Neglecting Families

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John came home every afternoon to a mother who was depressed. She languished in bed and stirred only to get something for herself or to complain about her sufferings. John moved on tiptoe, waited on her hand-and-foot, making himself his mother’s mother. Martin was told by his parents that they deeply loved him. He excelled in studies, athletics and music, but almost never did his mother or father attend his performances, not even when he was the speaker at the Honor Society banquet. Janet was brought-up by a succession of servants and nannies who assumed almost all of her care. Mother and father were distant beings who always seemed to be more involved in something of “momentous importance” and only stopped-by for what they assured her was “quality” time.

In these households each person had infrequent clues that he or she was valued or even existed. There are few experiences that are more upsetting than attempting to communicate, and then receiving little or no response. We would rather fight than be neglected. Passion, risk, hurt are preferable to neglect–benign or malicious. We are born for contact; we grow and thrive on it. In the neglecting household, this is lost, and we experience neglect as something wrong with us–after all, if “they” don’t care to involve themselves with us, it “must be” our fault. The child, having no perspective that would help him see that it is his world that is dysfunctional, not himself, experiences being treated as a non-person as though he has no right-to-exist.

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