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Emotional incest is when a parent doesn’t have any healthy boundary between themselves and their child. They rely on their child for emotional support and treat them like a partner instead of a child. Meaning that they may cry to their child about their divorce or a break up, even sharing sexually explicit details with their child treating them like a friend or even a spouse. This can be a huge burden on the child and make them feel pressure to “fix” whatever’s going on. In a perfect world, a child would be free to be a child, and socialize with other children. In an emotionally incestual relationship, a child often feels guilty if they leave their parent at home or knows just how much their parent needs them so they won’t engage in after school activities.
If a parent is sharing things that as a child you shouldn’t know, that’s a red flag. Now I know that may be hard to recognize, so ask your friends, and see what their parents share with them. Also, if you aren’t allowed to have friends or made to feel guilty when you would rather spend time with them. It’s normal for children to want to see their friends over their parents, and a healthy parental relationship will involve discipline where you may get grounded or you may even be forced to spend some time with family. But other than that you should be free to socialize after school and on weekends with friends. Another sign is if you feel responsible for your parent’s emotional struggle. Meaning that you feel you have to fix it or work something out. That is NOT the role of the child. Unless you need to apologize for something you did, you are not responsible for their emotional wellbeing. That’s the role of their therapist, spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, or even more importantly, themselves!! We are all responsible for ourselves!
The next question is about how it can feel, and to be honest, it can feel odd or uncomfortable at first and the guilt can be debilitating, but overall if this has been happening since we were really young, we may not even notice by the time we are a teen let’s say. But there can still be things that a parent will share that can creep us out or make us not want to continue the conversation. Like for example, if your mother is the one doing this to you, she may try to share how upset she is that her boyfriend broke up with her. In doing so, she may cry and tell you how often they had sex and that she found out he was sleeping with another person. No matter how long this incest has been going on, you may be creeped out by this or upset. That’s why I describe emotional incest as feeling uncomfortable, yet filled with constant guilt.
Now let’s finish by talking about how to heal from it.
1. Set up boundaries
2. Get outside support (build up your support system outside of your parent)
3. See a therapist or join a group
4. Get out if you can (save your money, stay with a friend, etc)
5. Know that it will be painful and hard, but it will be worth itORDER MY BOOK TODAY!
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