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Silently Seduced: When Parents Make Their Children Partners - Understanding Covert Incest

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Did you have a parent whose love for you felt more confining than freeing, more demanding than giving, more intrusive than nurturing? Did you feel trapped in a "psychological marriage" with this parent? If so, you may be a victim of covert incest. Identification of this kind of incest is difficult, since covert incest victims often feel idealized and privileged, not violat Did you have a parent whose love for you felt more confining than freeing, more demanding than giving, more intrusive than nurturing? Did you feel trapped in a "psychological marriage" with this parent? If so, you may be a victim of covert incest. Identification of this kind of incest is difficult, since covert incest victims often feel idealized and privileged, not violated and abused. In Silently Seduced, Dr. Adams, through illustrative case examples and perceptive insight, provides covert incest victims a framework to understand what happened to them, how their lives and relationships continue to be affected and how to begin the process of recovery.


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Did you have a parent whose love for you felt more confining than freeing, more demanding than giving, more intrusive than nurturing? Did you feel trapped in a "psychological marriage" with this parent? If so, you may be a victim of covert incest. Identification of this kind of incest is difficult, since covert incest victims often feel idealized and privileged, not violat Did you have a parent whose love for you felt more confining than freeing, more demanding than giving, more intrusive than nurturing? Did you feel trapped in a "psychological marriage" with this parent? If so, you may be a victim of covert incest. Identification of this kind of incest is difficult, since covert incest victims often feel idealized and privileged, not violated and abused. In Silently Seduced, Dr. Adams, through illustrative case examples and perceptive insight, provides covert incest victims a framework to understand what happened to them, how their lives and relationships continue to be affected and how to begin the process of recovery.

30 review for Silently Seduced: When Parents Make Their Children Partners - Understanding Covert Incest

