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archived letters from kat

the emotional feelings network of sites!

welcome to your unemotional side!

Your dictionary definition of:

 

un∑a∑vail∑a∑ble

   adj :

  1. not available or accessible or at hand; "fresh milk was unavailable during the emergency";

"his secretary said he was unavailable for comment" [ant: available]

You can always continue on to:
 
your unemotional side 2!

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Welcome to your unemotional side! I urge you to use the underlined link word method of exploring the emotional feelings network of sites by clicking on any of the underlined link words that will further explain a connection to the subject you are here studying. For a complete description of the underlined link word system: click here.
 
If you don't see what you were looking for - please access the homepage for a menu of the other sites within the network that might lead you to where you want to be!

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Emotionally Unavailable

Being Involved With An Unavailable Partner Is A Dead End


"I'm writing to you about the man I've been dating for over 7 years. We're not engaged and there's no commitment on his part. We see each other only when it appears to be convenient for him," writes Shirley of Janesville, Wisconsin.

"He's 42, never been married and is extremely
selfish. (
He) has money for all of (his) toys (he bought an airplane with other people, drives an Italian sports car, has a ski boat, etc). However, he doesn't want to spend money on me.

 

He was coming to my house every night to eat before he left for work, and would only take me out one night a week to an inexpensive restaurant. He expected me to leave a tip. He never does anything to help me at my house, but I used to go to his house and clean and do his yard work.

 

He spends all day sometimes with people he doesn't even know, but never can spend all day with me.

"I'm an attractive woman who has
taken good care of myself physically. I love him, but I know (
we) will never have a future. I already know what I should do, but it's very hard for me to say "good-bye."

 

I'm tired of being available only when it's convenient for him."

 

You're involved with an emotionally unavailable man.

 

Emotionally unavailable people are hard to get close to and even harder to stay close to. They don't want a "normal" relationship - they want to be alone, with other people, or off doing their own thing - which invariably doesn't include you. 

 

How do people act emotionally unavailable

  • They're too busy, sick, tired or preoccupied with other things. Their energy, time and life-force are all taken with other priorities.
  • They frequently work a lot and don't have quality time to spend with you.
  • They're not responsive. They ignore you and your requests and they don't try hard to make a relationship work.
  • They don't, won't or can't commit to a relationship.
  • They may be extremely critical and judgmental, so you may have a hard time doing anything "right" in their eyes.
  • They may watch TV or sports a lot, read, work-out, or otherwise be preoccupied with something or someone that routinely interferes with their ability to be with you.
  • People already married or involved with someone else are  frequently emotionally unavailable, regardless of what they profess.
  • They don't place a value on acting with honesty, honor or integrity in their relationships with others. They're full  of excuses as to why they can't be with you, do things w/ you or be available for you.

If it seems that you routinely love your partner more than he or she loves you, that you express affection, care and commitment more than you receive, presume that you're involved with an emotionally unavailable partner

 

Emotionally unavailable people may profess to love you and care about you and they may make wonderful promises about your future together, but they don't follow through with believable behaviors that make you feel wanted and secure around them.

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When your mate is unemotional and emotionally unavailable

Excerpts from books by
Speaker, Author, Counselor: Craig Miller

From the book, When Your Mate Has Emotionally Checked Out

 by Craig Miller, Tate Publishing, 2006

The characteristics for the emotionally unavailable or unemotional individual are very similar in nature. Although the emotionally unavailable mate may show some negative emotions, such as anger, both individuals have difficulty showing healthy emotions and are unable to provide healthy encouragement or support when emotions are expressed by others. A person that is emotionally unavailable or unemotional will fit many of the following characteristics. (These characteristics are explained throughout the book.)

  • Has (or had) people and experiences in life that have discouraged emotions
  • Stubborn and sees life more in extremes - black and white
  • Relates more with facts and logic rather than with emotions of the heart
  • Unable to emotionally respond and validate the feelings of others
  • Rarely shows emotion (crying) or initiates physical signs of tenderness (hugs or kisses)
  • Does not understand why others show emotions and believe it is a sign of weakness
  • Tunes people out when emotions are being expressed
  • Struggles with getting emotionally close to people, including God
  • Has difficulty with conversations that include feelings about self or others
  • Demonstrates love by performing tasks or giving material “things” rather than by showing signs of love and tenderness
  • If physical affection is given, there is an expectation to receive a favor in return 
  • Believes sex is what makes you emotionally close, rather than feeling close from a loving relationship - or emotions are so closed there is no desire for sex.

How the unemotional person relates with others When emotions are not part of your life, you will struggle with relating to people and situations of daily living. Since unemotional people do not know how to deal with emotions the person will use a variety of ways to handle daily circumstances. For the unemotional person, the following behaviors can become the normal way of handling life. But, to others (especially family members), the behaviors can be seen as very frustrating, disappointing, irrational, childish, defiant, and irresponsible.

• Just the facts
S
ince emotions are not part of life, unemotional people relate through facts, logic, and rules. If someone is hurt, showing compassion, tenderness, and empathy rarely happens since they do not have the capacity to use feelings to connect with the heart.

Discussions will center on what and why something happened rather than a sensitive conversation to understand how the person feels or how they are dealing with the issues. When you don’t have emotions, there is not the capability to show affection, love, and tenderness to encourage a trusting, close relationship and little ability to validate or encourage emotions in others.

Matt was successful at his job and his strong work ethic made him serious about getting the job done right with little time for idle chitchat. If a fellow employee showed some emotion over an issue, Matt would become irritated inside. Matt might listen and offer some advice, but what he really wanted was to tell the person, “Quit your moaning and get back to work.”

Matt could get away with his insensitive nature at work since his productivity thrived on his unemotional state of mind. However, his emotional insensitivity was very evident with his lack of patience and inability to get emotionally close with his wife and children. How Matt treated others was very frustrating, disheartening, and disappointing to his family members.

• If you ignore it long enough, it will go away Tom was raised in a family that did not deal well with conflict. His parents did not follow through with solving sensitive issues. They often “swept things under the rug” believing that if they ignored the problems they would just go away. These behaviors became so common for Tom that he continued them into adulthood.

Tom would put off making decisions and often ignore sensitive issues, hoping the problem would go away on its own. Of course, the problem just got worse and his wife’s constant reminder about the issue only made Tom want to ignore it even more. Because of Tom’s behavior his wife handled many of the decisions which made her feel even more aggravated and resentful.

She interpreted his ignoring things as if he didn’t care and didn’t love her. In reality, Tom’s ignoring and indecision came from fear of conflict, poor self-esteem, laziness, and the learned behaviors of his parents.

• Tuning out
J
oe has an incredible ability to tune everybody and everything out of his life by watching television, reading the paper, working on the computer, or working in the garage. This is particularly aggravating to his wife, Sara, who feels they can never communicate because Joe is in his own little world. “I feel like I’m invisible; I might as well talk to the wall,” complained Sara.

When Joe was a child, there was so much chaos at home he quickly learned to escape from it by watching television. “There was so much going on in my house growing up,” Joe shared, “I would sit in front of the TV and tune out my parents’ arguments.” Like Joe, children that live in hurtful, unemotional, or chaotic homes survive by withdrawing into their own world or through activities to block out the chaos and hurt.

Some children escape into excessive amounts of reading, computer games, playing outside, daydreaming, or playing in their bedroom. Whatever survival behaviors worked during childhood, the same type of behaviors will likely continue in adulthood.

• Shutting down
Molly would not express much emotion when she was disappointed or hurt. In fact, she would not do much of anything. Molly grew up in a home where emotions were discouraged and not expressed. When she cried, disagreed, or became angry, she was either sent to her room or told statements such as, “Stop acting like a baby.” Molly came to believe early in life that emotions were wrong and that she needed to shut off her feelings to keep the peace in her home.

As an adult, whenever Molly did not express herself, her husband would interpret her silence as if she didn’t care or that she didn’t love him. Similar to Molly, when a person reacts through silence or shutting down, it destroys any chance of communication and leaves the mate feeling aggravated, misunderstood, and lonely.

• Walking away
Todd has never liked conflict. Even small arguments with his wife would make him feel uncomfortable enough that he wanted to leave. He never realized that the childhood experience of witnessing arguments between his family members would affect him this much. He had to search hard and deep to remember how uncomfortable he felt when his parents started to argue. He realized his parents’ arguing was why he played outside to get away from the turmoil.

As an adult, Todd’s dislike of conflict triggered his need to get away. “I feel abandoned every time he leaves,” his wife said, “like he doesn’t care about me.” For the spouse experiencing a mate walking away, it is especially hurtful. Not only is your partner ignoring you, you also get a second slap in the face when you feel physically abandoned. This is devastating to any relationship.

Bursting out
T
he longer an unemotional person holds in emotions, the greater the likelihood those emotions will burst out to relieve the growing tension. Since unemotional people do not know how to express themselves appropriately, there will often be an accumulation of emotions just waiting to be released.

The release can come through anger and yelling or in the form of behaviors such as emotional temper tantrums, whining, stomping around, slamming doors, throwing things, driving fast, threats to themselves or others, and senseless arguments. Suppressed anger can also show through physical outbursts like hitting, shoving, and physical fighting.

This type of behavior can be very hurtful and destructive to other members of the family. Often the family members become confused as to why they bear the brunt of these hurtful outbursts. Such hurtful behaviors cut deep to the core, destroying any connection of trust or respect in the family relationships.

Why don’t you change?
I have often been asked questions like: “Why can’t they change?” “Why would an adult continue these same immature behaviors into adulthood?” “Why doesn’t the person know they are acting this way?”
Often, these behaviors were learned during the early years in life, as a way to survive what was happening. As an innocent child, you simply responded to the hurtful or chaotic childhood situations the best way you knew how. If no one taught you differently (and especially if you continue to live in hurtful and chaotic situations), you would continue with the same behaviors and not realize your behaviors are inappropriate or immature. People remain immature because they are emotionally stuck at an early age when they were originally hurt.

Since immature people do not like to be corrected by others, it is very difficult to talk to that person about their inappropriate behaviors. A person has a better chance to change inappropriate behaviors when the childhood hurts that started the behaviors, become healed.

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Healing The Abandonment Wounds
By Margaret Paul, Ph.D.

 

The Inner Bonding Journal Volume 7.3 Aug 2000.

 

I do not believe it's possible to grow up in our society without some abandonment wounds. The following are some of the ways it can occur:

Being torn away from mother at birth and put into a nursery.

Being left to cry in a crib or playpen.

Being given up for adoption or being left in foster care.

Being physically and/or sexually abused.

Being emotionally abused - ignored, yelled at, shamed.

Being pushed aside at the birth of a new sibling.

Having a parent or caregiver who is emotionally unavailable.

Being unseen or misunderstood by parents or other caregivers.

Being lied to.

Being unprotected by a parent or caregiver.

Being left alone in a hospital during an illness.

