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1.26 Adult Children of Emotionally-Immature Parents

Noted author of the book the best selling book

Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents," Dr. Lindsay Gibson, is back to talk with Ameé about life as an adult who had emotionally-immature parents. When a child is in an environment that is leaving them starved of the emotional connections they need to develop properly, they find ways to survive. However, these survival mechanisms or adaptions to the environment become the norm and carry through into our adult life. Without developing self-awareness and understanding the types of parents we had and the environment we grew up in, we are apt to continue to relive or recreate our conditions over and over again.

Listen as Ameé and Lindsay talk about the types of coping styles children develop and how they influence us as adults in parenting, romantic relationships and life in general. 



*May contain some grammatical errors

Amee: 00:00:48 All right. Today I am really excited because I have back with me on one broken mom, Dr. Lindsey Gibson and Dr. Gibson is a clinical psychologist with a private practice that specializes in psychotherapy for adult children of you emotionally immature parents and she's the author of one of my favorite books, which is the "Adult Children of Emotionally-Immature Parents: How to deal from distant rejecting or self involved parents." She's a writer, a professor, she's got a few other books and in fact she's actually working on another one that'll be coming out. So she and I haven't talked for about three months and we've been scheduling around a lot of her editing schedule for her, her book. So I'm really, really happy to have her back on here. So welcome back, Dr. Gibson.

Lindsay Gibson: 00:01:31 Oh, thank you. Amee, it's wonderful to be back

Amee: 00:01:33 and I, and I love your accent. I don't know if I said that before, but it's so pleasant. Just a nice southern accent.

Lindsay Gibson: 00:01:39 Glad to hear that.

Amee: 00:01:41 So where are you located in the u s

Lindsay Gibson: 00:01:43 I'm in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Amee: 00:01:45 Okay. And did you grow up there out on the east coast?

Lindsay Gibson: 00:01:48 Uh, yeah, I did grow up on the east coast, but in northern Virginia at, but I've been in tidewater, Virginia here for many, many years. So this feels like home now.

Amee: 00:01:59 Okay, that's awesome. Well, so for anybody that's wondering, that's, that's where the delightful accent comes from. Um, well, and so when we first talked, we got, we really kind of went through the overview of the books that you have here and you know, emotionally immature parents are probably something that many people have in their life and may not have been able to identify or put a finger on it. And so when you and I had talked originally, we were really only kind of able to kind of just touch on the topic, introduced the concept of the parent. And then today what I wanted for us to, to get into was to really start to talk about the, uh, the affects on the adults a little bit more deeply and what are some of the ways in which we may have coped as children that we are probably still playing out or are coping with as adults today.

Amee: 00:02:49 And I know that, um, one of the, one of the saddest pieces of the book, and if any of you are listening and you haven't read the books and I absolutely recommend that you get it. Um, and there's a whole chapter about, and we'll talk about this type of a person, which is the internalizer and that growing up around emotionally immature parents, you find yourself of finding ways to cope and, um, deal and by playing roles or just your personality is affected and developed through this. And I know that for me, I resonated a lot with, you know, the section of the book here. And so first before we really jumped into this, for anyone that's arriving at the show at One Broken Mom for the first time today, and this is the very first episode they're listening to, I'd like to ask you, Lindsey if you can go back and describe what an emotionally immature parent is.

Lindsay Gibson: 00:03:41 Yeah, sure. Um, the term emotionally immature is something that I came up with that I hadn't read about anywhere else. And it's a, it's a broad term, but it's very descriptive. Um, and I like it better than any kind of clinical diagnosis or, um, other kinds of catchy names that really focused on pathology. Um, what I liked about calling these parents emotionally immature is that they truly do come from a very, uh, childlike place where they are very self involved like children are. But they also have this other dimension of being self preoccupied because of probable wounding or trauma, uh, or emotional deprivation that they had and their own backgrounds. And anybody who has an emotionally immature parent, if you think back to stories that your parent has told about their parenting, uh, or the parenting that they got and their childhood, there are often many signs of this unhappiness that they have from their own nurturing history.

Lindsay Gibson: 00:04:56 So it's a emotionally immature means that they tend to have kind of stopped developing psychologically in some ways. They may be great socially, they may be great at their job, but when it comes to intimate relationships, they tend to be very self involved. Uh, they're real black and white thinkers. They tend to be quite judgemental. Um, they don't have a lot of patience and forbearance and warmth that children need. They tend to be in a rush a lot of the times because there's an uncomfortableness about them and they're not the kind of cuddle the parent that would talk to you about your feelings or help you to get through a tough time, but they might be great when you're sick. Um, they tend to be kind of concrete and material that way. They may give gifts, they may loan you money. It may take good care of you when you're sick, but when it comes to making you feel valued and listened to and heard and seen, instead, they tend to pull back when that kind of intimacy is needed.

Lindsay Gibson: 00:06:12 Um, in fact, one of the terms that describes them is emotionally phobic, meaning that they're scared of intense emotions. So if you as the child get upset or have a need, um, some kinds of emotional emergency, that kind of freaks them out a bit and they will tend to pull back or shut you down just because they have not developed the capacity to deal with those strong feelings themselves. Hmm. So they can be very contradictory, uh, in terms of sometimes they're nice, sometimes they're not, and the children end up feeling like, uh, they may have done something wrong or there's something lacking in them because they can't get a good connection going with these parents. But that's the nature of the emotional immaturity is that they have a big problem, uh, establishing that kind of connection that children need at an emotional level.

