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Are you an internalizer? What does that mean exactly? And more importantly, how can you make the most of it? Learn what internalizers and externalizers are, how to deal with emotional loneliness and break childhood patterns.

I read one of the best books I’ve ever seen just recently. It’s called ‘Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents’ and safe to say, it’s written for me.

I’ve been eyeing it for a long time now and knew it’s a good one, but the timing just wasn’t right as I was working on other things. Last month the timing was just right though and I ordered and read it quickly. Not only this, but I’ve already seen massive results and even had the chance to implement all that I learned.

I needed it because I wanted to get more clarity about my childhood and mostly about my dynamics with my father, who is the most triggering person in my life. There’s a lot of self-healing to be done but I needed to understand him better.

The book helped me in a few powerful ways.

First, it allowed me to understand that I was expecting understanding and a supportive and emotional connection from a person who simply isn’t capable of giving me that. Sounds simple but learning the theory behind this was all I needed to accept this once and for all.

Second, it allowed me to let go of the guilt I had associated with avoiding many situations with my dad and having set strong boundaries in the last years. Turns out, I was right to do that. Now that the guilt is gone, I can add even more boundaries to protect my energy and avoid conflict.

Third, it explained a very specific feeling I’ve been having (and what being an internalizer means) ever since I was a kid. Now I recognize it as emotional loneliness caused by the emotional neglect by an emotionally immature parent.

In adulthood, this results in attracting similar people. In my case, emotionally unavailable men, and expecting from them a level of intimacy that they simply can’t provide.

Or put in other words, because my dad couldn’t love me the way I wanted to be loved, that’s a pattern I now repeat to seek comfort.

As kids, we associate safety with familiarity.

So as adults, we imitate the environment from our childhood. Until the day we open our eyes, do some healing and stop operating from a child’s mentality.

The book also explains why the children of such parents were totally normal, why the way they feel now is a natural response to what happened during childhood, and why their parents are the way they are.

This goes back to their childhood, of course.

I find all this fascinating. And the quick progress I saw thanks to this content is that I just came back from visiting family back in my home country, after not having visited for a long time. Which means being around my dad for nearly 2 weeks, which offers a couple hundred opportunities to be triggered and turn into a version of myself I don’t like.

I’m happy to say this is the first time ever that I did not allow a trigger to have control over me. I applied the steps I learned in the book for managing emotions and dealing with emotionally immature people, and I challenged myself with this personally.

It did require all my energy, though, and that was the main thing I had going on. For the next visit, I’ll try to still focus on other aspects of life while doing trigger management at the same time.

Your healing fantasy

Another major thing I discovered thanks to the book is the so called healing fantasy I’ve created for myself as a kid to be able to survive the emotional neglect and deal with the loneliness.

It’s a fantasy you create about how you’ll eventually get what you need, a story you tell yourself about what will make you truly happy one day. And you can spend the rest of your life chasing it. Sometimes it can even make sense as an adult, or it can be covered in something more realistic.

But at the end of the day, this is the solution to deal with life that a child thought of and it can’t fit the reality of an adult.

It has a big benefit too – it gives us hope, keeps us optimistic about the future, and helps us deal with dysfunctional parents. But it continues for too long and affects our relationships later in life, whether you’re an internalizer or externalizer (you’ll see what these are in a bit).

It led to me attracting emotionally unavailable guys, expecting depth and intimacy from them that they’ve never shown and that they may never get to. Wanting them to make my healing fantasy come true, to help remove the emotional loneliness I always felt, to see me deeply in the way my dad never did, to change for me from cold to emotionally connected in a way my dad still hasn’t, and to love me the way I wanted to be loved as a kid.

Another big thing a child of such a parent does is to play a role as a kid, and later in life. First to get the attention of the parent and have those fleeting moments of closeness, and later with partners or anyone else they interact with. It’s about your subconscious ideas of how others should change in order to make you feel valued and how you think you must behave to be loved.

Here I had to admit some things to myself during one exercise, things I haven’t admitted before. And it felt liberating.

Being an Internalizer

Now I’m about to get to the main part of this episode because that’s what the title is about – internalizers.

So the children of emotionally immature parents fall into 2 categories, internalizers and externalizers, based on how they cope with emotional deprivation.

The book I mentioned, anything discussed in this episode, and psychology, self-reflection and personal growth usually appeal to internalizers. This is who I am and that book finally gave me an explanation for many aspects of how I am that I couldn’t really explain to myself before.

Internalizer children believe it’s up to them to change things, their biggest problem in relationships is that they make too many sacrifices and end up being resentful of the partner after some time for how much they sacrificed. I resonate with that.

