When someone gives you a great reason to not trust them, such as having an addiction, infidelity, cheating, emotionally distancing, raging, or any number of intimacy busters, the insecurity gets triggered. The insecurity lies in wait, like a crocodile, leaving his eyes just above the water, waiting for an opportunity to show itself fully. One husband accused his estranged wife of loving their son too much, of being enmeshed and too close, while not showing enough attention and love to her two stepsons. He cannot speak about the pain he endures on an emotional level when he sees how much love he has lost from his wife. His transference of abandonment and insecurity into a situation he is observing is more real and this allows him to attack his wife’s parenting skills rather than speak about his true feelings of loneliness and insecurity. You might be thinking “wow, what a jerk.” But this is common and normal within families and marriages, to be disconnected from the deep insecurities of childhood and rather become critical of the other person’s “wrong doing” or abandoning behavior.
There are no bad guys here, just people who have feelings of being left out, feeling not included, or unloved, and the childhood feelings are deeply buried and unknown to the conscious mind. What feels real to the spouse is the here and now, but the parent’s reaction is based in a belief system that was created before the parents even met! This situation has nothing to do with addressing what is wrong or right, or how to parent at this point. The first issue in marriage counseling is knowing what kinds of experiences the parent is having that triggered such a statement.
Another couple struggles with one parent making critical, shaming statements to their children while the other parent listens silently in horror. In this example it would be easy to blame the critical parent as the bad guy. However, there is more going on here than just shaming. In marriage counseling, this couple is suffering from control, shame, abandonment, jealousy, and insecurity issues. The couple shares this insecurity from childhood and have learned as adults to express the issue differently. One parent hides, playing the head in the sand game, while the other lashes out and expresses this painful issue verbally.
For the wife, who puts her head in the sand, the verbal expression is painful and jarring, triggering her insecurity, rendering her frozen in time as she watches the shaming interaction occur for her children. For the husband, who is raging on the inside from pain and abandonment, expresses his insecurity in the heat of the moment when he feels stressed. It’s an issue of insecurity and control for him. Not being able to manage his own shame and anxiety, he lashes out and becomes reactive.
Is there a way out? Yes, making healthy changes requires work to establish boundaries, to not triangulate with others, gossip, or harbor resentment that covers up your insecurities. In order to heal and be honest about your internal dialogue, you have to face yourself and not direct your need to control others. If you are focusing on how to control others, then you are missing the point. You cannot focus on your pain and feelings of insecurity and try to control others at the same time. Being healed means being free of the burden of insecurity or at least being conscious and aware of what motivates your shaming or reactive tendencies. It means being truthful about yourself, about what matters to you, and about whether or not you’ve been seeing your spouse and family as clearly as possible. Wearing shaming and insecure goggles to see life will continue to hurt you and your family. Viewing life from a place of never feeling secure in your relationships will continue to lead to heartache until you can make healthy changes.