Tough Love has been scorned as a dangerous technique in handling teens or adults struggling with addictions, such as those who engage in substance abuse. Some treatment centres use the term tough love to refer to a harsh approach that breaks down the will of the person. While it may appear to be effective in the short-term, it can actually worsen the condition and lead to dangerous relapses later on.
Tough Love is most commonly is used to describe any type of parenting in which the child experiences some negative emotions as part of a learning process. This can range from a healthy setting of firm boundaries, common in authoritative parenting styles, to abusive parenting styles in which humiliation, belittling or physical violence are used to control the child.
Enforcing tough Love on children with emotional problems is conducive, because underneath their emotional outburts, hides a trauma, unresolved and wounded – this creates a breeding ground for addictions and an addictive personality! It’s also pushing young children to the brink of suicide!
We live in a society where the emotional experience of love is conditional on behaviour. Where fear, guilt, and shame are used to try to control children’s behaviour because parents believe that their children’s behaviour reflects their self-worth. E.g., If Johnny acts out, and misbehaves, then there is something wrong with his parents. He doesn’t come from a good family, whereas if little Johnny is a well behaved good boy, then his parents are good people!
Family dynamics research shows is that it is actually the good ‘perfect favourite’ child – the family hero role who is the most emotionally dishonest and out of touch with him/herself, while the acting-out child – the scapegoat ‘black sheep’ is the most emotionally honest child in the dysfunctional family.
Behaviour is the child’s voice, and this behaviour when acting out screams there is a problem with a dysfunctional family!!! A child acting out, is trying to get attention and is using behaviour as a voice to say that there is a problem, their behaviour is the expression of this problem. This demonstrates that the child acting out behaviourally isn’t the child who is the problem; it’s the parenting style that’s most maladaptive!
The effects of unhealthy parenting creates co-dependancy and a distanced or distorted image of the self. Two people with unconscious traumas can form a dysfunctional bond. Repression of unresolved hurts may lead to a tendency of self destruct or an unhealthy image of the self. Depression, anxiety, self harm, or addictions can, and often to do, strike the individual.
A ground for dysfunctional cohabitation often occurs.
The immature, irresponsible, self-destructive co-dependent is one extreme of the spectrum – usually the person who is genetically an addictive personality. At the other extreme, is the co-dependent who is over responsible focused on the other – and can appear to be very mature and successful, with no need of being rescued. One side is the enabler, and the other is the self harm. Although both parties are both co-dependant and both are tied into a bond, until one of the two decides something has to change. This is often the adult who as a child was the parent in the family – rescuing and taking care of their own immature parents from a very young age.
Poor parenting is the use of guilt and shame to control a child’s unconscious wounds, such as a trauma, in a dysfunctional family, scapegoating a child and shaming them, for a trauma that the family have chosen to ignore, neglect or reject, as they fear the shame reflects on them. This type of parenting is damaging in the long run for the child, because these unresolved wounds go on to creating an addiction, to cover up the true trauma, beneath the behaviour!
An emotionally unstable outburst is the effect of a child that has been ignored, neglected, abused or rejected by their parents, as an adult, unhealthy and dysfucntional patterns emerge, which enables the traumatised individual to cope with unconsious, unresolved and traumtising memories.
These traumas often speak through anger or anxiety, and it is these mechanisms that need resolution, to help the individual move forward in their life.
If a traumatic memory is worked with directly, it can contribute to re-living the trauma and further destabilization. Recovery is focused on helping you create safety and stability, so you can develop internal and external resources, transform your relationship from past trauma, promote mind-body-emotion regulation and integration, and create the conditions for optimal personal health and well-being.
How to help
The three stages of trauma recovery:
Safety and Stabilization: Overcoming Emotional Dysregulation
First step, you must first learn to comprehend the effects of trauma: this is where you recognize symptoms and understand the meaning of overwhelming body sensations, the anxiety or anger that risies, intrusive negative emotions, and distorted cognitive schemas. The achievement of safety and stability rests on the following tasks:
• Physical safety: abstinence from self-injury. Whatever the self harming technique was used, abstinence is the safest method. For cutting, try using a red crayon, or rubbing chrystals alomg the places where cutting was used. Abstinence from alcohol or drugs is the sensible option.
• Safe environment: support networks, secure living situation, non-abusive relationships, a job and/or regular income, establish a routine where you can use structure to help you set out your day. This also helps,with distraction.
• Emotional stability: strategies to calm the body, regulate impulses and triggers that induce the trauma, self-soothing calming strategies, these help manage post-traumatic symptoms triggered by mundane events.
The goal is to create something safe stable, so that it allows you to live in the here-and-now, so you can remember the trauma safely, rather than continue to re-live it.
Coming to Terms with Traumatic Memories
At this stage, the focus is to overcome the fear of traumatic memories so they can be integrated, allowing appreciation for the person you have become as a result of the trauma. In order to metabolize (not just verbalize) memories, you may make use of EMDR, EFT or other mind-body therapies. Pacing ensures that you don’t become stuck in avoidance or overwhelmed by memories and flashbacks. Since remembering is not recovering, the goal is to come to terms with the traumatic past.
Integration the past event and Moving On
You can now begin to work on decreasing shame and alienation, developing a greater capacity for healthy attachments, and taking up personal and professional goals that reflect post-traumatic meaning-making. Overcoming fears of normal life, healthy challenge and change, and intimacy become the focus of the work. As your life becomes reconsolidated around a healthy present and a healed self, the trauma feels farther away, part of an integrated understanding of self but no longer a daily focus.
Emotional outburts are an effect of traumas, to overcome the anxieties and fears associated with the trauma requires courage. If you’re in therapy and you are actively addressing your painful emotions, you’re actually a lot stronger than you think, making the choice to make a change is the bravest and kindest thing you can do, for yourself and your life.
We all have chikdhood traumas, some prefer to repress and forget, whereas other choose to address and recover. Congratulate yourself of being stronger than your past and giving your future, a better healthier chance.