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#424290 - 02/04/13 06:28 PM Covert Incest/Sexuality
hapati Offline

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 40
Anyone had this happen to them - with a parent - specifically mother ?


Covert incest ( Adams , 1991) occurs when a child plays the role of a surrogate husband or wife to a lonely, needy parent. The parent’s need for companionship is met through the child. The child is bound to the parent by excessive feelings of responsibility for the welfare of the parent. The demand for loyalty to the lonely, needy parent overwhelms the child and becomes the major organizing experience in the child’s development.

While there is no physical, sexual contact in this form of incest, inherent in the relationship is an archetype of feelings and dynamics more comparable to young love than a nurturing parent-child alliance. They become psychological or emotional lovers. As adults, these children struggle with commitment, intimacy, and expressions of healthy sexuality.

It has also been labeled emotional incest (Love 1990), but this label misleads by implying an absence of sexual damage. In fact, the develolping sexuality is the major battlefield where the demand for loyalty to the parent and, the wishes of the developing self, clash. Feelings of entrapment and guilt weave themselves into the developing sexuality. Feelings of entrapment and guilt weave themselves into the developing sexuality. Erotic urges toward a love object other than the parent are experienced as disloyal. Forced to declare loyalty to the needy parent, the developing sexuality is shrouded in feelings of over stimulation, danger, engulfment, rage, ambivalence, and shame.

Covert incest severely prejudices the adult survivor's capacity for love, companionship, and a satisfying erotic life. Extremes of under arousal and over arousal prevail in the sexual expression of covert incest survivors. This corresponds to the extremes of addiction and anorexia found in the sexual expression of sex addicts (Carnes). Unless the covert incest is resolved, each attempt at intimate contact reinforces the incestuous template of entrapment and disloyalty. The subsequent rage is filtered back through the sexuality and is ultimately discharged against the self or others. Here lies the apex of the addiction to the trauma in the life of the covert incest survivor.

Sexuality becomes an escape, an attempt to sooth distress, and a way of self-definition: all, hallmarks of the sex addict. The covert incest survivor, having never felt enough for the needy parent, is left feeling deeply inadequate and unworthy. Sex becomes an attempt to compensate for this pain. Inadequacy and feeling unworthy are frequently reported core feelings of sex addicts as well. The addiction is used as an attenpt to override this very dangerous threat to the self. In time, the solution becomes the problem (Dayton, 2000) and sexuality is entrenched with the classic hallmarks of addiction: preoccupation, compulsive behavior, damaging life consequences, inability to stop in spite of attempts to do so, tolerance, despair and depression, and deprivation (anorexia) as a means of control.

Not all sex addicts are covert incest survivors and not all covert incest survivors are sex addicts. However, the sexual trauma of covert incest can be a virtual breeding ground for sexual addiction given the nature of the dynamics and impact on sexuality of this form of incest. Four major barriers exist in attempting to identify covert incest. They are as follows:

1 Romanticizing the disorder (these children are often seen as heroes and saviors rather than victims).

2 The absence of physical, sexual contact (it remains difficult for clinicians and the lay public to believe that damage can occur without physical, sexual contact).

3 The search for repressed memories (clinicians often assume a surrogate partnership must mean there are repressed memories of physical, sexual incest).

4 Feeling idealized and privileged (covert incest survivors feel idealized and privileged, not abused).

#424369 - 02/05/13 09:42 AM Re: Covert Incest/Sexuality [Re: hapati]
Casmir213 Offline

Registered: 05/14/09
Posts: 851
Loc: Northeast, USA

Your post describes my life. Thank you for the information and for the validation that such information gives me in my endeavor to break free from this pernicious form of incest. I might use this info in my next T session so that my T can understand just where I'm coming from in my struggles and how such problems can result from convert incest. Have you experienced this type of incest also?

Thanks much,

I see recovery as a lifelong journey rather than a final destination, a journey, though, which can have many successes along the way.

WoR Alumnus - Hope Springs, OH, October 2009

My avatar is the farmhouse at the Hope Spring, OH WoR. It's a nice place.

#424373 - 02/05/13 10:35 AM Re: Covert Incest/Sexuality [Re: hapati]
Jacob S Offline

Registered: 01/01/13
Posts: 619
Loc: where the shadows lie
Anyone had this happen to them - with a parent - specifically mother ?

Yes. My mother was bi-polar, so when she wasn't yelling and berating me she was relying on me and confiding in me. Both sides made me feel pretty unimportant as a human and only valuable as an instrument of someone else, responsible for their happiness but selfish if I looked after my own.

#434670 - 05/14/13 04:10 PM Re: Covert Incest/Sexuality [Re: hapati]
Akash Offline

Registered: 05/06/13
Posts: 1
Loc: India

This is Akash from India. Nice to see some people with the same facets which I have been trying to put together so long. A long list of facets (that is how I prefer to call them): low self esteem, negative thoughts including suicide, fear to trust people, especially women, shame, guilt, a screwed up sex life, fear of committing violence (to self as well as my wife), an unknown fear of beautiful women, and a constant whisper behind my shoulder, "Did you not enjoy it"? are what turns every beautiful morning to every beautiful evening into a living nightmare. And I am 40 now. I wish I could find this group before I was 13. Or was it 12? Or even before?

You probably have guessed it, and many of you have lived it too. I was a single male child of a beautiful, and a mother with good artistic sense (a person who really inspired me through her writing skills), and a not-so-good-looking, somewhat practical minded very patriarchal father, busy with work and priorities of his own, and hardly present during my growing up days. Neither me found him when I needed him, nor she found him when she needed him. Difference was, she turned to me, for emotional support. And I did not know whom to turn to. We never crossed that "legal" line. But in our minds? I was perhaps 13. Or was I 12, or even younger?

I owe many things to my mom. My physical looks have gone her way. I still enjoy reading a poetry. I wish I could write like her. And I feel continuously ashamed of whatever I owe her.

I am going to a therapist tomorrow. Do not know what he would tell me. Do not know if I should continue to feel guilty. But I know I should tell this to someone at least. This is why I came here.
Isn't there anything called a healthy mother – son relationship? Or Isn't there a father who can take you home?

Thanks for listening. And sorry for letting out some feelings. Take care, friends.


#434757 - 05/15/13 02:04 PM Re: Covert Incest/Sexuality [Re: hapati]
csasurvivor1992 Offline

Registered: 03/25/13
Posts: 132
Loc: Texas
hapati... WOW! THANK YOU!!!!

so much clarity and definition around my relationship with my mother! the non-abuser, i've recently had realizations that she was present for all the red flags surrounding my abuse. i don't hold her accountable, but I do have questions for her.

now i read this and it makes sense. it's CRAZY, but it makes sense. I'll talk with my T about this during our session this week, but it makes sense!

sexual incest from my asshole father and emotional from my unaware mother?

HOLY SHIT, my parents are FUCKED UP!!!

wow... momma, you got some splainin' to do!
May your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground, carry on. ~Fun.


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