The Electra Complex

The Electra complex is a term used to describe the female version of the Oedipus complex. It involves a girl, aged between 3 and 6, becoming unconsciously sexually attached to her father and increasingly hostile toward her mother.

The Electra complex, while often attributed to Freud, was actually proposed by Freud’s protégé, Carl Jung (Jung & Kerenyi, 1963).

You’re Not Your Daughter’s Handsome Prince

Hugo Schwyzer explains how a dad who relies solely on emotional validation from his daughter (instead of his wife) might be causing unforeseen harm.


It is thought that early emotional deprivation can lead some adults to regard their children as parental figures (Jurkovic, 2014). When divorce occurs, this can leave a vacuum that encourages a child to step in and do what they can to help the family (Freud, 1989).

Parents with narcissistic personality (NPD) may lack insight into how their behavior affects their child (Kriesberg, n.d.). They may also justify or deny their behavior and refuse to see that their child may be suffering.

Narcissistic parents and parents who engage in emotional incest often need praise from their child. Questions such as, “Am I a good mother?” or, “How much do you love me?” can place the child in a precarious position, as the child is not allowed to complain or express their own needs. Instead, the parent is the primary one who needs care. This unspoken understanding that the child’s needs are not as important as the needs of the parent can have lasting effects and can cause difficulties in adult relationships.

A parent with addiction may also develop an inappropriate reliance on their child. The child can assume the role of caretaker both when the parent is intoxicated and when the parent is sick and recovering from using substances or alcohol. Children of addicted parents often understand the parent is not capable of caring for them. As a result, they become the “strong one” in the family. The child may hide or deny their own needs even to themselves, as they know the parent is unavailable to provide care.

Emotional incest

Emotional incest occurs when the child believes they are responsible for their parent’s emotional well-being. This can happen when the parent talks to the child as though the child were an adult. The parent may request advice from the child regarding adult issues and can even place the child in the role of therapist.

When the parent is sad or lonely, it’s up to the child to make them feel better, or at least feel their feelings with them. The boundaries are blurred and meshed. The child may lack any sense of emotional separation from the parent (Love, 2011).

Can of Worms? Pandora’s Box? Divulging Your Dark Secrets

What I regularly tell clients with such fears is that if they’re not yet ready to bring something up, then—by all means—don’t. But I also assure them that chances are that when they’re ready to disclose their zealously guarded secret, they’ll likely discover they’re actually not opening a can of worms at all (and certainly not some evil-saturated Pandora’s Box!). That is, I let them know that their willingness to divulge something which up till now has felt too dangerous to go public with, will probably defuse it. That the toxic energy so long attached to it will probably be released—at long last, discharged.

Almost invariably, when clients do evolve the mental and emotional strength to share the narrative of that which has saddled them with exaggerated feelings of anxiety, sorrow, guilt, or shame, the residual negative impact of that situation is greatly reduced. For they can then be helped to understand what they did—or what happened to them—in a new, more realistic, and substantially more favorable light. And once that event (or series of events) has been freshly illuminated, its wounding to their sense of self can begin to heal. Now they can recognize how their original, negatively distorted interpretation of what transpired seriously compromised their self-image. Continue reading “Can of Worms? Pandora’s Box? Divulging Your Dark Secrets”

Judith Lewis Herman > Quotes


“..[The] disclosure of the incest secret initiates a profound crisis for the family usually…the abuse has been going on for a number of years and has become an integral part of family life. Disclosure disrupts whatever fragile equilibrium has been maintained, jeopardizes the functioning of all family members, increases the likelihood of violent and desperate behavior, and places everyone, but particularly the daughter, at risk for retaliation.”

― Judith Lewis Herman, Father-Daughter Incest: With a New Afterword

The incestuous family

“Through an intensive clinical study of forty incest victims and numerous interviews with professionals in mental health, child protection, and law enforcement, Judith Herman develops a composite picture of the incestuous family. In a new afterword written especially for this edition, Herman offers an overview of the knowledge that has developed about incest and other forms of sexual abuse since this book was first published. Reviewing the extensive research literature that demonstrates the validity of incest survivors’ sometimes repressed and recovered memories, she convincingly challenges the rhetoric and methods of the backlash movement against incest survivors, and the concerted attempt to deny the events they find the courage to describe.”–Jacket Continue reading “The incestuous family”

Judith Herman

Judith Herman is best known for her contributions to the understanding of trauma and its victims, as set out in her second book, Trauma and Recovery.[2] There she distinguishes between single-incident traumas – one-off events – which she termed Type I traumas, and complex or repeated traumas (Type II).[3] Type I trauma, according to the United States Veterans Administration’s Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, “accurately describes the symptoms that result when a person experiences a short-lived psychological trauma”.[4] Type II – the concept of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) – includes “the syndrome that follows upon prolonged, repeated trauma”.[5] Although not yet accepted by DSM-IV as a separate diagnostic category, the notion of complex traumas has been found useful in clinical practice.[6]

