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Childhood experiences and adult legacy

(3 Posts)
UpwardTrend Sun 09-Nov-14 14:22:30

Not sure this is the right place to post, but I'd be so grateful for any thoughts. Is there anyone with some mental health expertise who could give me an idea of what lasting legacy one might expect from some particular childhood experiences? I don't mean a diagnosis, obviously, just a very general idea of common/possible responses.

The mother of the person in question had a history of alcohol and prescription drugs abuse, and he probably suffered a degree of neglect in the first year or two of life. After this, when his parents' marriage broke up, he lived with his father (and later stepmother) and siblings. Later, when her health allowed, he saw his mother regularly in school holidays, and had a close bond. When he was 12, his father died suddenly. He continued to live with his stepmother, who cared for his physical needs but was emotionally distant, until leaving home at 19.

This is a family member, btw, whose behavioural "quirks" I'm finding difficult, and I suppose I'm hoping that if I can see the quirks in a context that makes some sense of them I might be able to be more empathetic/tolerant.

ComradePlexiglass Sun 09-Nov-14 19:05:53

I think it's very likely that someone with this history would not have developed secure attachment to his mother or father in the first months or years of life because it does not sound like either of them reliably responded in the warm and empathic way that is needed for a secure relationship to flourish. The person in question would then have had to develop certain ways of behaving/feeling/acting in order to get love, attention and essential care. Perhaps withdrawing emotionally, becoming a people pleaser/cheerer upper, clinging hugely because of huge fears of abandonment or acting out aggressively to ensure notice and attention. Traumatic loss of his father at a young age and lack of emotional warmth from his remaining main carer will probably have exacerbated this style of interaction. This kind of history tends to have serious implications for how people attach to others as adults so he may well find intimate relationships difficult/impossible. Has he sought treatment at all?

UpwardTrend Mon 10-Nov-14 17:23:41

Thanks so much for your post, ComradePlexiglass, I really appreciate it.

He was taken to see a therapist after his dad died, but he's never sought treatment as an adult. He refers in a blasé way to his "difficult" childhood, but I don't think he's ever felt a desire to work through it with anyone. The couple of times I've suggested seeing a counsellor/therapist (about specific situations/problems) he's been fairly resistant.

Of what you described, the emotional withdrawal and the clinginess (to things more than people) are most familiar. It's so hard to put my finger on exactly what it is I'm struggling with, but it's as if there's something very different about his perception/emotional responses/patterns of communication. He seems to struggle with articulating or even recognising what he is feeling, and find it quite threatening to be asked to do so. At times it's as if we're on completely different wavelengths, although we are both otherwise intelligent, articulate, thoughtful people.

I'm not really sure what I'm asking. Clearly I can't force him into treatment. I'm not sure what I can do in the difficult interactions we have other than try to stay very calm myself and remember that he's doing his best. (Which he really is, I know.)

(I'm aware, btw, that this information is quite identifying. If anyone should happen to recognise it, please would you be discreet? Thank you!)

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