Inside Parental Mesages
Inside the parental message
Welcome to Mindphukers 5th post. In this instalment we will be going inside the early messages our parents give to us.
In our last post we discussed the early messages parents pass on to us when we are very young children. These messages carry information about who and what we are expected to be.
We also discussed the way messages are communicated by way of words, tone and pitch of voice and of course body language and how we pick up far more from the body language and the way words are said than the actual words themselves.
But, what are the secret under tones, the very much unsaid but greatly implied messages hidden within the overt message that impacts us so greatly at the psychological level.
I’m talking much deeper than meta messages, I’m talking about the micro content that all the rest of the message given to us is built upon.
So let’s pick an example. I’m going to use a psychotherapy modality called Transactional Analysis to help explain this to you.
A young boy is out in the city with his father and the youngster hurts himself somehow. The father try’s to comfort his young son, partly out of concern and perhaps partly out of embarrassment because the child’s cries are drawing attention from passers by that the father is uncomfortable with.
Eventually the father says “Come on now, big boys don’t cry”, and there may even be an impatient edge to dad’s voice.
What messages are being passed to the young boy?
Well, we could look at this on three levels, firstly there is the command, the actual words spoken “big boys don’t cry”. What is the potential message at this level?
It might be;
- Grow up
- Be strong
- Don’t be a girl
- Be quiet
- You’re bad
These are just some examples and you may be able to think of a lot more.
We can look at the social level message, the reason why it’s important not to cry if you are a boy/man.
This might be;
- Other people (boys/men) will laugh at you if you cry
- Other people won’t respect you if you cry (as a boy/man)
- Here’s how to be a man (don’t cry)
Parents Secret Fear
We can also look at the part of the message dad is issuing because of his discomfort at passers by looking at him. The secret fear that dad holds.
This might be;
- It’s not good to be seen by other, they might judge you
- Other people might think I’m weak because of you
Again these are examples and you may be able to think of lots more.
Let’s now pick one from each level and see what message the child may internalise as a result of dad’s the message “big boys don’t cry”.
The Entire Message
The command – Boys/men don’t cry, if you do you can’t be a boy/man, so be strong
The social level- Others won’t respect you if you cry as a man, so here is how to be a man, don’t cry
The secret fear of dad – Other people might judge me as weak because my son is acting like a girl, so don’t be you, be who I want you to be.
In this example the most damaging part of the internalised message is going to be the secret fear dad is communicating, the “don’t be you” message.
In order to please dad and get his young needs met the child will now suppress his own desires and wants, he will suppress his hurt and need for comfort, and he will indeed try and not be his true self.
Unless experienced as very traumatic by the child a one off event is not going to cause internalisation of a “don’t be you” message. If it is drip fed over and over when the child is very young however, the message will stick.
As this child grows into adult hood he will still hold this message and will still be suppressing everything affected by the message
Is this all bad? Not necessarily.
There will be cases where people are at the extreme end of the “don’t be you” spectrum where it will really affect their lives. An example might be a person suppressing their sexuality in order to please the secret fears of mum and dad they have internalised.
They may live a miserable existence because of this, constantly battling internally with their true self and the shame of who they are.
At the lower end of the spectrum it might be someone who puts other people’s needs before their own.
Now, I understand this can potentially be a severe problem for some people, so don’t think I’m making light of this. I’m alluding to the fact that this person may be able to “do without things other people have”, without feeling too distressed about it.
It becomes easy for them to suppress their desires.
The command part of the message “big boys don’t cry”, or be strong will effect the child and eventually the adult at the daily functioning level. This means as long as the person perceives themselves as being strong they will feel ok in them self.
The minute they perceive themselves as weak for whatever reason, they will feel not ok in them self. A person with a big be strong driver may become very self reliant and not ask for help or talk about their problems because to do so would be a sign of weakness.
As soon as any sign of potential weakness appears, the secret fear of dad would raise its head and internally attack them at a feelings level. This is intolerable because they unconsciously experience this as they did as a child, the same intensity of feeling and sensation is there.
There would likely be a lot of shame attached to being weak also.
Think of this at a fantasy level of experience operating outside of the person’s awareness.
The person therefore will keep being strong no mater how much they have to do, the stressors will keep piling up, but instead of asking for help they will withdraw more and more shutting close friends and family out, getting even more and more stressed.
Does this sound like anyone you know?
The social level message tells how to do or how to be, it shows us the way, provides the model to follow, “Here’s how to be strong and not be you” for example.
As stated at the start of this post the theory behind what’s been discussed is from Transactional Analysis. The parental message breakdown is known as;
- The Driver (the command, or you’ll be ok if you “Be Strong”)
- The Program (Here’s how to)
- The Injunction (The childish fantasy fear of the parent, “don’t be you”)
I have inferred throughout my posts that very often people will try self development techniques and will not get any change or very limited change. This is a result of the injunctions the person is carrying, buried deeply away in the vaults of their unconscious mind.
If you hold an injunction that says “don’t succeed” for example, the injunction will always sabotage any attempt you may make to achieve and succeed. The resulting failure will only reinforce the injunction.
This is what the majority of motivational and self development guru’s don’t account for. The injunction needs to be slowly uncovered and dissolved.
The good news however is, this is possible if the appropriate care and support is given.
In these posts I’m slowly increasing your understanding on these fundamental psychological issues. This foundation understanding is important if you truly want to make life changes.
More Next Time
Reference: The works of Eric Berne