A few years ago I stumbled upon a book that speaks to adult children. Entitled Toxic Parents (Forward, 1989) it describes various situations where scared/powerless children are stuck inside adult bodies still trying to please their parents. Chapters cover a range of topics (below) and end with recommendations on reclaiming your life (and not repeating your parents’ mistakes). A short summary of this book review:
- Myth of the perfect parent: realizing that parents make mistakes and it is necessary to take them down from their pedestals)
- Inadequate parents: where children are triangulated to provide a parent emotional support, invisible children and the vanishing parent, co-dependency, hurt by the things the parent didn’t do
- Controllers: pretty obvious
- Alcoholics: the secrets, discussion around the buddy system
- Verbal abusers: competitive or perfectionistic parents
- Physical abusers: confusing abuse and love
- Sexual abusers: the many faces of coercion, insane jealousy
I am by no means a parent basher and realize that all experiences need to be understood in a comprehensive framework addressing the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual causes and solutions for the problem.
Although I do not concur with all the author has to say, I do find that it is useful reading material to aid one in verbalizing or conceptualizing their family dynamics. Especially if you find yourself saying something like “I had a normal childhood – I wasn’t abused, I had good parents. So why do I feel so angry.”
You can order the book on Amazon or try to locate it at your local library.
“When helping you is hurting me” provides a fascinating read – useful for personal wellness for those in the helping/social professions as well as persons experiencing difficulties with assertiveness.
Carmen Renee Berry writes that two powerful (and common) belief systems causes the Messiah Trap.
- If I don’t do it nobody else will (grandiosity).
- Other people are more important than me (worthlessness).
Combining these two beliefs drives us to outshine others in our helping compulsion. This is a powerfully destructive
Messiahs hurt when they help others. Love is not the motivation for helping: rather inadequacy, powerlessness, obligation, rage. They use other people to work out their own inner pain. They need to feel other people’s pain in order to feel their own. In sum, they do good things for wrong reasons.
She writes that these “messiahs” can come in many different formats: Pleaser, Rescuer, Giver, Counselor, Protector, Teacher, Crusader. They tend to give others what they desperately need to receive themselves.
In a society that worships its heroes, it’s not unlikely that you could be in the Messiah Trap yourself! Have a look at the clues below:
- Pleaser: Can’t say no to requests
- Rescuer: Seems to always attract people in crisis
- Giver: Constantly gives beyond their ability
- Counsellor: Recruits people who need to talk
- Protector: Makes choices for people
- Teacher: Hides behind the adoration of the group
- Crusader: Gets frustrated when they can’t bring about change at their desired speed
Berry provides useful tools to assist persons to scape the messiah trap including acknowledging that you are caught in the trap, asking for help, and taking the risk of healing.
Take a look in your library or find it on Amazon. The important bit is that it doesn’t stop on your side table: ask for help. Confess your dilemma to a trusted friend or book an appointment with a counsellor. Let’s be part of a society that helps others for the right reasons.