Losing a beloved parent or grandparent at a very young age.

Divorce.

Being teased or left out with siblings or peers.

Being ridiculed by a teacher.

Being forgotten or not being picked up from school or other places.

Being left at a young age to care for oneself, a parent, or other siblings.

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When we are deeply wounded at a young age, we can't handle the pain, so we find ways to dissociate from the intense feelings. Then, later in life, especially when we fall in love, these old wounds can get activated.

 

Our beloved gets angry, withdraws, gives attention to someone else, says mean things, doesn't tell the truth, doesn't stand up for us, comes home late, wanders away in a crowded public place, misunderstands us, and so on and suddenly the pain that has been pushed aside all these years comes roaring to the surface. We think that we're reacting to the present situation, but what is really happening is that the old, unhealed abandonment wound has been touched off.

 

We might find ourselves suddenly enraged or falling apart with intense tears. Our reaction seems too big for the situation, yet we can't seem to stop the inner pain.

 

We might start to shake violently as the old terror finally erupts.

We want our beloved to take the pain away by stopping his or her behavior.. If only he or she wouldn't do the thing that activates these feelings, we'd be fine. Yet until we actually heal these old, deep wounds, we will not be fine.

 

We will always be vulnerable to having these wounds activated.

Healing the abandonment wounds does not happen overnight, yet it doesn't have to take years either. The first step is to be in Step

 

One of Inner Bonding, tuning into our feelings with a willingness to take responsibility for our pain.

 

Once you are aware that deep pain has been activated, seek the help of someone who can hold you and nurture you while you go into the abandonment pain. If no one is available, hold a doll, bear or pillow, bring in your spiritual Guidance and nurture yourself.

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It's often not advisable to seek the help of the person who activated the wound because:

 

1) he or she may still be stuck in their own wounded place, the place that touched off your wound

 

2) you might become dependent upon your beloved taking care of you and taking the pain away instead of actually healing the pain.

 

Once you are with a safe, nurturing person, or even on the phone with a safe person, hold a doll or bear or even a pillow very tightly and breath into the pain. Move into the intent to learn -

 

Step Two - and allow the Child who is in pain to give you information about the original pain that is still stuck in the body,

 

Step Three. The body holds the memories that you repressed at the time and now the body is releasing these memories. Many images may come up as you open to learning with your Inner Child.

Be sure you have your spiritual Guidance with you, holding you, surrounding you with love and comfort as you open to learning about this deep pain.

 

In order to truly understand your present reaction, you need to understand what happened to you when you were little. Keep breathing deeply and allowing your Child to inform you, even if you are crying.

 

Tell the person helping you what your Child is telling you about what happened to you when you were little. It may take awhile, but gradually you will calm down.

 

At that point, you can move into Step Four, asking your Guidance about the beliefs that may have come up during Step Three, and about what else your Child needs right now to feel loved and safe.

 

Being there for your wounded Child this way will gradually heal the abandonment wounds. Ignoring your feelings, trying to make them go away, or trying to get someone else to take them away will only serve to re-wound you.

 

It's only when you no longer abandon yourself that the old wounds begin to heal. Eventually, another's behavior that previously triggered your intense reaction will no longer do so. You may feel sad or lonely when a loved one gets angry or withdraws in some way, but as long as you continue to show up for yourself, the intense pain will not be there.

 

If the pain seems stuck in the body no matter what you do, then you need to seek out a practitioner who knows how to release old pain out of the body through accupressure or other bodywork. (See recommendations for this work in my new book, Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By God?)

 

Once these old wounds are healing, you will feel a new sense of personal power. Other's behavior can no longer trigger you into these intensely painful feelings.

 

However, a word of caution: we may think it is healed, only to discover another level when we move into a more intimate relationship, or more intimacy with a present partner. The closer the relationship, the deeper the wounds get activated. That is why the primary relationship is the most powerful arena for healing there is, and Inner Bonding is the most powerful tool!

 

Margaret Paul, Ph.D.

CO-CREATOR OF INNERBONDING

Dr. Paul is the author/co-author of several best-selling books, including Do I Have To Give Up Me to Be Loved By You?, Inner Bonding, Healing Your Aloneness, The Healing Your Aloneness Workbook and Do I Have To Give Up Me to Be Loved By My Kids? Her newest book, Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By God?, was released in November, 1999.

 

She is a noted public speaker, workshop leader, educator, consultant and artist. Dr. Paul has appeared on many radio and TV shows, including the Oprah show. She has successfully worked with thousands of individuals, couples and business relationships and taught classes and seminars since 1970.

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thinking about my own personal experiences....

Concerning the article above: Perhaps you just read the above article and you aren't feeling as though you can quite grasp the meaning of it. I would guess that if this is the case, you're still experiencing great pain and even anxiety or depression and you're not sure why. The meaning of this article rang very true to me, because I never considered myself abandoned until I began my own personal growth recovery journey.
 
I grew up with both parents and having a close relationship with my entire extended family. Who is abandoned there? But abandonment doesn't necessarily being literally left off somewhere alone. I had to think about it long and hard to realized that my father was an absent father and my mother was emotionally unavailable to us; me, my brother and sister. For the initial five years of my life my father wasn't around much as he was in the military and my mother was so depressed that he was gone and they moved so much causing her to feel lonely that she pined away for him, listening to her music, watching out the window and keeping herself busy with sewing - leaving her children to entertain themselves.

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I always knew my mother was depressed, lonely or just withdrawn because she was so lonely. She has always been a "people person" and when they were moving from place to place she could hardly establish and hold onto friendships. I really don't think that my mother wanted to have a third child, because after my sister was born, she'd leave my sister in the crib, crying and crying for such long lengths of time.
 
Now I do realize that she believed that this crying was "actually exercising the baby's lungs." I learned that when she began caring for foster babies right out of the hospital and she would let them cry and I finally had the nerve to ask her why. I couldn't believe that she thought it was good for a baby to cry like that.  
 
So taking a good look back into your past and finding out what was happening not only to you as a child, but what was happening with your parents at the time will help you to understand why you weren't nurtured as you needed to be. I truly believe that it all comes down to "nurturing" and parents not realizing what they were truly doing to their children out of pure ignorance.
 
In my teenage years, my father was again absent most of the time as his job required him to travel all over the world, but even when he was home, his nose was stuck in a book as he drank he evening cocktails. My mother, as well, was often out with her friends after work and in the evening hours and I was so sure that neither of them loved or cared about me.
 
I acted out as much as I could, but I never seemed to get their attention. Little did I know that their marriage had fallen apart, my mother was suffering from a disease that caused her enormous amounts of pain and there was no treatment for it. She was self medicating herself by being out drinking alcohol to try to numb the pain and socializing with her friends because my father was so unsocial.
 
Everyone bears the pain and the wounds from their past. We all have one and sometimes the things contained in our pasts can tell us why we weren't nurtured as we needed to be, it's like a personal puzzle and it's up to each of us to figure it out. I did this exercise as what I called a "personal inventory." I've been trying to move it from anxieties 101 to try recovering 101 to complete it, but I've been too busy to finish it. You can view what remains of it at anxieties 101: by clicking here.
 
kathleen

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Healing Childhood Abuse and Neglect

by Patty E. Fleener M.S.W.

Abandonment

I'm in the process of re-designing the whole of Mental Health Today. It is quite a process. I'm doing more than just putting the old material in a new template. I'm reading most of the material again so that I can improve the meta tags, alt tags for the search engines as well as putting in a special "Related Books" section on most pages. 

Thus, at this time a lot of technical information as well as opinions and other's experiences are flooding my mind. I am noticing that I am having an emotional reaction occasionally. I just had one and I wanted to share it because it is something that most of us consumers are dealing with and that is abandonment. That's what I want to talk about. 

In an article on the site is one entitled "
Healing the Abandonment Wounds." (This article is included above.) Just one sentence made me stop typing and sit in my computer chair staring at the ceiling.

The article says:

"I have counseled individuals, couples, families and business partners for the past 35 years and authored eight published books. Every individual I've worked with has had some abandonment wound to heal, and most relationship problems stem from abandonment wounds. 

It is not possible to grow up in our society without some abandonment wounds. The following are some of the ways it can occur:

  • Being torn away from mother at birth and put into a nursery.

  • Being left to cry in a crib or playpen.

  • Being given up for adoption or being left in foster care.

  • Being physically and/or sexually abused.

  • Being emotionally abused - ignored, yelled at, shamed.

  • Being pushed aside at the birth of a new sibling.

  • Having a parent or caregiver who is emotionally unavailable.

  • Being unseen or misunderstood by parents or other caregivers.

  • Being lied to.

  • Being unprotected by a parent or caregiver.

  • Being left alone in a hospital during an illness.

  • Losing a beloved parent or grandparent at a very young age.

  • Divorce.

  • Being teased or left out with siblings or peers.

  • Being ridiculed by a teacher.

  • Being forgotten - not being picked up from school or other places.

  • Being left at a young age to care for oneself, a parent, or other siblings."

And the article continues on.

The sentence "Being left to cry in a crib or playpen" was the sentence that stopped me in my tracks. 

My aunt, in the past has shared with me that her mother, my grandmother babysat me from birth to age 3 as both of my parents worked. I did have this information confirmed by my grandmother but I did it slyly so as not to cause shame or blame. My brother was a difficult child to raise and needed constant attention. I was a quiet child and entertained myself. 

It is important to know that my family lived in an apartment at the time in the same complex as my grandparents. My grandmother told me I really preferred to be in my own place, in my crib so I was there in my crib alone in the apartment 95% of the time from birth to age 3. My grandmother would come and check on me from time to time.
 

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Experiencing Memories of Feelings of Abuse or Neglect as an Adult

When I found this out I was both saddened and relieved. All my life I would not call it a memory, but a memory of my feelings. I don't actually remember seeing myself in the crib alone. However I do recall EXTREME feelings that, "I'm alone and no one will ever comes. I wait and wait to the point where the emotional pain of no one coming for a long, long, long, long time, is so strong it is as if my mind twists I can't stand it.

The feeling of waiting and no one coming is so strong it's as if I go into another dimension of pure and total hell." I cannot tell you how bad it is. I don't have the words. It is a memory of feelings. I did not get that statement from any books. It is something that simply explains my experience as an adult.

There were actually two times in my adult life where I waited for my boyfriend - different ones as it was years apart - to come and I waited and waited and I went once again into that never never land and both times I laid on the floor in fetal position.
 

I never understood those experiences until it was confirmed about how I was babysat. Though I was an adult, those two experiences for some reason put me back into the infant waiting for someone to come. I've been stood up many times in my life so I don't know why those two times were significant. I do know that on the first occasion the man had been on vacation for two weeks and just got back and had called and stated he was coming over at a particular time. He did in fact show up much later and that put me back into an adult state. 

