Trap 10: Child, anxious


This continues a new series of posts excerpted from Monkeytraps in Everyday Life: A Guide for Control Addicts (in press).  It’s about psychological monkeytraps: what they are, how they work, and how recovering control addicts can learn to notice when they’ve trapped themselves by trying to control what cannot or should not be controlled. Read the introduction to the series here.



Trap 10: Child, anxious


Step 1: I experience discomfort.

I am frustrated and embarrassed that my child is scared of X.


Step 2: I misread the discomfort.

“I must push my child to get over this fear.”


Step 3: I try to control the discomfort.

I tell my child

Don’t be silly

or Don’t be a baby

or You’re not really scared of X

or That’s nothing to be scared of

or Look at your sister, she’s not scared of X

or You can’t go through life being scared of things, 



Step 4: My attempt fails.

My child’s anxiety increases, and now includes me and my “help.”


Step 5: I misread the failure.

“I need to push harder.”

Step 6: I experience discomfort.

I am frustrated and embarrassed that my child is scared of X.



Children and invalidation

Invalidation can happen anywhere, and in any relationship. In this post, I am addressing invalidation in the family which we will define as any pattern of communication or interaction that indicates to another person that their point of view, opinions or emotions are irrational, flawed, unwarranted, worthless, self-centered or even crazy. Simply wrong.

What this means for little Johnny is that he lives in an environment that does not uniquely value him as a person. His environment is bent toward the thoughts and ideals of the invalidating parent. Johnny’s opinions are not allowed to be his own, they must reflect the thinking of his parent. Even worse, Johnny’s emotions are also vetted by his parent. If Johnny says he feels scared about something, he is told that he, 1) is not scared, or 2) should not feel scared. Perhaps an alternative is offered, but it is too late. What Johnny has already learned is not appropriate emotion regulation and expression, but that he is not allowed to have his own emotions, what he genuinely feels is wrong, and that someone else is in charge of his emotions….

Invalidation attacks identity. If a person is consistently exposed to an invalidating environment, their grip on the reality of what they think and feel becomes malleable. You could even consider it a subtle form of brainwashing, possibly even to the point where a mentally healthy person contemplates their own craziness.

~ From “Invalidation: How to ruin your child’s sense of self” at the Uncommon Sense blog

* * * *

Monkeytraps: Why Everybody Tries to Control Everything and How We Can Stop
is available here.

Monkeytraps: Why Everybody Tries to Control Everything and How We Can Stop by [Steve Hauptman]

2 responses to “Trap 10: Child, anxious

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