Like it or not, the unconscious lessons a parent delivers are the ones learned by the child. These messages may be inconsistent with what the parent intends to teach. Not only are the messages often incongruent, they may negate one another entirely. The child may become confused. After all, the child is exquisitely sensitive to his parents, who comprise his whole world. Each child will learn that certain verbal (conscious) communications can be ignored. The other messages, the unspoken and unconscious ones, have precedence.

How does the child recognize the real message? It is the one emotionally charged and, when followed, establishes a firm rapport with that particular parent. The child senses the complexity of the task because he has learned that parents must be emotionally attended to precisely and quickly. Since two parents send different messages, the child learns he must respond with two very different reactions, one for each parent. While his parents may agree verbally (consciously) on their expectations of him, the child appreciates that their more subtle, unconscious messages hold sway over him.

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