Why is overprotection abuse?
In my previous article 'trauma and therapy', it is suggested that trauma is a highly subjective individual experience. What appears to be benign can be traumatic to an experiencing individual. Overprotecting parents can leave their children with a personality prone to experiencing trauma. It could be as much as detrimental as abuse or neglect in some cases, if not more, to an individual as it can be repeated in accumulation without being noticed because of its benign façade (after all, parents are trying to protect their children).
However, its lasting effect will be formidable as their traumatic experiences are entangled with their pathological personality: for instance, of being needy and easily frustrated with the lack of resilience and independence. Therefore, it will be hard to unpick and understand their traumatic experience when they are likely to be labelled as narcissistic or its damming variations such as attention-seeking, moaning, whiny, selfish, or even autistic (not in a diagnostic sense).
The parents’ overprotection or intrusive interference can deter a development of a good enough sense of self, which is vital for the emotional well-being. Parents’ incontinent desire to give 'the goodness' to children can be seen as being caught in the unconscious fantasy of omnipotence and omniscience. ‘I know everything you need. Just do as you are told, then you will be alright.’
On a close inspection, the fantasy can be a defence against a persecutory feeling they may have about the world out there in accordance with their own deep sense of themselves as weak, incompetent or inappropriate. It is parents' 'f***ed-up' (borrowing from Philip Larkin's) love in action by projecting what belongs to them onto their children (despite/with all their good intentions). Every time a child’s opportunity to explore the world in his/her own pace (thus, by making a mistake) is taken away or pre-empted, the child loses the strength in trusting his/her own self. It is like they are cocooned in a sanitised room in the name of removing any risk of getting a germ or injury from outdoor activities. They lose an opportunity to strengthen the immune system as a result.
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About Hyun Lee
I am a psychodynamic psychotherapist, working in private practice and in an organisational setting. I am based in North London, Golders Green and Harrow.… Read more
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