Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents
Lindsay C Gibson, PsyD
Copyright 2015, New Harbinger Publications
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What’s this book about?
This book looks at the long-term effects of having emotionally immature or distant parents. It is just under 200 pages. At first glance I thought it'd be a quick read. Though the information was easy to understand, I found myself re-reading paragraphs or stopping to think about and process the concepts discussed. It's not long, but it is concise and packed with information.
Gibson walks the reader through identifying emotionally immature parents, types of emotionally immature parents, how kids respond, how to heal, and how to avoid getting hooked back in to old dynamics with your parents. Also helpful is a chapter on identifying emotionally mature people. As a therapist, I particularly appreciated this chapter. Often people can easily identify what they don't want and yet have a hard time knowing what they do want or knowing what healthy relationships look like, especially if they have never experienced them.
Who do we recommend it for?
Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents is for you if you were the sensitive child of distant, driven, passive, or overly-emotional parents. This book might also be useful if you are married to one of these adult children. It could help you understand yourself or your spouse better.
"With a mature parent, the child's remedy for loneliness is simply to go to the parent for affectionate connection. But if your parent was scared of deep feelings, you might have been left with an uneasy sense of shame for needing comforting." p. 8
"Emotional loneliness is so distressing that a child who experiences it will do whatever is necessary to make some kind of connection with the parent. These children may learn to put other people's needs first as the price of admission to a relationship. Instead of expecting others to provide support or show interest in them, they may take on the role of helping others, convincing everyone that they have few emotional needs of their own. Unfortunately, this tends to create even more loneliness, since covering up your deepest needs prevents genuine connection with others." p. 10
"Because anger is an expression of individuality, it's the emotion that emotionally immature parents most often punish their children for having. But anger can be a helpful emotion because it gives people energy to do things differently and lets them see themselves as worthy of sticking up for. It's often a good sign when overly responsible, anxious, or depressed people begin to be consciously aware of feeling angry. It indicates that their true self is coming to the fore and that they're beginning to care about themselves." p. 132
"A common fantasy among children of emotionally immature parents is that their parents will have a change of heart and finally love them by showing concern. Unfortunately, self-preoccupied parents refuse all invitations to fulfill their part in their child's healing story. Focused on their own healing fantasy, they expect their children to make up for their childhood hurts." p. 142
"Although you may have learned to reject yourself thanks to an overly critical inner voice that expects perfection, you can reclaim your true self . . . .You're free to extend compassion to yourself and even grieve what you've lost as a result of having emotionally immature parents. . . . You no longer have to exhaust yourself with excessive empathy for other people. In addition, you're likely to find that your relationship with your parents becomes more tolerable as you relinquish the need for their emotional acceptance. And as you shed your old family role, you can relate to your parents more honestly, without needing them to change." p. 176
Negatives, drawbacks, hesitations about recommending this book
Gibson explains that children react in different ways to emotionally immature parents. She calls them externalizers and internalizers. Externalizers don't learn from their mistakes, look to other people to make them happy, and have a coping style that is self-defeating and destructive. Internalizers are sensitive people-pleasers; they feel anxiety when they displease others. This book is for internalizers.
I kept expecting the author to address what to do if you recognize some of your emotionally immature parents' traits in yourself, but she didn't. That's just not what this book is about. This book isn't for the emotionally immature. It's not to help you help the emotionally immature people in your life. It's not for the externalizers. It is not a thorough guide for all things relating to emotional immaturity in adults, but it is excellent for what it is. Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents is for those who were anxious, lonely, shame-filled kids looking to heal and have better relationships in adulthood.