Christian Counseling: Relational Deprivation: It Affects Us All

Whether you call it relational deprivation or social deprivation it refers to a lack of adequate and appropriate interpersonal interaction, often occurring in early development; that is, before the age of two, which often continues to impact people throughout their lives. To be sure, all of us suffer some consequences of deprivation for the simple reason that no parent is perfect.

Those who have been exposed to physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect or traumatic events, such as domestic violence or break up of a family, are significantly more vulnerable to feelings of deprivation, attachment problems and brain development limitations.

Research has shown deprivation in childhood can result in anxious, insecure, resistant, avoidant and/or disorganized attachment. Other studies have revealed a correlation between poor human attachments and the later poor attachment to God. Further research has shown that the brain’s white matter (necessary for forming brain connections) is smaller in size in deprived children. As you can see, relational deprivation is of no minor consequence.

Speaking generally, past and present deprivation affects us all. At times, we all feel deprived of things, like: sleep, respect or love. But the absence or loss of something can be powerful enough to cause us to experience feeling empty, anxious, depressed and insecure and can influence us to behave in ritualistic, perfectionistic, ultrapleasing, eccentric and egocentric ways. When people develop a great sensitivity to feeling deprived of anything they tend to avoid that feeling at most any cost. For example, to diminish or end the feeling of being deprived people give in to impulses to eat, drink, buy, use, say or do anything that can alleviate the dreaded feeling. Over time, repeating those behaviors can lead to addictions.

Distinguishing want from need, the question each person needs to ask is, “Can I tolerate the feeling of being deprived when it I don't get or allow myself to get what I want?" If a person struggles with saying “No!” to small things then chances are there are bigger, underlying issues of deprivation that need to be addressed.

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