Amee: 00:07:15 Yeah. And I'm glad you pointed that out because I, um, in terms of the fact that they can be nice, that there, it's not like there's a parent that shuts you down, like, you know, stop crying or that we think of, you know, you're, you're upset about something and they're locking you out. I feel like in life,

Lindsay Gibson: 00:07:32 although some of them, I just don't want to interrupt their on that because some of them can be that way, but that's just the subtype that said that is that way and they're not all that way. So, uh, but it can happen, but there are a lot of them who don't do that. You're right.

Amee: 00:07:46 Yeah. Because I think I've seen some where they just, you, like you said phobic when you said the word phobic, that resonated with me where I was like, yeah, you kind of see them and they just, they almost do have a scared, confused and uncertain look on their face. They can be very nice people, but when it gets to the emotional piece of it, there's no follow through.

Lindsay Gibson: 00:08:06 Well, I love that description. Scared, confused. Look on their face. Yeah. That's it.

Amee: 00:08:11 Yeah. And I, and I have seen that sadly with it, you know, where you're just like, okay, we, we've just ventured into a realm of where this is a, you know, not something that you're comfortable with being able to do now. Um, empathy is one of these things that we talk a great deal about how important it is to teach our children how to be empathetic. And, um, do you think that you emotionally immature parents lack that? That, that's one of the things that maybe that's one of the things that they may not have where they're able to read their children and interpret their children's feelings enough to be able to respond appropriately to them.

Lindsay Gibson: 00:08:47 Oh, thank you so much for bringing that up because yes. Um, that is a hallmark, uh, the lack of empathy. Uh, they can show empathy in situations that aren't, yeah. Very intimate and close. For instance, they may feel empathy or sympathy for somebody who's not real close to them, but when it comes to say their, their child who needs the parent to feel for them or to genuinely resonate with their emotional experience. Yeah. They, they are very limited in their ability to do that. So what ends up happening through that lack of empathy from the parent is that the child feels like they can't get close enough yeah. To the parents. And that ends up leaving the child on the state of emotional loneliness where, you know, here I am, I'm with my parents, I'm with my family. And yet somehow I feel set apart or I don't feel like I belong where I don't feel this good connection. Um, I'm, I'm having to try to hardest this is not coming easily. And that's because the parent doesn't have the kind of empathic attunement to the child that makes the child feel seen and received and doesn't build up that sense of connection.

Amee: 00:10:12 Yeah. And it's, you know, as a child and you're watching your parents seem to show more care and concern for other people and then yet yourself feeling like they don't seem to care or have any concern for you. And it's a confusing, a confusing thing to be around. Um, so when you're working with adults and reviewing all of this, what you've found through your work is that the coping that a child kind of deal, you know, kind of puts together for themselves in order to survive through this. And, and to live through this experience, you have like two distinct forms that you talk about and one is called healing fantasies and then self roles. So let's talk about healing fantasies. What's a healing fantasy and how is that, uh, a coping mechanism or a, you know, a tool that a child with an emotionally immature parent uses?

Lindsay Gibson: 00:10:59 Yeah. Well, if we go back to the basics, a child's number one job is to forge some kind of, um, emotional connection to their parents. They, they need to be important to the parent. They need to matter to the parent. And if they're not feeling that that is happening, then children tend to find a way to, uh, make sure that their emotional needs are met. So basically, there are two broad ways that kids can go. Um, one is that they will, um, try to get their needs met through externalizing that is they will act up, they will force things in the environment to get the parent to respond to them or they will internalize and when they internalize, they go inside and say, how can I sit here out how to get it, this mom or dad to love me and treat me as someone important and lovable to them?

Lindsay Gibson: 00:12:12 Um, either way, whether you're an internalizer or an externalizer, which we'll talk about soon, I think the healing fantasy is that I can do something, I can act out or I can find a way to change myself so that I can be in such a way that this parent will give me what I need in terms of emotional connection. And that healing fantasy is that's your driver, uh, in the relationship with these parents. I mean, these parents, when you get older can be incredibly frustrating and draining and yet the adult child, many times to keep this fantasy going, that somehow they'll find a way to trigger some kind of deeper parental attachment and they will be able to get that love and emotional support that they missed in childhood and healing fantasy as poignant and understandable as it is, can really get in the way of finding a, a real genuine relationship on the terms that are possible in, in, you know, in present day life. And so the healing fantasies are understandable, but they can keep you trying in a way that really isn't productive and prevents you from having a more genuine relationship in the present day with your parents.

Amee: 00:13:48 Yeah, and I, and I, for me, you know, I always reflect on this. I kind of described life as, you know, you kind of learn how to live in a box, you know, and in the box you're able to generate, you know, the what your wishes could be, what you imagined life could be, what needs to change for you. Um, and I actually do believe that today as an adult, you know, I rely a lot on my creativity and it's a, it's a very strong skill that I have that I'm very grateful to have because not everybody has, you know, all of this. But, but I think that part of that was a skill that unfortunately was developed through the, started off by imaginary play that gave me a better life, you know, and kind of, and, and growing in any folding it, developing it.

Amee: 00:14:36 And then, um, and then, you know, you, you talk about what's the downside and it when, how it affects adult relationships just in general. And I would have to say that in the end, the downside to have having such a great fantasy life in my head and being able to soothe myself, the fantasy life is that it kept me from getting out of bad situations with, you know, the codependent relationships, abusive relationships. Because I learned how to by living vicariously through my fantasy so well that I could then just adapt to the reality and then just go retreat in my head to get away from all of that. Is that something that you see often with other people?

