When it comes to the psychological development of a child, the needs of the child are of the upmost importance. And not only are they important in the Childs journey to becoming a functional adult; as extreme as this sounds, they can also be the difference between whether a child lives or dies.
In an ideal world, the Childs needs would be met when the child needs them to be fulfilled. But this is something that doesn’t always happen and as a result of this, the Childs needs often end up being neglected.
Child abuse has been described as what happens when the needs of the caregivers are more important than the needs of the child. Here the needs of the child are always secondary to that of the caregivers.
And as the child is completely dependent on its caregivers, it is not much of a surprise to see how much damage can be done when the needs of the caregivers take precedence.
The mother of the child is typically the one who has the biggest influence on whether the Childs needs are fulfilled or unfulfilled. And this is due to the mother having a natural bond with the child.
However, once the child is born the father or any other caregiver can also have a strong impact on the Childs development. This is if they are positioned as the primary caregiver and have the responsibility to meet the Childs needs.
In the beginning these needs will be to do with being loved unconditionally, mirrored and validated and these needs are just as important in the Childs later years.
And as the child has no way of taking care of its own needs, it has to completely rely on the awareness of the caregivers. Firstly they have to notice these needs and secondly they have to respond to these needs.
This is a process that will be incredibly important during the early years of a child’s life and as the child grows up it should have developed the ability, through the mirroring of the caregiver, to know that it can have these needs met.
When these needs are met, it can lead to the creation of a healthy sense of self and a knowing that one deserves to have their needs met and that they belong in this world. They will have the reference points to know that if they need something they can ask someone and that when they do ask, they will more often than not, be acknowledged.
In the description above I have described what happens when the caregivers are in tune with the needs of child. And yet this is something that doesn’t always happen. Here the Childs needs often end up being neglected or perhaps even ignored completely.
And no matter how old the child is; the purpose of the Child will be to fulfil the caregiver’s emotional needs. And due to the Childs survival resting on the caregiver’s approval; the child will have to deny and ignore its own needs in order to survive.
So what then happens is the child is put under immense psychological stress. The roles have changed and although the Childs own needs have not been met and desperately need to be met; the needs of the caregivers have become more important.
What we now have is a child that has become a caregiver and a caregiver that has become a child.
The likelihood that this child will grow up to be a functional adult is low; unless this person becomes aware of these early experiences and faces their history. But unless one does this, there will be problems created around having ones needs met. One is likely to feel unworthy and guilty if they even think about having them met.
How Has This Happened?
At first glance this may be hard to comprehend; how can a caregiver behave in such a way? And if they were going to use a child to take care of their needs, wouldn’t it be a good idea to take care of their own needs before they had a child?
If one were to look at this logically, it probably wouldn’t make sense. The caregivers can be judged as being irresponsible, bad and careless. And based on what takes place; these are worthy judgements. But this alone doesn’t lead to answers or to understanding what is actually going on.
What is defining the caregiver’s behaviour is the level of awareness that they have and the reason they are doing what they are doing is because ultimately they are unaware of any other way.
Why Are They Unaware?
First off, we know that the caregivers needs are not being met and as a result this, the child is being used to compensate. Therefore the origins of this probably go back to when they were a child.
And just like how they are treating their own child, is how they were treated by their own caregivers. Their needs had to be denied and they did their best to survive the experience. These needs had to be repressed and pushed out of their awareness.
Of course it is possible for them to become aware of these needs and to begin to take care of them in a functional and healthy manner. But something they will have to contend with whenever they seek to fulfil these needs is the guilt and shame that will be triggered as a result of regression.
And this was passed on from their caregivers when they were too young to question its validity; where at such a young age, they were made to feel guilty and ashamed for having needs.
Questioning The past
What these caregivers didn’t manage to do is to question what happened to them in the past. And one of the reasons for this would have been the appearance of the original fears that they felt as a child.
Repression And Denial
So after years of repression and denying what happened all those years ago, the caregivers are then destined to repeat the same behaviour. Because even though one may be a caregiver; one is still influenced by their emotions. And as a child is so dependent and vulnerable; the caregivers will take on the role that their caregivers had all those years ago.
Here the caregivers will regress and so that they become the perpetrators. And what fuels this behaviour is all the feelings that they felt when they were the victims of this abuse many years ago, but have been repressed for many years up until this point.
The caregivers cannot give what they haven’t got and so being around a needy child, will trigger the anger and rage that they felt as a result of not having their needs met all those years ago.
The only reason this cycle has continued is because the caregivers are unaware. Their children are innocent, just as they were when they were children. And what has happened is impersonal.
This shows how important it is that one faces the emotional consequences of their history. Although what happened may well have happened many years ago, it still exists in the mind and body. And it will appear through reactive behaviour and dysfunctional patterns of behaviour; as well as mental and emotional problems.
Taking Care Of Ones Needs
If one was brought up to feel guilty and ashamed of having needs, then it is only natural for one to feel these feelings now. But these are carried feelings and having nothing to do with who one actually is.
The ego mind holds onto these perceptions out of their familiarity and what is familiar is associated as what safe to the ego mind. Whether something is actually true does not matter.
And what we can be seen from this is that unless one takes care of their own needs, it is more or less impossible that one can take care of another’s needs.
These memories have to be faced and this can be done with someone who is aware enough to listen without judgement or blame, to acknowledge and validate what happened.
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Oliver J R Cooper
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 25 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.