Rediscovering Your True Self: Parentification and the "Gifted Child"


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By Being Well, Rick Hanson, and Forrest Hanson. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

When a child is particularly emotionally intelligent, and a parent is particularly emotionally vulnerable, an inversion of the typical relationship can occur where the child devotes themselves to meeting the parent’s needs rather than the other way around. This can lead the child to lose touch with their own wants and needs – with their authentic self – which then leads to underlying feelings of worthlessness, uncertainty, and self-alienation in adulthood.

Extreme versions of this pattern are known as parentification, but mild to moderate versions are surprisingly common. On today’s episode of Being Well, Dr. Rick and Forrest Hanson explore how we can heal from the effects of these difficult early experiences and rediscover who we truly are.

This material was completely eye-opening for me, and it’s one of my favorite episodes we've ever produced.

Want to learn more? Check out Alice Miller’s classic book The Drama of the Gifted Child.

Prefer watching video? You can watch this episode on YouTube.

Key Topics:

0:00: Introduction

2:55: Distinction between parentification and the gifted child

5:05: Serving a psychological function - what is the “gift” we’re talking about?

7:50: Self-definition vs. defining yourself through relationship

10:30: Examples of generational patterns

16:45: Accumulation of subtle forms of parentification over time

21:55: Patterns of interaction, and differentiation

24:00: Summary of material so far

27:00: “The manic defense against depression”

30:30: What can people do?

35:00: Love, aspiration, and power in parenting styles

40:20: Creating a coherent (and balanced) narrative

43:30: Seductive narratives, grief not shame, claiming your nature

51:25: What emotions were you permitted?

53:35: Recap

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