Lindsay Gibson: 00:15:14 That is a beautiful description of the process where a person's internal strength, their ability to, you know, make it through a difficult, um, uh, unsatisfying situation becomes actually a liability when it gets too far into really, it's kind of like you, you learn to live on fumes and you call it a full tank of gas and you may not even be aware that you're not getting what you need. Um, because one of the things that happens with these children is that no one is no parent is saying, you know, honey, I didn't meet your needs this morning. Um, I'm afraid that you're living in an emotionally neglectful environment with me. So I think I'm going to try harder to be more consistent and more empathic parents doesn't repair it, doesn't have these concepts. They don't know how to explain it to the child. The child has the concepts, think about this stuff. So the child is always flying by the seat of their pants, trying to make the best of a unrewarding situation oftentimes. And

Lindsay Gibson: 00:16:38 they have learned to stay out of touch with their dissatisfaction and pain because there's just too much of it. So the fantasy is like a perfect example of resilience and self reliance in, in children like this. Yeah. But when it's used in a situation where it's not going to improve something, I mean it's not like you're using it out in the wilderness and you're trying to get back to civilization, that's great. But when you use it in a relationship where maybe that partner is also emotionally immature and unable to give at an emotional level, then it just keeps being a one person job. And these adult children keep taking it on because they don't have the concepts. Just think about what's really happening, uh, in the relationship.

Amee: 00:17:33 Bring that awareness to somebody that you're working with that who is excusing a lot of their, of the behaviors around them because the fantasy is validating it. How do you kind of snap them into realizing, listen, you know, this is you coping here and not really what's going on.

Lindsay Gibson: 00:17:54 Right. Um, well, I never had any luck snapping anybody into anything

Lindsay Gibson: 00:18:03 drive and would like to, but it's, it's more my experience of it has then that they respond well when my response is puzzled and questioning. Um, I'll hear something that sounds like there, uh, being taken advantage of or they're making light of something that sounds pretty serious to me and in terms of, uh, feeling mistreated or not listened to whatever it is. And so I always pause and I back up to that moment and then I really invite them to get back in touch with their feelings in that situation. So we'll, we'll get very, um, very granular here. Very basic, like, well, hang on a second. When they said that, what was it that you actually felt in that moment? And they'll say, well, you know, I thought blah, blah. I'll say, no, not what you thought. What did it feel like in your body when they said this? And then we're able to start getting them back in touch with their inner self, which will always tell you whether your energy is going up or going down. And if we're not being treated well or if we're not being emotionally nurtured by the people we live with, it, um, you, you will always be able to tell if someone asks you to slow down, you can tell whether that made your energy go up

Lindsay Gibson: 00:19:40 or made it go down. And that's the beginning of getting back in touch with your own guidance inside instead of following the way that the emotionally mature parent sort of the storyline that they gave you. Like it's really okay and we're just kidding when we make fun of you, that's just good, clean fun or, uh, it's not that we don't love you, it's just that, you know, we have to work or we forgot to pick you up or all of this kind of means nothing. But when you start tuning into your feelings, it's really the beginning of being able to tell what it is that you need and what's not good for you.

Amee: 00:20:23 Right. Okay. Now you talk about self roles, which is just another, another thing that a child will do. And one of my other guests that I speak with, um, quite a bit, she works with narcissistic abuse survivors and, and so, um, which is a form of an emotionally immature parent. It's not all, although emotionally immature parents are narcissistic and, but narcissistic parents are, you know, emotionally immature. And she, and she talks about, and you guys both used, I love that you both use marbles. You know, when you and I talked originally talking about how, you know, emotions are marbles, they don't really connect together. They're just their own isolated things in that, um, uh, the, the narcissistic mom will actually start to divide the, the children into these roles, these marbles. Now you're talking here that sometimes kids actually develop their own role and, and so how is that done? How does a child develop their own role to play with their parents?

Lindsay Gibson: 00:21:20 Okay, well that all kids are trying to get their emotional needs met, which means that they are trying to forge an emotional connection in which they feel safe, secure. And also that the other person cares about what's going on inside them and that they matter to that person a lot. That's what kids are going for. And they need that, that kind of um, feedback and engagement in order to successfully formed their own personalities and their own inner security. So the child is tasked with that. That's what they've gotta do in order to have, okay, uh, what they need kind of the vital nutrients of, um, of emotion. They will try to get them that and they will try to figure it, figure out how to get that. Now one of the ways that they come up with is what sort of role can I take on in the family?

Lindsay Gibson: 00:22:23 This is all subconscious, but you know, this is kind of the way it goes. They, by trial and error, they, they say, what kind of role can I take on in the family that will make me matter to my parent? What kind of role will get me attention and connection and a sense that their focus is on me. So for different kids, they come up with different kinds of things. Like one kid might figure out, oh, when I pitch a fit and throw things, I get what I want and everybody pays a lot of attention to me. I got it. That's the role self and I need to, boy, lots of times kids will, if they have a different temperament, they might decide that, oh, when I control myself and I don't show many needs, that's when my parents seems to be very pleased with me. Or I noticed that mom talks about what a good little helper I am to her friends. Uh Oh that, that's, that's what I need to do. I need to not show my needs and be very, very helpful and good. You know, those are two vastly different roles. But depending on the child, they might seem to be just the ticket and they both my work with the parent.

Amee: 00:23:45 Now you talk about emotional development, and I know this is something that not a lot of people really, um, understand in terms of the, of the neuroscience behind this, that, you know, kids don't just need this and they're not being needy because they need some emotional support. That this is real life brain development that's happening, that the child's brain is forming and emotional development is a big piece of it and it feels wishy washy because it's not like, you know, growing, you know, your bones get longer, you know, you get taller and all that other stuff. There's a lot of misunderstandings I think about brain development and that people just haven't learned enough about that aspect of it. And so, um, I think that, you know, when we talk about, I'm just kind of saying this for the listeners out there, you know, when we talk about that the kids need emotional development. It's because as you said, this is how we're learning emotions and they are the emotions that we store that then we rely on through the rest of our life. And so the messages that we're getting at this point in time. And so when you, when, when children develop these roles, they carry them on into their adulthood, don't they?

