The case against me

She ended the relationship six weeks ago and has been struggling ever since.

Doubt, self-blame, anxiety and depression are the signs of the struggle.

This is not the first time she’s gone through this.

Not the first time for me, either. 

Most of my clients are women, and many of them react in just this way when an important relationship fails.

For some the reaction lasts for months.

For others, years.

It’s my job to help them transform that reaction into a healthier, more self-loving one.

So I expect that the email I sent her is one I’ll will save and use again and again. 

It’s about how her Inner Kid experiences relationship problems.

Here it is:


Not sure this will help, but here’s something to consider while battling your demons:

(1) Until it finally heals — that is, develops a clear and realistic perception of itself — every inner Kid operates out of a distorted perspective which may be thought of as an inherited bias.

(2) The Kid inherits this perspective mainly from its parents, which it absorbs and accepts as The Truth — however distorted it may actually be — on the unconscious level.

(3) It then sets out to confirm this perspective by gathering evidence in support of it.

For example, say the parents tell the kid she’s “stupid.”  The kid will then go through life noticing all the stupid things she’s said or done or thought and adding them to the pile of evidence.

Evidence that she is not stupid will be discounted or ignored.

Think of this as building a case against yourself in the courtroom of your mind.

(4) The payoff for this seemingly self-defeating behavior?

There are two, both unconscious.

Building the case against myself

(a) reduces my confusion.  (I don’t have to figure out what I really am — I have all this evidence that I’m stupid — case closed);


(b) allows me to stay attached to my parents.  (Whereas, if I come to see them as unreliable or rejecting or pathological, I may be left feeling abandoned and entirely on my own).

I suggest that the above explains what you have been doing since your breakup.

The bias you inherited is a view of yourself as flawed, inadequate and unloveable.

You are using (even distorting) the “evidence” of your failed relationship in support of this biased view.

You have been doing this your whole life, so it feels true and normal.

It’s actually distorted and self-destructive.

The people who care about you recognize this.  That’s why our feedback about your relationship is so different from the feedback you’ve been giving yourself.

But until now our view has lost in court to the inherited bias — i.e., to your imaginary need for parents you have, in fact, outgrown.

The solution?

Grow up psychologically.

Which means develop — with the aid of people whose opinions you trust — a more realistic and compassionate view of yourself than you inherited.


(PS: The technical name for inherited bias is introjection.  For a further description, see “Identity and introjection” on the Psychology Today website.)



2 responses to “The case against me

  • Jenny

    This really hit me tonight. I’ve been struggling with feeling guilty over my attempts to gently detach from my elderly, narcissistic, emotionally abusive father because, you know, “good daughters take care of their parents in their dotage.” Well, the cost has become very high for me, but I’ve been struggling to actually make the move to stop.

    This hit it. “if I come to see them as unreliable or rejecting or pathological, I may be left feeling abandoned and entirely on my own).” My mom died several years ago, so it’s just dad, my older sister, and me. Sister does the dutiful daughter thing with gritted teeth. We have an uninvolved brother who managed to get out of doing anything. I’m stuck in the middle, not wanting to lose my father, and not wanting to lose my siblings over it, either.

    • Steve Hauptman

      Jenny, I hear you. I have a bunch of clients in the same boat.

      All their lives they were taught to grit their teeth, swallow their tears, and subvert their own physical and emotional needs for the sake of significant others — and to feel intolerable guilt should they ever try to stop.

      Not surprisingly these are women (since in my view nearly all women are socialized to be codependent), professional helpers (mostly teachers and nurses), and each has a history of relationships with men who early on spotted their vulnerability to narcissistic abuse and exploitation.

      The good news: they’re in recovery now. Which means they’re learning to give up compulsive controlling, say No as easily as they said Yes, listen to their bodies, and embrace what I call a healthy selfishness.

      Therapy was essential to this, since they needed to be helped to see the unconscious reasons they were feeling and doing what they were.

      But after therapy the most essential factor in their recovery was a support system of other women who were brave enough to learn the same thing and smart enough to turn to each other for help.

      I hope you find the one you need.

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