How does emotional enmeshment (aka covert incest) with a parent shape our mental health and relationships? Dr. Ken Adams is here to help us understand.
What We Discuss with Dr. Ken Adams:
- What enmeshment is, and how it entwines family members in an emotionally unhealthy way.
- How enmeshment dictates the course of future relationships.
- The connection between enmeshment and abuse.
- The underlying causes that allow enmeshment to take hold.
- How to spot enmeshment and begin the process of healing from its repercussions.
- And much more…
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Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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Miss our conversation with reformed prisoner Justin Paperny, an ex-stockbroker who now helps people prepare for a stint in the big house? Catch up with episode 226: Justin Paperny | Lessons From Prison here!
Thanks, Dr. Ken Adams!
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- Silently Seduced: When Parents Make Their Children Partners by Kenneth M. Adams PhD | Amazon
- When He’s Married to Mom: How to Help Mother-Enmeshed Men Open Their Hearts to True Love and Commitment by Kenneth M. Adams, PhD | Amazon
- How to Help Yourself When Your Parent Won’t Let Go | Overcoming Enmeshment
- Dr. Ken Adams | LinkedIn
- Dr. Ken Adams | YouTube
- Oedipus Complex: Sigmund Freud Mother Theory | Simply Psychology
- What Is Enmeshment, and How Do You Set Boundaries? | Verywell Health
- Three Signs You May Have Suffered Childhood Emotional Incest | Psychology Today
- Why Covert Incest Isn’t What You Think It Is | The Mighty
942: Ken Adams | The Confusing Dynamics of Covert Incest
This transcript is yet untouched by human hands. Please proceed with caution as we sort through what the robots have given us. We appreciate your patience!
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: This episode of the Jordan Harbinger Show is brought to you by Huggies. Little Movers. Yes, the diapers. That's my life. Now get your baby's but to Huggies Best fitting diaper. Huggies. Little movers. We got you baby.
[00:00:09] Coming up next on the Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:12] Ken Adams: They've over romanticized their love for their child. The little girl in me is turned on by my child. There's a romanticization of it. There's a discussion about intimate details that don't belong There is, do I look good in my nightgown or inappropriate boundary crossing that doesn't have to involve physical, sexual contact, but can be sexualized. The boy feels like the sexualized boyfriend to the mother.
[00:00:44] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On the Jordan Harbinger Show. We decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people and turn their wisdom into practical advice that you can use to impact your own life and those around you. Our mission is to help you become a better informed, more critical thinker through long form conversations with a variety of amazing folks, from spies to CEOs, athletes, authors, thinkers, performers, even the occasional former jihadi, gold smuggler, astronaut, or music mogul.
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[00:01:27] Help. New listeners get a taste of everything we do here on the show. Just visit Jordan harbinger.com/start or search for us in your Spotify app to get started. Today an episode about emotional enmeshment. Yeah, this is something I really hadn't heard of until recently, and it seems like this is so common.
[00:01:42] It's essentially an unhealthy, too intimate relationship between a parent and child. And I know that sounds icky because it kind of is where the child ends up surrogate partner for mom or dad. We're not necessarily talking about incest here. It's not like a graphic episode. It's kind of, it's emotional incest.
[00:01:57] And uh, speaking of incest, I co-hosted this one with my homeboy, Gabe Mizrahi. Sorry Gabe, that was awkward placement. But you, you'll just have to deal with that really interesting look at this phenomenon, why it happens, how it happens, and what we can do about it both from the parents or child perspective.
[00:02:13] And I just, I think this is one of those episodes. Where people are gonna hear it and they'll be like, oh my gosh, that's me. Or Oh my gosh, that was my best friend growing up, or my cousins like that. So let me know if you have that kind of reaction to this one, because I was surprised at how many people probably have this going on and never had a name for it.
[00:02:31] And even if you don't see yourself in it, you might see a sibling or a friend or something like that. This is one of those topics. Once you spot it, it really sheds a lot of light on things, maybe in our own family or that of others. Alright, here we go with Dr. Ken Adams.
[00:02:51] I just found this stuff so interesting because it's a world removed away from where I am. I mean, I had a relatively probably vanilla relationship with my parents, but what you write about in the book, this world was totally foreign to me. I've had, as an adult, I have a couple of friends who will say things like, my therapist says I'm emotionally enmeshed or whatever, and I was like, what is that?
[00:03:10] And I got as far as Google and then being like, oh, okay, your mom's overbearing, but that's not quite what this is. Right? There's helicopter parents and tiger moms and whatever, but this is a totally different animal. Can you define what emotional enmeshment is? It's almost like a euphemism for something that's a little bit
[00:03:27] Ken Adams: more severe.
[00:03:28] Yeah, that's a brilliant start. I couldn't agree with you more. We do wanna differentiate the normality of occasional over involvement or overshadowing a kid or stick in your nose where it doesn't belong. Mm-Hmm. And so forth from a mesh. A mesh is, and you probably have noticed it's a word that's getting used in the popular culture more, you know, you see a popup over and over again with different things.
[00:03:49] So-and-So a sports star is a mesh with his coach or something. So I was curious to watch that in a broad way. It means too much involvement at a cost to the individuality of the person or both parties, in that I mesh system and it crosses a line in this way when we talk about mother, son enmeshment, for example, or parent child enmeshment, that love is transactional and obligatory.
[00:04:14] You owe me. Mm-Hmm. I love you and you owe me. And I'm your higher power, right? So it's nowhere near the normality you're talking about. So if I took all the cases that I've seen over the years in my workshops, for example, about 700 guys at this point from all around the world, different cultures, what they all have in common as a parent who became the higher power of the God in their life, and demanded a degree of, if not totality, of obligatory loyalty, that was transactional and that my love was dependent upon your willingness to support me, not leave me, stabilize me, love me, and be my good boy at a cost to whoever you have in your life, your partner, your spouse, your kids, right?
[00:04:59] So I get emails all the time from spouses and partners of these guys say, look it, I've been thrown under the bus for decades. I can't stand anymore. What do I do? A deeper cut and a different experience than what you had just talked about. And certainly there's a continuum where you can have somebody overinvolved, but in these systems.
[00:05:19] It's been mistaken for love and closeness. Mm-Hmm. Over the years, sometimes people think that these enmeshed family systems are actually close. What they are is over involved and love is transactional and not freely given. And so that's one of the big mistakes in in enmeshment. How
[00:05:34] Jordan Harbinger: does this happen? Is this something where the parent is sort of predisposed to this because of their own upbringing, or does it have to do with the relationship that they're in with the child's parent?
[00:05:43] What's going on?
[00:05:45] Ken Adams: So there's a number of setting factors. You could have a parent with a personality disorder issued, overly dependent, overly narcissistic, right? They don't see the child for who they are. They can come from their own en mesh background. They could have mental illness, there could be addiction in the family.
[00:06:00] So usually a dysfunctional, a marital bond or a relational bond between the parents is a factor. That's a common denominator where one of the parents is checked out for one reason or another. Then the, the neediness, the anxiety, the depression of the other parent gets transferred to the, almost always the sensitive soul and the siblings, right?
