations, animal shelters, and the like. Frequently they feel other people's pain as if it were their own, and are racked by guilt if they cannot somehow relieve this distress. Many seem to tiptoe in and out of rooms. Unfortunately these qualities also allow them to be used and abused by other people, for they are unable to stop giving without feeling they are bad or unworthy. Having a secure
Voicelessness and Emotional Survival