In those days the man I was dating was a mirror of me. If I was abandoned by them, I ceased to exist so you an imagine how terrifying abandonment was and the extreme legal of anxiety I felt.

I do know that just long term stress alone changes the chemistry in the brain and it was not long ago that I sent everyone a new study about the BPD brain and being tested under abandonment environments.

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What Can Be Done About Our Abuse/Neglect?

  • I am learning possibly some of the reason I have a mental health disorder.

  • I know that many people have endured similar and even much worse situations in their family of origin or horrible events as adults. Therefore I know that I am not alone.

  • I do not feel sorry for myself at all as I know that many have suffered. However I do feel an inner sadness about this. I feel sad for that infant in the crib.

  • I don't want to stay stuck there - as that ignored infant in its crib. I want to move beyond that and heal. I think it is good to grieve such a situation. I want so much for that to have never happened to me and I can get caught up into "if only" statements. Roger Whitaker does a song called "If Only is For Children." No "if only" thoughts. They get you nowhere. Part of grief is learning to accept what happened to us and making peace with it. Remember the grief process? Shock/Denial; Bargaining; Depression; Anger; (depression and anger can come in opposite orders from other's experiences and sometimes you may go back and forth) Acceptance.

  • I have a legitimate right to be angry and that's ok but don't stay stuck there. Move on. If you continue to stay angry at someone who abused you, you continue to give them power over your life. The old statement about the best revenge is living a wonderful life is very true.

  • Talk to your therapist about this. Talk and keep on talking.

  • Should you forgive your abuser(s)? If you can.

  • Is it ok to just sit down and cry for that child that you were? Of course. It's called grieving.

  • I strongly encourage people who have undergone any form of abuse or neglect as children or adults to seek professional help. Get a counselor. Talk! Do you need to see a Dr? Are you not sleeping well or depressed or anxious due to that abuse/neglect? If you cannot resolve these issues in therapy you may need medication. Don't be afraid of it. Focus on what it will take to improve your life instead of whether you are taking medication or not.

  • Understand feeling guilty over the abuse is normal though it makes no sense whatsoever. Work on that guilt and understand that you were a victim. The act(s) were about the other person and their own issues, not about you. In fact it had nothing to do with you. It wasn't because you were too pretty, too bold, too rebellious, etc. That had nothing to do with it. It is about the abuser and you were victimized because of their issues and their NOT making a choice not to hurt you. Get angry, just don't stay there.

John Bradshaw talks a lot about the "inner child." The child in us and he stresses how important it is to parent that inner child, comfort and love it. I've seen people with stuffed animals on their lap and pretending that is their inner child. They talk to it, hold it, love it, tell it you will always be there for it and will take care of it. Once again, tell that child that you will always be there for it.

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The Abuser in Your Present

Talking about childhood abuse or neglect - some of us have had to evaluate in our own lives if being around our abuser (many times it is the parent or relative) is good for us as an adult. It depends upon how toxic that person is. 

Susan Forward wrote a book called "
Toxic Parents" that helped me a lot. She helps you to evaluate whether your parents are toxic or not and even goes to the point, if necessary, to divorce our parents - to say goodbye and never talk to them or see them again. 

Some people, such as my grandmother did not set out to hurt me and was not even aware of the damage her behaviors did to me. She is one of the easier people to forgive and I can keep her in my life because she is not toxic to me as an adult. 

Other people made an actual choice to abuse children and understand what they are doing is wrong, yet continue due to their own emotional issues. If they continue to be toxic in your adult life, don't spend endless hours trying to convince them they hurt you if they are not hearing you. Divorce them. 

John Bradshaw's activity (ASK YOUR THERAPIST FIRST BEFORE DOING THIS):

I am reminded of an activity John Bradshaw directed and I participated in it through his video tapes. I do NOT recommend this for any of you who are not well into recovery. Ask your therapist before doing anything like this. I cannot emphasize this enough. At the time I did it I began falling apart worse. However the reason I mention this is to show you an example of just how precious and wonderful we are regardless of what happened to us. 

Close your eyes and see yourself in your mind's eye as early of an age as you can remember. Perhaps you are playing outside, etc. Don't look at a traumatic experience. Just see yourself. 

You come up to that child (you) as your adult self of who you are now and you pick up that child and you tell the child that you understand what they are experienced more than anyone else because you are them as an adult. Tell that child and HUG that child, that you understand how they feel and that you will be coming back to get that child and take it with you and that you will be the parent of that child from now on and that you will take excellent care of it. 

Second activity 

You again come to that child and you pick up that child and you tell him/her how wonderful and how precious they are and you tell that child that you love him/her very much and that you will protect it and never ever let anything bad happen to it again. 

Tell the child that you will now be taking that child away from its current environment and taking it with you. Again, tell that child that you will be his/her parent and that you will take wonderful care of it and assure it that you will never let anything bad happen to it again. See yourself hugging the child, holding the child and telling the child just how much you love it. 

Then you and the child begin to walk away. Soon you look back and see your parents and you wave goodbye to them and again remind the child you will be its parent now. Then you continue to walk away and you see your house getting smaller and smaller. 

Now I am guessing that some of you are tearful right now. I don't know about you but I felt a tremendous amount of love for that child

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Letting Go of Unavailable People

By Robert Burney

 

"In our disease defense system we build up huge walls to protect ourselves and then - as soon as we meet someone who will help us to repeat our patterns of abuse, abandonment, betrayal and/or deprivation - we lower the drawbridge and invite them in. 

 

We, in our Co-dependence, have radar systems which cause us to be attracted to and attract to us, the people, who for us personally, are exactly the most untrustworthy (or unavailable or smothering or abusive or whatever we need to repeat our patterns) individuals - exactly the ones who'll "push our buttons." 

 

This happens because those people feel familiar. Unfortunately in childhood the people whom we trusted the most - were the most familiar - hurt us the most.  So the effect is that we keep repeating our patterns and being given the reminder that it's not safe to trust ourselves or other people .

 

Once we begin healing we can see that the Truth is that it isn't safe to trust as long as we're reacting out of the emotional wounds and attitudes of our childhoods. 

 

Once we start Recovering, then we can begin to see that on a Spiritual level these repeating behavior patterns are opportunities to heal the childhood wounds."

 

"I spent most of my life being the victim of my own thoughts, my own emotions, my own behaviors. I was consistently picking untrustworthy people to trust and unavailable people to love. I couldn't trust my own emotions because I was incapable of being honest with myself emotionally - which made me incapable of Truly being honest on any level."

 

(All quotes in this color are from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls)

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Codependency is an incredibly insidious, treacherous disease. It's a compulsively reactive condition in which our ego programming from childhood dictates how we live our lives today.  As long as we aren't in recovery from our codependency, we're powerless to make clear choices in discerning rather someone we're attracted to is a available for a healthy relationship - we are in fact, doomed to keep repeating patterns. 

 

Emotionally we're drawn to people who feel familiar on an energetic level. That is, people who, on an emotional vibrational level, resonate with us as being familiar. It feels to us as if we have a strong connection to those people. In other words, we have an inner radar system that causes us to be attracted to people who resonate vibrationally in a way that's familiar on an emotionally intimate level. 

 

We're attracted to people whose inner emotional dynamic is similar to our most powerful and earliest experience of emotional intimacy and love - our parents.

 

No matter how much we're making an effort on a conscious level to not pick anyone like our parents, energetically we feel a strong attraction to people whose inner emotional dynamic is similar to our first experience of love

 

It was very important for me to get aware of the reality that if I met someone who felt like my soul mate, I'd better watch out.  Those are exactly the people who will fit my patterns - recreate my wounding.

 

It was very important for me to recognize the power of this type of attraction. And also to realize, that on a Spiritual level, these people were teachers who were in my life to help me get in touch w/my childhood wounds

 

It was vital for me to start being aware that if I met someone who felt like my soul mate it didn't mean we were going to live happily ever after. 

 

What it meant was that I was being given another wonderful and painful, opportunity for growth.

 

Becoming conscious of these emotional energetic dynamics was a very important part of owning my power. My power to make choices, to accept consequences, to take responsibility for my choices and consequences and to not buy into the belief that I was being victimized by the other person, or my own defectiveness.

 

Recognizing unavailability in the other person doesn't mean that I have to let go of the relationship - at least not immediately, it could be something I will decide to do eventually. 

 

What is so important, is to let go of focusing on that person as the cause of, or solution to, my problems. As long as we're focusing on the other person and buying into the illusion that if we just:  work a little harder;  lose some more weight;  make some more money; do and/or say the right things;  whatever;  that person will change and be everything we want them to be.

 

Codependents focus on others to keep from looking at self.  We need to let go of focusing on the other person and start focusing inside to understand what's happening. Our adult patterns, the people we have been in relationship with are symptoms - effects of our childhood wounding

 

We can't solve a problem without looking at the cause.  Focusing on symptoms (which our society is famous for:  war on drugs;  war on poverty: etc.) will not heal the cause.

 

The reason that we get involved with people who are unavailable, is because we're unavailable. We're attracted to people who feel familiar because on some level we're still trying to prove our worth by earning the Love and respect of our unavailable parents. 

 

We think we're going to rescue the other person which will prove our worth - or that we need them to rescue us because of our lack of worth. The princess will kiss me and turn me from a frog into a prince, the prince will rescue me and take me to live in the castle, syndrome.

 

We need to own our own worth - our own "Prince or Princess" ness - before we can be available for a healthy relationship with someone who has owned their own worth

 

It's not possible to love someone enough to get them to stop hating,  and being unavailable, to them self. We need to let go of that delusion. We need to focus on healing our self - on understanding  and healing the emotional wounds that have driven us to pick people who couldn't give us what we want emotionally. 

 
We need to develop some healthy emotional intimacy with ourselves before we're capable of being available for a healthy relationships with someone who's also available.

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Wounded Parents - the tragic legacy of dysfunctional families

by Robert Burney

"Most men are programmed to keep their emotions (except for anger) bottled up in a concrete bunker inside of themselves because that is what they learned from society and from their role models.  Some men, of course, go to the other extreme and because they don't want to be like their fathers are out of balance in not being able to own their anger - these men usually marry women who are like their fathers."

"What we traditionally have called normal parenting in this society is abusive because it is emotionally dishonest.  Children learn who they are as emotional beings from the role modeling of their parents.  "Do as I say  not as I do," does not work with children.  Emotionally dishonest parents cannot be emotionally healthy role models, and cannot provide healthy parenting.

Our model for what a family should be sets up abusive, emotionally dishonest dynamics."

"There is an additional way in which women are wounded by their fathers that I have never heard, or read, anyone talk about.  It is a devastating blow that many daughters suffer on a subconscious level.  It comes at a very vulnerable time and contributes more evidence to the message that there is something wrong/less than about being a woman that most girls have already received in ample supply from society and the role modeling of their mothers."