[00:06:21] One of the kids who has a sensitive temperament, meaning that they tend to be more generally empathic, sensitive, and attuned. Mm-hmm, just by temperament. And those are the kids that will be drawn to say, mommy, what's the matter with you? My first practicum was at Children's Hospital in Detroit and we saw school phobic kids and I said to my supervisor, these kids aren't afraid of school.
[00:06:41] They can't leave their mothers. We have them into family therapy sessions. And we began to see these psychosomatic issues and school phobia related to the fact that these sensitive souls were absorbing their mother's worries and pain and they couldn't separate because they were worried. Now a lot of kids have early separation issues, that's not by itself.
[00:07:01] Pathological kids vary in their ability to separate at kindergarten and so forth, but these kids just couldn't do it. And we see that in adulthood. These kids grow up and they're still tethered to their parents and they're making compromises. It's my anniversary weekend and I'm gonna go change my mother's light bulb this weekend because she can't do without me.
[00:07:21] You think that's just a a dramatic example. But the truth is we've had stories like that. I'm laughing, it's not funny 'cause these guys don't feel like they have a choice.
[00:07:30] Jordan Harbinger: I realize that it's not funny in reality at all because of why this happened. There's kind of no not sad reason that a parent would have to use their child as an object to fulfill their needs emotionally.
[00:07:42] Ken Adams: right. None of it really adds up to a legitimate deal. I mean, there's certainly, there are some immigrant families who kind of bond together when they're in Western cultures. You'll see a sort of cohesion enmeshment, sometimes temporarily in cultures that are first generation so forth. But eventually people kind of find their way.
[00:08:00] But beyond that, there aren't a lot of legitimate reasons. I often say that the last spiritual assignment for a parent is to get out of the way and take the loss of their children. It's not the child's job to cushion the blow. My son's, uh, 21, and the more I get outta his way, the more he wants to circle back and consult with me if I try to impose my opinion.
[00:08:20] He, he wants nothing to do with the old man. Mm-Hmm. In these eSSH systems, it's the opposite, right? I demand that you are my audience and that I am the one dictating terms. So it's more than just the funny movie of John Ka taking his mother on a date. These parents will interject directly and criticize partners.
[00:08:38] She's not good enough for you. Don't you forget that? There'll be always an undermining, and the motivation behind that is, don't you leave me Mm-Hmm, don't you dare leave me. Right? And sometimes it's explicit. I remember a story once that one of the guys came to the workshop. He was having trouble with his wife, and his mother called and says, just divorce her so we can get out with our life together.
[00:08:58] Oh, that's so weird. I could walk you through multiple examples like that. I got these 700 guys from across the globe coming into these workshops, and every single one of them are ambivalent about commitment. I don't know what I think or what I want because I've been absorbed by my mother's needs and feelings, and now I'm confused.
[00:09:18] Is she good for me? My mother says she's not. You know, I don't know where I end and my mother's opinion begins. So the relationship to desire, romantic desire, sexual desire, any passionate involvement, even careers can be way laid. So then in that case, the parent-child relationship, as you describe it, becomes a kind of emotional or psychological marriage, right?
[00:09:40] Where the child becomes the parent's surrogate spouse, because oftentimes there wasn't that healthy bond between parents and or there were other variables like the personality of the child and the relationship can become sexually energized and occasionally violating as you write it, even without the presence of overt incest, sexual innuendo, sexual touch, or conscious sexual feelings on the part of the parent.
[00:10:04] But does this apply to men and women, or is this only something that happens between men and their mothers? Good question. So we'll see Mothers and sons in which the son plays sort of on a continuum on one end of the continuum. He's her emotional caretaker. Don't worry, mommy, I won't leave you. I'll stabilize you.
[00:10:22] You don't have to be lonely. I'm sorry you're depressed. Don't kill yourself. He's organized as a caretaker on the other end, he's her boyfriend. He goes on dates. So we've got guys reporting to us that the mother would take him on dates and she would prance him around, take him to the movies and dinner, and literally be at his arm without any overt sexual touch, you know, so you have a continuum.
[00:10:43] One end is a sexualized boyfriend, one step before, that's the surrogate husband. You know, I'm better than daddy, which is a loss to the man. If the kid best, the father and the mother uses him to best the father. It's a double loss. Mm-Hmm. You lose your mother's love 'cause she's not supposed to be doing that to you.
[00:11:00] And now you're in competition with the old man and you, you've overridden him and now you lose him. Right?
[00:11:05] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It would be very weird for a guy to stick around in a relationship like that with his wife treating his son like that and he's like, is this my son or is it my wife's boyfriend lives in our house.
[00:11:14] I want outta here. This is very odd. Precisely. Yeah. It seems like it would be so hard to have a real relationship with somebody because you're thinking even if you're dating or married to somebody, it would be weird because your pattern for relationships is your mom. So do you really wanna like, sleep with that woman and feel passionate for your wife and have kids with her?
[00:11:33] But then it would be such a weird thing to
[00:11:36] Ken Adams: do. Yep. You, you put your finger right in the middle of the pulse of why it's inappropriate sexually, right? Mm-Hmm. Just walk ourselves back a minute here. So kids fall in love with their parents, right? They wanna marry, have babies with their parents and they're not reading Freud.
[00:11:50] It's just hardwired that your first love affair. In a very simplistic way as your parents, and then you have your crush at school, maybe a crush on a teacher kind of unfolds. Hopefully nobody abuses you and you have a peer-to-peer relationship, and you kind of marry your lust, your biological lust with your ability to love, and they kind of link together and you can manage the deal, right?
[00:12:13] Imperfectly for many of us. But basically you can keep track of it on your own behalf. Well, if mom says, oh boy, my little son loves me. If a mother says, oh, he adores me, I'm going to use him. Mm-Hmm. Oh, you're very cute. You're very sweet. Goes, Bobby, look good. Why don't you pull up my dress? And pretty soon there's an involvement that goes too far and too long.
[00:12:34] And now I'm getting jealous that you have a crush at school. Mm-Hmm. You know? So now it's complicated and contaminated, and you're right. So now I download that erotic, romantic story, and I take it out into the world when I'm 20 years old and now I'm confused. I'm conflicted. You know, so maybe I can love you, but I can't have sex with you, but I can have sex with you and not love you.
[00:12:58] Right? So sometimes we'll see this splitting in these men. Their answer to this intrusiveness is to split off sex with non-committed situations.
[00:13:08] Jordan Harbinger: I. It's interesting 'cause when I first explored this, when I cracked the book, I was like, oh, this is about people whose mothers care about them. Just a little bit too much.
[00:13:16] But now it's not really that, no, it goes beyond that and it transcends that and it becomes actually, the care is not for the child. It's that parent's own emotional needs sucking that out of the child. And it's kind of the opposite of caring too much. It actually has nothing really to do with the child's needs at all.
[00:13:35] You'd mentioned earlier transactional, well, I'm gonna overinvest in this child or make it appear that I'm doing that because then later they owe me this affection or this attention or whatever. They gotta fill my black hole of need and that is the creepy. Pseudo incestuous thing that this ends up being.
