Discussions with a Replacement Child: 1st in a Series of 6

Introducing a new limited series of letters and responses between adult replacement child, Alan, and Replacement Child Forum co-founder and psychoanalyst Kristina Schellinski.

We thought our readers would be interested in this exchange about some specific issues facing Alan as a replacement child. These letter exchanges are not therapy sessions, or meant to replace professional counseling, but with Alan’s permission, we felt the insights expressed may be of help to others who may share some of the same concerns.

Photo by - Gemma Evans

**If you are a professional therapist your additional insights concerning these letters would be greatly appreciated by our readers. Please write to us at letters@replacementchildforum.com.**

Letter #1 from Alan

At 66 I feel stuck!

Dear Kristina,

I’m a 66 year-old divorced male, and I only recently connected to my background as a replacement child, and recognize a number of life issues I believe are a result… I had just been trying to be like everyone else but kept making life decisions based on deeper issues I did not understand.

I really believe the multiple circumstances I have to deal with now are connected to the fact that I have struggled through life, not understanding the implications of being a replacement child until I read the book by Rita Battat (Replacement Children, The Unconscious Script).

In your book, Kristina, Individuation for Adult Replacement Children, Ways of Coming into Being, I found the chapter on Identity: a Question of Life or Death for Replacement Children especially helpful.

Rita’s book gave me the “why.” The most difficult part is “What now?”

How to take the knowledge and move forward?

In my case, I replaced my sister who passed away around 2 years old from Leukemia. It was never discussed in the home, but I realized that my mother, in particular, never fully processed the grief. I always felt I was a disappointment or not good enough, as I should have been born a girl, I believe. My parents already had a son, my older brother, so I believe having another boy was not what my mother wanted. Our relationship was cold and dysfunctional, with no real sense of comfort or connection. I don’t think my mother ever got over my sister’s death. I felt my job was to keep things calm and not rock the boat. She was not able to cope with day to day issues well and so it was important to not upset her. However, I now realize all this was at my expense, and having had a mom who was not supportive or nurturing. My dad was not able to compensate for her. A good guy, but not a good male role model. We moved three times during my childhood which only added to the issues. My brother, six years older, was not a positive factor in my life. He was not interested in his younger brother.

I think there were other areas which affected my being affected by the Replacement Child Syndrome. We moved 3 times during my childhood at ages 5, 13, and 16. Moving at 5 may not have been a big issue, but the other two were difficult. Hard enough growing up without being settled.

Also, my parents did not have a good marriage, and although he was a good person, my father was too concerned with pleasing my mother.

So, I suppose what I’m trying to say is that even one person/mentor could be critical in the overall picture as well, which I unfortunately did not have…

Thanks and regards, Alan

Dear Alan,

I understand you Alan, that at 66 years old, this may feel at first a bit overwhelming. But it is never too late to become conscious of the ramifications of the replacement child condition and to discover who you really are! I have worked with clients who were into their 70s, even 80s.

I can feel the words ‘cold’, ‘dysfunctional’, ‘no sense of comfort or connection’. Knowing this condition first-hand, I have deep empathy.

Working through your feelings and sense of loss of connection may also include working through the grief of your mother which you may be carrying, which may have been transferred to you. You may need to take a deep look at everything connected with LOSS in your life. This is best done in the presence of an understanding other. Please look for a good therapist! And trust that you can work it through, though I gather, from what you wrote, that you have some mistrust with regard to the mental health professions. If you have attachment issues, this may be the first hurdle. Find a person you can trust and work through some of the attachment-related issues, and stay at it.

You are right: this is a very multi-facetted condition, and many factors in a family can aggravate the condition.

Moving and having to start over can be very disturbing as a teenager. But, consider how you adjusted. What helped you cope with that? What strategies did you put in place? What worked, and what didn’t?

Yes, it would be nice to have had a mentor, a support person. This was difficult because you moved a lot. Navigating a difficult family environment may have also made it hard to be open and on the look-out for support.

Try to find an inner image of masculine support within yourself, or in someone you admire in the world. Sometimes the characteristics of such a person lie slumbering within yourself. 

I can also recommend a book by Guy Corneau: Absent fathers, lost sons.

You may ultimately discover a core within yourself – which never left you. Best wishes, Kristina

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