On this page is a column by Spiritual teacher/codependence therapist about how Fathers wound their daughters who become mothers that wound their sons who become fathers. . . .

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Fathers

By Robert Burney MA

"What we traditionally have called normal parenting in this society is abusive because it is emotionally dishonest.  Children learn who they are as emotional beings from the role modeling of their parents.  Do as I say  not as I do,Ó does not work with children.  Emotionally dishonest parents cannot be emotionally healthy role models, and cannot provide healthy parenting.

Our model for what a family should be sets up abusive, emotionally dishonest dynamics."

***
"As a child, I learned from the role modeling of my father that the only emotion that a man felt was anger....."
***
"In this society, in a general sense, the men have been traditionally taught to be primarily aggressive, the "John Wayne" syndrome, while women have been taught to be self-sacrificing and passive.  But that is a generalization; it is entirely possible that you came from a home where your mother was John Wayne and your father was the self-sacrificing martyr.

The point that I am making is that our understanding of Codependence has evolved to realizing that this is not just about some dysfunctional families - our very role models, our prototypes, are dysfunctional. Our traditional cultural concepts of what a man is, of what a woman is, are twisted, distorted, almost comically bloated stereotypes of what masculine and feminine really are."

Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls

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An incident happened when I was about 11 that I didn't understand until several years into recovery.  At my grandmothers funeral I started crying hysterically and had to be taken out of the funeral home.  I wasn't crying because my grandmother had died - I was crying because I had seen my uncle cry.  It was the first time in my life I had seen a man cry and it opened the floodgates of all the repressed pain I was carrying.   Of course, I went right back to repressing after that because I still hadn't seen my father cry and he was my role model.

The belief that it is unmanly to cry or express fear is part of the prototype for what a man is supposed to be in our society.  Most men are programmed to keep their emotions (except for anger) bottled up in a concrete bunker inside of themselves because that is what they learned from society and from their role models.  Some men, of course, go to the other extreme and because they don't want to be like their fathers are out of balance in not being able to own their anger - these men usually marry women who are like their fathers.

Growing up with fathers who were emotionally crippled by their role models and society's beliefs has damaged us all.  Men can't be emotionally honest with others because they don't know how to be emotionally honest with themselves. Subconsciously they don't have permission to own the whole spectrum of their emotional palette.  It takes a lot of work and willingness in recovery to change the emotional programming we received in our childhoods.

And it is vital to do that work because being denied access to emotions denies access to our hearts and souls - denies access to the feminine energy within.  A man who has his emotions dammed up in a concrete bunker within has a dysfunctional relationship with his own intuitive nurturing feminine energy and, of course, with feminine energy of those around him.

That is, of course, one of the curses of codependence that women experience - men who don't have a clue what feelings are.  If Dad was emotionally unavailable then a woman is attracted to men who are the same - in an ongoing attempt to prove they are lovable by changing an emotionally unavailable male into one who is available. 

And if Dad was emotionally available it was often in an emotionally incestuous way (surrogate spouse) so in that case the last thing a woman wants (on a subconscious level) is a male who is available emotionally - because the burden of feeling responsible for Dad's feelings was too heart breaking.

There is an additional way in which women are wounded by their fathers that I have never heard, or read, anyone talk about.  It is a devastating blow that many daughters suffer on a subconscious level.  It comes at a very vulnerable time and contributes more evidence to the message that there is something wrong/less than about being a woman that most girls have already received in ample supply from society and the role modeling of their mothers.

This happens when girls start developing a female body.  Their fathers, being males of the species, are naturally attracted to the awakening feminine sexuality of their daughters.  Some fathers of course act this out in incestuous ways. 

The majority of fathers however react to this attraction (which in shame-based western civilization is not acknowledged as normal but rather is so shameful that it is seldom even brought to a conscious level of awareness) by withdrawing from their daughters, emotionally and physically.  

The unspoken, subconscious message that the girl/woman gets is "when I turned into a woman Dad stopped loving me."  Daddy's little princess is suddenly given the cold shoulder, and often is the recipient of angry (sometimes jealous) behavior from her father - who up until that time, often, has been much more emotionally available for his daughter than for his wife or sons.

In a healthy environment an emotionally honest father could recognize that his reaction was human - not something to be ashamed of - and also, not something to act out.  He could then communicate with, and have healthy boundaries with, his daughter so that she would know she wasn't being abandoned by her Dad.

Whether your father was John Wayne or a milquetoast, whether you are male or female, your father was wounded by his role models - both parental and societal.   Even if he was relatively the most healthy man on the planet, he was still wounded because civilized society is emotionally dysfunctional.

What is so damaging about being raised by wounded parents is that we incorporate the messages we got from their behavior and role modeling into our relationship with ourselves.  At the core of our being is a little child who feels unworthy and unlovable because our parents were wounded

In order to heal our relationship with ourselves and achieve emotional honesty it is vital to take a realistic view of how our fathers, and mothers, wounded us.  That is necessary in order to heal the relationship with the masculine and feminine energy within us so that we can be our own Loving parent.

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Emotionally Unavailable Dads

I've been having some long one-sided conversations with God lately. Mostly lamenting how they didn't used to be one-sided.

Now an atheist would tell me that they were always one-sided, of course, but I know that they weren't. But right now I am feeling much the same way I did as a small child, with a father who really cared nothing for me -- no matter what I did or achieved.

People who knew me then wouldn't recognize me now. I was a straight A straight laced little girl desperately trying to be good enough to earn my daddy's love, and even though I knew he was drinking 24 beers everyday I still believed it was my fault and not his.

He was silent toward me, unless of course he was being critical. Every once in a while a compliment would slip out, followed by the word "but" which was followed by a generally scathing criticism. And instead of developing a thick skin and becoming "stronger" (as he now claims he made me), I grew weaker every day, until I was weak enough to fall prey to a sexual predator, who also happened to be a teacher of mine. Things didn't go far, certainly not anything prosecutable, and I found out years later that he went after one of my friends instead, she she wasn't so lucky.

But I always yearned for my father's love, until the day I grew so disgusted that I walled up my heart and now no one can really get inside. And I hate that.

It seems to be coming to a head now. The fears I have stomped down for years are just peeking through, the roots of rejection that go so deep. The rejection that makes it painful for me to hug people for fear that they will push me away or hurt me so deeply that I will just stop breathing and die.

But this wall has never protected me from being hurt. I feel all the hurt, all the sorrow, all the fear. That lie of a wall has never successfully kept those at bay. But what I can't feel is pleasure in anyone's embrace, or kiss, or loving words and that is a hard thing to live with. My wall is made out of lies.

And so as I sit here dealing with the silence of what appears to be an emotionally unavailable Father, things are boiling to the surface that are more painful than I ever could have imagined. And I realize the truth --

Yes girls long for their daddys. But more than that, I long for my daddy. But I can't go there, he is incapable of love and he will reject me.

But what about You God. Are you really Abba? If so then why the long silence? You knew I would retreat into my vices if you neglected me. You know my weakness of character. I cannot live with a father who provides only for my physical needs and neglects my emotional needs. I need love and I need it so badly that I feel like I may stop breathing if I don't get it.

You hear that world? A dad who provides for his children's physical needs but won't love them is hurting them. Food and shelter are great, but we children need love. If you love us then we can get through any hardship, deny us and you leave us weak. There is no level of comfort on earth that leaves us stronger than a parent's love.

I know the reason for the withdrawl, this issue with me is being dealt with because I have been stomping it down for too long. But how long, how long with You seemingly forsake me? This wasn't my sin. I didn't decide to be unloved by my father. Wasn't going through it in the first place bad enough? Why are you making me live with it again?

Is this going to be the end of it? Or are there deeper levels after this, with no end to the hurt? Oh God, show me what to do and I will do it, but to just sit here and wallow in the pain.... it seems wrong, it leaves me completely out of control. But I guess I never have been under control, just under the illusion of it.

Guess it is time to stop writing now. This is pointless, everything, it seems, is pointless.
 

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Raising Children without Addiction

By Geoff Brandenburg

Of the many goals I have assisted parents in reaching with their families, raising children to be free of addiction is perhaps the most important goal of all. In this article I will present some core ideas and strategies used to achieve this goal, though this will only be a simple introduction to a complex topic.

To go to the root, addictive behavior in children is a way of avoiding two very painful confrontations in their lives. The first confrontation they can’t make is with an emotionally unavailable parent. What stops them is the confusing and imposing presence of their parent’s unprocessed grief, which is what makes the parent emotionally unavailable to the child.

The second confrontation they avoid is with their own abandonment grief that their parents aren’t fully available to meet their needs and that the pressure falls on them to have to be the ones to confront and break the cycle of dysfunction.

A child with addictive behaviors is a child who is overwhelmed by a series of confrontations that they don’t know how to make with their parents and shouldn’t have to make.

So when I work with parents or parents-to-be, the first step is for them to look at whatever grief they are carrying from their own family’s dysfunction, and begin to take full responsibility for that grief. The first step in breaking addiction behaviors in a family is for the parents to take the pressure off of the children to confront them, and to break the pattern of unprocessed grief in themselves.

This means that they must do the parental confrontation work that they were afraid to do in their own family and learn to contain their own intense emotions or awaken their missing emotions. That parental confrontation work can be in person or in role-play. Either way, a healthy parent must learn to lovingly confront their parents’ grief, form a healthy boundary and relationship to that grief and emerge as an emotionally real person.

The second step lies in understanding the origins of personal power, so that they can raise strong kids who don’t become addictive. Real personal power is born when the love we have in us as kids can reach our parents and make a positive difference in their lives. To raise kids without addiction, it is vital to understand that their love is going to go primarily in one of three directions, depending on how you work with yourself as a parent.

The healthy direction is love given freely and in gratitude for the parent doing their work and not making the child responsible for their healing. This love has an innate wisdom that, when received by the parent, creates a magical synergy in the family of everyone being strong and grounded.

The second direction of love is when the child soaks up the parent’s grief and, out of loyalty, becomes their healer. This is the origin of codependency, and means that the child grows up too soon and sacrifices their needs for the parent.

The third direction is addiction, in which the child’s love is so overwhelmed by parental denial or addiction that it must give up, unwillingly accept a deep failure of love, and seek some fragmented and addictive hiding place.

When parents do their work and are emotionally available, it doesn’t mean that they have to be ‘perfect’. Kids comprehend grief and can accept a parent being in healthy process around it. They simply want to love you and reach your heart, hopefully a heart not blocked by grief that can receive love.

The Emotionally Unavailable Man - A Profile
By A Aaron

It takes a wise woman to spot this sort out at first sight, but generally speaking, emotionally unavailable men are easier to date than to identify. Unfortunately, they are not as glaringly obvious to spot out as most would prefer, but there are a few general ideas that can be kept in mind.