[00:13:56] Ken Adams: Well you said it very well. Well put what you just described feels icky. The word icky comes up over and over and over again. Too much closeness for too long. We get guys sleeping with their mothers until they're 15 or 16, not sexually, although sometimes it crosses a line. We get guys whose sexual erotic desires involve mother stepson porn and fantasy, you know, so pretty soon you see the sexualized experience emerge in the man that carries the story that was once icky.
[00:14:31] And so it's almost like eye color with a lot of these guys. There's no way to have your romantic sexual desire, not burden to some degree. What do you mean
[00:14:41] Jordan Harbinger: by eye color?
[00:14:42] Ken Adams: Well, I mean, it's just so common. If I had to list 10 symptoms that I've seen over 700 guys in the workshops, it'd be right there on top.
[00:14:49] It comes over and over again where my desires romantically are conflicted beyond the normal, is she or he good for me, and maybe I made a mistake this next time I'll date somebody different. And everybody has periods of questioning and exploration. This is a ongoing ambivalence and commitment issue that I just can't get right.
[00:15:11] So I've got guys who show up in my world of treatment or education and they're 55 years old. They're great guides, good looking financially well off, have never been a loaf. Mm-Hmm. Can't do it. Can't do it. Yeah. They can't surrender. They can't let go. They might be able to have a truncated sexual experience with an escort or a temporary girlfriend, but I can't really merge with my lover because if I merge with my lover, I can't leave.
[00:15:39] I'm stuck. I feel like I'm stuck and engulfed by my mother. I'm not gonna do this. So we've got guys who just don't bond. Mm-Hmm. At the worst case, who are great souls, but they can't get the relationship down because they're so afraid of being consumed again.
[00:15:54] Jordan Harbinger: You wrote in the book, there's nothing loving or caring about a close parent-child relationship when it serves the needs and feelings of the parent rather than the child.
[00:16:02] Feeling close with your parents is a relationship in which the individual, both as a child and later as an adult, feels silently seduced by the parent. So that sort of speaks to what we're getting at here. I'm curious, though, what this covert incest looks like in action. Those are the results. Okay. Not being able to bond, having dysfunctional relationships in that respect.
[00:16:22] What does it look like when the child is growing up? You mentioned co-sleeping with mom until 15 or 16. That is hard to imagine. I co-sleep with my 4-year-old and my one and a half year old right now, and I'm kind of like, how many times do I have to have a child step on my, you know what, at four o'clock in the morning before, we're kind of out of this phase.
[00:16:40] Now, don't get me wrong, it's very cute, but I can't even imagine anyone would want that for a long time. Especially when the kid gets older and smelly, you know, when they're 10 or 11. It's like, get outta here. Get in your own gross bed. I was disgusting at that age. I would never want anything like this, but I'm also not one of these.
[00:16:58] Black hole of need people. What other symptoms are there? Right? How do we know when this is too much? There's people who are close to their parents and it's totally fine. Where's the line?
[00:17:07] Ken Adams: Well, you know, I think the ultimate line is the parent. So if we really take it to a higher level, the ultimate line is the parent has become the God.
[00:17:15] That's the bottom line here is the parent claimed an authority over the child that they don't have a right to which is to cross whatever boundary I want. And I think we've been talking pretty liberally about the different types. So you get parents who will share intimate details about how frustrated they are even sexually with their husband.
[00:17:33] Right? So we talk about mothers and sons here for the moment, just because it's easier. And they'll talk about, you know, your dad's not a good lover. Oh God, I'm glad we never have sex anymore. I'm glad that you are such a handsome boy. Ugh. So we begin to hear things that we might, in other normative systems think are affectionate.
[00:17:52] Oh, you're such a good looking kid, you know, or, or you get so good looking, or whatever becomes icky in the sense that it's serving that the parent has taken their love affair too far. Mm-Hmm. That they've over romanticized their love for their child. And let's face it, your kid loves you. There's nothing like it, right?
[00:18:09] And you know, it's different than a spouse. And so if you've got a underdeveloped. Parent, the little girl in me is turned on by my child. So there's a sort of inappropriate context. There's a romanticization of it. There's a discussion about intimate details that don't belong There is, do I look good in my nightgown or inappropriate boundary crossing that doesn't have to involve physical sexual contact, but can be sexualized.
[00:18:39] So the covert incest phrase is designed for that end of the continuum where the boy feels like the sexualized boyfriend to the mother.
[00:18:49] Jordan Harbinger: Icky is a great word, because just imagining someone's mom saying that to them, do I look good in my nightgown? Is so, cringey is not even quite the right word. I mean, it's really beyond inappropriate and so, so icky that that can't not have a negative effect over a prolonged period of time.
[00:19:06] Absolutely. The oversharing of what's going on in mom's dating life or relationship with dad is so not. Conducive to having a functioning emotional life of their own. What about when the kid is the go between, between parents? You hear about that occasionally with people who are divorcing, but it seems like this is a little
[00:19:25] Ken Adams: different.
[00:19:26] So you're describing when a kid is caught between the parents and the parents are vying for the kid's attention, they're fighting over the property of the child, right? Nobody's really paying attention to the feelings of the kid, but the kid becomes a piece of property like they would fight over a bank account and the kid is torn in that instance.
[00:19:44] And there's a sort of crossover where an enmeshed boy or girl who's in these enmeshed relationships or Cobra Inces, they certainly will feel caught in between. But it tilts a little further with what we're talking about where one parent is using the child to stabilize themselves and to best compete with the other parent.
[00:20:04] In these cases where you've got a divorce situation, parents are fighting over there, certainly the kid will be a a casualty in that and they might then become, over time the surrogate partner to the parent they get stuck with. So if one parent wins the child over, it may not be the victory that they really needed.
[00:20:27] Jordan Harbinger: You are listening to the Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest, Dr. Ken Adams. We'll be right back. This episode is sponsored in part by Huggies Huggies Little Mover's Diapers. They are a big deal in our household. Every baby is unique, and Huggies knows this. They offer the best fit with their curve.
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[00:22:49] Just a few minutes a day is all it takes, and many of the guests on the show subscribe and contribute to this course. So come on and join us. You'll be in Smart Company. You can find the course. Once again, it's email@example.com. Now back to Dr. Ken Adams. I know we asked earlier, does it happen with just mothers and sons or are we talking about fathers and daughters and or other mixtures?
[00:23:12] We didn't really close that loop. Do we wanna do
[00:23:14] Ken Adams: that? Sure, we can do that. I. When we see mothers and sons, again, we're assuming heterosexual, although I've had gay men come into the workshops, maybe 10% of the guys coming in and you know, one of the big misconceptions in the culture is all this relationship my mother caused the gayness.
[00:23:29] No. Okay. Because the truth is we'd have all 690 of the guys should be gay and they're all straight. Same dynamic. Yeah. There's about a 10% difference. Same issues, same intimacy problems, same sexual type of issues, just the gender orientation preference is different. So with men and their mothers, we see a lot of sexual issues.