Herman equally influentially set out a three-stage sequence of trauma treatment and recovery. The first involved regaining a sense of safety, whether through a therapeutic relationship, medication, relaxation exercises or a combination of all three.[7] The second phase involved active work upon the trauma, fostered by that secure base, and employing any of a range of psychological techniques.[8] The final stage was represented by an advance to a new post-traumatic life,[9] possibly broadened by the experience of surviving the trauma and all it involved.[10]

Herman was interviewed by Harry Kreisler, Executive Director of the Institute of International Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, for his ongoing series Conversations with History at the Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley.[11] She is currently working on a study into the effects of the justice system on victims of sexual violence, with a view to discovering a better way for victims of crimes to be allowed to interact with what she perceives as an ‘adversarial’ system of crime and punishment in the U.S.[12]



Continue reading “Judith Herman”

Effect of child abuse on the stages of behavioural development


Infancy is a critical period in a child’s development. During infancy, the brain, which is approximately one-quarter of the size of the adult brain, is one of the most undeveloped organs and it is highly susceptible to both the positive and the negative effects of the external environment. For instance, shaken baby syndrome, a result of physical abuse, damages the brain structure, which can have severe consequences for the health of an infant—namely mental retardation, hearing problems, visual problems, learning disabilities, and cognitive dysfunction. Some studies show that physically abused children have structural brain changes, including “smaller intracranial and cerebral volume,” smaller lateral ventricles, and smaller corpora callosa. The consequences of abuse might not manifest clinically until later in life. For example, the outcomes for infants who suffer brain damage from shaking can range from no apparent effects to permanent disability, including developmental delay, seizures or paralysis, blindness, and even death. Survivors might have substantially delayed effects of neurologic injury resulting in a range of impairments seen over the course of their lives, including cognitive deficits and behavioural problems. Recent Canadian data on children hospitalized for shaken baby syndrome showed that 19% died; 59% had neurologic deficits, visual impairment, or other health effects; and only 22% appeared well at the time of discharge. Data also indicate that babies who appear well when discharged from hospital might show evidence of cognitive or behavioural difficulties later on, possibly by school age.

High cortisol and catecholamine levels, which increase as a response to stress that results from abuse, have been linked to the destruction of brain cells and the disruption of normal brain connections, consequently affecting children’s behavioural development. Sleep disturbances, night terrors, and nightmares can be signs of infant abuse.

Toddler age:

By the second year, a child will usually react to stress with a display of angry and emotional expression. Stress accompanying any kind of abuse causes children to feel distress and frustration. The excessive anger is displayed in the form of aggressive behaviour and fighting with caregivers or peers. This form of response is intensified more with physical abuse.

Preschool age:

At this stage, children have similar reactions to the different types of abuse as younger children do. However, by ages 4 and 5, children might express their reaction to abuse through different behaviour. Boys tend to externalize their emotion through expression of anger, aggression, and verbal bullying. Girls are more likely to internalize their behavioural attitudes by being depressed and socially withdrawn, and having somatic symptoms such as headache and abdominal pain.

Primary school age:

At this age, children develop through peer interaction. Abused children often have difficulties with school, including poor academic performance, a lack of interest in school, poor concentration during classes, and limited friendships. They are often absent from school.


Adolescents who have experienced abuse might suffer from depression, anxiety, or social withdrawal. In addition, adolescents who live in violent situations tend to run away to what they perceive to be safer environments., They engage in risky behaviour such as smoking, drinking alcohol, early sexual activity, using drugs, prostitution, homelessness, gang involvement, and carrying guns.,, Psychiatric disorders are often seen in adolescents who have been abused.,, In one long-term study, 80% of young adults who had been abused met the diagnostic criteria for at least 1 psychiatric disorder by the age of 21.


Continue reading “Effect of child abuse on the stages of behavioural development”

How to Identify a Child Who Is Being Emotionally Abused

Mandated reporters are persons who encounter the child as part of their occupation, including child daycare providers, educators, legal and law enforcement personnel, and medical personnel. These reporters have just as much of an obligation to report suspected emotional abuse as they do physical or sexual abuse or neglect—it should be taken just as seriously. Emotional abuse may be difficult to identify because it often takes place in the confines of a child’s home.

A child’s behavior can indicate if there’s a problem at home. Inappropriate behavior that is either very immature or a little bit too mature for the child’s age can indicate abuse, as well a dramatic behavioral change. For example, a child who was formerly slightly aloof or didn’t seek attention might all of a sudden become clingy to non-abusive adults or compulsively seek affection from them.

Here are some potential warning signs of emotional abuse:

  • Desperately seeks affection from other adults
  • Decline in school performance
  • Developmental regression (like bedwetting or soiling after previously mastering bladder and bowel control)
  • Frequent complaints of headaches, stomachaches, or other somatic issues with no known cause
  • Loss of interest in social activities or other interests
  • Delayed emotional development
  • Depression
  • Attempts to avoid certain situations, such as going to an activity or another person’s house
  • Desire to hurt himself or other people on purpose
  • Anxiety
  • Low self-esteem

Continue reading “How to Identify a Child Who Is Being Emotionally Abused”