First of all, the emotionally unavailable man is never alone. He surrounds himself with meaningless, short-lived relationships, despite his supposed "commitment" to them. He is never serious when it comes to these relationships, opting to be checking the field than to be tied down. Do not be fooled when he says something along the lines of "keeping my options open", because it is simply means that he doesn't want to be with just one person.

Second, he doesn't know what he wants. If you take a good, long look at all his flings, they will most probably be as assorted as a pack of M&M's. There will be no continuing trend in their personalities, or possibly even their looks. He has no idea as to what makes him tick in a woman; therefore he won't know what's good for him even if it were standing in front of him.

Lastly, an emotionally unavailable man cannot be convinced to change. Here lies the mistake that most women make when they date this man. They try to convince him that he is the one for them, the one that they should stay true to. It really isn't difficult to understand this one. If he is truly interested in you, it will need no effort on your part to convince him at all. In fact, he may even be the one doing the convincing, as he knows that you are what's good for him.

If it's any consolation however, the emotionally unavailable man will be sending out signals for women to pick up on. These signals are pretty easy to read; it's when women misread these signals that things go from bad to worse. Women generally pick up on the wrong signals, the most common one being mistaking a strong connection for love. This being said, it would be prudent to shift some of the focus you have on this aspect of your life elsewhere, since it will leave you with a better perspective of the situation.

In a nutshell, the emotionally unavailable man is the classic case of commitment-phobia, except he doesn't let on as well as a genuine phobic. It is understandable if you ever do get yourself involved with this type, but knowing how to identify him will do you a lot of good. Remember also, that you are the first priority in any relationship, and what you bring yourself relates to how you perceive the relationships you get into.

How To Deal With Emotionally Unavailable Men


Posted in Dating

Knowing how to deal with emotionally unavailable men is very important for a dating woman. Dating problems often result from clueless deals with such men, and most women make the mistake of thinking they have what it takes to change that man into her dream lover. Unfortunately, that rarely happens.

For starters, emotionally unavailable men are not the same as those who are simply unavailable. The unavailable man is simply not interested in getting into a relationship, so he rarely shows up on the playing field.

On the other hand, the emotionally unavailable man plays in the pitch, but is not really into any team. The emotionally unavailable man is easy to spot since they easily fall in and out of love, and at times they keep vague relationships with two or more women at the same time.

Emotionally unavailable men are like kids when it comes to making decisions about their lives – they really don’t know what they want. That includes women, so they usually end up taking the ladies for granted in a relationship. It’s not advisable to pursue a relationship with such men, since whatever they do with the women they’ve played with before, they can also do the same to you. It is best to stay clear of such men.

One of the common mistakes women make is to try to change an emotionally unavailable man. He is usually insensitive and shortsighted, and the more you baby him, the more he thinks that everything is all right. There will come a day when everything just doesn’t seem to work out at all. If you are strongly attached to an emotionally unavailable man, it almost always equates to disappointment and pain ultimately.

The best thing to do is to try and put distance between the two of you. Try to take your mind off him and put that attention into another aspect in your life. Try the gym, or Yoga, or that art class you’ve been dying to try. Do things that would make you realize that trying to get him is not worth the time.

And here’s the irony – this distance just might knock some sense into him. A puppy, when it’s hungry, cold or sick, will go home. The same goes for emotionally unavailable men – when he feels something is missing, he’ll go looking for it. But don’t expect too much though – after all, it’s still his call.

It’s necessary to learn to pick up the signals given off by these men. If he is dating other women, it only means he’s not happy with having only one companion in life. And don’t try and make the big mistake of trying to change him – as I’ve mentioned time and again, it doesn’t work that way. Your presence in his life would only root him to the spot, comfortably between two or more women in his life, with no serious romantic commitment to any.

For men like these, it will be your absence, not your presence, that is likely to affect him the most.

aaron adams specializes in relationship matters for women. visit http://www.datingquestionsforwomen.com to learn how to communication with emotionally unavailable men.

Love Addicts and the Emotionally Unavailable

by Cheryl Dusty

Are you a love addict? Or are you emotionally unavailable? Love addicts give a disproportionate amount of time, attention, and value to the person to whom they are addicted. This value is above the value they place on themselves. The focus often has an obsessive element about it.

Love addicts have an unrealistic expectation for unconditional positive regard from their partners in the relationship.

Love addicts do not care for, value, and can even neglect themselves while they are in the relationship.

Love addicts will tolerate almost anything to avoid being left or abandoned. This fear comes from childhood experiences. Although they want to be intimate with their partners it is more like enmeshment than healthy intimacy. This is normally felt on an unconscious level.

Love addicts and those who are emotionally unavailable addicts are attracted to each other. Both have fears of abandonment. That is the common thread. Those who are emotionally unavailable go a step beyond, and fear control, enmeshment or loss of self.

Those who are emotionally unavailable avoid intimacy and are hypersensitive to any feeling of being controlled or clung to. The love addict seeks enmeshment and is hypersensitive to any sense of abandonment.

Why are emotionally unavailable people and love addicts attracted to each other?

The initial attraction occurs because of what feels familiar". What is familiar comes from things that were experienced during childhood.

These issues DO NOT occur because of being in a bad relationship" prior to meeting you. These experiences are painful and very familiar, even if you do not consciously recognize it as such. Please remember that these childhood issues don't necessarily constitute abuse. They may also be in the form of an emotionally unavailable parent.

Love addicts and those who are emotionally unavailable are like magnets: they are attracted to those with the opposite issues. Just like perpetrator and victim. Just like sugar and warm water. Just like grass and soil. They are mirrors to the issues inside ourselves that we must heal to attract health relationships.

Neither of these types are usually attracted to non-addicted" people. When these types meet the non-addicted person, the response is normally a reaction similar to but they're sooo boring," theres just no chemistry," they just too set in their ways" or independent, we have nothing in common".

The other factors that contribute to the attraction, besides familiarity, is that love addicts are attracted to situations that hold hope that childhood wounds can be healed, and the fantasy that this relationship will be a fulfillment of the things that were not fulfilled within childhood.

Although this is a complex situation with much more to be said, the bottom line is that if we have found ourselves in one of these relationships, its time to stop the cycle, seek the help we need from a trained counselor, and not repeat the painful experience.

If we choose to continue to give our power away to others, we find that the universe dresses up the perpetrator in a new and different outfit, making it appear to be an entirely different situation, and brings them right back into our lives again.

Don't go it alone. There is help available to take back your power! Find a good counselor. You won't be sorry!

Also, you will want a copy of a book on Abandonment/Recovery issues. I have it listed on my Cherokee Angel site.

I love the Love Doc! @ Askmen.com! Here's his take on men being emotionally unavailable!
 

Are You Too Much Of A Challenge?

reader's question

Dear Doc,

I've been reading your column for a while, and it strikes me that a lot of the men that write in for advice seem really needy, like they're beggars in a world ruled by women. And while I like your "be a Challenge" coaching, I'm here to tell you that that's not always such a great thing. If it was, I'd be a lot happier.

I'm naturally aloof and women seem to eat it up. I've always had more than enough women expressing high interest in me. But anytime I date any woman for over three months, she tells me that I'm "emotionally unavailable." My latest girlfriend has begun to whine about how I don't spend enough time with her, and we've only been dating two months.

So my problem is that women always want more from me than I want to give. I haven't really had any long-term relationships because I always seem to attract these insatiable types. But the more they press for a commitment, the more I want out. I'd give anything to find a woman who is a little less interested and will give me some space. How do I find a woman like that , Doc?

Paul -- who is overly pursued

doc love's answer

Dear Paul,

Have you ever thought about writing a book on how to be a Challenge? If you do, I'll buy one. I think you could teach us all a thing or two. You're such a Challenge that even
Julia Roberts would stay faithful to you (but you'd probably want your space from her too after a couple of months). So, let's see if we can shed some light on your problem.

We'll begin by looking at the degree of responsibility of the women in your life for your frustrating situation. Understand that a woman who knows how to properly manage a relationship will not complain to her man that he's emotionally unavailable. Why? Because doing that only serves to make him withdraw from her, as you have experienced firsthand, Paul. To you Psych majors, it's a big turnoff.

If women don't keep things light, then of course you'll want to leave..

she's too clingy

Women also need to understand the importance of keeping things light and positive. A woman of wisdom knows that what inspires a man to open his heart is her own self-assured sweetness and generosity of spirit. Men respond emotionally to women who are loving and giving and who build a man's ego up . The smart woman knows that telling a guy that he's a failure at love doesn't help her cause.

That's right. Gals who've got it together don't press for commitment as the women who keep hooking up with Paul do. Instead, they learn to simply enhance a man's life so wonderfully that he naturally wants to stay with them forever.

And Paul, your current girlfriend should not be whining about how you and she don't spend enough time together. Whining and nagging are one and the same; and nagging, besides being the most under-reported crime in America, is a sure-fire way to make a guy want to head for the hills.

is it your mom's fault?

On the other hand, Paul, you need to look at your own personal reality here. Why do you seem to attract only those women in whom you eventually lose interest? Are you emotionally unavailable? There are several possible explanations for such a problem. You could have an unconscious bond with your mother from childhood dictating that you'd be betraying her were you to give your heart to another woman. You might have a belief that no woman can measure up to the standard of femininity that your mother has set for you.

There are more possibilities you could consider to better understand your situation. Did you get your heart broken long ago and then swear to yourself that you'd never let any woman get close to you again? Or perhaps you were somehow abandoned as a kid, and the way that you protect yourself emotionally is by remaining a drifter/loner and never bonding with anyone.

I'm no psychotherapist, but if you want to get out of your dysfunctional pattern, and seriously want to determine why you're not able to create a happy, long-term, committed relationship with a woman, then this is the type of self-inquiry that you need to do.

Until you get clear about the root cause of your solitary-drifter way of life and commit to working through it, you'll keep on drifting without having long-term love in your life.

Remember, guys: In order to be successful with women, you need to understand yourself.

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Styles of Conflict Between Parents

Have Different Implications for Children and Families

A considerable amount of research has examined how children fare when their parents fight. A new study goes further by examining how different types of conflict between parents affect children and families.

We’ve long known that conflict between parents detracts from parents’ abilities to be warm, supportive, and emotionally available to their children, while also negatively affecting children’s mental health. But much of the research that’s been done so far has examined only one aspect of this type of conflict - hostility. Because parents differ in the ways they argue, how might different types of conflict (such as withdrawal or detachment) affect children? What effect might these different forms of discord have on the family as a whole?

Researchers at the University of Rochester and the University of Notre Dame studied 212 families with 6-year-old children over a three-year period. Their findings are published in the November/December 2006 issue of the journal Child Development.

The study concludes that different types of conflict may have different implications for how mothers and fathers carry out their parenting duties. For example, mothers had difficulty being warm, supportive, and involved with their children when they experienced hostility with their spouse and when there was withdrawal between the parents. But fathers’ ability to engage with their children was influenced mainly when there was withdrawal between the parents, not when there was hostility between them.