Such people:

  • think solutions start on the inside
  • worry about the future
  • look for their role in a problem
  • take responsibility for their behavior
  • think before they act
  • are willing to change
  • feel guilty easily
  • believe emotions can be managed
  • think about what others need first
  • change themselves in order to improve a situation
  • want to discuss problems and help others understand why there’s an issue.

Internalizers are sensitive and more aware of the painful loneliness, they crave close connection. They have this deep need for emotional intimacy in a relationship and nothing less can satisfy them.

They also think they bother others with their needs, are overly independent and don’t ask for help, and are shocked when someone shows genuine interest in them or sees them for who they are. That’s how rare this is for them and it’s what they missed in childhood.

Because of how things were with an emotionally immature parent, an internalizer learns how to manage their own emotions and mostly focuses on taking care of other people’s emotions and neglect themselves.

They often take the role of the kid taking care of the parent, but this shouldn’t be happening. Such people do the emotional work for the parent, and later on do most of the emotional work in a relationship.

They can keep telling themselves that both partners are working on this and putting effort, but that’s not the case. They do this until they end up emotionally exhausted from doing too much emotional work.

They try to fix the other person and believe that with enough emotional support, the other person will change and love them better. Until they realize they can’t change how another human being relates to them. This is when they detach emotionally and give up. That’s when the healing fantasy is broken and they no longer believe they can change people’s feelings and behavior toward them.

When the pain of the healing fantasy and the role you’ve been playing since childhood becomes too heavy or has little to no benefits, people usually do something about it and break the pattern. I highly recommend that book, especially if you’re an internalizer. 


Externalizers, the other type of kids of emotionally immature parents, are those who look for solutions from outside, expect others to solve their problems and blame them

They are the opposite of an internalizer. Here are some of their characteristics:

  • react to whatever is going on
  • live in the moment
  • don’t consider consequences
  • escape reality to feel better
  • are impulsive and self-focused
  • expect help from others
  • want others to change to improve a situation
  • and aren’t interested in any self-reflection. 

Most emotionally immature parents are actually externalizers.

If you’re an internalizer, I want you to know you’re not alone. Your tendency to analyze everything isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That loneliness you’ve been carrying with you doesn’t need to continue forever, and you’re absolutely capable of loving relationships.

Identify your healing fantasy and put an end to it.

Love yourself a little more every day, let go of the desire to finally change your parents and get the attention and love you never got, and stop looking for the same in a partner.

The book ends with a page about the joy of self-discovery and emotional development. Many people find this work too hard and unnecessary. Many wonder why I spend so much time reflecting on all this instead of living my life.

And the answer is this, as the author put it in the book: ‘…it can feel more rewarding to give yourself a happy life now as an aware adult than to have always had it from the beginning. To be aware and present at the birth of your new self as an adult is pretty incredible stuff. How many people get to be awake and aware of the emergence of the person they were always meant to be? How many people get to have two lifetimes in one?’

So yeah, I can’t agree more. 

I often talk about freedom, personal freedom. There are many types and ultimately we crave all of them. One of the big ones is emotional freedom.

I’ve seen many people who manage to be free in different ways. Financially, for example. Or they get their time back if they build a business and make it flexible.

But what is that worth if they are trapped in a healing fantasy? If they are in a relationship that’s a pattern they repeat from childhood? If they want to change a parent and live a life that would please them? If they are triggered constantly and don’t even know why? If they play a role with the people in their life and no one actually knows who they really are, because they are terrified of being exposed and don’t think they are worthy?

This is how lack of emotional freedom looks like. This is something I can’t stand and am constantly working on.

If you are doing the same, I see you. I know what the cost is, and I know what the benefits are. I haven’t found many other things in life that give an equal level of satisfaction.

My biggest healing and growth has come from learning more about these topics, looking within and seeing what needs are unmet and the unhealthy ways in which I now meet them. 

Read also: 40 Journaling Prompts for Self-Discovery

Are you an internalizer?

Awareness is the first step to any change.

Please get in touch and let me know what you think about all that, especially if you identify as an internalizer. I don’t mind getting off topic here and not talking about business every now and then only to be able to cover such important topics. Things that we can all relate to.

Our inner child is guiding the adult we are now, so we might as well heal it. I can also say that the quality of your life is as good as your ability to identify and manage your triggers.

This year I’m all about mastering trigger management. Everything already feels lighter and this is simply a skill we can all get better at.

Needless to say, healing and managing your triggers and meeting your childhood needs will result in being a better business owner, doing work that matters, and being deeply satisfied with what you do.

Our healing makes the world a better place, so don’t give up on it.

Wanna listen to the podcast episode instead? Tune in below and learn how to make the most of being an internalizer:

I recently read 'Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents'. 
Check out this post to learn what internalizers and externalizers are, how to deal with emotional loneliness and break patterns: