Perhaps the oddest result of inappropriate parenting occurs when a child is given the false and dangerous notion that he is better and more powerful than others. This "false empowerment" is what Pia Mellody calls "the one-up position," and grandiosity is the predominating feeling. However, from this position of "one-up" grandiosity, the child will not be able to enter into mutually loving relationships; he'll be as lonely and deprived in relationships as if he were "one-down." In either case, the child will not know how to love or be loved, to respect or be respected.
As is often the case for my clients, Joey's wounding has left him feeling both one-down, or disemplowered, and alternatively, one-up and falsely empowered. He was disempowered partially by the males in the family, by being denied emotional support and validation. His relationship with his mother Kay was an altogether different story.
Joey's mother's desire was abundant. Having grown up as the eldest in a family of twelve, the dye of her destiny had been cast early. She was not only well skilled in the care and tending of small children, she also adored doing so. Her plans were to have at least the same number of children as her mother had had. Because she and Joey's father had known each other from birth and their farm bordered each other, he was well aware of her love of children. Kay's plans to have a large family suited him fine because he believed it meant that he would have more helping hands to run the farm.
As they planned earlier in their marriage, Joey and his brothers were spaced about two years apart. Married at twenty-two, Kay planned to give birth to her last child at the age of forty-six.
Each of Kay's children had brought immense joy. However, Kay... a short slight woman standing only five foot one... had a difficult childbirth with each of her children. She sustained two miscarriages, as well as several medical conditions, that ultimately lead to her hysterectomy at the age of thirty. The devastation she felt was profound. She became severely depressed and although, she pushed herself to continue her familial duties, it was an arduous effort. She kept these feelings from her husband so not to burden him with her problems. She remained "strong," despite feeling as if she could crumble, at any moment, into a millions pieces.
To cope with her grief, she poured her energy and attention onto her youngest son. Extremely dependent on her, young Joey became the emotional balm to ease her pain. Joe became the center of her world, the focus of her joy. She lived for him, and his accomplishments and successes became hers. The emotional dependency grew like a cancer, infecting all the aspects of the relationship.
Kay became more and more distant from her husband, transferring her needs for emotional intimacy to Joey. She began to confide in him. In response, he became hypersensitive to his mother's moods, gestures, tones and expressions, as he felt more and more responsible for her happiness.
(To be continued.)