The study also found that the way fathers parent when they experience withdrawal from their spouses may have a greater effect on children’s psychological problems than the way mothers parent under the same circumstances.

Specifically, when fathers are emotionally unavailable, their children are more anxious, depressed, and withdrawn, and they also may exhibit more aggressive and delinquent behavior and have more trouble adjusting to school. When mothers are emotionally unavailable, only children’s adjustment to school suffers.

"Taken together, the findings from the present study stress the importance of understanding how parents fight and the implications of this for the broader family system," according to Melissa Sturge-Apple, the study’s lead author and a researcher at the Mount Hope Family Center at the University of Rochester.

"Our results highlight the possibility that hostility and withdrawal between parents may negatively affect parenting and, in turn, child adjustment over time, and that these types of conflict may have distinct meanings and implications for the child and family system as a whole."

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The Impact of Violence on Children

Joy D. Osofsky

Abstract

Existing research on the effects of children's exposure to violence covers a broad range of community, family, and media violence. This research is relevant and useful to an examination of domestic violence in two key ways.

First, understanding how exposure to various types of violence affects children and what best enables them to cope can point to important considerations when trying to help children cope with exposure to domestic violence in particular.

And second, many families experiencing domestic violence are exposed to other types of violence as well. Exposure to violence on multiple levels can affect the parents' behavior and can compound the effects on children.

This article begins with an overview of the extent of children's exposure to various types of violence, and then examines what is known about the effects of this exposure across the developmental continuum. Key protective factors for children exposed to violence are examined.

Research indicates that the most important resource protecting children from the negative effects of exposure to violence is a strong relationship with a competent, caring, positive adult, most often a parent. Yet, when parents are themselves witnesses to or victims of violence, they may have difficulty fulfilling this role. In the final section, directions for future research are discussed.

Increasingly over the past decade, violence in the United States has been characterized as a "public health epidemic."1 Children are exposed to violence in their communities, in their families, and in the media. According to the National Summary of Injury Mortality Data, the homicide rate among young people ages 15 to 24 has more than doubled since 1950, up to a rate of 37 homicides per 100,000 in 1991.2

Despite the recent declines in crime rates, the homicide rate among males 15 to 24 years old in the United States is 10 times higher than in Canada, 15 times higher than in Australia, and 28 times higher than in France or in Germany.3 Only in some developing countries in South America such as Colombia and Brazil, and in actual war zones, is there a higher homicide rate among young males than in the United States.

Violent behavior, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, also occurs frequently within U.S. families. In some areas, more than half of the calls for police assistance are for domestic disturbances.4

Finally, the content of American media is the most violent in the world.5 Both real and manufactured images of violence bombard youths through television, the cinema, and the Internet.

The extent of children's exposure to different types of violence varies. Some children, especially those living in low-income areas, experience "chronic community violence" - that is, frequent and continual exposure to the use of guns, knives, drugs, and random violence in their neighborhoods. It is now rare in urban elementary schools not to find children who have been exposed to such negative events.

Children interviewed in studies throughout the country tell stories of witnessing violence, including shootings and beatings, as if they were ordinary, everyday events.

Exposure to community violence occurs less frequently for children who do not live in lower socioeconomic neighborhoods, but exposure to family and media violence crosses socioeconomic and cultural boundaries, occurring in all groups within our society.6

It has been estimated that between 25% and 30% of American women are beaten at least once in the course of intimate relationships.7 Women are more likely than men to be injured and require medical assistance as a result of physical violence by an intimate partner, and their injuries are likely to be underreported.8 Estimates of the prevalence of such violence vary, depending on the definitions of abuse and samples studied.

One study estimated that more than 3% (approximately 1.8 million) of women were severely assaulted by male partners or cohabitants over the course of a year,9 while other studies indicate the percentage of women experiencing dating violence, including sexual assault, physical violence, or verbal or emotional abuse, ranges as high as 65%.10

Estimates show that more than 3.3 million children witness physical and verbal spousal abuse each year, including a range of behaviors from insults and hitting to fatal assaults with guns and knives.11

Estimates also indicate that as many as three million children themselves are victims of physical abuse by their parents.12 In homes where domestic violence occurs, children are physically abused and neglected at a rate 15 times higher than the national average.4

Several studies have found that in 60% to 75% of families in which a woman is battered, children are also battered.13 (The article by Fantuzzo and Mohr in this journal issue discusses in greater detail the prevalence and effects of children's exposure to domestic violence.)

Exposure to violence in the media - through television, the cinema, and the Internet - touches virtually every child. Though often quoted, the statistics from the American Psychiatric Association bear repeating: The typical American child watches 28 hours of television a week, and by the age of 18 will have seen 16,000 simulated murders and 200,000 acts of violence.14

Commercial television for children is 50 to 60 times more violent than prime-time programs for adults, and some cartoons average more than 80 violent acts per hour. With the advent of videocassette sales and rentals of movies, pay-per-view TV, cable TV, video games, and online interactive computer games, many more children and adolescents are exposed to media with violent content than ever before.

Exposure to violence can have significant effects on children during their development and as they form their own intimate relationships in childhood and adulthood. The following section discusses the growing number of studies on the effects of community violence, along with key findings from the literature on the effects of family and media violence on children.

Behavioral and Emotional Effects of Exposure

The number of studies on the impact of children's exposure to violence is still relatively limited due to various difficulties in conducting research on behavioral and emotional effects. For example, such research often poses ethical difficulties if it is to include a comparison or control group of children who are exposed to violence and not provided services to help mitigate this exposure.

Also, research in this area often includes the collection of qualitative data through focus groups and interviews to augment the quantitative data on child outcomes and help gauge the impact of community-based interventions. While the qualitative accounting of feelings and events may be the most meaningful way to assess change, the collection of such data from many individuals in the child's world (parents, caregivers, teachers, police officers) takes more time than collecting quantitative measures on children at one time period, and may be difficult to conduct systematically and yet with sensitivity to the children, families, and the community. In addition, unless researchers are experienced in collecting such data, it may be difficult for them to listen to the children's stories, which are often horrendous.

Despite the limited research in this area, however, much can still be gleaned from existing studies about the effects of children's exposure to violence. The literature on family violence identifies adverse effects on children's physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development.

Studies on the effects of exposure to media violence also indicate an increase in negative behaviors. More recently, there has been increasing interest in the effects of violence on children living in urban areas who are exposed to chronic community violence.15 Parallels have been drawn between children growing up in inner cities in the United States and those living in war zones.16

In fact, findings from several studies show post traumatic stress disorder symptoms of children living in "urban war zones" to be similar to the symptoms of children living in actual war zones.17 As discussed further below, these symptoms vary by age, but include nightmares, clinginess to parents or caregivers, fear of natural exploring beyond their immediate environment, a numbing of affect, distractibility, intrusive thoughts, and feelings of not belonging.

Whether a child's exposure to violence leads to withdrawal or to increased aggression and violence is likely to depend on a variety of factors, including the age at which the trauma occurred, the supports in the environment, and the characteristics of the child.18

Developmental Differences in the Effects of Exposure

While children are affected by violence exposure at all ages, less is known about the consequences of exposure at younger ages, especially any long-term consequences. Many people assume that very young children are not affected at all, erroneously believing that they are too young to know or remember what has happened. In fact, however, studies indicate that there are links between exposure to violence and negative behaviors in children across all age ranges.

Infants and Toddlers

Even in the earliest phases of infant and toddler development, existing research indicates there are clear associations between exposure to violence, and emotional and behavioral problems. Infants and toddlers who witness violence either in their homes or in their community show excessive irritability, immature behavior, sleep disturbances, emotional distress, fears of being alone, and regression in toileting and language. 19

Exposure to trauma, especially violence in the family, interferes with a child's normal development of trust and later exploratory behaviors, which lead to the development of autonomy.20 Recent reports have noted the presence of symptoms in these young children very similar to post traumatic stress disorder in adults, including repeated re-experiencing of the traumatic event, avoidance, numbing of responsiveness, and increased arousal.21

For example, in one study, young children were afraid to be near the scene of the violent event they had witnessed, often were afraid to go to sleep or woke up with nightmares, and showed a limited range of emotion in their play.

School-Age Children

Several studies support a link between exposure to community violence and symptoms of anxiety, depression, and aggressive behaviors in school-age children living in violent urban neighborhoods.22 As with preschoolers, school-age children exposed to violence are more likely to show increases in sleep disturbances, and less likely to explore and play freely and to show motivation to master their environment.23

They often have difficulty paying attention and concentrating because they are distracted by intrusive thoughts. In addition, school-age children are likely to understand more about the intentionality of the violence and worry about what they could have done to prevent or stop it.24

In extreme cases of exposure to chronic community violence, school-age children may also exhibit symptoms akin to post traumatic stress disorder, similar to the symptoms described for infants and toddlers above.

In both the study of children ages 6 to 10 in Washington, D.C., and the study of children ages 9 to 12 in New Orleans, children's reports indicated a significant link between the witnessing of violence and such symptoms as nightmares, fears of leaving their homes, anxiety, and a numbing of affect.25

40% of the mothers in the New Orleans sample and 20% in the Washington, D.C., sample said their children were worried about being safe. Similar proportions of the children reported feeling "jumpy" and "scared."

Other studies have reported that school-age children who are exposed to family violence are affected similarly to those exposed to community violence.26 Such children often show a greater frequency of internalizing (withdrawal, anxiety) and externalizing (aggressiveness, delinquency) behavior problems in comparison to children from nonviolent families.

Overall functioning, attitudes, social competence, and school performance are often affected negatively. In addition, studies show that as children get older, those who have been abused and neglected are more likely to perform poorly in school; to commit crimes; and to experience emotional problems, sexual problems, and alcohol/substance abuse.27

Studies of school-age children exposed to media violence have also identified adverse effects over time. For example, a longitudinal study of eight-year-old boys that tracked viewing habits and behavior patterns found that those who viewed the most violent programs growing up were the most likely to engage in aggressive and delinquent behavior by the time they were age 18 and serious criminal behavior by age 30.28

Reports indicate that exposure to media violence may increase negative behaviors because of the potential for social learning and modeling of inappropriate behaviors by youths.29 Even when fictionalized, violence that is dramatically portrayed and glamorized is likely to have negative impacts on children and increase their propensity for violence.