[00:23:49] Mm-Hmm. And also of the father and the daughter, where the daughter is the sexualized girlfriend, we'll see her have similar issues like the man versus the woman who is her mother's best friend and surrogate partner there. We tend to see eating disorders. You know, I may be stuck with my mother, but I eat what the hell I want to eat.
[00:24:10] Right. There's always a rebellious attempt. So icky is the way to describe the end of the continuum. When there's a sexualized boyfriend or surrogate husband or wife, on the other end of the continuum, the feeling is suffocation.
[00:24:24] Jordan Harbinger: And that's with this same sex parent, right? So like a mother and a daughter?
[00:24:27] Ken Adams: Actually, it could be both. Oh, I see. Right. You could have somebody who felt more suffocated and sexualized. So suffocation is the broader enmeshment feeling. Right. I'm suffocated by the relationship. I can't breathe. So a part of me needs to protest. You might control me, mommy. And now you make me hate my dad and all men because you're angry at dad and men.
[00:24:47] But now why do I have to carry that? So we sometimes see daughters carrying their mother's anger as will the son have difficulty with male friendships, for example. But with the daughters and the mothers, we see this protest in eating. Mm-Hmm. I'll eat what the hell I want. Interesting. You can't have all of me.
[00:25:05] So when somebody is engulfed across their early development and they're enmeshed, suffocated, or sexualized, or all of the above. Everybody has a self, right? We'd have interests, we'd have preferences. We have a self. You have a core of who you identify as who you are, right? But in these relationships, that gets snuffed out, man, that gets shot down and pressed down, and you become a shadow of who you are, and you become the role at which your mother or father have defined for you in need of you because you're a sensitive soul.
[00:25:37] So you don't want to displease by me or daddy and you love them. So you're exploited and now you have to find some way to declare your independence. Sexing eating. Other addictions become perceived freedom, which really aren't. So if you look at the statistics now of the guys coming into the workshop, for example, the men, probably about 40 to 50% of them act out sexually outside their committed relations because now I was suffocated by my mother.
[00:26:03] Now I'm suffocated by my wife. They kind of transfer that feeling onto to their partner. And to some degree we all can do that, right? Sometimes we react to our partners if there was negative qualities about one of our parents. But these men. They're projecting onto their partners feelings that belong to their mothers.
[00:26:21] And so then they say, well, the hell with you, I'll betray you, I'll reject you. So they wind up betraying and rejecting the wrong woman. But we see the same issues of women and their mothers commitment problems. Codependency, always people pleasing. People pleasing. Interesting. That makes sense. Not really having my own voice marrying somebody or getting involved with somebody who won't have any interest in being intimate with me.
[00:26:44] Besides, I'm not available to be intimate, so I'm gonna pick somebody who really is not really available
[00:26:49] Jordan Harbinger: either. The people pleasing and caretaking stuff, crossing over, transferring. That makes total sense, right? Because if you're doing that with your parent your whole life, you just look for a partner that wants the same stuff and now you've got two black holes of need in your life.
[00:27:01] Ken Adams: Dr. Adams. I find it so interesting that as you move away from the icky part of the spectrum, which is much easier to identify, right? It's easier to say, oh, my mom put me in these situations. That made me feel very uncomfortable. I was sexualized, or people commented on my appearance or whatever. But as you move more toward the, the more covert versions of this, the subtler versions of this, where perhaps you were your parents' confidant or advisor, or you had too much access to their emotional life, you supported them, nurtured them, cared for them.
[00:27:31] There was a real friendship there. But I think for some people, it can take years if they ever get there at all, to realize, oh, I actually wasn't really just close with my parent. We didn't really have this beautiful collaboration or friendship going on. I was actually playing a role for this person that I didn't even understand.
[00:27:46] And then it plays out in all these ways, the people pleasing, the caretaking, the self-loathing, the feelings of inadequacy, the feelings, ironically of abandonment oftentimes of some of these people. Also, ironically, the emotional distance from that same sex parent, you were actually so quote unquote close with, there's so many contradictions in this dynamic, and I find it very interesting.
[00:28:08] But the sexual dysfunction that you just touched on a moment ago is perhaps one of the most interesting. You said that so many of the men you work with end up bringing those issues into your sessions or into your workshops. I can understand how a person who is raised in a house like this might become what we would consider a traditional sex addict, where the sexuality is very driven and it's very compulsive, but the opposite can also happen where sexuality gets shut down.
[00:28:32] Why does that happen? Well, I think that, Jordan, you alluded to it earlier, right, that if I get too close to this person, it feels like I'm with my mother. Yeah. So this entanglement of that individual who's listening to mom's complaints, I. He becomes the loyal lover who never leaves her. Right. Now, think about even if we don't have a sexualized piece of it, maybe she's not talking about her dissatisfaction sexually or prancing around in her nightgown, but he grows up and he's mommy's loyal lover, and he's never really moved out from that role.
[00:29:04] And now it's time to be sexual with his partner. And he gets past the early phase of excitement where everybody can be pretty much present, but then after a while, you've gotta negotiate how to be both with somebody sexual and also separate and keep that spark alive. And he can't do it because it feels like my mother, you want too much from me, you're needy.
[00:29:26] It feels icky to me. I'm not you a loyal lover, so how do I defend against that? I can't leave you, so I'll just shut down my sexuality. Okay, I'll neuter myself. Mm-hmm. So we get guys who don't function and then they go off to the side and say, I, I'll function over here. I'll do my thing over here. And so I'll betray the wrong woman.
[00:29:45] I'm gonna be loyal and betray the woman I should have been betraying over here, right? My mother, I should betray her and say, no, no, you don't get me. When we work with these guys, we do a lot of work helping them take back this sort of un neutered process, which can be done, by the way, by embodying these guys back in their selves.
[00:30:04] This is my body, mom. You don't get your hands on it. I now am free. Now, I have no doubt that these guys would struggle. A week later they'd kind of relapse back into it. Sure. But it's very dramatic in that it points to the fact that these guys have not embodied themselves because it felt too icky. I think what you're also saying is that being in touch with your sexuality, and not just your sexuality, but also just your healthy ego, like my sense of self, my identity, my individualism.
[00:30:30] That is dangerous actually. Mm-Hmm, exactly. Because it would be sort of a threat or even a betrayal to the mother. They have enough appropriately thrown over or redefined. Precisely.
[00:30:40] Jordan Harbinger: Tell me if I'm just overanalyzing this here, but it seems like essentially in this situation you're being abused as a child, but then also it sounds like you're idealizing your parent in all these other ways.
[00:30:50] So you're idealizing somebody who's also abusing you, which now that I say it out loud, is probably more common than one would think with an abusive parent, parent-child relationship. Learning to
[00:30:59] Ken Adams: tolerate people in your life that really aren't good for you sometimes. So we see two extremes in these guys.
[00:31:07] They either miss a boat and they go, my God, I wish I could have committed to her. Invariably, most of these guys report losing the love of their life. Sure. Because they couldn't commit. It's profoundly sad to listen to this. Wow. That is sad. Yeah, I mean, literally the love of my life and I couldn't commit, you know, she wanted to commit for me and I couldn't do it.
