Most forms of child abuse arise from a mechanism called “identification with the aggressor” in which a developing child becomes like his/her abuser as a way to feel safe and to maintain an attachment to the abuser. This process is common in individuals but also in groups, e.g. most forms of hazing and the need of one disadvantaged social group to put down another group.
When we can’t influence our environment, can’t control important aspects of our lives, we’re suffering from “learned helplessness? In modern society, too many facets of our lives are resistant to our intentions and control. This painful state of affairs accounts for much of the high incidence of depression in our society.
Pathogenic beliefs form the core of all psychopathology. They are formed in childhood and take the form of rules about reality and morality, about what “is” and what’s supposed to be. Pathogenic beliefs predict that if the child pursues normal developmental aims, he or she might threaten relationships with caretakers. Health aims are thus given up or compromised.
Some people grow up in families in which they are recruited to parent their parents. This reversal of the normal order of things is invariably damaging to such children because they grow up not only feeling neglected but, more damaging still, feeling as if they are not supposed to be cared for. The “parentified child” feels loveable only for what he or she provides for others.