Despite the differences between fictionalized portrayals of violence and the reality of experiencing violence, researchers have found that real-life events shown in a sensationalized manner may overwhelm or numb the senses.5

Adolescents

In contrast to the relatively limited amount of research on younger children, considerable research has been done on adolescent youth violence.30 Such research indicates that adolescents exposed to violence, particularly those exposed to chronic community violence throughout their lives, tend to show high levels of aggression and acting out, accompanied by anxiety, behavioral problems, school problems, truancy, and revenge seeking.31

The more severe effects of violence exposure on adolescents may be related to the fact that they are exposed to much more violence than younger children. In 1995, the U.S. Department of Justice reported that teenagers between the ages of 12 and 15 are victims of crime more than any other age group, and that adolescents of all ages are victims at twice the national average.32

Although some adolescents who witness community violence may be able to overcome the experience, many others are deeply scarred. For example, some report giving up hope, expecting that they may not live through adolescence or early adulthood.33 Such chronically traumatized youths often appear deadened to feelings and pain, and show restricted emotional development over time. Alternatively, such youths may attach themselves to peer groups and gangs as substitute family and incorporate violence as a method of dealing with disputes or frustration.34

For example, one study of low-income black urban preteens and teens (children ages 9 to 15) found that those who witnessed or were victims of violence showed symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder similar to those of soldiers coming back from war, with the distress symptoms increasing according to the number of violent acts witnessed or experienced.

Symptoms included:

  • distractibility
  • intrusive and unwanted fears and thoughts
  • feelings of not belonging35

Studies of children exposed to war consistently show that separation from family and destruction of important early relationships is one of the most potentially damaging consequences of war for children, but that the children in war zones who are cared for by their own parents or familiar adults suffered far fewer negative effects. Similar findings have been shown in studies of children exposed to other types of violence. In the following section, research identifying the key protective factors that can help children cope with various types of violence in their lives is discussed.

Key Factors Contributing to Resilience

An important, but little understood, area concerns the issue of invulnerability or resilience - that is, the ability to determine which children will experience fewer negative effects in response to exposure to violence. Results from several studies of resilient infants, young children, and youths exposed to community violence consistently identify a small number of crucial protective factors for development: a caring adult, a community safe haven, and a child's own internal resources.36

The Crucial Role of Parents

The most important protective resource to enable a child to cope with exposure to violence is a strong relationship with a competent, caring, positive adult, most often a parent.37 As shown in studies of children exposed to war (and other catastrophic stressors such as premature birth, trauma, and loss), such events can threaten the development of a child's ability to think and solve problems. But with the support of good parenting by either a parent or other significant adult, a child's cognitive and social development can proceed positively even with adversity.

For example, a study from 1943, which provided some of the earliest reports on children exposed to trauma during World War II, found that despite the potential for severe traumatization for children living in the midst of bombardment, far fewer negative effects occurred among those who were cared for by their own parents or familiar adults where some semblance of order was maintained in their lives.38

More recently, in 1986, researchers reported that while children who had been exposed to the stress of extreme violence during the war in Cambodia revealed mental health disturbances years after the immediate experience was over, those who did not reside with a family member were most likely to show post traumatic stress symptoms and other psychiatric symptoms.39 A similar finding was reported by a psychiatrist working in Uganda during times of conflict.40

Similarly, studies of children exposed to chronic community violence have also identified parenting as a key protective factor. For example, one 1996 study of school-age children living in Washington, D.C., neighborhoods with varying levels of violence found that the children who perceived greater support from their families showed less anxiety, even when living in more violent neighborhoods.41

Case stories of young children exposed to violence reinforce this finding. For example, researchers assessing the stories of children involved in a therapeutic project at Boston City Hospital concluded that parents are the first-line buffers and protectors of children, and that children re-stabilized most successfully when parents communicate that they understand their children's fears and are establishing a plan of action to deal with the problem.42

Benefits of Community Safe Havens

Children living in high-violence areas can benefit from having a protected place in the neighborhood. Such "safe havens" can shield children from exposure to violence and can aid in their resilience.43 Traditional protected areas for children have included schools, community centers, and churches. Most children spend as much waking time at schools as at home; therefore, schools and teachers have an enormous potential for providing emotional support and nurturing for children exposed to violence.

Several studies have shown the positive effects gained when a favorable school climate is provided despite its location in a violent neighborhood.44 In addition, both schools and community centers can provide opportunities for children to benefit from the support of peers, which has been shown to be instrumental in reducing anxiety among children exposed to violence.41 Churches not only provide safe meeting places, but also provide belief systems that have been shown to help children cope with trauma.42

Characteristics of the Child

Finally, various individual characteristics have been associated with increased resilience among vulnerable children, enabling them to use their own internal resources effectively as well as reach out to others for support when needed. The child's most important personal quality is average or above-average intellectual development with good attention and interpersonal skills.45

Additional protective factors cited in studies include feelings of self-esteem and self-efficacy, attractiveness to others in both personality and appearance, individual talents, religious affiliations, socioeconomic advantage, opportunities for good schooling and employment, and contact with people and environments that are positive for development. To a large extent, however, the ability of a child to realize the value of such protective factors is linked to the family and institutional supports discussed above.

The Impact of Violence on Parents and Their Capacity to Parent

In neighborhoods with high levels of community violence, as in situations involving domestic violence, parents are often traumatized along with their children. It is crucial to recognize that when experiencing trauma, a parent's ability to play a stable, consistent role in the child's life and, therefore, to support the child's resilience, may be compromised.

There are two basic aspects to the problem: (1) parents may be unable to protect their children and keep them safe, and

(2) parents themselves may be numbed, frightened, and depressed, unable to deal with their own trauma and/or grief, and emotionally unavailable for their children.

In such situations, strengthening community supports for parents has been shown to be an effective intervention approach, as discussed at the end of this section.

The Inability to Ensure Safety

Protecting children and facilitating their development is a family's most basic function. Although systematic research has not yet been done on the effects of violence exposure on parenting and the care giving environment, anecdotal reports indicate that parents who are living with chronic community violence frequently describe a sense of helplessness and frustration with their inability to protect their children and keep them safe, even in their own neighborhoods.46

Parents who are aware that they may not be able to protect their children from violence are likely to feel frustrated and helpless, and to communicate that helplessness and hopelessness to their children. Clinical work with traumatized young children and their families must begin treatment by addressing the issue of whether the child and the family can feel safe. However, for children and parents subjected to chronic community violence, the continued physical reality of the violent environment cannot be ignored.

In the New Orleans study, the majority (62%) of parents felt that their children were very safe at home, but only 30% felt that they were very safe at school, and only 17% felt that they were very safe walking to and from school and playing in their neighborhood.47 The children also reported that they felt much safer at home and in school than walking to or from school or playing in their neighborhood. 90% of their parents felt that violence was a serious problem or crisis in their community.

When parents are living in constant fear, they may deny their children normal developmental transitions and the sense of basic trust and security that is the foundation of healthy emotional development.48 For example, an important psychological aspect of parenting an infant or toddler is being able to provide a "holding environment" in which a parent can both protect a child and allow and encourage appropriate independence.49 Yet, parents must be able to trust in the safety of their children's independence before encouraging autonomy.50

For families living with chronic community violence, children's growing independence and normal exploration of their neighborhood may be anything but safe and, therefore, not allowed. When violence occurs in their neighborhood, to their child or to a child they know, parents may become overprotective, hardly allowing their children out of their sight. Under such circumstances, parents may have difficulty behaving in other than a controlling, or even authoritarian, manner.

Being Emotionally Unavailable

Research is just beginning to reveal the magnitude of the problem when children who witness violence live in families who are also traumatized. Families, regardless of their composition, are uniquely structured to provide the attention, nurturing, and safety that children need to grow and develop. But parenting is, at best, a complex process, and in situations of high risk, it is even more so. Poverty, job and family instability, and violence in the environment add immeasurably to the inherent difficulties.

For some parents and children, the stress associated with having to cope with community violence as an everyday event may affect both the parents' ability to parent and the children's capacity to form attachment relationships necessary for their later healthy emotional development.51

When parents witness violence or are themselves victims of violence, they are more likely to have difficulty being emotionally available, sensitive, and responsive to their children. They may become depressed and unable to provide for their young children's needs.

When children of any age cannot depend on the trust and security that come from caregivers who are emotionally available, they may withdraw and show disorganized behaviors. Because early relationships form the basis for all later relationship experiences, difficult experiences early in life may be problematic for the child's later development.

Parents who have been traumatized by violence exposure must cope with their own trauma before they are able to help their children.52 Even with heroic efforts, if the parent is sad and anxious, it will be more difficult to respond positively to the smiles and lively facial expressions of a young child. Depressed parents may be more irritable and may talk less often and with less intensity. While understandable, these parental behaviors may lead young children to be less responsive themselves and to feel that they may have done something "bad" to contribute to their parents' behavior.53

Mothers in several studies have shared anecdotal data related to their feelings about their children's exposure to community violence and the ways they have tried to handle the problem.54 As they reiterated numerous examples of violence, a matter-of-fact quality often permeated their reports. Parents' interviews indicate that very early in life, children must learn to deal with loss and to cope with grieving for family members or friends who have been killed.55

When such events become a part of everyday life, some parents may resort to coping mechanisms that involve a minimization of, or a failure to acknowledge, the consequences of violence.56 For example, it is not unusual for parents to be unaware of their children's difficulty with concentration and other school problems that frequently follow traumatization from violence exposure.

The Importance of Community Supports

In many urban neighborhoods with high levels of chronic violence, parents may experience additional burdens because the traditional societal protectors of children - including schools, community centers, and churches - are also overwhelmed and are not able to assure safe environments for their children.

Yet, supports outside of the family are very important for parents as well as children exposed to violence. For parents, such outside supports can provide opportunities to talk about their own feelings and trauma, which often enables them to be more available to help their children and to seek help from others in their extended family and community.

Comprehensive approaches, involving multiple agencies and individuals throughout the community, have been found to be useful in creating effective interventions to urban violence. For example, in the Violence Intervention Project, implemented in New Orleans in 1993, community police and schools play important roles in supporting children and families.57

In many communities, extended families including grandparents may be important, aided by programs such as Big Brothers and Big Sisters. By providing a network of people who care, such community supports can help children and families feel less isolated and overwhelmed, and more able to cope with the chronic violence in their lives.

Future Research Needs for Children Exposed to Violence

The findings reviewed throughout this article come primarily from the small but growing number of carefully controlled studies on children's exposure to violence completed in the past few years. The findings from these studies are quite consistent and confirm many of the initial impressions of researchers who conducted surveys and clinical studies in the late 1980s and early 1990s.58 The research work that has been done to date, as well as the careful clinical observations, point to important directions for future research.

First, measures with greater reliability and validity are needed. Research methodology on violence exposure and the effects on children is in its infancy, and relatively few measures are currently available. Some assessment measures, including the Child Behavior Checklist and measures of children's or parents' depressive symptoms, anxiety, or post traumatic stress disorder symptoms, have been used widely with the groups most often exposed to violence and are well accepted to measure change in high-risk groups.59

However, some of the standardized measures that are available to study outcomes and validate the violence exposure measures have been developed on populations coming from different racial and socioeconomic groups than most children exposed to community violence; therefore, their validity may be questionable. An epidemiological approach to collecting data on more diverse populations is needed to establish greater reliability and validity of these measures. Progress is being made in this area, but it will take some time to have well-established and meaningful measures of outcomes following violence exposure.

