February 2006

Spoilt or Spoiled: The shame of being an only ©

Therapy Today Vol 17 No 3, 24.02.06 Dr. Bernice Sorensen       Are you an only child? Haven’t you got any brothers or sisters? my heart sinks my stomach turns I fear the next remarks – I expect your mum and dad spoil you – don’t they? I smile wanly what can I say? If I say yes – heads nod knowingly If I say no – eyebrows raise ever so slightly in disbelief I can’t win I say nothing I look down shuffle my shoes feel ashamed. When I wrote these stanzas, reflecting on my experience of growing up an only-child in the 1950’s, I was unaware how significant they would be. My subsequent doctoral research into the experiences of adult only-children exposed issues that revealed a covert level of shame as a central issue which for many only-children led to a shame based personality persisting into adulthood. [...]

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