Clinical data suggest that Kernberg’s description of splitting as a defense mechanism is useful in conceptualizing the psychological consequences of abuse in childhood in certain patients. The splitting in these patients is similar to his description of splitting in borderline patients in that it compartmentalizes and sequesters certain overwhelming and painful ego states accompanying negative introjects of the betraying primary object and the betrayed self. These sequestered introjects, furthermore, act as automatons, generating behaviors that arbitrarily re-enact their content even though the patient remains consciously unaware of their historical meaning. Another consequence of the sequestration of these traumatic introjects is that their affects retain their initial power and primitive quality, unmodulated by the usual homogenizing process that is a part of the synthesis of part-object introjects into whole-object introjects; the sequestration, therefore, often painful in itself, must nevertheless be rigidly maintained lest traumatic anxiety in the face of overwhelming affects be re-experienced. Shengold calls the sequence of events that results in this brittle but stubborn painful constriction of the personality “soul murder.” He borrowed the phrase from Freud who used it to refer to what Schreber had suffered at the hands of his sadistic father. That phrase–“soul murder”–may sound melodramatic, but it powerfully conveys what these patients communicate of their experience of themselves. As with Kernberg’s patients, the defensive splitting serves to protect the positive introjects. These patients fear their negative introjects, even more than they feel uncomfortable about the split. They fear their desperate rage will destroy their love objects, and leave them feeling abandoned and hating themselves. As one of my patients put it: “I fear that my destructive anger will leave me all alone in a sea of rubble of my own making.” In the transference, he feared destroying me and our positive bond. In these cases it would seem that the turning to splitting occurred at a later age than it does with Kernberg’s borderline patients. His proposition is that the developmentally normal “splitting,” related to the undifferentiation of the infantile ego, persists as a defensive splitting, perhaps as a consequence of a consistently derailed mother-child dialogue; whereas in my patients it would seem that the normal developmental splitting had waned as ego differentiation proceeded, but that in the face of overwhelming traumata at perhaps 3 or 4 years of age, the primitive defense was invoked regressively. Continue reading “Splitting as a consequence of severe abuse in childhood.”
In order to deal with conflict and problems in life, Freud stated that the ego employs a range of defense mechanisms. Defense mechanisms operate at an unconscious level and help ward off unpleasant feelings (i.e. anxiety) or make good things feel better for the individual.
The ego, driven by the id, confined by the superego, repulsed by reality, struggles to master its economic task of bringing about harmony among the forces and influences working in and upon it; and we can understand how it is that so often we cannot suppress a cry ‘life is not easy’!
If the ego is obliged to admit its weakness, it breaks out in anxiety regarding the outside world, moral anxiety regarding the superego, and neurotic anxiety regarding the strength of the passions in the id. (Freud 1933, p. 78). Continue reading “Defense Mechanisms”
In a longitudinal study of 394 families in England, David P. Farrington, professor of criminology at Cambridge University, found that approximately 4 percent of these families accrued almost half of the convictions of the entire sample: “The fact that delinquency is transmitted from one generation to the next is indisputable…. [F]ewer than 5 percent of the families accounted for almost half of the criminal convictions in the entire sample…. In order to achieve such concentration of crime in a small number of families, it is necessary that the parents and the brothers and sisters of offenders also be unusually likely to commit criminal acts.”1)
The findings for England, though dramatic and for a different culture and country, comport with the earlier U.S. research as summarized by Professor Kevin Wright of the State University of New York at Binghamton: Continue reading “Effects of Criminal Parents on Children”
Six Steps to Hope and Healing for Struggling Parents
For decades, mental health professionals have dissected the lives of mass shooters and serial killers trying to determine what “went wrong” during their upbringing Invariably, the role of the perpetrator’s parents is scrutinized while trying to identify causes. The assumption seems to be that mothers and fathers were at fault, i.e. that if you are the parent of a chronically delinquent child or an adult criminal, there must be something wrong with you. Does blaming parents really explain anything or does it help obfuscate a chilling truth? Continue reading “Parents Don’t Turn Children Into Criminals”
Withdraw yourself from the relationship if the behavior continues. While you may not be able to put your adult child in time out for rudeness, you can take a time out from spending time together. Show your child that a relationship with you is no longer a necessity, but a privilege. Respect is a two-way street and you needn’t continuously submit yourself to rudeness and disrespect at the hands of your own child. Return as an active contributor to the relationship once your child acknowledges his behavior, apologizes and commits to acting more respectfully in the future. Continue reading “How to Deal With Rude Adult Children”
A lot of life is about maintaining perspective and managing expectations… especially for people in retirement. One of the biggest challenges for new and soon-to-be retirees is how to say “no” to adult children. Whether it’s denying them money for a business idea, giving them cash to cover past due bills, or financing their divorce, chances are they’re going to keep asking until you go broke or say “no.” Best Way To ‘Cut Off’ Your Adult Children Continue reading “Best Way To ‘Cut Off’ Your Adult Children”