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Silently Seduced: When Parents Make their Children Partners - Understanding Covert Incest 1st Edition

24 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1558741317
ISBN-10: 1558741313
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Kenneth M. Adams, a licensed psychologist, has worked with children and adults who have grown up in dysfunctional and alcoholic families. He is a national lecturer, workshop leader and consultant in the areas of childhood abuse, adult children and addictions.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1

As long as the child within is not allowed to become aware of what happened to him or her, a part of his or her emotional life will remain frozen ... all appeals to lone, solidarity and compassion will be useless.

— Alice Miller, For Your Own Good

Tom came home from a long day at the office looking forward to the quiet, intimate dinner he and his wife had planned. The telephone rang. It was his mother. Now what? he thought. He listened as she described her day. Eventually she began discussing how lonely and miserable she felt with Tom's father. Tom felt his rage boil but was paralyzed by his guilt. He looked for an opening in her tirade so he could politely excuse himself and eat his dinner which was waiting for him.

How do I get out of this one? Tom thought, as his mother went on describing her feelings of sexual dissatisfaction with his father. Impatient and outraged, he paced the floor and hoped his mother would hang up.

When she said, "I don't know what I would do if I didn't have you. I wish your father would listen to me like you do,ö Tom had had enough. He hung up without a word and threw the phone to the floor in a rage. Teary-eyed, he screamed to his wife, "I don't want to know about her personal problems! I hate it, but I don't know what to do." As had happened so many times before, Tom's evening with his wife was ruined.

As a therapist I've learned Tom's story is not unique. Frequently I hear comments such as, "I can't stand it when my dad keeps telling me how much he loves his 'little princessÆ" or "I wish my mom would stop telling me about her loneliness. It's not my business" or "I know my dad doesn't mean anything by it, but it feels funny when he seems so worried about how I dress and gets jealous when I go out with men." The list is endless, but the theme is the same: a sense of violation and a boundary crossed. These violations are usually done in the name of "love" and "caring.ö

There is nothing loving or caring about a close parent-child relationship when it services the needs and feelings of the parent rather than the child. "Feeling close" with your parents, particularly the opposite-sex parent, is not the source of comfort the image suggests. It is a relationship in which the individual, both as a child and later as an adult, feels silently seduced by the parent. Feelings of appreciation and gratitude do not prevail in these "close relationships." Instead they are a source of confusing, progressive rage.

During the feedback section of my lectures on the subject, some participants are quite vocal with their rage and express relief that they now understand why at times they hate with vengeance the same parent who has always loved them "so much." Some are frozen in their seats and can't speak, while others can't wait to leave. A few courageous parents speak up, expressing that they are now beginning to understand why their sons or daughters struggle in relationships.

Others listen to the lectures and insist there is no harm in their close relationship to their opposite-sex parent. Actually they claim to feel special and privileged. These children were given a special position by being idealized by the parent. But there is no privilege in being cheated out of a childhood by being a parent's surrogate partner. As adults these individuals in turn idealize their parents to cover the pain of the abandoned and victimized child within. To be a parent's surrogate partner is to be a victim of covert incest. This book is about the silent seduction covert incest victims experience and its effect on their sexuality, intimacy and relationships.

Being a parent's surrogate partner as a child and continuing to be one as an adult has a profound effect on one's life. The following are some common characteristics resulting from the silent seduction of a covertly incestuous relationship. If you find yourself in these descriptions of characteristics, this book is for you.

  1. Love/Hate Relationship. One often has intense feelings of both love and hate for the opposite-sex parent. On one hand you feel special and privileged because of the relationship; on the other you frequently feel you aren't doing enough for that parent. This results in feelings of guilt which result in rage that is seldom directly expressed.
  2. Emotional Distance from Same-Sex Parent. In contrast to the love / hate relationship with the opposite-sex parent, you feel abandoned by the same-sex parent. This relationship often is competitive and the parent feels like an adversary. Feeling contempt for this parent is common.
  3. Guilt and Confusion over Personal Needs. You feel guilty about your needs and probably have a difficult time identifying what they are. You generally try to "be strong,ö caretake or always "be there" for others as a way of meeting your own needs.
  4. Feelings of Inadequacy. You are likely to have chronic feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness. You believe your worth as a man or woman is determined by what you can do rather than who you are.
  5. Multiple Relationships. You are likely to have been in and out of many relationships and never felt satisfied. You are always on the lookout for the perfect partner or relationship. Establishing intimacy is difficult for you.
  6. Difficulty with Commitment. You generally experience ambivalence regarding commitment in relationships. You always seem to have one foot in and one foot out of the door just in case.
  7. Hasty Commitments. You make a quick commitment to a relationship, then realize later it was not a good choice. You then feel too guilty to leave. Instead you try to make it right.
  8. Regret over Past Relationships. You find yourself looking back at a previous relationship and wondering if it could have worked if you had stuck it out.
  9. Sexual Dysfunction. You find yourself feeling sexually shut down or driven and compulsive in the pursuit of sexual highs or conquests. Sex may become addictive.
  10. Compulsions/Addictions. You have other compulsions or addictions. You are driven in the area of work, success and achievement. You find yourself addicted to food. Either you compulsively overeat, starve yourself or you binge and purge.