[00:31:28] Or we see the other extreme, right? I keep committing to relationships that I have high tolerance for, but they're not good for me.
[00:31:35] Jordan Harbinger: That's where I was leading with this, right? If you're idealizing the abusive parent, do you then bring in that confusion around abuse and love as an adult? So then do I start dating women who are abusing me because that's what normal relationships are like in my pattern, because my mom did that where she would be like, you're gonna eat this and you're gonna dress like that, and you're not gonna go do this.
[00:31:55] It's like, well, if I date a normal woman and she's not doing that, maybe she doesn't love me. Let me find somebody else who tells me what to do at every moment of the day. You would just recreate that. And then you'd go, wham, my wife's abusive. It's like, well, of course you filtered out everybody who wasn't treating you poorly, so of course.
[00:32:11] And the next person you find is gonna do the same thing, because that's all you know. Yeah.
[00:32:15] Ken Adams: That certainly happens. We talk about the three Ps. When we are trying to rectify the past, we may pick somebody. So you're talking about picking a person that resembles our primary abusers. Mm-Hmm. In order to work through the past, or we might project onto them that which isn't there.
[00:32:32] You're always too needy. Right. When fact, she's saying, what are you talking about? We've been dating for four years. I'm just looking for a commitment here, bill. Mm-Hmm. Or we might provoke them. Right? So let's say I do get attached to somebody who's pretty decent, pretty loving, but I betray her. I act out sexually and with an affair partner or an escort, or do something.
[00:32:51] Now she becomes a version of my mother, always controlling, always demanding to know where I'm at. But I did that to myself. So usually we see people pursuing the past through one of those three P's, picking somebody, projecting out to them, or provoking them. And you're talking about picking somebody, which is always sticky because when we hear these guys tell their stories, it's not always clear to us whether they've provoked them or whether or not they've picked them to become that.
[00:33:20] Mm-Hmm. And sometimes it's water under the bridge. Sometimes it's too late. And divorcing, both the mother and the current partner have to become part of the emancipation process.
[00:33:30] Jordan Harbinger: How did you get interested in this kind of work? Because I know you're a therapist, but it just seems like a very specific niche to get into.
[00:33:37] Did you just have a bunch of patients like this and you got interested in
[00:33:40] Ken Adams: it or, or what? There's a couple threads. This won't surprise you, but there was some enmeshment in my family. Okay. So my mother has a mesh with her parents. They were first generation Hungarian, and then they kind of trickled out to myself and my brothers.
[00:33:53] That was sort of behind my work, to be frank with you. The first thing that I noticed professionally outside of the children that I was working with at Children's Hospital, who were school phobic, which is when I first discovered it, is I was working with adults who had, uh, grown up in alcoholic families, adult children of alcoholics, and this man was compulsively picking up prostitutes, escorts.
[00:34:14] And he was split between living in his own place and living with his mother where he had to live in order to do his job, which was in the city. And so while he was living with his mother, he'd be picking up prostitutes and he said, what should I do? I said, stop living with your mother. Right. I was early in my professional career, you know, I wasn't aware.
[00:34:31] You don't always give sexual direct advice. To my surprise, he stopped. He did it. He moved out, and his compulsion to pick up prostitutes dropped precipitously. Wow. It was stunning for me to see that. I understood that we had to work with him long term on keeping boundaries and not reengaging in that, but the cathartic shift.
[00:34:50] By moving out that decreased his compulsion was dramatic. I wrote my first professional article based on that case, so that was the first sort of dart on the board where I thought, ah, this enmeshment stuff affects sexuality. I wrote from there, I wrote sly seduced. How long after that, it just came to me as they say.
[00:35:13] Jordan Harbinger: This is the Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest, Dr. Ken Adams. We'll be right back. This episode is sponsored in part by Better Help. As each new year rolls in, we're bombarded with messages about transforming ourselves. But how about a different approach for 2024? Let's celebrate what's already great about us.
[00:35:28] I'm holding on to certain parts of my routine firmly. Top of the list is my four day a week exercise regimen. My ongoing endeavor to learn Mandarin, which has been an 11 year journey. I should be way further than I am. Don't even remind me. It's been a gradual process. I am steadily advancing this year.
[00:35:41] I'm dedicated to accelerating a little bit. Let's talk therapy. It's a powerful tool, not just for overcoming challenges, but for recognizing your strengths and making meaningful changes. Therapy teaches you to cope positively and set boundaries. It's for everybody who wants to sharpen their mental wellbeing.
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[00:37:30] It reminds me of when somebody is getting clean from drugs or alcohol and they're like, don't go back to the same places. And it's like, yeah, yeah. Don't hang out with my friends who do drugs. And it's like, no, no, no. Don't even go down the same road. Take a different path to work. Move out from your mom's house.
[00:37:45] Well, what does that have to do with me picking a prostitutes? Well, obviously at home there's some trigger that you can't not run into every single day or every time you do this. So if you move out and you're not hitting that trigger, the addiction stuff doesn't necessarily kick off or it's way less often and easier to break.
[00:38:01] And it sounds like that's kind of the pattern that we're looking at here, I would imagine triggers all kinds of addictions, right? There's gotta be substance abuse problems that go along with this. Like, oh, I drink because I don't know. And it's like, well, you live with your mom and your mom tells you all this icky stuff and then your wife gets mad at you and it's like, oh, oh, yeah.
[00:38:17] That might have something to do with it.
[00:38:19] Ken Adams: So we like to use the word ritual space. Everybody's crowded into my, my little center space, right? I'm not alone. I can't be alone. I've never been alone. I don't know who the hell I am, and mother is central to that space. But if I move out now I can breathe. Now I have a ritual space in which she's not intruding.
[00:38:39] So my need to escape diminishes. So that's what you just described, is that if I'm at home, my sense of ritual, space safety is always being intruded on. So if I'm calling my mother five times a day, or she's texting me 10 times a day, I never feel a separateness, right? I don't want to answer every one of your texts here, right?
[00:38:59] And if I don't answer it doesn't mean I don't love you, right? So please don't say that again. So these guys can't do that. They can't really set boundaries like that. So there's no spatial separateness, there's no breathing space. So the need to escape addictions become a primary way to do that. Oh, I just shut down.
[00:39:18] Mm-Hmm. And I avoid everybody, right? I isolate. And I don't get involved in friendships or romances because as you said earlier, I just shut the whole thing down. I'm glad we're talking about this. I would love to explore for a moment some of the non-romantic impacts of covert incest. You know, we've talked about the dating stuff, the sex addiction stuff, but I would love to hear a little bit about how children of these parents navigate things like friendships, careers, creative pursuits, the world in general.
[00:39:46] You touch on both of your books on a number of interesting themes in decision fear, ambivalence, and inability to know how they really feel about a topic or an issue or a person. Sometimes it's even difficult to make a basic decision, you know, like, do I do this or do I do that? Do I go to this restaurant or do I go to the beach?