Lindsay Gibson: 00:24:55 Yes, they do. For instance, let's say that, that, uh, that last child I've talked about, the good girl that doesn't have any needs. So let's say she gets married and she's attracted to what feels familiar to her, which is a person that, you know, may pay her a lot of attention at the outset, but then once the relationship is established, or maybe after she gets married, then they like don't relate to her in the same way or they're not really interested in her needs. So, so she's beginning to move back into a similar situation that she may have had in childhood in terms of feeling emotionally deprived.

Amee: 00:25:40 Lindsay, because you are, you keep describing my life.

Lindsay Gibson: 00:25:55 this hypothetical girl as a woman, she says, oh, I know what to do. I've just got to love him enough that he will give me love back. There's the healing fantasy that she may have had about her parents. So this, this woman, um, has learned how to not cost her mate any kind of emotional work or worry or, um, anything that he has to put any energy into in terms of emotional intimacy. She's learned how to be a good girl in her childhood and she will try to make this healing fantasy work with husband or her mate. And of course the longer this goes on the say the man is, is happy with this arrangement because he's not interested in that kind of emotional closeness. But she becomes over time more and more emotionally deprived. And so, you know, at some point there is, there has to be some kind of reckoning where that emotional deprivation needs to be addressed.

Lindsay Gibson: 00:27:12 So that's where you get situations where, um, the, the woman might, in this example, she might try to reach the husband. She may start asking for what she needs, but it may be too late in terms of the marriage has deteriorated or maybe the mate is just not interested in doing that kind of relationship. And so this is a time, often when relationships start to break down, when, when the adult child realizes that this healing fantasy isn't going to happen. And also that this role self that they've been trying to live, uh, hasn't brought them at all what they wanted.

Amee: 00:27:57 And that's probably usually the point at which you've got your phone rings and an email comes in and somebody says, I need to, I need to talk. You know, when you're, when somebody is just at that emotional emptiness there. Um, one of the things that I, you know, I had found for myself, and I know this doesn't always happen with other people and it's, you know, I wouldn't describe it as a severe form of it, that it definitely has been a way of, maybe it's a healing fantasy, I don't know what you would call it, but love addiction and the, um, the, the fantasy of, you know, finding someone who would finally love me and, and having that shape, you know, relationships from that way. Um, is that, is that something that isn't a kind of an outfall of how a a child, you know, have an uh, an emotionally immature parent evolves into an adult that you'd seen?

Lindsay Gibson: 00:28:46 Oh, absolutely. Isn't that a heartbreaking?

Amee: 00:28:50 Oh, totally. Yeah.

Lindsay Gibson: 00:28:53 And of course it's, the child has no way to understand what happened to them. Um, you know, that little boy, that little girl has, like I said, no parent is identifying what they're doing to that child at an emotional level because they don't know. So without awareness, I mean, that's why I wrote this book because I wanted people to have a vocabulary and a language for understanding these types of relationships. But without that, all you can do is go on instinct and that's where the healing fantasies are. The love addiction or okay, whatever comes in because you know, that poor child is still in there trying to get somebody to give them the support and the love that they need in order to, you know, complete their development to find themselves to feel valuable. And, and that process goes on until that person becomes consciously aware of what it is that they need. Um, and that they don't find it in love addiction. They find it in there, uh, own self awareness and their own growth.

Amee: 00:30:10 Yeah. Yeah. And that's, I, for any like my 2 cents to that, I mean, I know you're the professional therapist, but as the person recovering, that's 100% correct. You know, seeking it out in somebody else that you're just waiting for the right person to love you the right way is not that solution. At some point, as an adult, you know, the boat, the ship has sailed. You know, it should have come from your caregivers when you were little to teach, taught you that security and all that. But once you're at the adult level, it's up to you to, to learn how to, to kind of bring that to yourself, which it feels unfair, you know? And that's what I tell everybody. It's like, I get it. You know, it doesn't feel fair that you have to do this to yourself right now and that you're dealing with all of that. But it is your, you know, if you want to feel better and happier, it is your responsibility to kind of take some accountability that you're just going to have to find it, find a great therapist to work with and, and get started with it. So, yeah,

Lindsay Gibson: 00:31:02 yeah, it is up to you. But it, it's a very important, you know, whether you're doing it through books or talking to an insightful friend or a group therapy, um, okay. Individual therapy, it helps to have somebody that can give you ideas that maybe you couldn't come up with on your own. So that's crucial. It's sort of like there, there's some self examinations that you can't do, um, on yourself and it really helps to get some input from outside because that self awareness and that self growth, you know, lots of times people just like you say, they want that other person to supply that to them that feels natural. Like it didn't childhood, someone should give this to me to correct. That's right. But as an adult, this whole process of becoming aware of yourself can be so rewarding. I mean, uh, once you start getting into it, it's a very fulfilling kind of pursuit to find yourself again. And once that starts to happen, it's like the appeal of a bad relationship just loses its cachet. I mean, yeah, it's just not attract to you anymore. And then, and then over time you start naturally defined yourself, being attracted to more self aware people who are, you know, frankly nicer and more so, you know, you change yourself and you'll find that your outside relationship world will change too.