¬1991. All rights reserved. Reprinted from by Kenneth M. Adams, Ph.D. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 118 pages
  • Publisher: HCI; 1 edition (April 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558741313
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558741317
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #904,377 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

150 of 154 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is the single most powerful book I have read on what it means to grow up in a household where the parents are not fulfilling each other's emotional and physical needs. The children become the receptacle for all the frustrated sexual energy the parents are experiencing, even if they are not talking about it. This is exactly what happened to me -- the oldest daughter of an alcoholic and his angry wife. Finally, I understand the "ickiness" (the author's word) I still feel every time I am required to spend time with my parents.
This book talks about the specific, sexualized emotions you experience while growing up in a dysfunctional home that don't get articulated because it's too squeamish to talk about them. And yet, it does so in a very safe and comforting manner. It's like getting the hug and shoulder to lean on that you never got growing up.
Facing the truth of being emotionally used by one's parents is a sobering experience -- but oh what a relief to have these feelings explained and validated. I feel extraordinarily relieved to have read this book -- it gives me new hope for my present, my future and my marriage.
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67 of 69 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
The author describes in detail what kind of actions from a parent can create an inappropriate dependency from a child, the resulting feelings that can stay with the child and the patterns of behavior through adulthood that follow. Subtle things that might seem innocent in a parent's mind can actually cross a line into inappropriate territory with a child and his/her development. The child may feel "icky," but also privileged to have such special attention from the parent.
The author offers advice for recovery and gives very clear statements about what must happen in order for the adult survivor of covert incest to make healthy changes and free him/herself from binding dependencies.
I purchased this book based on a recommendation on a message board. Wow! I am filled with relief to suddenly realize why I feel this way and why there are these inexplicable patterns in my life. The biggest relief of all is to know I'm not alone and that my odd feelings about my parents are not unjustified. I read it and said, "Finally! Now I know what is wrong!"
If you feel guilty about setting limits on your parents, this book is for you. If you are having difficulty connecting with your spouse and find yourself connecting more with your kids, please read this book.
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56 of 59 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 18, 1999
Format: Paperback
Many thanks to Ken Adams for this impressive look at the cause and effects of doting parents. It's much easier to put things in perspective when you understand why your mate cannot be intimate. This book helps to understand why these things happen. It provides important tools in taking back control and learning how to separate from parents who use their children to meet their own needs. 10 stars for this book.
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99 of 109 people found the following review helpful By MM on November 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
Wow, very impressive! I read it from cover to cover, in one sitting. Just could not put it down. It is written in a clear and concise manner. Almost every word seems well selected and carefully considered to support the theme of the whole book. Very convincing with powerful logic.

I have to admit when I was hesitant to order this book at the beginning. I thought, "What this says about me, if I need to read a book on this topic?" I felt uncomfortable to put myself in the category of covert incest victim.

Several things which are happening in my life, made me decide to take a try. My career has experienced a setback for several years. I have difficulty in establishing a great long term relationship. And most immediately, I have dreams of being angry at my parents. Those dreams rarely occur, but when they do, once or twice a year, I find my whole body tighten up in anger when I wake up. I ask myself, if I can be so angry about something I don't understand, why not spend some time to understand what exactly makes me so angry?

When the book arrived, I wrapped it up in a book cover to hide the name. I have to agree this is an uncomfortable topic and I do not want to be seen reading such a book in public.

But let me tell you, this is one of the most important books I have read in years. It is neatly organized:

First two chapters:

-What is the silent seduction?

-When is a child betrayed by a parent's love?

Introduce the concept of silent seduction and general pattern.

The next two chapters:

-The man of the house

-Daddy's little girl

Talk about the specific situations in case of a mother and a son, and a father and a daughter.
Read more ›
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By C.J. Wilkes on September 1, 2004
Format: Paperback
I am a survivor of incest from the hands of my father. I was searching for a book to read on the topic when I ran across this book. At first I thought that it would not apply to me, but when reading this it gave me my first understanding to what happened to my by the hands of my father. When listening to profilers and how they catagorize different rape preditors I could not really place my father in any of the catagories. Once I read this book I realized that incest (especially from a parent) fits perfectly into the catagories of covert incest to overt incest. As a survivor I have come to the point that I would like to understand why I had suffered this type of violation in my childhood and life. I am really greatful for the insight of such doctors as Dr. Kenneth M. Adams. It was good to read that I was not the disfunctional one in my family but that my family as a whole was disfunctional. This book truly depicts how a relationship between a parent and child can and does cross the line to become very disruptive and at times criminal. A must read book if you are looking to understand incest. --C.J. Wilkes-- Author of "Daddy, I Forgive You"
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