Thoughts from the Psychology Couch

The Unconscious... it's where we live.

Dr. Julie Armstrong

Dr. Julie Armstrong
Los Angeles area, California, United States
August 25
Forensic & Clinical Psychologist
Julie Armstrong Psy.D. QME
I am a Forensic Psychologist and Clinical Nurse Specialist. It is my job to analyze the cause and nature of an individual's behavior, symptoms or distress. I enjoy the analysis of interconnecting phenomena, behavior and psychology, society and psyche, popular culture and the mind. We all live in the unconscious...


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JULY 1, 2011 5:38PM

This Family's got Issues: The Anthony Family

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The entire story of this famly has unfolded before the court and the world as the trial of Casey Anthony continues. It's true that we all have issues... but for this family the issues took over and inflated in a way that none of us can imagine.  It is hard to imagine a mother could kill her child and appear so calloused. Watching the events of the trial unfold, we have learned quite a bit about Casey Anthony and her family. Based on what we have learned from the trial, let's see if we can understand a bit more...

On The Today Show, in an exclusive interview Casey's bodyguard describes some of her experience in the Anthony household after Casey came home from jail.

She talks about some important differences between George and Cindy Anthony.

Cindy Anthony

Cindy is someone who wants to “normalize” Casey's arrival home. Cindy tries to be a supportive, loving and a good mother. She is a nurse, and her initial training was to help people. From the description presented, it appears Cindy wants to avoid negative emotion, to avoid stirring Casey up or making her upset. It is this very style that permits Casey to split off her own negative emotions.  This is a style sometimes referred to “co–dependency" and it can be manipulative and less than genuine. Splitting off feelings can cause resentment in an individual, when they must avoid certain topics, and cannot express their true feelings. When this occurs, it can be a as simple as avoidance, and simply out of their awareness. (Out of sight, out of mind.)  It can also be complete and total; when a person splits off emotions it is as if the feeling did not exist at all.  This is Cindy's contribution to Casey's state of mind. As a mother, Cindy was unable to help Casey learn about negative feelings. She was unable to help Casey learn to understand and cope with painful emotion. Instead, Casey learns to split off the emotion, or avoid it, like her mother does.


 George Anthony's style is very different. In the interview, the bodyguard said that, about the truth, George wanted to “force it out of her.”

George Anthony

For George Anthony this story is particularly conflicted. His style is much more direct and confrontational.  His very nature interferes with his ability to split off the negative emotion. He has a history of work in law enforcement. Police officers and other law enforcement personnel are often the first on the scene when a child is reported injured or missing. Police officers know that in child deaths the family members are the first persons of interest.

George Anthony knew this...,  he painfully knew this.

George knew that the circumstances surrounding the discovery of Caylee's disappearance were suspicious. Of course he knew that Casey had been manipulative, had lied to him and Cindy in the past, and  and that she was simply not very responsible. George knew something was up with Casey regarding the disappearance of Caylee, at some level he knew what it could be but he did not want to believe it. (This is at the heart of his comments to Crystal Holloway. He talked about what he believed implying that he suspected foul play. But he was truthful when he said he didn't know.)

It is this knowing and not wanting to know that created such anguish for George , resulting in both his suicide attempt, and his open grief and distress in this trial.

The stark differences between Cindy and George's personal style have contributed to Casey's upbringing. The conflict in their  parenting  has contributed to her lack of maturity and chronic maladaptive behavior.

When  parents are so far apart in their style, a child will often dance back and forth from one parent to another, in order to get  what she needs or wants. One parent denies, and the other parent indulges. There is little or no resolution between the two,  because the unpleasant, negative, or confronting feelings cannot get addressed. So the child, in this case, Casey, develops into a young adult who is manipulative, self–absorbed, and indulgent. she plays people for what she wants, and does what it takes to get it.

When Caylee was born, she was strongly desired by her grandparents.  She brought a joy to their life, and the experience of hope. Caylee's upbringing held  possibility for Cindy and George; they had the chance to be better parents for Caylee than they had been with Casey. Both George and Cindy knew that they had made mistakes with Casey.  The lies, the manipulation, the irresponsibility…  None of it was new,  and Cindy and George must have wondered what they could have done differently.

Now, with Caylee, there was an opportunity for a different outcome. They thought they could help Casey to be a better mother; in fact, they likely felt they were supposed to help her; they may have felt that they owed it to her. They wanted to be involved in Caylee's life, for the joy that it brought them in light of their frustrations with Casey.

(As a couple George and Cindy also had their own problems. The arrival of a new baby, beautiful, joyful and full of hope,  must have brought a lot of happiness  to a household that was in conflict and struggling.)

Caylee became a pawn that Casey could use to get what she wanted. She also became Casey's opportunity to prove that she was not a screwup.  This is the crux of the split and conflict within Casey. Part of her wanted to be a good mother, to love and provide for Caylee what she felt she didn't get. But the other part of her did not want the responsibility. She wanted to play, flirt, and be adored by men and friends alike.

We now know she used very poor judgment. How will the jury interpret all this? Casey is not on trial for bad judgment. And yet, was first-degree murder proven?

 A final thought…

The Good Brother

 The absence of Casey's brother, Lee from the above understanding is truly Lee's story.  He was left out, when it came to Casey and her antics. He was essentially a good kid, who did not need close parenting. His good behavior created a measure of emotional neglect. It is often the good kid who gets overlooked. Lee has tried to be a good big brother, to work with his sister, and stand by her. No wonder he is an angry guy.

Yet again in his life, he's just trying to be the good kid.





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Very insightful.. Thanks..