Amee: 00:32:45 Yeah, for sure. And that, and that's a great message of hope and one that I like to always like carry on with everybody. And, and also once you have that deep self awareness, you know, it's not like the movie the Matrix where you can take the red pill or the blue pill and you can choose to go back in time and pretend once you have done it, you're done. Like your world is different, your life will never be the same. And it's a, and it's brighter. It has definitely brighter. Um, so the two types of big buckets of coping is externalizing and internalizing. Right. And so what's the difference, you know, as between these two types of coping mechanism that kids slash adults end up developing?

Lindsay Gibson: 00:33:26 Yeah. Well the, um, the externalizers are, well let me, let me back up for a second. As any parent can tell you no baby is the same as another baby and you know, parents with multiple children will, you know, be happy to tell you that, you know, they all come into the world kind of themselves, uh, from the very beginning. And so that, you know, whatever you want to attribute that to, whether that's genetics or whatever it is. Um, babies tend to have different temperaments. They have different levels of sensitivity. Um, they have different levels of reactivity. And this is not just theory. I mean there's just loads of, um, they be research and, uh, things to back this up. So we're all unique from the beginning. So let's say that, okay, you are a kid who is very reactive. That is when you get stimulated by something, you naturally do something.

Lindsay Gibson: 00:34:44 Um, there are other kids who when they get stimulated by something in the environment, they kind of retreat or they pull back or they become very quiet and they get big eyes and they observe, okay, these are very, very different coping styles that are in babies. So now to go back to, uh, the two types that I talk about in the book, the externalizer is the more reactive and impulsive time and their, their tendency is to get rid of stress as soon as it hits. So if they don't get what they want or they're not being paid attention to or they're scared or whatever kind of emotional experience they're having, their go to resource on is too react to do something to sort of force a change or a response from the environment through their own action. Unfortunately, when you kind of blow off stress like that, immediately, nothing sits in you very long for you to learn how to cope with it internally.

Lindsay Gibson: 00:35:59 So these are the kind of of kids who tend to get in trouble a lot or a, they will have meltdowns or they will be very demanding. It's all externally driven, um, looking for a response from the environment to help them manage their emotions. On the other hand, the internalizing kid tends to be a much more sensitive and perceptive kid that is, they will look at something for a long time. It's almost like they're interested, um, in a way they like to take in stuff, whereas the externalizing kid likes to blow stuff out. So when the internalizer is dealing with a difficult situation, they're likely to pull in and feel things very deeply. That is in many ways and asset because they go inside and they do something with the experience within themselves. Now when you grow up, the people who can do that, who can go inside themselves and deal with stuff, they tend to have an easier time of it.

Lindsay Gibson: 00:37:13 Um, compared to the externalizers who, you know, have just punched somebody in the nose or stormed out of the classroom or, you know, gotten into a fist fight. Um, those people have hard lives. The internalized internalized there is able to in many ways cope better, but at great cost internally because they tend to have much more internal conflict. They worry more, they think about things more, uh, and they try to solve everything through their own self improvement or through changing themselves. They see them selves as responsible like, well, what did I do to cause this? And that is a very particular internalizing response. You know, if you're with good people, boy, what a great way to be because the other people will meet you and say, well, yes you did do that, but I did this. There's a mutuality of that kind of responsibility taking. But when you have an internalizer who ends up with somebody who's emotionally immature, emotionally mature person would be happy to say, yeah, you did. And I, I really mad about that. And you want to stop doing that and take care of me. Yeah. So it's a, it's a good way of, it's a more, I would say, a more complex, maybe more mature way of coping, but it can really have its own, um, downside too.

Amee: 00:38:52 Now, do you see where people become a blend of both? Because I can think of someone who was incredibly reflective and quiet and didn't blow off, but after they spent a great deal of time thinking about their problem, then they're, their conclusion was it is that it was everybody else's fault. And so you're just like, MMM, okay. Um, and then on the other hand, I know that I feel like I, I'm bucketed in the internalizer mode, but when under stress I definitely did externalizer type things, you know, behaved a little bit more friendly and stuff like that. So, um, you, you do see that you, you can end up being one or the other and sometimes a little bit of both of them. Is that right?

Lindsay Gibson: 00:39:36 Oh, definitely. It's a continuum. It's a continuum. It's a continuum of human behavior. Like we all have that capacity from internalizers. And all the way through the externalizer end. I mean, people can be shocked at what they're capable of doing and an externalizing way of if a situation is bad enough. Um, and we want that. We want to be impulsively react does in an emergency because it would save our lives. We also want to be, you know, very, very internal and very worried about things when there's a high cost and we don't want to do things off the cuff. We, we'd really do want to look at all the ramifications of some things. So yeah. Yeah, you can, you can be, you can experience internalizing or externalizing responses depending on the external situation, but as a general style will pick one or the other. Um, not, not you'll pick, but you know, you'll, you'll end up coping more, uh, either in nick internalizing or externalizing is a way. So it's, it's kind of like extroversion and introversion in that no introvert has no extrovert tendencies and vice versa. But there will be sort of a comfort zone that's going to go more toward one side or the other. That person that you were talking about that takes stuff in and then concludes that it's everybody else's fault.

Amee: 00:41:10 Yeah.

Lindsay Gibson: 00:41:11 Right. Yeah. That one. Yeah. That person, you know, I mean, when it comes right down to it, they're kind of externalizers. They, they are taking it in and they're thinking about it, but their worldview is that somebody else has been doing this to them. And that's really the key. Whereas a true internalizer would, gosh, did I do something? Was that my fault? Um, four, I need to think about what I did. I need to ask somebody about this. It's very different.

