Most people have a visceral reaction to the concept of incest.  It’s lizard brain stuff to some extent because we’re wired to not want to have progeny that would be unhealthy and having a family tree that doesn’t branch causes those kind of problems.  Then there’s the higher level things like broken trust, destroyed boundaries, unhealthy emotional foundations, and lives blow apart and scattered like wreckage from a plane crash.

What is more difficult to understand and less visceral is emotional incest.  Like art or porn, we may not be able to define it clearly, but we know it when we see it, emotional incest is recognizable and we react to it.  We see it in the parent who needs parenting even though they are in their 30’s and fully functioning in the outside world.  In the authority figure that treats children as “mature for their age” emotionally and practically therefore off loading responsibility and blurring boundaries which should be crystal clear.  We see it in the parent to views their child as a rival and therefore equal that needs to be contended with. Also in the parent who sees the child as a mini-me and forces them, without concern for the child’s welfare or individuality or personhood, to do all the things that the parent coulda/shoulda/woulda.

It can be seen very clearly in the parent that needs their young child to be their best friend.  This is not to be confused with wanting to be your child’s friend, which stems from a place of love (hopefully) and care and support.  No matter how it’s dressed up, making a small child into a confidant, a bff, and interacting with them as if they were adult and can understand and handle the information, emotions, and adult content of an adult life is abuse and emotional incest.  It is a violation that robs them of their childhood and can harm them severely affecting all their future relationships.

Emotional incest is more common than the physical kind, yet less understood.  We’re more likely to pooh-pooh reports of it and its effects as “that’s just the way things were” and “everyone has a story about their parents/grandparents/aunts/uncles/cousins like that” and keep moving.  The way to start the healing process is stop the pooh-pooh.  That way the shit can start getting cleaned up.  🙂