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nikmaack

    The book THE TRUTH made reference to this book. So I ordered it. Because my issues are in here. I could tell, just based on The Game and it's description of this text. I have been in therapy a long time. A lot of the issues described in this brief text are issues I have struggled with. It is very creepy to see all my problems laid out so neatly. All those problems become so many beads on a string. It's a deceptively simple book with a simple thesis: when your opposite sex parent treats you like a The book THE TRUTH made reference to this book. So I ordered it. Because my issues are in here. I could tell, just based on The Game and it's description of this text. I have been in therapy a long time. A lot of the issues described in this brief text are issues I have struggled with. It is very creepy to see all my problems laid out so neatly. All those problems become so many beads on a string. It's a deceptively simple book with a simple thesis: when your opposite sex parent treats you like a surrogate spouse, it messes you up. It makes you approach reality a particular way. Your needs get put in a vault, buried, as you try to help others. But those buried needs fester and eventually explode. I learned as a child (from my mom) that my father is bad and my mother is a saint and I had to take care of my mother. It damaged me. It messed me up. Even seeing this written down, that others have dealt with the same issues, is heartening. As I continue to struggle with my "family of origin" and their madness, it's books like this one that offer a glimmer of hope.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    I purchased this book to use clinically, however found it personally enlightening as well. It is fairly simple to read, but the message belies the book's easy readability. The book focuses on covert incest, as the title suggests, and will probably not be very beneficial for overt incest survivors seeking answers. A client of mine borrowed the book and reported that little pertained to her. This does not mean, however that the parent-child dynamics involved in covert incest can't also exist in a I purchased this book to use clinically, however found it personally enlightening as well. It is fairly simple to read, but the message belies the book's easy readability. The book focuses on covert incest, as the title suggests, and will probably not be very beneficial for overt incest survivors seeking answers. A client of mine borrowed the book and reported that little pertained to her. This does not mean, however that the parent-child dynamics involved in covert incest can't also exist in a more physically/sexually abusive relationship. I recommend this book for clinicians and survivors.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    This is a great book both for practitioners and those who are survivors of cover incest. Adams does a great job of differentiating between overt and covert incest, and boldly asserts that covert incest can be as damaging as overt incest, regardless of whether there was physical contact. He points out that the importance lies in the sexually charged relationship between the parent and child. Adams also explains the particularities of male and female survivor experiences, using both theory and ill This is a great book both for practitioners and those who are survivors of cover incest. Adams does a great job of differentiating between overt and covert incest, and boldly asserts that covert incest can be as damaging as overt incest, regardless of whether there was physical contact. He points out that the importance lies in the sexually charged relationship between the parent and child. Adams also explains the particularities of male and female survivor experiences, using both theory and illuminating clinical vignettes. I found the last few chapters of the book particularly helpful, as he moved more into current symptoms as well as a path towards healing. He also looks at sex addiction as an outcome of covert incest, which I believe is particularly helpful because that might be the instigator for exploring the past in the first place. In the end, Adams also provides a great list of resources, including support groups and helpful texts. This is not a manual for practitioners, but rather a helpful tool to better understand covert incest for survivors as well as practitioners.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    Covert Incest - when a parent puts their emotional needs above that of their children...pretty powerful language and the relational outcomes are profound well into the child's adult years. This book is for anyone who has been in an enmeshed relationship with a parent. Covert Incest - when a parent puts their emotional needs above that of their children...pretty powerful language and the relational outcomes are profound well into the child's adult years. This book is for anyone who has been in an enmeshed relationship with a parent.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    Update/Revised Review: I originally gave this book 2 stars. I revise my rating to 4 stars. Most of my issues are with the writing itself, not the underlying content. For example, I found some of the repetitious language in the personal stories distracting. How many different people really use the word "icky?" Clearly the wording was chosen by the author, but it made the stories less individual-feeling. Original review is below this revised version. I contacted the publisher about the flawed produc Update/Revised Review: I originally gave this book 2 stars. I revise my rating to 4 stars. Most of my issues are with the writing itself, not the underlying content. For example, I found some of the repetitious language in the personal stories distracting. How many different people really use the word "icky?" Clearly the wording was chosen by the author, but it made the stories less individual-feeling. Original review is below this revised version. I contacted the publisher about the flawed product I received (see other review for details) and was told to deal with Amazon. The author's contact with the publisher carried much more weight. The publisher then changed their tune and suddenly an intact edition was on the way. So, I finally finished reading this book. When the whole book is actually there . . . this is a helpful and interesting book, I felt it superior to "When He's Married to Mom," also by Kenneth M. Adams. I should note that neither of these books related to my husband, but to my mother and 42-year old brother's enmeshed relationship. Original Review: I was enjoying this book until I got to the rip-off part. I got the paperback edition with the "Includes FAQS for Understanding Covert Incest" bit in the upper left corner. Ordered in June 2016. Page 132 ends mid-sentence, page 133 and beyond do not exist. The books starts over with page 85, repeating pages 85 through 132. The final, promised chapters dealing with the highly important information such as how to actually break free from these kinds of situations are not including in this edition. I feel pretty jerked around to be promised an explanation of how people break free from these situations, then to only get half a book. All build-up, no pay off, with only repeat of the build-up. There were actually interesting, even valuable elements here, but without the final chapters of the book, it feels like I got an appetizer but didn't receive an entree, so therefore went home hungry and dissatisfied. I'm pretty sad about being ripped off by a book like this, especially since it's supposed to be a book that helps victims. A book for victims just kinda victimized me. The book I received ends with the sentence, "Doing so provides clear resolutions and allows healing from the abandonment," Then the book literally abandons me. The irony is so thick, I can't ignore it. I want to know what the supposed solutions are/hear the how to break free advice! Guess I'm left hanging, which is a very unpleasant feeling.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Catie

    I think that this book is a good introduction to the concept of covert incest for people who are just coming to terms with the idea that a parent or guardian used them as an emotional substitute for a partner. I struggle with the terms "covert incest" and even the title of the book is upsetting. Covert incest IS upsetting, but as someone who experienced it, labeling it "incest" made it so hard to come to terms with. I think more compassionate language is needed in talking about children whose pa I think that this book is a good introduction to the concept of covert incest for people who are just coming to terms with the idea that a parent or guardian used them as an emotional substitute for a partner. I struggle with the terms "covert incest" and even the title of the book is upsetting. Covert incest IS upsetting, but as someone who experienced it, labeling it "incest" made it so hard to come to terms with. I think more compassionate language is needed in talking about children whose parents over-rely on them for emotional or psychological needs. It's hard enough not to feel bad or dirty when someone uses you. As much as I understand these things need to be called out into the light and treated with all seriousness, words can be triggering.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    4 plus. I'm really glad I came across this book which was kind of a happy accident. I had a wide array of puzzle pieces from several different people, I knew the puzzles themselves were related or similar, and I WAS heading in the right direction (it turns out). Then BOOM! with this shining light of a book. Any uncertainty on my part was erased by what's contained in these pages. Thank you, Dr Adams! (And I didn't even read the updated revised edition, but I'm going to.) 4 plus. I'm really glad I came across this book which was kind of a happy accident. I had a wide array of puzzle pieces from several different people, I knew the puzzles themselves were related or similar, and I WAS heading in the right direction (it turns out). Then BOOM! with this shining light of a book. Any uncertainty on my part was erased by what's contained in these pages. Thank you, Dr Adams! (And I didn't even read the updated revised edition, but I'm going to.)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Miguel

