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  • Kai Dunn

Book: Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents

If you want an accessible, informative book to help you make sense of your experiences growing up with (an) emotionally immature parent(s), check out "Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents" by Lindsay C. Gibson.

Attentive, attuned, and reliable emotional relationships with adults are the foundation of security and connection with self and others for children; emotionally immature parents are generally too uncomfortable with emotional intimacy themselves to be able to offer this to their children. This book breaks down different types of emotionally immature parents (emotional parents, driven parents, passive parents, rejecting parents) and explores some of the varied impacts of having an emotionally immature parent. The author offers exercises for the reader to invite reflections of our own personal experiences and ways we've adapted and coped, as well as tools for recognizing and working towards freeing ourselves of unhelpful patterns we may have developed. While there are numerous ways emotional immaturity manifests, in general emotionally immature parents use their children to try to make themselves feel better, have limited capacity for genuine emotional intimacy, poor communication, rigid thinking, and an absence of self-reflection. "Feeling felt" is essential to a sense of security, and having parents who are unable to provide this leaves children emotionally lonely, with emotional and relationship difficulties that often persist in adulthood.

It's important to note this book is not about blaming parents, but rather understanding that the defenses of emotionally immature parents trump authentically relating to other people, making them incapable of true interpersonal reciprocity and unable to make their children feel emotionally seen. Understanding this, we can make informed decisions about how we engage and navigate relationships.

Examining the painful parts of our childhood can be challenging, AND can open up pathways to healing. There were many points in the book I underlined and thought "Yes! Thank you for putting words to this!" Having language and understanding to make sense of our experiences can help us grow our self-compassion, develop fuller and deeper connections with ourselves and others, and make decisions about our own healing and relationships moving forward.

As the author concludes, "[p]eople who engage in self-discovery and emotional development get to have a second life--one that was unimaginable as long as they remained caught in old family roles and wishful fantasies...

To be aware and present at the birth of your new self as an adult is pretty incredible stuff. How many people get to be awake and aware for the emergence of the person they were always meant to be? How many people get to have two lifetimes in one?

So tell me, is it worth the pain to get to live twice in one life? Are you glad you've chosen the path of awareness?


Me too."

Grieving what we never had or what we've lost is hard and painful; it also opens a new spaciousness in which we get to live more authentic, connected, values-aligned lives. This is a never-ending journey, and one that it is a gift to be on.

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