Amee: 00:41:43 Yeah. I didn't label them, but that's what I was thinking too. They felt more external that even though they were thoughtful, it doesn't mean that they were, they're still, their worldview was that it was reaction, like it was something else outside of my control. It's not something that I'm responsible for accountable for. You know, when I read the book and I was reading the section of the book I wrote in the margins, locus of control is the relationship of this locus of control to the externalizer internalizer flip flop.

Lindsay Gibson: 00:42:14 Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely. I don't bring that in in the book, you know, sort of felt like a, I would stick with one thing, but yeah, the locus of control. Yeah. The good thing for the internalizer is that many times they feel like the locus of control is within themselves and lots of times and adult life it is, uh, the externalizer on the other hand is looking outside themselves and then they are blaming the world or blaming other people as being the cause of their problems. But even though that feels good in the, in the immediate moment, you can see how that would weaken a person because if you're, if it's control of your life is, uh, held by people that, that you know, you are blaming or resenting, that's kind of a weekend place to be. Whereas if you're looking at yourself, you're being self reflective instead of blaming. There's a lot that you can do as an adult with that kind of self reflection that you can change to adjust the situation. So it's actually a better coping style.

Amee: 00:43:25 No, I've seen some things where people assert that locus of control. Maybe one of those things that we are born with, not necessarily an experience based development, but that some people might be born with an internal versus external locus of control. Do you think that that's something that you subscribe to, that idea?

Lindsay Gibson: 00:43:44 You know, I don't know. I don't know about that research, so I can't really address it.

Amee: 00:43:49 Yeah. And I've seen it like it's, it's definitely in its out, but um, you know, it, but also when you realize experiences do actually have a huge impact on how we developed. And I'm like, I'm out. I'm out. So I thought I'd ask you that though. Um, so when you're in a totalizer, um, because the people that are listening to the show, they are taking some accountability. So, you know, I'm, I'm aiming for the fact that 99% of the listeners would probably identify as an internalizer. Um, what is it like to be an internalizer is, I mean, you've listed here like highly sensitive and perceptive. People probably use the word [inaudible] to describe themselves if they feel like they're an internalizer type. Is that right? What are some of the other things that, yeah, definitely fertilizers.

Lindsay Gibson: 00:44:32 Okay. Well they tend to have very strong emotions. I mean, these emotions may be held in, um, but it's that kind of, um, uh, depth to emotion that that is, um, extremely important to be aware of with internalizers because even though they're holding stuff in there very deep feelers and so they, they tend to that plus their sensitivity, uh, can get them a lot of grief from emotionally immature people who think that they're overreacting or they're making mountains out of mole hills or taking things too seriously or you know, they get a lot of grief that way. Um, but they, they basically have those strong emotions mean also that they have a very deep capacity for connection. Um, they, they want to share their internal experience with other people. Um, that's that part of that wanting to be known and seen and they really want to connect heart to heart with somebody who understands them.

Lindsay Gibson: 00:45:44 That feeling of, you know, wanting someone to understand you is like a hallmark of the internalizer and basically, you know, that is the basis of emotional intimacy is that two people try to understand each other, each other's subjective, internal experience. So that just points to how important connection is to them. Um, they're also often very apologetic about needing other people's help or attention and they don't want to be a bother to anybody. It's amazing what people who were internalized, what they will apologize for because they feel, they feel like these deep feelings and sensitivities of theirs are a nuisance to other people. That's kind of what they grew up with. Um, so they tend to keep these things to themselves, um, because they don't want to alienate people because connection is so important to them. And then they kind of ended up becoming emotionally invisible.

Lindsay Gibson: 00:46:51 Um, and that makes them easy to neglect. Uh, and because they can rely on their inner resources, they will often, you know, amuse themselves, comfort themselves. Uh, they'll go out and they'll find other parenting say years in the community. They'll uh, you know, form a relationship with a friend's mother. They'll, you know, have, have a mentor at Church or, and they're very appealing children because they're sensitive and they're not crashing into everything. And everybody, um, they also, uh, because they do a lot of self reflection, they can often feel like they're not enough. Okay. Um, cause you know, self reflection is just the hair breath away from self criticism and so they can tend to become self reflective to the point of self criticism and that begins to cause a lot of internal conflict. So that's something they have to guard against. And because they're self aware and because they're emotionally intelligent, they often tend to be the ones who end up doing a lot of the emotional work and relationships.

Lindsay Gibson: 00:48:10 Um, they are, they will be the one who picked up, uh, the ball and try to fix the marriage or repair the friendship or um, make things better there. They do a lot of careful work in terms of trying to figure out other people's feelings and how to make things go better between, um, people. The other thing I wanted to mention, well two things. One is two last things. One is that they tend to identify in their role self as rescuers. Uh, they like it. Two help, they want to sort of step in and save people from themselves. And the other thing is that because they tend to be seen as self reliant at an early age or maybe self amused thing is another way to put it. They often are not taught good self care. Um, nobody's coming along and saying, honey, you're doing too much. Why don't you rest for a while? Or they're not being taught that they need sympathy or that they need respect. They're not being taught to recognize their fatigue and when they need rest. And that's because with an emotionally immature parents, you know, that parent is very self preoccupied and they're quite happy to let that internalizing kids keep knocking themselves out.

Amee: 00:49:38 Yeah. Um, they're not likely to step in.

Lindsay Gibson: 00:49:42 Yeah. And, and sort of saved them from themselves. So internalizers have to learn, you know, in order to um, get their, their true self back, they have to learn, tune into their feelings and to believe that they matter to themselves. Yeah. Um, because they are in desperate need of somebody sort of reminding them that they have needs too and that they can take steps to meet those instead of exhausting themselves. Trying to get that connection.