Second, broad-based epidemiological studies are needed to determine the differential effects of witnessing violence as compared to being victimized by violence, and of being exposed to an acute trauma as compared to chronic, ongoing violence. If possible, the epidemiological work should attempt to distinguish the impact of children's exposure to community violence from the impact of exposure to domestic violence.

Samples should include children of different ages, socioeconomic backgrounds, and ethnic or cultural backgrounds. The inclusion of information about violence exposure in national surveys would be useful to professionals who work with children, as well as in planning prevention and intervention strategies.

Third, studies are needed to learn more about the factors that lead to and mitigate violence in high-risk situations.60 To date, little is known from a research perspective about the processes leading to violent behavior. It is probable that juvenile court judges and probation officers know a great deal about the causes of youth violence from their professional experience and daily exposure to anecdotal reports and qualitative assessments. However, to understand more fully the causes of violent behavior and to develop meaningful prevention and intervention programs, carefully designed studies focused on causes are needed.

Fourth, far too little attention has been given to the potential long-term impact on urban children of living in environments of chronic violence. In clinical work with children under the age of five who have been exposed to chronic violence, concerns have been raised about the children's ability to negotiate developmental transitions in later life.61

For example, how will young children exposed to severe early trauma cope when they deal with anger and aggression as well as affection toward others, when they struggle with sexuality during adolescence, or when they are confronted with later experiences of death and mortality?

This is an area sorely in need of careful research and clinical follow-up studies. Retrospective studies may provide some useful information about the effects of violence exposure on youths, but most study samples to date have been selective - that is, interviewing juvenile offenders or prisoners who have committed violent crimes. This approach does not provide an opportunity to understand the effects on victims and witnesses of violence who do not commit violence themselves.

Studies should include prospective longitudinal designs to investigate the long-term psychological effects of exposure to violence on children. Studies should also include children of different ages, socioeconomic backgrounds, and ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Evaluation is needed of the cumulative effects of repeated exposure, the differential effects of severity of exposure, proximity to the event, and the child's familiarity with the victim and/or perpetrator.

Fifth, research is needed on factors that support the resilience of children and buffer them against adverse effects of violence exposure. Significant longitudinal research has been done on determinants of resilience and conditions that serve as protective factors.62

However, careful longitudinal studies within primarily high-risk inner-city populations, where much of the violence in the United States occurs, have yet to be done. In such studies of the impacts of community violence among high-risk populations, not only must the children be included, but also the family members who are closest to these children.

The evidence to date indicates that while the child's individual resources and temperament influence the outcomes of violence exposure to some extent, family support is crucial. The evidence also seems to indicate that more comprehensive approaches that utilize resources from multiple agencies, such as schools, police, and community groups, are most likely to have a positive long-term impact on children exposed to violence. Continued research on mediating factors related to the impact of violence exposure will aid in developing effective prevention efforts.63

Finally, many prevention and intervention programs do not currently include evaluation components. In some instances, program staff are resistant to research, are not knowledgeable about how to evaluate programs, or do not make the necessary effort to build the relationships that are needed to carry out this crucial component of a program. In other instances, the intervention program is set up quickly, and it is then difficult to build in an evaluation, especially if staff are not familiar with or oriented toward evaluation.

In other programs that are primarily clinical, program staff have neither the knowledge nor the inclination to evaluate the programs. Evaluations should include the development of criteria and assessment tools to help identify those strategies that are most effective. Such evaluations should be conducted across the broad range of intervention programs, including school-based programs, educational initiatives for law enforcement officers, and therapeutic crisis interventions.

In summary, to better understand the effects of children's exposure to violence, it is important to broaden the primary focus on victims and perpetrators to include the important "ripple effects" of the psychological impacts on children who may be witnesses.

Law enforcement officers, families, and others frequently overlook the significance of children's exposure to violence. Yet, the negative effects for children exposed to violence in their communities, in their families, and in the media can range from temporary upset, to clear symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder, to increased aggressive and violent behavior. How a child's long-term development is affected by exposure to different types and multiple levels of violence requires further systematic study.

The author expresses much appreciation to the Entergy Corporation and the local foundations that have provided generous support for this work.

Source site: The Future of Children click here

End Notes
  1. Flannery, D., and Huff, C.R. Youth violence: Prevention, intervention, and social policy. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press, 1998; Osofsky, J.D., ed. Children in a violent society. New York: Guilford Press, 1997; Finkelhor, D., and Dziuba-Leatherman, J. Victimization of children. American Psychologist (1994) 49:173-83; Bell, C.C., and Jenkins, E.J. Community violence and children on Chicago's Southside. Psychiatry (1993) 56:46-54; Federal Bureau of Investigation. Uniform Crime Reports for the United States. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1992; Fingerhut, L.A., Ingram, D.D., and Feldman, J.J. Firearm homicide among black teenage males in metropolitan counties. Journal of the American Medical Association (1992) 267:3054-58; Rosenberg, M.L., O'Carroll, P., and Powell, K. Let's be clear: Violence is a public health problem. Journal of the American Medical Association (1992) 267:3071-72; Rosenberg, M.L., and Fenley, M.A. Violence in America: A public health approach. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991; Prothrow-Stith, D. Deadly consequences. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National summary of injury mortality data, 1987-1994. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, CDC, November 1996; Rosenberg, M.L. Violence prevention: Integrating public health and criminal justice. Paper presented at the U.S. Attorney's Conference. Washington, DC, January 1994.
  3. World Health Organization. World health statistics annual, 1994. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization, 1995.
  4. Osofsky, J.D. Children who witness domestic violence: The invisible victims. Social Policy Reports: Society for Research in Child Development (1995) 9:3.
  5. American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Communications. Policy statement: Media violence. Pediatrics (June 1995) 95:949-51.
  6. Murray, J.P. Media violence and youth. In Children in a violent society. J.D. Osofsky, ed. New York: Guilford Press, 1997; Huesmann, L.R., and Moise, J. Media violence: A demonstrated public health threat to children. The Harvard Mental Health Letter (June 1996) 12:5-7; Eron, L., and Huesmann, L.R. Television as a source of maltreatment of children. School Psychology Review (1987) 16:195-202.
  7. Pagelow, M.D. Family violence. New York: Praeger Publishing, 1984; Straus, M., and Gelles, R., eds. Physical violence in American families: Risk factors and adaptations to violence in 8,145 families. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1990; Frieze, I.H., and Browne, A. Violence in marriage. In Family violence. L. Ohlin and M. Tonry, eds. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989, pp. 163-218.
  8. Cascardi, M., Langhinrichsen, J., and Vivian, D. Marital aggression: Impact, injury, and health correlates for husbands and wives. Archives of Internal Medicine (1992) 152:1178-84.
  9. See note no. 7, Straus and Gelles; Plichta, S. The effects of woman abuse on health care utilization and health status: A literature review. Women's Health Issues (1992) 2:154-63.
  10. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention, Family and Intimate Violence. Fact sheet on dating violence. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NCIPC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1998.
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  17. Pynoos, R.S. Traumatic stress and developmental psychopathology in children and adoles-cents. In American Psychiatric Press review of psychiatry. Vol. 12. J.M. Oldham, M.B. Riba, and A. Tasman, eds. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press, 1993, pp. 205-38; Nader, K.O., Pynoos, R.S., Fairbanks, L.A., et al. A preliminary study of PTSD and grief among the children of Kuwait following the Gulf crisis. British Journal of Clinical Psychology (1993) 32:407-16; Terr, L. Too scared to cry. New York: Harper and Row, 1990; Pynoos, R.S., and Eth, S. Developmental perspectives on psychic trauma in childhood. In Trauma and its wake. R.C. Figley, ed. New York: Brunner/Mazel, 1985; see note no. 16, Osofsky and Fenichel; see note no. 16, Garbarino, Dubrow, Kostelny, and Pardo.
  18. Research data on outcomes of children's adaptation following exposure to violence are not available; however, reactions are likely to be similar to those of children who suffer early abuse and neglect, and such research has emphasized that early abusive and neglectful experiences may not lead directly to increased aggression and violence. See Widom, K. Does violence beget violence? A critical examination of the literature. Psychological Bulletin (1989) 106:3-28.
  19. Zeanah, C.Z., and Scheeringa, M. Evaluation of posttraumatic symptomatology in infants and young children exposed to violence. Zero to Three (April/May 1996) 16:9-14; Bell, C. Exposure to violence distresses children and may lead to their becoming violent. Psychiatric News (January 6, 1995) 6-8, 15; Drell, M., Siegel, C., and Gaensbauer, T. Posttraumatic stress disorders. In Handbook of infant mental health. C. Zeanah, ed. New York: The Guilford Press, 1993, pp. 291-304; Jaffe, P., Wilson, S., and Wolfe, D. Promoting changes in attitudes and understanding of conflict resolution among child victims of family violence. Canadian Journal of Behavior Sciences (1986) 18:356-66; see note no. 15, Osofsky and Fenichel; see note no. 17, Pynoos.
  20. See note no. 16, Osofsky and Fenichel.
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  23. Osofsky, J.D. The effects of exposure to violence on young children. American Psychologist (September 1995) 50:782-88; see note no. 17, Pynoos.
  24. See note no. 19, Drell, Siegel, and Gaensbauer.
  25. In the Washington, D.C., study, r=.39, p>05; in the New Orleans study, r=.42, p>.01. Richters, J.E., and Martinez, P. The NIMH community violence project: I. Children as victims of and witnesses to violence. Psychiatry (1993) 56:7-21; Osofsky, J.D., Wewers, S., Hann, D.M., and Fick, A.C. Chronic community violence: What is happening to our children? Psychiatry (1993) 56:36-45.
  26. See note no. 16, Bell and Jenkins; see note no. 19, Bell.
  27. Cicchetti, D., and Toth, S. Developmental perspectives on trauma: Theory, research, and intervention. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 1997; National Research Council, Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Understanding child abuse and neglect. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1993; see note no. 12, English; see note no. 15, Cicchetti and Lynch.
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  31. Fonagy, P., Target, M., Steele, M., and Steele, H. The development of violence and crime as it relates to security of attachment. In Children in a violent society. J.D. Osofsky, ed. New York: Guilford Press, 1997; Loeber, R., Wung, P., Keenan, K., et al. Developmental pathways in disruptive child behavior. Development and Psychopathology (1993) 5:101-33; Loeber, R., and Dishion, T. Early predictors of male delinquency: A review. Psychological Bulletin (1983) 94:68-99; see note no. 30, Jenkins and Bell.
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  40. Harvard Medical School and Judge Bates Guidance Center, Boston. Personal communication with Gloria Johnson-Powell, Professor of Psychiatry, December 1996.
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  63. See note no. 37, Osofsky and Thompson.

 


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