Unlike wounds resulting from physical or sexual abuse, where the invasive energy is blatant, the wounding energy of emotional incest is stealthy and very difficult to track. The intrusive psychic energy of the perpetrator is packaged in care and attention. It can be quite challenging to break into this care package and reveal the expectations and needs of affiliation, control, love and understanding on behalf of the perpetrator. Being robbed of one’s childhood hardly goes noticed as the child feels so good about being chosen in a special way by an adult. The child is invited to act as if they are capable of being in an adult relationship.
Emotional incest often takes place with either a single parent or a parent whose spouse is not emotionally available. It can also happen with any trusted authority figure, e.g., clergy, coach, teacher, club leader or relative. There are a number of ways that emotional incest impacts development.