A symbiotic relationship is one in which one individual, usually a parent, and usually the mother fuses her identity with another's; usually a child. The results are extremely detrimental to the functioning of all parties involved. This ego fusion usually occurs when the child is very small, earlier than age two, according to psychology textbooks on the subject, and leaves the child in a lifelong servitude of sorts to the involved parent, who is usually the mother. Harrison says 70 percent of these cases occur in women. "Men are usually symbiotically attached to their work," he explains, "whereas women become attached to their children."
The child learns early on in life that it exists only to please the mother, who gets her gratification from the child's successes in life. Various degrees of the disorder are extremely common in our society, according to Harrison. "After all, how many stage mothers are out there?" he asked. This type of dysfunctional ego fusion often leads to emotional abuse of the child and sometimes will even becme physical.
Symbiotic relationships, according to Dr. Harrison, are usually transgenerational, or passed on from one generation to the next. When people become parents, they tend to repeat the parenting style in which they themselves grew up. Thus, if a woman was raised by an overly involved mother*, she, in turn, is likely to become overly involved with her own children. (Page 1)
"The other side of the equation is, "If you should reject me, I will destroy you.'" Harrison explains that with young children the way to destroy them is to abandon the, either physically or emotionally. When children are older, he says, such parental rejections in skewed relationships of this type are sometimes the motivation for infanticide. "In many cases where parents have murdered their children," he says, "symbiotic relationships are found to be the root cause."
The whole system, he explains, "is based on an elaborate quid pro quo that is unspoken but clearly understood. As the child grows older, it usually takes the form of the parent implying to the child, 'If you do things that reflect well on me and make me look good, I will give you love. But if you ever screw up, forget it.
According to Harrison, there are many variations in the intensity of symbiotic relationships, from mild to severe. All parents, after all, want their children to be happy and successful. But in extreme examples, the child's entire existence serves only one purpose--to further the parent's goals. Often this takes the form of the parent attempting to live his or her life, which to date has been unsatisfactory, through the child. The father who was never good at sports but who pushes his son to excel at them, the mother who has led a life of menial drudgery who urges her son or daughter by being the best at everything, are typical examples. When the child fails to achieve the desired result, says Harrison, the parent experiences depression and then anger. "Rage is always an inherent part of symbiotic relationships," Harrison explains.
*Dr. Harrison explains, "Usually there is some spousal abuse of some sort in the family of origin, which causes the mother to withdraw from her spouse. That abuse is often of substances like alcohol or drugs, where the father is, say, an alcoholic, so the mother turns away from him."
When children enter the picture, he adds, "That mother gloms onto the kid or kids to 'protect' them from the father," and also for the emotional closeness lacking in her marital relationship. Typically, says Harrison, children raised in these environments will later involve themselves in abusive relationships, like their mother's. and repeat the process with their own children. This lifestyle can repeat itself ad infinitum unless some crisis calls a halt to it and intervention is employed.
Harrison describes the typical family dynamics in symbiotic relationships, "There is always some kind of persecutor," he says, "an external threat of some kind. The implied threat operating there is that the mother will say, in effect, to the child, 'Do as I say and I will protect you. If you remain attached, clinging, dependent, vulnerable, and fused to me, I will give you everything that you need,' " he explains.
The effect on a child in such a system can be devastating emotionally, Harrison says. "There are no age-appropriate task acquisitions," he explains. "Everything the child ever accomplishes is done with the parents help, so the child fails to acquire a sense of mastery and feels helpless and dependent.
Because the parent usually turns to the child, not her spouse, for emotional support, the child becomes the mother's major confidant, and often feels stressful pressure to emotionally support the parent, when it should work the other way around.
Another telling sign of the confusion of egos is when the mother will sometimes say "I" or "We", like it is her activities, when it is really the child.
From the book Mother Love, Deadly Love by Anne McDonald Maier
These mothers will micro-manage a child's life like it was their own; destroying a child's ability to make their own decisions. The mother knows they will always have to turn to her to make decisions and to solve problems since the have had no practice and are incapable. It is a pathetic form of control and manipulation.
Someday if the child ever gets a backbone and tells her to stop they might have a chance at a normal life. If they always do what she says (so she isn't "disappointed") their spouse may find the situation too difficult to stay in a relationship