    Everyone needs to read this. Adams is an expert on the subject and will make you look at family life so completely different. Even if you're not a victim, you will be able to identify those around you and make sense of the chaos happening in your relationships Everyone needs to read this. Adams is an expert on the subject and will make you look at family life so completely different. Even if you're not a victim, you will be able to identify those around you and make sense of the chaos happening in your relationships

  9. 5 out of 5

    Hope

    This book was suggested to me in a forum for Adult Survivors of Child Abuse. The author seems more familiar with male victims of covert incest, and tends to focus on victims dealing with addictions. It's also a very short work - more an overview of what covert incest is than a thorough examination of it. That all being said, it is a good, basic overview. I'm neither male, nor dealing with an active addiction, but still saw myself in this book. That it's a short work becomes an advantage - a vict This book was suggested to me in a forum for Adult Survivors of Child Abuse. The author seems more familiar with male victims of covert incest, and tends to focus on victims dealing with addictions. It's also a very short work - more an overview of what covert incest is than a thorough examination of it. That all being said, it is a good, basic overview. I'm neither male, nor dealing with an active addiction, but still saw myself in this book. That it's a short work becomes an advantage - a victim in denial might not be willing to read a longer work, but may well see themselves in this one. I prefer to find suggestions and ideas for recovery in books aimed at adult children of abuse/neglect/dysfunction, which this book is light on. There are suggestions, but they're almost too vague to be helpful. However, this book would be a good place to start for someone looking into the topic of covert incest.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Shayna Marks

    Adams explores the topic of covert incest within families in an informative and professional way. Using anecdotes Adams offers examples as well as the problems that arise when a child suffers from covert incest. Great book about a little known topic.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Satish

    Read this before you get married Most of us think we had happy childhoods and everything that was happening around us is usual and normal. This book is highly recommended for people to recognize dysfunction in their families and how that shows up in adult lives.

  12. 5 out of 5

    erin

    an interesting theory and a definite twist on the codependent model.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa

    Little information. But a practical guide to help people to see the symptoms and realize that they are not alone, to be able to take a step and unpluge the damage.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Viviane Venancio

    Reading this book helped me to understand my family dynamics clearly. It's written in a direct and accessible style making objective points both in describing the roots and forms of emotional (covert) incest as well as the steps to get out of it. The definition of incest is broadened up and understood as "a violation of a position of trust, power, and protection". It got obvious to me how it is indeed a pattern that is passed from generation to generation, which brings the importance of breaking Reading this book helped me to understand my family dynamics clearly. It's written in a direct and accessible style making objective points both in describing the roots and forms of emotional (covert) incest as well as the steps to get out of it. The definition of incest is broadened up and understood as "a violation of a position of trust, power, and protection". It got obvious to me how it is indeed a pattern that is passed from generation to generation, which brings the importance of breaking free of this icky utilitarian approach to children. The very word "icky" used many times by the author deepened my emotional literacy by describing exactly the feeling I constantly got growing up. Another important point brought by this book is the relation between covert incest and addiction, which is sawed as a maladaptive search for soothing the anxiety caused by this parental engulfment and also a desperate need to separate from this dysfunctional system without "rocking the boat". The only thing I missed was more details on the covert incest with the same-sex parent. The author focuses almost exclusively on the opposite-sex emotional incest and puts a special emphasis on the mother-boy manifestation of it. I believe much more could've been said about same-sex covert incest, including the existence of a sexual tension in it. SOME QUOTES I LIKED: ꕥ "There's nothing loving or caring about a close parent-child relationship when it services the needs and feeling of a parent rather than the child." ꕥ "Cooperation does not equal enjoyment." ꕥ "All families function as a system in which one person's actions affect another and vice versa." ꕥ "As long as the abuse or neglect experienced in childhood remains buried within, we re-recreate our family in adult relationships." ꕥ "Assigning responsibility where it rightfully belongs is the first crucial step in gaining access to one's true feelings, needs, and wants." ꕥ "Family dysfunction is progressive. It never stays the same. As it progresses, appropriate boundaries between parent and child may become nonexistent and communication becomes increasingly strained." ꕥ "The fact that you are questioning your relationship with your parent means you are bringing about awareness and activating the process of change in yourself. By increasing your awareness, your own intuitive healing journey began. Trust in time for answers that are not clear yet, and love the questions themselves."