Amee: 00:50:18 I know one of the things that you, as you mentioned when we, when talking about the aspect of, you know, it's easy for them to just kind of become, I, I, you know, one of my, and I journaled a lot when I was in like late elementary school through middle school and into the beginning of high school and I had the, you know, I have the privilege of reading those journals, which is good and bad. I mean, it's sad to read, you know, kind of almost like a third party of, you know, uh, a young 12, 13, 14 year old girl knowing today, you know, that it's me, but just in general. And there's this resonant theme that I was writing about in my journal, um, which was this idea that I was going to be famous one day, like some day I'm going to be famous.

Amee: 00:51:00 And it, it, it, this part of what you talked about here of like that need of, I, nobody sees me right now. So my quest is to be seen one way or another. Um, and I felt like that was one of those, you know, healing fantasies. And actually to be honest with you, a healing fantasy that today as an adult, mmm. You know, I had to learn too, recognize it for what it was. But then also, you know, when I told my therapist, I said, I don't want to lose that part of me that feels like I can't actually change the world, you know, because that's what, that's a drive for me. And it's a, it's a good way. It's the, it's the healthy pieces of all of this and stuff. Um, but when, when looking about, um, you know, Aye, Aye, Aye. Keep a cautious eye on my own children because I know that they've had their own adverse childhood experiences and stuff.

Amee: 00:51:45 I mean, they had me as mom there, you know, so I mean, we've all ran into our problems. I'm not being hard on myself, I'm just being a realist here. But I do, I'm always tuned in like our, you know, am I seeing these unhealthy things that I wish somebody had noticed was not a good mindset, you know, when I was at age and when, like I said, one of them was, and I didn't walk around telling everybody that I just, I scribbled it furiously every night. That was like my concluding statement and in my journal for like years straight on of that wanting to be seen and stuff like that. Um, so, you know, one other

Lindsay Gibson: 00:52:20 wonderful that you had those, those words and you knew what you needed. You know, I mean, that's just one of the beauties of, of the way the internalizing mind works because yeah, you sat down and wrote and had those words, somebody else might drop out of school and, and rob a bank. I mean, uh, anyway, um, I just had to comment on that because w w what a wonderful thing to have that kind of self awareness so early.

Amee: 00:52:51 Well, and I think that that probably, I mean, to be honest with you, you know, like I said, the piece of this, this whole internalizer part of it is I'm grateful for who, you know, who it's allowed me to be today as an adult. I've had to go through the process of healing some of the, of the, of the ways of getting to this and stuff. Um, but also because of having that self awareness at such a young age, I feel like today, you know, the, the struggle to repair is a little bit harder than maybe somebody would sink because, you know, like you described like the internalizers can be very emotional, very perceptive and maybe more so of what they're not getting at, which makes it even sadder, you know, as an existence. You know, and I had actually requested when I was in middle school that I wanted to see a counselor that I was that disconnected and unhappy and you know, fell on deaf ears, you know, and all that.

Amee: 00:53:42 And so I sit there and I take it easy on myself today as an adult of like, you know, you tried, you know, when, you know, when you were trying, you were trying. Um, and you know, sometimes it doesn't feel fair to have to sit here and you know, go back and unwind and do a bunch of repair work and stuff like that. Um, but you know, it is what it is. That's who you were born. That's how you were, you know, how you were made. And you can, and you know, to me it's like, take this awareness and take this experience and do something good with it, you know, hopefully to spare some children out there by making their parents more aware, you know? And that's what I'm grateful for you taking the time to talk to me about this because that's ultimately what I hope you and I are doing today is getting some parents thinking about their childhood and maybe to reflect on what they might be doing today, parenting their own kids so that and seeing that relationship and that connection in there. Um, one thing too, I guess I want to bring up here about the internalizers is, um, that might be key for people, which is internalizers don't see the abuse for what it is.

Lindsay Gibson: 00:54:43 Okay. Yes, that's right. Um, again, if, if someone is not saying I am about to abuse you or what just happened to you was abuse, you don't label it as that. And so you end up thinking that maybe you shouldn't have onto the strongly as you did because maybe this is just normal. Maybe this happens in all families. So, um, yeah, they, they tend to either, mmm. Not Know what to call it or they, because they tend to be to be thinkers, you know, they'll, they'll rationalize, um, what happened or they'll try to understand their abuser or feel for them one way or another they try to understand the abuse, um, as a way of coping with it rather than saying to themselves, you know, hey, this is not right. Uh, I gotta get away from this. I got to tell somebody, those are all more externalizing responses, but the internalizer we'll try to work it all out inside. And often they tried to be very optimistic too. Uh, so they kind of try to put a positive spin on things, which, you know, that's a good coping mechanism, but, um, when it minimizes what really happened to you, then you lose a part of your history and then you, you don't know how you've been wounded, um, as a child. And that's the real, that's a loss. And that has to be regained.

Amee: 00:56:21 I guess I bring that of that up because as, as adults, when we are used to, you know, we've been gravitating towards the familiar, um, it's easy to slip into one of those relationships, have it spiral to the point of where it's abusive and not always physical, emotional abuse is just as damaging as physical abuse can be. And that the internalizer we'll definitely have that attitude. If I can fix it, I can, you know, it's really not that big of a deal. Um, how do you, you know, if you had some advice for somebody listening who may have a friend or family member that they see in, recognizes an abusive relationship, but the person, their friend is internalizing all of that, is there any kind of tips for that person in order to help that internalize or maybe, um, you know, remove a little bit of the fog they might have of their own eyes or their own perception over the situation they're in knowing that they probably aren't seeing it the way the rest of us on the outside are seeing it?

