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  • Writer's pictureTing-yi Huang

Another Friendship or Relationship Broke Down? Is It Me? Or Is It Them?

Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson, Psy.D.



In this book, Dr. Gibson offers a quiz that will help you to identify traits of emotionally immature parents, such as

* Facts and logic were no match for my parent's opinions

* My parents wasn't self-reflective and rarely looked at his or her role in a problem.

* My parent was inconsistent-sometimes wise, sometimes unreasonable.


Dr. Gibson then discusses two types of adult children of emotionally immature parents: Externalizers and Internalizers. Many traits externalizers or internalizers display were a reflection of their coping strategies to emotionally immature parents. Please see Dr. Gibson's book for the comprehensive list of traits for externalizers and internalizers.


I appreciate the wisdom offered throughout this book. Building awareness around how your parent's behaviors and emotional maturity impact your view on your self, your behaviors, and your relationship can be rewarding. Sometimes, when a friendship or a relationship ends, an internalizer might "internalize" things as they could possibly be thinking: "what would happen to my future?" would I be able to find the love I've always wanted?"


Truth is sometimes a relationship simply does not work out between two people. Instead of spending energy "finding where things go wrong, or who to blame," a more objective approach could be "what this relationship has taught me about myself? What traits would make up a compatibility more conducive for a relationship that would work out eventually? " We might not necessarily have control over our future, just like we do not have control over the level of our parent's emotional maturity. Our parents are responsible for their own personal growth. However, we can have control over how we are going to respond to relational situations. As we gain awareness around the impacts of emotionally immature parents, we can un-learn some of the coping behaviors that we unconsciously, or with some conscious awareness, carry from our relationship with our parents. As a relationship ends or a friendship ends, internalizers do not automatically assume more responsibility than they actually have to, a trait they carry from feeling like they have to take care of their parents, who are responsible for their own personal growth. Rather, internalizers could view the relational ending as an opportunity to reflect on what, not who, contributes to the cessation of the relationship. It could be a gradual awareness on unhealthy habits of the friend, the partners not looking for the same life goals, etc. You cannot blame yourself for not spotting the unhealthy habits early on in your friendships because most people would hide aspects about themselves that our society usually attaches negative connotation to. You cannot blame yourself for eventually finding out the incompatibility about future life goals when you share good compatibility on other aspects or many common interests with a partner.


If you grow up with emotionally consistent and mature people, you might have a harder time recognizing people who are emotionally immature. Or if you grow up with emotionally consistent and mature people, chance are you tend to be more trusting, kind, and willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. This explains, to some extent, why people who grow up in an emotionally consistent and nurturing environment could sometimes, easily and without any awareness, fall into emotional manipulation, especially when it is subtle.


To conclude, Dr. Gibson offers a general guideline to help you identify emotionally mature people:

1) They are realistic and reliable

* They work with reality rather than fighting it

* Their consistency makes them reliable

* They don't take everything personally

2) They are respectful and reciprocal

* They respect your boundaries

* They give back

* They are flexible and compromise well

* They are even-tempered

* They are willing to be influenced

* They are truthful

* They apologize and make amends

3) They are responsive

* Their empathy makes you feel safe

* They make you feel seen and understood

* They like to comfort and being comforted

* They reflect on their actions and try to change

* They can laugh and be playful

* They're enjoyable to be around

Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents. Lindsay C. Gibson, Psy.D. (2015). California: New Harbinger Publications, Inc. (pp. 178-190).

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