INFJ Male Bio: Parents’ Divorce (Age 6-12)
Up until the age of 6 my INFJ childhood was pretty carefree, but then my parents divorced. This news completely shattered me. When my parents told me the news, my exact words were that they had dropped a bomb. Their divorce was the start of an enormously stressful period in my life.
All the external changes of my parents living separately and my mother needing to work again. It was all so strange to me. Even though divorces are common and is something between two adults, I blamed myself for it as a child.
Perhaps for the first time my eyes were exposed to the harsh realities of the real world. Over the coming years an intense fear of my mother leaving me was developing. It is pretty hard to recall, but then it felt to me that I would stop existing if that would happen.
The Happy Child Role
As a highly sensitive child I strongly felt my mother being stressed as she was adjusting to the new situation. As she was already pre-occupied with the divorce I thought somehow that I needed to not upset her even more.
My child brain thought she would otherwise leave me as well. My main focus became her emotional state. I started to keep my problems to myself and always appear to be happy. I started to make sure that she was happy by being extra neat, extra well behaved and making her laugh.
Despite of my efforts my worries intensified.
Photo by Luca Lago on Unsplash
At about the age of 9, I started to feel very sorry for my mother as I saw what she had to go through in facing the challenges of life. As she did her best to seem happy, I could just see and feel that she wasn’t at the time.
I remember that we went to a theme park with some of her friends and colleagues. We got on some ride where they take a picture of the people in the carts at a point where the ride gets extra exciting to capture that same excitement in the facial expressions.
At home I looked at the picture of us in the cart. She had a smile on her face, but I could see the pain through that smile. That day and the days after I looked to the picture countless of times because I couldn’t let it go.
I was hoping to see a genuine smile every time I looked at it again, but every time I saw the same pain. This made me feel so sorry for her and it broke my heart. Around that same age intrusive fearful mental images of the worst things that could happen to my mother started to come up. Being a highly sensitive child, that evoked deep sadness and tremendous pain.
Having a vivid imagination, it was absolute torture for me to see those involuntary images pop up in my head. I tried to stop those thoughts, but with no success.
In a desperate attempt to regulate my overwhelming fear, I somehow started to believe that in order for those awful things not to happen to her I needed to put my shoes perfectly correct in the hallway or to turn the lights on and off ten times.
Photo by Glenn Carstens Peters on Unsplash
This bargaining with my dreadful intrusive thoughts quickly expanded to other rituals. I had to flip my glasses for almost twenty times or smell my hands repeatedly to make the thoughts go away.
Initially these rituals gave me some relief, but I quickly had to do them more to get the same effect. I figured that to decrease the pain caused by those images, I had to think more of those horrible images as to get desensitised to them as an exposure technique.
However, as I suffered so much by these vivid thoughts I was torn between thinking about them and blocking them out which led me to a real painful and toxic dynamic. My thoughts and rituals were kept secret from my parents to not upset them of course.
This was so hard as the images were constantly in my head and I needed to regulate desperately. I also did not know how to articulate my condition due to my young age. In combination with my INFJ traits and sensory processing sensitivity I was bound into a vicious vacuum of INFJ childhood trauma.
Eventually, it got so bad that my parents and even my school teacher were alarmed. I was doing the rituals at home and in class almost constantly and also had frequent hyperventilation episodes.
My parents were enormously worried about my condition. They took me to a children’s psychologist and a physical therapist for my hyperventilation.
This helped to relieve stress. My intrusive thoughts however didn’t fully disappear.
I never knew what was exactly diagnosed as a child, but it would fall within the Obsessive Compulsive category. My hyperventilation attacks did became less frequent slowly over time.
The stressful new life situation of my parents divorce was weighing heavily upon me as a child. Although many different types of children could be focused on one or both of their parents’ well being. Are there perhaps only certain personality types that are more likely to be concerned with this?
Food For Thought
Do only the somewhat more sensitive children pick up on their parents distress when they try to hide it?
Or do all children pick this up no matter what, but are only the more sensitive types more concerned about it?
Could a child be spared from developing any problems if it does not pick up on any distress in situations like this?
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Continue to Part 3 of INFJ Male Bio.
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