What happens when a child is deprived of love

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I often meet people who might physically be 20, 30, even 40 years old, but on the inside they still inhabit their childhood. This is because they’re still waiting for the love which they didn’t get enough of, or even at all, in those early years. They’ll never grown up until they learn to find happiness for themselves and by themselves.

From the moment we begin to feel unloved, we can never develop further.

At every age, a child’s demand for love and attention from its parents takes different forms.

When they’re still in infancy, a feeling of trust begins to develop in the child. At this stage, a child’s awareness of love is contained in the feeling that its mother is caring for it on a constant basis.

If an individual doesn’t receive this as much as they need, by the time they reach adulthood there’s every chance they will have a great amount of trouble developing serious relationships with others, and will often subject a partner to constant ’tests’ to confirm their commitment and the extent to which they can be trusted. They often feel very vulnerable even when they ostensibly have someone close to them to hold on to.

When a child is a little older, around 2-3, it takes its first steps towards autonomy and the ability to control itself. If its parents in any way hinder this process, such as performing actions which their children are already fully capable of doing themselves — or alternatively, expecting them to do things they still can’t manage — a long-lasting feeling of shame can develop in the individual. If the parents spend an excessive amount of time and energy trying to shield the child from the world around it and doing everything for it, whilst remaining blind to its real requirements at this stage of development, feelings of doubt in its own abilities will emerge. This child will grow into a person who lacks confidence in their ability to master the world around them, and even to control his or herself.

By the time they reach adulthood, in place of any confidence will be the constant suspicion that others are staring at them, that no one likes or approves of them, and that people are suspicious of who they are and their motives. They also often develop obsessive-compulsive behaviours and an almighty paranoia about being singled out and persecuted.

By the time they are 3-6 years old, children interprets love in terms of the opportunities they have to expand the number of things they can do on their own, to become self-reliant. They expect and hope for support for their initiatives from their parents, and recognition of their right to be curious and creative. If during these years the parents do not allow their child to act independently to a much greater degree than before, and/or punish them excessively in response to what the child demands, a sense of guilt develops.

People who grow up in this environment often end up lacking the kind of purposefulness and decisiveness required to set themselves realistic goals and to achieve them. Their constant feelings of guilt can lead to passivity, a sense of impotence and an aversion to intimacy, even psychopathic behaviour.

During the age at which they go to school, a sense of diligence often appears in the child. If by this time the child doubts his or her abilities or their equal status among their peers, this can reduce their readiness for developing themselves further. It can also lead to severe feelings of inferiority which in the long run could effectively kill off their ability to function as an ordinary self-reliant adult in the modern world.

If an individual comes to the conclusion in childhood that their achievements in school — or more generally, in their working and future professional life — are the only criteria which determine their value as a human being, then there’s a high chance they will become obsessed with work and their career, to the detriment of many other aspects of their life.

If any of this describes you, then I suggest that you, finally, extend a helping hand to that vulnerable inner child who still dominates your life, and help him to grow up. Try to understand how old he is, what he looks like, what he’s thinking and what is the source of his fears.

Talk to him.

Grab a piece of paper and two different coloured pencils — one in your right hand, one in the other. If you’re right-handed, then write what the adult you would think with your right, and with your left what your inner child is thinking (and if you’re left-handed, of course, do it the other way around).

There’s only you and your inner child in this conversation. How will you start it? What will you talk about? The answers you give yourself might not be what you expect.

Now that you’ve found your inner child and started a conversation with him, it’s time to develop mutual understanding. Ask him about what he longs for. Give him what he wants. Say kind, loving words to him, express your love for him. Give him advice.

Be the parent to him that he always wished he’d had.

 

Source: Irina Parfenova
Photo credit: Evgenii Azarenok

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