Almost all psychological damage that strikes human beings, comes from the family in which the child was raised and, for the most part, this damage has been caused by parents and relatives, during childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood.
Some situations that we hear about on the news are so terrible and cruel, that we feel extremely angry and hurt when we read about or see them on TV. I am talking about children and teenagers who are sexually abused, suffer incest, beatings, torture and segregation. These are the cases that end up on the news. But not all abuse is discovered and punished; the cases that become public domain, it seems, are only the tip of the iceberg in domestic violence on children.
Other situations that are less serious and dramatic, are never discovered. And those are the families where, parents who suffer strong neurosis, pour out their problems on their children, block their growth and stop them from becoming self-sufficient adults.
In these families there is no sexual abuse or physical violence, but an environment lacking real love, respect and direct and real communication.
This lack, together with the daily scene of Mom or Dad struggling with their psychological problems, makes the children suffer psychologically in turn. In the more serious cases, as the psychiatrist Morton Schatzman says, you can talk about a true "soul murder".
In all of these families, the parents, when they in turn were children, were treated badly and psychologically damaged by their parents.
Then, growing up, they adheared to the moral mentality by which parents must always be respected, they are always good, and, if they did make mistakes, it was only because they loved too much..
This mentality stops them from understanding how their childhood really was, and what type of people their parents were. So, when they in turn become parents, they take out on their children what they suffered when they were children themselves. And children are perfect for this kind of treatment: they are small, weak, cannot defend themselves, cannot express themselves, they often risk not being believed if they complain, they cannot leave and, most importantly, have a desperate need for affection.
So, in order to have a small crumb of the love they request, which is vital for children, and since there are no alternatives, they accept whatever psychologically ill situation is there, hoping that it will change, or, they adapt, and in this way, become ill as well.
Couples that turn their children into neurotic people, are very often couples that don't work, couples in which the mother and father have never really gotten along, but refuse to change their way of life, they do not seperate and pretend that everything is fine, therefore poisoning their children's lives day after day.
In a healthy family, there should be a certain type of relationship between the parents, and a different relationship between the parents and their children.
This difference in relationship, starts the so-called "generational gap", that is, the difference in role and relationship between youths and adults, between parents and their children.
But, if there is no harmony between the parents, if the relationship is in the middle of a crisis, then what can happen is that one of the two parents, instead of trying to improve his/her relationship with their partner, creates a privileged emotional link with one of the children and, through this, makes up for the bad relationship had with the other partner.
Even if all of this does not prove to be incestuous, there is still the breaking of the "generational gap", which brings about serious damage to the family balance and can cause neurosis in the "chosen" child.
What's more, this type of parental love for the child, is almost always insincere. It is not loving the child for what he or she truly is. Often the child is used as and "ally" in the battle against the partner. In situations like this, parents fight in front of their children; each one disqualifies and disapproves of the other, without realising how much suffering this type of behaviour can cause for children, who do not understand this perverse game, which they are drawn into without realising.
A typical case is that where mothers overprotect their male children, they keep them in a "glass bubble", making them different from other children their age and incapable of facing the world. Or, oppositely, they treat their children as if they were adults and talk to them about thoughts and feelings that are not right for their age and role in the family.
Anorexia, bulimia and neurosis all come from situations like these. Serious damage is caused by immature parents, those that want to be "friends" and refuse their role as parents, who permit and forbid, and in this way help the child grow up with an idea of what reality is like.
A characteristic of this situation is when the parents have not been able to build their own family, but continue to refer to their family of origin. Each of the two claims that their family is better than the in-laws, and this is one of the main reasons for arguments.
Relatives are omnipresent in conversations, they are referred too, just like in tribal wars, in which each side claims that theirs are better than the others. Bickering, blaming the other for things that have happened in the past, the comparison between the families of origin, become the regular lifestyle, and the ones who pay for it are the children.
The Swiss psychoanalyst Alice Miller, who has studied these problems all her life, believes that, in order to help those who come from this type of family, the therapist does not have to just limit him/herself to being a specialist, technician, or "neutral" judge. Instead, it is very important to become "part of the patient," to believe and sustain him/her.
The therapist that is helping someone who, as a child, suffered psychological damage due to the family, has to abandon their role as a distanced observer, and instead, cover the role of "knowing witness," who is sympathetic with the person being helped.
According to Alice Miller, the "do-gooder" behaviour used by some therapists is wrong, This is when therapy is considered succesful if the children "forgive" their parents for what they did to them, and they are able to reconcile.
This therapeutic behaviour, is often caused by the fact that they themselves have not resolved their problems with their parents.
But it is a damaging and toxic method for the patient, because it impedes him or her from completely understanding his/her childhood.
The therapist that asks patients to "forgive" their parents and reconcile with them, block their growth and condemn them to remain "children" and "child" for the rest of their lives, even after their parents have died.
"Honour thy mother and thy father", says the Fourth Commandment, but not all parents deserve to be honoured, not all have the right to be forgiven by their children.