[00:40:04] And also procrastination. Can you talk about that? Why do those qualities develop in children like this? That's a good question. You just again, outlined that other series of eye color symptoms in the group. 95% of the guys will report what you just described. So let's think about that for a minute, right?
[00:40:19] If you're this sensitive, empathic boy, you're absorbing the dominant emotional landscape of your parent. Mm-Hmm. And yours is being subjugated, right? Your needs and wants. You begin to set them aside. I don't wanna upset mommy. I really want to play football, but she doesn't want me to play football, or whatever the issue is, right?
[00:40:38] And so I begin this process early on in my development of losing my voice in the service, of allowing mother to have her voice in my presence. And so when it comes time for me to intuitively or instinctively know how to make a move, you know, this is the career I want, I'm gonna take my chances. You know, we got guys who have built careers on, based on what their mothers want.
[00:40:59] They're changing careers over their 45 because they realize this is not what I wanted to do. And so you can get dramatic examples like that all the way to, I can't decide what dinner I wanna go to tonight because I don't really know who I am. I don't know what my needs are, and if I get to what I really want, I'm afraid I'm gonna disappoint somebody.
[00:41:17] So I'm going to move away from that and remain ambivalent or placating, or people pleasing. I won't really assert what I want. In fact, I've lost track of what I want. So ambivalence in decision, self-doubt becomes sort of this repetition in me around multiple topics. And also friendships. You know, I wind up getting friendships where I'm always the one doing the work.
[00:41:41] Mm-Hmm. My buddy's not reciprocating or taking me to a ball game, or whatever it is. Right? And so, you know, sometimes we get friendships in which I'm doing all the heavy lifting. Wow. And so, because my value is what I can give to you, how I can support you, not what's good for the both of us here, or what I want.
[00:42:01] You can say what you want without being narcissistic. I'd really like to go to the Thai restaurant. Right. How about you? What do you wanna do at this time? Okay, you wanna go to this? Well this time we'll go here. Next time we'll go to Thai. Right. So that ability to negotiate preferences and needs in relationships, from friendships to careers to romances is really burdened by, I don't get a vote.
[00:42:25] In fact, I've lost the fact that I even can vote. It's sad, you know, they might have a very specific career. So sometimes you can see somebody who's managed a career and maybe they've got a career that they really like and they've found some way to fight, and they just are kind of locked into that.
[00:42:40] That's the one thing they know. It's the one thing they can hang on to. It's the one thing they can identify with. But if you move them outside that path, they start to get a little wobbly about who they are and where they end. Mm-Hmm. So, you're right. You know, we all need an intuitive sense of self. My son, his first car, he says, well, I'd like a, I'd like a sports car from my first car.
[00:43:01] I said, no, man, that's not gonna happen. And so, uh, he had it all laid out how I was gonna save money and gas and insurance five years down the road. Said, had a little PowerPoint presentation and I said to him, no, bud, I'm sorry. That's not happening. He goes, you know, it just doesn't feel right sometimes you make decisions based on a feeling, so you lose the ability to do that when you are absorbed by somebody else's feelings and needs.
[00:43:25] That's the reason for that. Ambivalence, uncertainty, and decision. I. Which would make uncertainty and crises and wide open ocean, very anxiety provoking. For a child of this template, I would imagine in silently seduced you wrote that the adult covert incest victim remains stuck in a pattern of living, aimed at keeping the special relationship going with the opposite sex parent.
[00:43:48] It is a pattern of always trying to please mommy and daddy. A privileged and special position is maintained the pain and suffering of a lost child, denied separation never occurs, and feelings of being trapped in the psychological marriage deepen. This interferes with the victim's capacity for healthy intimacy and sexuality in addition to all of the other things you just mentioned.
[00:44:09] So I wrote that, that, well, that's well put. Yeah, you're, you're
[00:44:11] Jordan Harbinger: not bad. You should look into writing more
[00:44:15] Ken Adams: time for a new edition. We've talked a lot about what covert Inces does to people. I think we need to talk about how to recover from it. What does healing from this look like? Well, I think doing what you guys are doing, first of all, you know, education, you guys are doing a great service here.
[00:44:31] Somebody out there is gonna hear this and it's gonna change your lives. So way to go guys. Way to go, oh yeah,
[00:44:36] Jordan Harbinger: we're gonna get emails about this. Like, I never knew that this was it, but this is it. I totally have this relationship with my mom or
[00:44:42] Ken Adams: dad. It is a slice of the pie, right? Yeah. I can't keep up with it.
[00:44:45] We have a workshop every month. I get emails from all around the world. It just can't keep up with it. So the first order of business is to come to some awareness of what is the truth. To break through the denial and to realize that what you have been calling love is not love. Hmm. And it's a hard pill to swallow, but unless you can face that, everything else becomes too problematic.
[00:45:08] If you don't confront the belief system and see the reality what it is, you can't really set a boundary. I. But if I come to terms of the fact that, well, at some level, sure, my mother probably loved me, but what she's doing now is not love. And this is transactional, obligatory assignment in that love is a currency to get me to not leave her.
[00:45:27] It's not really love. Now I can better begin to think about setting a boundary. So challenge the belief system, confront the denial, educate yourself and be prepared to give over the responsibility to the parent to manage the loss. Hmm. Kids are supposed to emancipate from their parents and move on. It doesn't mean they don't circle back.
[00:45:52] We hope that our kids do, right? Mm-Hmm. Yeah. Come home for Christmas, right? You break through the denial. You educate yourself and you shift the responsibility in your mind to your parent. This is not my job. Take care of you. And you don't worry about negotiating it. So emancipation is not a negotiation.
[00:46:08] You do not need your parents' co-signature on this. Mm-Hmm. It'd be nice to get their blessing, but don't go into family therapy with your mother. It'll feel like couple's therapy. Oh man, we have some guys best intention, but misses the point, brings the mother into the therapy session and it feels like it's marital therapy with my mother man and the guy relapses in his sex addiction the next day, man.
[00:46:29] Mm. So it's declaring that, look it, mom, I know you've been having a hard time with your life with dad, but things are gonna change. I know you love me, but things are gonna be different. I gotta put my energy in my life and my career and my wife, my kids. We're gonna shift things around and I'm gonna trust that you're gonna figure out a way to deal with it.
[00:46:46] 'cause you said you love me, so you have to step up and have a position of emancipation. There's an interesting tension here because you talk a lot about assigning responsibility to the parent, holding them accountable. But how do you hold a parent like this accountable in cases where they don't even realize that this is what they were doing?
[00:47:06] Well, I'm saying this more from the perspective of an internal dialogue with the self. Mm-Hmm. I see more than I am an external negotiation. So there has to be an internal shift in the belief system, in the way that you narrate your story. Right? 'cause that's what we're talking about. We're talking about changing the narrative of how you hold your life story.
[00:47:28] Everybody's got a story, right? You guys got a story? I have a story. We all have a story to tell. It has to change and you change it internally. Mm-Hmm. My job is not to carry my mother's disappointment. For her, it's her spiritual assignment to figure this out before she dies. Not mine. So you change the internal dialogue and then the external is limited.
[00:47:50] It might mean, look, we gotta change things. We're not vacationing every year in Cancun with you anymore. We're going on our own vacation. So sometimes the emancipation is just a declaration occasionally about what I'm doing differently. You know, I won't be visiting this Christmas. We're staying in the motel down the street.
[00:48:06] No, we're staying in the house, by the way. Mm-hmm. You'll begin to need boundaries. So belief system, internal shift boundaries, and then commitments to yourself, to your partner. These are my priorities, and to push back on guilt.
[00:48:22] Jordan Harbinger: Okay, do I confront my mom on this or my dad or whatever? And what if they're dead?
[00:48:28] You don't really need a boundary from a dead person, but you kind of do. Because if they're this ghost in your mind that's telling you like, yeah, your wife's not good for you, what do you do with that?
[00:48:37] Ken Adams: So that's the business of the therapy world. Right? Okay. That's what our business is about, is activating experientially, bringing to light into feeling that internal presence and doing the job of confrontation therapeutically.
[00:48:51] Right. So you're shifting the emotional landscape and narrative enough times and enough protest that you can start to breathe. Should that translate to a confrontation with your parents? I would say in general, not necessarily. So this is not about going home and grabbing your parents by the lapels and shaking them and saying, look, you guys smothered me.
[00:49:11] I want my own life. It's having your own life and letting them deal with it. Because what happens is if you go and you start getting enraged with your parents, you're gonna provoke your guilt. And once you provoke your guilt, you're gonna wind up resubmitting yourself back to your parents. So you have to be careful about how you declare your independence.
[00:49:31] Now, it might be if you've got parents who will listen, we always like to say that the best you can hope for is your parents will resign themself to keeping their mouth shut. If they're smart, that's what they'll do. They don't wanna lose you. They want you to circle back. If I had more time, I would do a workshop for parents, and I would say, look, it's in your best interest.
[00:49:48] My son and I used to play baseball all the time together, play catch every day. It's not his thing anymore, right? But he's a young man now, right? So we have a different relationship. Your kids will circle back to you if you get out of the way. So your job is to keep moving forward and letting your parent or parents deal with the loss and not do too much negotiation about that.
[00:50:10] But it might mean that you, you could say things are changing. I'll put more emphasis in my life. I just want you to know I won't be responding as frequently to emails or text doesn't mean X, Y, or Z. So you could make a declarative position, but know that it's not gonna go far. You can't use it to get assurance that it's okay.
[00:50:29] So if you're doing that to get your parents to say, good for you, don't do it. 'cause it's not coming. It's
[00:50:35] Jordan Harbinger: gotta be so hard to do that, right? Because you're in a position that seems like it's privileged and special. Your mommy's special boy, you don't really wanna lose that at some level, I assume. But then also you're like, oh, and by the way, I'm not going to Cancun with you.
[00:50:46] I'm going on vacation with my wife because we're normal adults. That's not really gonna fly. If you're mommy's special boy and you're trying to be this, and then you're also like, and by the way, I'm gonna have my own life with my wife, and you're gonna lose your pseudo boyfriend, partner, whatever that you've had since I was born.
[00:51:03] I can't imagine that going over too well. And that sort of leads to wonder if people recover a hundred percent from this, or will children of these parents always at some level, wrestle with these feelings and conflicts, even if the parent dies and is like, I forgive you. Guilt is really hard to shed.
[00:51:19] It's really, really hard to get rid of entirely.
[00:51:22] Ken Adams: It's a one day at a time deal. You can keep creating real estate and spaces at which you're free, but you're always gonna be provoked into some degree of relapse around that. You have to keep coming back to remind yourself about the freedom that you have a right to and deserve.
[00:51:39] So you've always gotta, you know, have your private little dialogue with your mother, whether she's dead or not, and say, I need you out of the room. Sometimes we'll have guys come into the practice, for example, and we don't come in and let them bring their spouses in to the same session because they've never had a space just for them.
[00:51:56] Mm-Hmm. So practicing over and over again, the ritual of space that's mine becomes a necessary piece. And that is probably ongoing. So the earlier this stuff occurred in childhood, the longer it's gone on, the deeper the template. Wow.
[00:52:14] Jordan Harbinger: So cutting it off when you're 20 and you move out is gonna be easier than trying to do it when you're 45.
[00:52:19] You're married with two kids. I guess that makes complete sense. You can restart your life when you're 20 if you want to. It's a lot harder when you're married with two kids and you're in your forties.
[00:52:27] Ken Adams: One of the big consequences of covert incest is feeling objectified and used, as we talked about, not loved unconditionally, right?
[00:52:36] I like the phrase not love for love's sake. I like that too. Not love for love's sake. So how does a person cultivate or rediscover that feeling of being loved for love's sake or even being worthy of that love? That's a big question. So first of all, I think we need to confront the faulty belief system so that they understand that the transactional currency love was not really love.
[00:53:00] That's their first order of business. So assuming that's essentially challenged and out of the way. I think it becomes a daily practice and being around people who are reciprocal. Pat s who did all the work on sexual addiction said in recovery, relationships change or they end. I always liked that phrase, you can't be in recover from drug, alcohol, and sex addiction.
[00:53:21] Keep going Las Vegas with your buddies. Relationships change at the end. There's no middle ground here. I think that you start cultivating relationships that are reciprocal in which you're not the only one. Providing the service to the other so that you can begin to feel what it's like to have somebody hold you lovingly and to permit yourself to do the same.
[00:53:43] Right? Because the other thing that gets in the way, I remember this with my mother. I had a lot of grief about regret, and I thought, you know what? That's not on me. She got in the way. You talked about grief earlier. One of the things that's lost here for the son is he doesn't get that sweet loving connection that I watched my son have with my wife.
[00:54:03] Sometimes my son will turn to my wife first counsel more than me, right? And so that's lost to this man, and it's not on him, it's on the mother parents' job is to get out of the way so the kid can come back around and love them differently. So I would say surround yourself with people who can be reciprocal and so that you can begin to take a chance on loving, because it's hard to do, right?
[00:54:27] If you've been suffocated and engulfed and enmeshed, opening your heart up is not an easy job. Mm-Hmm. Needing to learn that you can open yourself up to somebody romantically, lovingly, sexually merged with them, and then unhook and come back. Let yourself miss each other. Right? So guys who've been enmeshed don't know that dance.
[00:54:48] They think they've always gotta be emerge with their lovers. And then separateness means I never come back. But the dance of intimacy for these a mesh guys is to learn to move in and merge and collapse and come back up. And not to bring the lover with you and have her collapse in your sacred space, but to move into a different space with her.
[00:55:08] Mm-Hmm. So it's a tough dance, but it is the dance that we see that works. So this is gonna sound a little weird, Dr. Adams, but there are some benefits that come from this level of ENM measurement slash trauma. It seems to me, based on your books, that people who have these parents often tend to be very empathic.