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rose

    This was a decent book, but I feel like it didn't contain as much detail as I would have liked. That's probably because this is a relatively niche idea at the moment and it's hard to come up with a ton of examples (plus wanting to protect the privacy of patients, etc.), but I feel like there's not a lot in here that would make it very clear to the layperson when a situation like this has occurred or is occurring. I strongly suspect that something akin to this was going on in my family of origin This was a decent book, but I feel like it didn't contain as much detail as I would have liked. That's probably because this is a relatively niche idea at the moment and it's hard to come up with a ton of examples (plus wanting to protect the privacy of patients, etc.), but I feel like there's not a lot in here that would make it very clear to the layperson when a situation like this has occurred or is occurring. I strongly suspect that something akin to this was going on in my family of origin (an alcoholic father and BOTH parents confiding their displeasure with each other to me [but not until later into my teens if I'm recalling correctly]). But there was definitely plenty of room for doubt because certain things never happened to me (I don't believe I was ever 'the special one' and never felt like I was getting a ton of inappropriate affection from either parent, although maybe I was and just didn't view it that way at the time.) Most of my anger and resentment at the moment comes less from them leaning on me and more for them not letting me set any boundaries or cultivating my own emotions or desires. I was required to be the mature and calm one for my entire family (younger brother as well as both parents) with a double standard that got me very harshly punished for most any form of angry expression, but allowed the rest of them to slam things, stomp around, yell, and generally have tantrums. Overall a good book. Trying to parse/process through it. When I had it recommended to me, it seemed like it would resonate a lot more strongly than it ultimately ended up doing, so I feel like the author is seriously on to something, but I'd love to see more depth, detail, and fleshing out of these concepts.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Fleeting Bird

    I reduced my rating significantly because of the sensitive subject of childhood sexual abuse. The story of Vickie and her dream about her father's sexual abuse before the age of 5 is problematic. This topic was investigated and it was confirmed that some people are vulnerable to suggestions. They might come to believe false things told by a person they regard as an expert. Since the therapist was using the word "incest" to describe her relationship to her father, thinking about actual sexual abu I reduced my rating significantly because of the sensitive subject of childhood sexual abuse. The story of Vickie and her dream about her father's sexual abuse before the age of 5 is problematic. This topic was investigated and it was confirmed that some people are vulnerable to suggestions. They might come to believe false things told by a person they regard as an expert. Since the therapist was using the word "incest" to describe her relationship to her father, thinking about actual sexual abuse was not so far away. Dreams should never be taken literally. Dreams usually are showing our current concerns in a symbolic manner. It's true that there are trauma dreams that portray events exactly as they occurred but if Vickie had really been abused as a child, she would have had that same dream occur throughout her whole life. The dream appears right after the trauma and continues until it is resolved. Since her dream was new, it was just a representation of the associations that were formed by the term covert INCEST. I don't recommend this book. If you want to learn about this topic, choose "The Emotional Incest Syndrome" by Patricia Love. It is an excellent resource communicated in a more reliable and responsible way. Her story telling is also much better. Abuse, incest are unnecessary dramatic accusatory definitions. It's emotional enmeshment, role reversal, general ignorance about a healthy family living. I don't like how Freudian tradition sexualized all kinds of bonds. Not everything is about sex. Our current culture puts too much emphasis on it. We really need to sober up a bit.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Perhaps it was the fact that this book was overly Freudian, but this book creeped me out. I understand the conceptualizations, yet the way the information was articulated and conveyed came across as outdated and unhelpful.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Wendelin St Clair

    Covers the basics, but quite shallow Should note that I read this as writing research, not because I experienced this as a child. Some food for thought, but overall I could have guessed most of what he said. Nothing groundbreaking here at all. I note he excluded the possibility of this dynamic happening between father and son totally. I'd want to know if this is based on his experience as a clinical practitioner. Because the last book I reviewed, a Humour of Love, described a situation where a fa Covers the basics, but quite shallow Should note that I read this as writing research, not because I experienced this as a child. Some food for thought, but overall I could have guessed most of what he said. Nothing groundbreaking here at all. I note he excluded the possibility of this dynamic happening between father and son totally. I'd want to know if this is based on his experience as a clinical practitioner. Because the last book I reviewed, a Humour of Love, described a situation where a father had explicitly made his son a substitute for his estranged wife, in every sense (albeit that incest was very overt). And a long time ago I remember reading some sort of Christian memoir/self-help book where the author describes being pulled between his father and mother, and his father told him as a child "You can by a mommy's boy or a daddy's boy", and he chose to be a daddy's boy. Certainly some American father-son relationships (though really American parent-child relationships in general) seem weirdly close to an outsider looking in. To conclude, I wonder how common this kind of dysfunctional relationship is compared to the more 'typical' abusive or neglectful relationships?

