Obsessive symptoms in children: a failing of a limit?
In my psycho-therapeutic practice with children and young adults, I see more and more of them presenting with obsessive symptoms. This is something that is observed as well by other clinicians. How to explain? Listening to those people I can bring a couple things forward that resonate with some cultural trends.
We live in a culture where children feel that they feel an increased pressure of having to respond to the demands, expectations of parents and society, while feeling that there is little room left for personal space. This sense that children have does not necessarily imply that their parents are actually demanding, and have high expectations of them. It goes beyond that. We might even say that it reflects more of a general shift in culture, our educational system which is 'demanding' - not necessarily in a challenging way, but more in a way of formulating 'standardized expectations.' Children and young people are met with the (implict) demand to meet a norm, a standard. Any deviation of this seems not tolerated.
While there are this 'standardized expectation,' this 'standardized measure' that our kids have to measure up to, there is at the same time an increasing difficulty among parents in establishing boundaries. There is a discomfort in setting a boundary. Maybe, because setting a boundary cannot be founded on a rational, statistical norm, cannot be justified by a standard. No, there is something of the desire of the parent that is implied, and that cannot be reasoned with, or grounded in something else. I notice a great discomfort with this among certain parents.
On the one hand: a standardized expectation that there is to meet, on the other hand a permissiveness, without boundaries that feeds into anxiety. In this kind of situation the thing to cling to is the Other's standardized expectations in an attempt to hold on to something, or obsessive symptoms that can give a sense of control, that can give the illusion of a boundary. It is something to cling to, while one is in free fall.
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