[00:55:27] They can be very good listeners, they can be excellent caretakers, which in certain situations can be very helpful or useful, sometimes beautiful. There's some beauty to that level of care, but obviously it can become compulsive. It can come at the cost of the person. It can become a whole identity. How do you break outta that mold?
[00:55:44] Can people with these parents stop living up to the expectations of other people and start living for themselves? How do they do that without losing some of these admirable qualities? I think the empathy precedes the role. I think most of these people are naturally so temperamentally empathic. Some kids are more, screw you, I don't wanna deal with it.
[00:56:05] Right. There's a little more punch to their temperament. Mm-Hmm. I think the empathy is temperamental and also developmental. So yes. I do think these roles increase pairing and empathy. I'd like to use this phrase, I think you have to learn to regulate your empathy. You can't give it away to everybody.
[00:56:26] When I worked with therapists, therapists were always burned out by the end of the day. Right. You give yourself to eight people in session and Sure. This is one of my experience. I come home from work and I didn't wanna talk to my wife or my son. I was just burned out. You have to learn. I can care and feel for you, but I'm not giving it all to you.
[00:56:44] Hmm. Learning to regulate the empathy is your key. Mom, I love you. I care about you, but I'm not gonna listen to your problems with dad anymore. You gotta work it out with him. I'm sorry. How's the weather? So regulating how much you give, I already have this much in the tank. That's all you're gonna give Learning to do that becomes a, a skill that helps you navigate so that you don't feel depleted in relationships.
[00:57:13] Jordan Harbinger: Dr. Adams, thank you so much. It's a world I didn't know existed, and I think a lot of people probably didn't know they were even in these kinds of relationships with the parents. So I think it's really informative and very helpful. Thank you so much. Yeah,
[00:57:25] Ken Adams: thank you. You guys did great. Love, love working with you.
[00:57:27] Take care. Nice to see you guys.
[00:57:31] Jordan Harbinger: You're about to hear a preview of the Jordan Harbinger show with a guest who committed a white collar crime, went to federal prison, and now advises lots of people that you've heard on the news.
[00:57:41] Ken Adams: I'm gonna speak openly about breaking the law. I'm gonna speak openly about living in denial.
[00:57:46] I'm gonna speak openly about what I've learned from this experience. I'm gonna speak openly how I was a privileged rich kid who had all the breaks in life, and I deserved to be scrutinized. I deserved to be punished, and I'm gonna talk about how I'm gonna climb back up. I knew that it was wrong. I knew that while I was sitting in a meeting and someone was being told that a certain return existed, I knew that it was a lie and people were hurt.
[00:58:08] As a result of that, even though in my case all of the money was repaid, all the victims have got their money back. Some of the humanity was stripped away. It comes back to intent. The government doesn't care. It doesn't matter if you were swept into this. They think you broke the law. They have a narrative.
[00:58:21] And they are out to punish and they love, they love cooperators. I broke the law. I cheated. I created victims. It is a lifelong stigma. You know it, it takes some time. It takes some peppering and understanding of reading and learning and thinking. You've got to find that perspective. You've got to become grateful for what's left versus all that's lost, and that was really a big transformation for me, focusing on what was left, my family and my mind, and a willingness to work hard and be competitive versus obsessing over everything that had crumbled down.
[00:58:51] The hardest part is in prison. It's frankly the easiest part. There is a value in being in prison and losing everything. There is a freedom that comes with it. I didn't have a career to return to. I didn't have money to return to. I didn't have a relationship to return to it. Everyone has to find value in the climb.
[00:59:07] I found great value in climbing back to a sense of respectability.
[00:59:11] Jordan Harbinger: To hear why Justin Pepperoni says his 18 months behind bars was one of the best experiences of his life. Check out episode 2 26 of the Jordan Harbinger Show. Interesting conversation. Again, I'd never thought about most of this stuff.
[00:59:25] Sometimes covert incest victims pick a similar partner to their parent, but sometimes they choose somebody very different. Somebody who's actually incompatible so that they have an excuse for a marriage that just doesn't work. And I, this happens subconsciously a lot of the time, and it shows up in dating, it shows up in partner selection and often these folks divorce.
[00:59:44] Because they're actually trying to divorce their parent and dissolve that emotional bond. So the whole thing kinda gets projected onto their partner. So they just keep repeating that pattern because divorcing their actual spouse doesn't solve the problem. It's the parent they need to kind of distance themselves from.
[00:59:58] And Dr. Ken Adams, he is big on setting boundaries with the parent in question. This is like the most important part of the healing process, which is allowing for, as he puts it, the unfolding of your true, authentic self as opposed to playing the role that was defined for you by your parents. And if you're a parent listening right now and you're like, oh my gosh, I'm doing this to my kid, you're not a bad person.
[01:00:19] But you gotta identify the line between healthy intimacy with a family member and what's called covert incest. I definitely recommend picking up the book. A therapist is a good place to start. Again, you're not a terrible person, especially if you nip this in the bud. There's a difference between being close with your child and being enmeshed.
[01:00:36] And if you're doing it with young children, obviously, you know, good stop now. But if it's an older child, it's not too late to stop. Like you can rescue these relationships and help them become more healthy at pretty much any time. So how can you identify the line between healthy intimacy and covered incest?
[01:00:51] Well, when the relationship primarily serves the emotional needs of the parent, not the child. And I asked Bruce these questions, so these are his answers, not just me speculating when the child's closeness to one parent is used in a tug of war with the other parent. That happens a lot in divorces, but it also happens a lot in families that are still together when the implicit and explicit demands for obligatory loyalty.
[01:01:11] Love is used transactionally, in this case, to the parent, interfere with the child's identity unfolding and becoming like a standalone adult. Also when the parent's needs and demands interfere with the romantic relationship of the adult child leaving the partner essentially second fiddle. So like you're in a weird relationship with your mom so that your current wife or girlfriend can't really form a healthy bond with you.
[01:01:33] There's a lot more to this, but essentially the line between the sweet and normal love between parent and child, it crosses into this covertly incestuous feeling when the parent parades the boy or girl around as sort of a. Romanticize person who will never leave them and this can occur again. I wanna highlight this without any inappropriate sexual touch at all.
[01:01:54] And it's still icky, right? It's still icky, it's still too much. It's still too invasive. The best options for parents who find themselves doing this is to seek adult companionship needs outside the bond with their child. Obviously, to encourage autonomy and independence, to extend a feeling of confidence and trust in the child's independence, to contain worry, neediness, and helplessness that would normally be expressed to the child.
[01:02:14] And to extend space and respect for separateness to the child. And sort of see this as an act of its own love. And I know there's a lot there, but I think for people who are really listening, 'cause they need this stuff, they get it and they know where the rewind button is. There's a lot more in the book especially, which of course will be linked in the show notes and on our booksPage@jordanharbinger.com slash books.
[01:02:32] Transcripts will be in the show notes as well. Advertisers deals, discount codes, and ways to support the show are all at Jordan harbinger.com/deals. Please consider supporting those who support the show. You're welcome to email me All Surface, any code for you. Yes, it's that important Also, hey, newsletter.
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