This is the next part in a series, which began here: Preventing Our Children From Developing Demons (And Healing Our Own).
The need to trust can be abused by parents with their own agendas. The resultant children have personalities that lean towards power and control. Often competitive, they believe that getting ‘to the top’ is the only purpose to life. On the healthier side, they can be visionaries and dynamic leaders. On the less healthy side, they can be manipulative and ruthless. Their biggest fear is the fear of failure – and while they often appear to be winners, on the inside they feel like losers.
The Trust Survival Style comes from parents who manipulate their children into being something they are not: the pageant parents; the child-star parents; the sports/music/academic protegé parents – all of these could fit into this category, as could the parents who have failed to achieve their own dreams and who project their own ambitions on to their children. But so do other parents, who may be more subtle in their approach, the parents who show obvious preference of one child (of their own children) over the others. The same could be said of the child who is socially precocious and sassy, and the parents assume this as self-assurance and bask in the child’s ‘confidence.’ The other group of parents who fit into this category are those who force their children into early independence or who treat them as confidants or are given ‘power’ within the family.
For whatever reason, these parents decide that their child is a certain way. The child may be to a small extent or not at all. They may even have more than a little talent in a certain area. This one aspect of personality is taken from the child’s natural well-rounded personality and is blown all out of proportion by the parents – or they invent a skill or trait with which the child has no connection whatsoever. Eventually, only this one aspect of personality is on display: this is the child’s social face.
In extreme cases, the child witnesses violence and experiences sensations of extreme powerlessness. They have to appear to cope when their internal state is in turmoil.
The child gains extra attention, affection, money and praise for being this cardboard character. This persona is constantly reinforced by the parents. The child feels uneasy about the persona but complies because they have to survive. The child feels unloved for his/her true self and is full of bravado – not truly self-assured. The child is led to believe they are the centre of the universe but are also under considerable pressure not to disappoint. The parents act as if they are loving and the child acts as if s/he feels loved. Sometimes the child parents the parents. Once parental control is lost through natural maturation, perhaps not until the child is in his/her 40s, 50s or beyond, the child self-destructs.
The people with this survival style fear: helplessness, weakness, dependency, failure.
They have difficulty communicating: I need help.
Their shame-based identity (which they do their best to hide): small and helpless, used, betrayed, powerless, weak.
Their pride-based identity (which they use to hide their inner selves): strong and in control, successful, larger than life, betrayer, user.
Reality: Neither as small and helpless as they secretly believe, nor as powerful as they appear.
Behaviours: always playing a role; displacement of blame, things are always someone else’s fault; inflated self-image; always needing to be one-up; empire builders; deny their bodily sensations; good at reading other people, especially their weaknesses; paranoia; I’m the betrayer no-one betrays me.
The patterns that helped them survive as children no longer serve them as adults. They need to: connect with and understand their underlying sense of hurt and powerlessness; help develop the strength and courage to allow healthy dependency; help remove the mask of idealised self-image and move toward increased authenticity; to develop the strength to be appropriately vulnerable.