One`s mother is psychologically and psychically unavailable; the child is left feeling unwanted and unloved and a belief they are unlovable. They don’t like having to rely on or depend on anybody, be beholden to anybody, and can’t believe people can enjoy them or their company due to unresolved abandonment. The child excludes the internalised mother (P1), blocking out the mother’s experiences, creating a Basic flaw that needs to be mended.

How can the child believe they can venture out to survive, splitting psychologically, one part looking after the other? With compulsive self-reliance, the tough kid performs the paternal functions, substituting the maternal mother and protecting the child (C1). The tough kid assumes the executive, envelopes and encapsulates the other, protecting the child from any outside threat of further emotional contact and risks of abandonment. The tough kid protects the Dependent Child (DC) from intolerable feelings of abandonment experience, emptiness, helplessness and hopelessness. The tough kid also takes the early memories into their experience and safeguards the DC. Behind the Child`s detachment lies their unexpressed rage and abandonment grief. The Tough kid creates and maintains a conflict with their mother to sustain a form of attachment, gives an outlet for their rage, fends her off, and defends against any grief.

There is a real need for revenge to right the wrongs for undoing the parental hurt, where wholeness is an unrelenting search for meaning. Contact is made through hostility, holding onto an object whilst getting back at it. The immature child is ill-equipped to consider the consequences of their hostility, enacting further punishment and rejection from their mother.

The attachment behaviour is a preliminary draft of one’s life script, built up by the child’s infantile reactions and experiences. The Adult ego normally evolves in the 2nd year of life to modulate the child’s strivings and impulses according to reality. The attachment behaviour is exploitative, exclusive and dominated by the tough kid. Lacking Adult functions, the Touch Kid develops tricks and rules to deal with the demands of the complex world. The tough kid is unable to process their aggressive impulses properly, with an internal exciting and rejecting mother split off before they enter the depressive position.

The tough kid attacks the DC to spare others of their aggression, turning their aggression inward to salvage attachment.

They protect their mother from his aggression but sacrifice their own self/ego in the process. They discharge the frustrations and aggression into the body, normally expressed as a psychosomatic illness in adult life. The use of addictions and dysfunctional behaviours are modified methods of regulating their impulse and emotions. Self-hatred and self-attack are the main issues in narcissistic, unwanted child disorder.

The parental function must reside in the child’s ego state (C2) as a second-order of P1`s protective function of the child (C1). To save the C1 from consequences, perceived as catastrophic, of the impulse to want to attack the frustrating mother and seek revenge. The impulse is transferred from the A1 to a made-up substitute P1, that has been split off from C1, safely discharging the impulse back to C1, sparing the mother.  

The narcissistic defence is seen as ego-syntonic with the Child’s ego state, outside adult awareness or parental influence. The protective part, Tk, is tough as a rock, barely impregnable, using deflecting manoeuvers gradually released and integrated via two-chair work.

The unwanted child, as an adult, with the aid of therapy, must re-enter the realms of pain, feelings of rage, sadness and helplessness etc. They will arrive at the closure of the abandonment through the verbal expression and exposure of these feelings, finally mourning and grieving the mother`s abandonment. They then will be able to integrate the new child’s ego state, acquire a stable representation of the parent (P1), and move towards separation and individuation.

Auxiliary Adult

Once the tough kid has arrived at the optimal relationship with the therapist, the therapist starts to introduce a new element, the auxiliary adult, to resolve ego defences. The therapist disconnects from the child’s split parts and supervises the auxiliary adult to provide treatment in ways the tough kid would never allow the therapist to do.

The auxiliary adult has two tasks pay close attention to what is being said by either of the child’s parts and deliver to either part any interventions proposed by the therapist.

The auxiliary Adult (Ax) and dependent child (DC) are now aligned to tackle the tough kid; the first time, the tough kid does not have dominance. The tough kid will initially use all the means at their disposal to reject the Ax by isolating, engulfing or destroying the foreign object. Any contact with the DC accelerates tensions between opposing interests of the split parts of the child, which provides the driving force to resolve the process. Over time dependency wishes will emerge and yearnings directed towards the therapist, where the TK will express longings for their abandoning mother, re-experiencing the despair over her absence. The ego defences against guilt and gives way, where depression and despair ensue, entering the valley of the dead. When the depression is transformed into a rage and supported by the Ax, the talk can start independently observing their aggression, making different choices, and having more empathy for the DC.

The shifting of energy from the tough kid to the Ax allows for the creation and surmounting of the integrated adult. The Tk`s exclusion of the Ax at last collapses, leading to full acceptance, where the Tk can experience the Ax as caring, respectful and affectionate. The resolved disorder should be expressed as a new image, identity, appearance, beliefs and relationships. The Tk manipulation no longer corrupts the contaminated Adult (A0) and becomes a vehicle of the expression of the child’s nature. The child emerges out of the treatment process with an integrated child mentally at infancy, prepared to revisit and complete subsequent unfinished development tasks. The remaining treatment will deal with post-infancy problems, where P2 Is reintroduced, and decontamination takes place.

Lederer, A. (1996,1997) The unwanted child, TAJ vol. 27, No. 4 . October 1997