Lindsay Gibson: 00:57:19 Yeah. Well, again, I think it's a, it can be a, um, it can be a slow process, but, uh, same, same sort of thing applies where, uh, if you show surprise or you show a alarm or you know, in other words you are showing the, the emotional on to mistreatment is as they're telling you the story, even if they are kind of laughing it off or saying, uh, you know, this, this is not a big deal, but here's what happened. If you give your own emotional response to that without pushing or blaming the internalizer yeah. But just, um, sort of giving a healthy reaction to hearing about mistreatment, that's tremendously helpful because even if the person continues to deny or, or blow off that you know, that that's what is actually happening. Your reaction probably got in there some way that that's important. Um, the, uh, recommendation or the, the encouragement to seek therapy that therapy doesn't mean that you make a decision.

Lindsay Gibson: 00:58:37 It means that you come to understand what, um, this kind of experience is like for you and how you can cope with it better. Um, you can express how painful you think that this must be for them. In other words, give them empathy because remember they internalize or tends not to the overly empathic with their own needs because they've been told, you know, they make mountains out of mole hills and they ought to just get on with it. So when you show empathy or you reflect like, wow, that must have really hurt your feelings. I would have felt stung if someone had said that to me. You're new sort of model the empathic response that also is helpful. All of that, you know, kind of different response to the mistreatment, um, that you're feeding back to them. That all is part of helping them to kind of wake up to what this is really feeling like to them. Does that help?

Amee: 00:59:42 Yeah, absolutely. And like I said, I just wanted to include that in there because, um, internalizers are resilient and they are, they are strong. They're some of the strongest people we have around us and, and, and very private and, and sometimes, um, willing to shoulder an awful lot before they'll, like you said before, they'll ask for help before they'll do anything about it. And when we see somebody out there, I just want to make sure that, you know, some people listening would know how to approach somebody likes that, you know, to be able to express their concern or, or hopefully bring some awareness to them because if they are in a, you know, an emotionally abusive relationship or physically abusive relationship, you know, they, um, they're not going to go around telling everybody that, but you might know it and you might see it. You might be able to want to be able to give them a hand. So I think that that was, that was great. Thank you. So Lindsey, um, you've been, like I said at the beginning of the episode, you and I've been working around your editing schedule cause you're working on another book. Can you talk about that book real quick on what you've got coming out?

Lindsay Gibson: 01:00:43 Yeah, sure. This next book is called "Recovering from Emotionally-Immature Parents", kind of a sequel to the last one. It'll be coming out in May of 2019. Um, and basically what I did in this last book was I talk more about the, um, these very particular things that emotionally immature people do that draw people into their emotional system. Um, I call them emotional coercions emotional takeovers where they actually through a process of emotional contagion, um, and causing negative feelings like guilt, shame, fear, self, uh, they, they pull other people into manage their self esteem and their emotional stability. So what happens with emotionally immature people is they're not great at maintaining their self esteem without a lot of external, uh, props and they need other people to help them stay emotionally stable because they don't have a lot of a balance inside. And so the way that this happens and the way that we get sucked into these emotional systems, uh, is what I, I talk about in, in the new, and it's very interesting how,

Lindsay Gibson: 01:02:24 Uh, emotionally immature people and also talk about emotionally immature people as well as emotionally immature parents. Because they just, um, you can do that. You can absolutely talk about dealing with both of these, uh, whether they're your parent or just someone that, you know, and I talk about how the emotionally immature person is always needing to be the most important person in the relationship. Like all roads lead to mom or dad or, or the, um, emotionally mature person. The first part of the new book is about these emotional systems and how we get pulled into their distortions in a way where we feel like we can't say no, um, or we begin to doubt ourselves or we begin to unhook from our own inner experience in order to satisfy their needs. And then the second part of the book is about how we are able to get free of that and get back in touch with ourselves so that we can live our own lives and really, uh, learn how to get the benefit of this rich internal life that we all have the potential for if we haven't been drawn out of it by these emotionally immature people are alive.

Lindsay Gibson: 01:03:49 yeah, there's a lot more, um, practical, um, advice and written exercises in it. Uh, along the lines of here's what you can say, here's what you can do. Um, there's the feedback I got on the first book was that people wanted to know, well, in this situation, how would I handle that with my parents or other person? And so this book is a lot more oriented toward that kind of specific practical advice.

Amee: 01:04:17 Well, it sounds like it's a great followup. And so the first book, "Adult Children of Emotionally-Immature Parents: How to Heal From Distant Rejecting or Self Involved Parents" Um, I got my copy on Amazon so you can get it there. You can get it at a bookstore. Um, and so you know, and may as you know, five, seven months away so everybody can get this book here, get yourself armed, understood. We get the dialogue in the language and then, um, and then it sounds like the followups then is to take what they learn and then get some application and some real life, real life skillsets for dealing with it. Um, Lindsay, I again, I am so grateful that you and I have met and get to talk to you. You're just, the work that you do is just amazing and again, your time is precious to me and so thank you so much again for sitting with me and, and covering this topic with me. I really, really, really, really do appreciate it.

Lindsay Gibson: 01:05:10 Oh, it's been totally my pleasure. I appreciate so much getting the opportunity, uh, to talk about it with you Amee and also to use your forum, um, to get this out there because I think it sounds like the kind of work that you're doing and your mission, uh, just really fits in with this. So I feel honored that I've been able to come onto your show and add to that as well.

Amee: 01:05:34 Awesome.

Amee: 01:05:35 Thank you. And I hope you have an amazing day.


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