  19. 4 out of 5

    Max

    On one hand, it's helpful in establishing some of the long-term effects of covert incest but on the other hand, it's incredibly heterocentric. The author goes so far as to say that covert incestuous relationships between parents and children of the same gender don't have a sexual component to them, despite ample survivor accounts of same gender parent/child sexual and emotional abuse occurring (especially the under discussed situation of mother/daughter CSA). This author also believes food addic On one hand, it's helpful in establishing some of the long-term effects of covert incest but on the other hand, it's incredibly heterocentric. The author goes so far as to say that covert incestuous relationships between parents and children of the same gender don't have a sexual component to them, despite ample survivor accounts of same gender parent/child sexual and emotional abuse occurring (especially the under discussed situation of mother/daughter CSA). This author also believes food addiction is a thing, which it's not. So, generally helpful but also SUPER old school.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Harris Foster

    I first found this book in 1992. I found the answers regarding my unhealthy relationship with my mother. I feel there are many men who experience this trauma which contribute to the high rate of divorce as we men need to cut the "umbilical" cord from our mother's to have a healthy relationship with woman. My mother was psychologically manipulative of me during my formative years. My father was in the house bit unavailable. She told me things about my father that were none of my business and I func I first found this book in 1992. I found the answers regarding my unhealthy relationship with my mother. I feel there are many men who experience this trauma which contribute to the high rate of divorce as we men need to cut the "umbilical" cord from our mother's to have a healthy relationship with woman. My mother was psychologically manipulative of me during my formative years. My father was in the house bit unavailable. She told me things about my father that were none of my business and I functioned as her "surrogate" spouse.......I wish this on no one !!!!!!!!!!!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I have read more than handful of books about recovery from child abuse. This one was different, not just because it focuses on covert and overt sexual child abuse, I have read couple of books which touch this subject, it was full of personal stories, not many generalizations. It was hard to read because of the style.

  22. 4 out of 5

    David Gamble

    I recommended this book to two people before I even finished reading it. The situation in the book is applicable for me and really helped me gain perspective while providing concrete steps on how to unravel resulting issues in my life, but I think it would help provide clarity for most people with unhealthy dynamics in their families.

  23. 4 out of 5

    SAMANTHA CAVIN

    Helped me put things in perspective This book helped me to put some things about my childhood into perspective. As a female who had her mother use me as a surrogate spouse this book helped me to understand how that happened and how it inexplicably changed me and how I can change it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Brad Stolz-Grobusch

    Easy light read, with case after case example. Provides lots of helpful information for individuals dealing with covert incest, including separating themselves from the opposite sex parent, establishing boundaries, dealing with emotions, and establishing healthy relationships with partners and the same sex. The book provides a lot of helpful skills in addressing the aftermath of guilt.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    While I know it's impossible for the author to write about every possible scenario of covert incest in a single book, I was a little disappointed that he didn't talk about the consequences of it for lesbians and bi women. Otherwise, great resource. While I know it's impossible for the author to write about every possible scenario of covert incest in a single book, I was a little disappointed that he didn't talk about the consequences of it for lesbians and bi women. Otherwise, great resource.

  26. 4 out of 5

    R

    This is a tough read because it hits home. It’s a gift to have these types of resources for those of us who have long been silent, and carried unnecessary shame. Dr. Adams is putting words in the gaps in each of us. Incredible read.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Walker England

    On target This book is spot on. I had already stumbled my way into most of the concepts individually on my healing journey. But seeing it all in one place, so cogently and relatably explained, is so healing and magnificent.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Adrienne Daly

    Jaw dropping... Seeing my life in these pages has changed me. The step by step instructions to over come the ideas that had me imprisoned are a game changer for me... I refer to this book over and over, like the Bible.

  29. 4 out of 5

    April Hardison

    This book helped me understand more of what incest was. It was very triggering at at times and hard to read... definitely a book I’d recommend someone reading who is actually wanting to work out their trauma towards healing from abuse.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Elise MacMillan

    Really helpful resource on a topic that is very rarely discussed. Explains the dangerous pattern on covert incest (emotional incest among parents and children) and the effects that has on the children as they become adults and form new relationships.

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