Thursday, July 31, 2008

Restricted Identity and Controling Feelings by Controling People

Christians weigh in on Botkin Syndrome: “Love is a Choice: The Definitive Book on Letting Go of Unhealthy Relationships by Hemfelt, Minirth and Meier.

From page 23:

“The Ten Traits of Codependency”

1. The codependent is driven by one or more compulsions.

2. The codependent is bound and often tormented by the way things were in the dysfunctional family of origin.

3. The codependent’s self-esteem (and, frequently maturity) is very low.

4. A codependent is certain that his or her happiness hinges on others.

5. Conversely, a codependent feels inordinately responsible for others.

6. The codependent’s relationship with a spouse or Significant Other Person (SOP) is marred by a damaging, unstable lack of balance between dependence and independence.

7. The codependent is a master of denial and repression.

8. The codependent worries about things he or she can’t change and may well try to change them.

9. A codependent’s life is punctuated by extremes.

10. A codependent is constantly looking for something that is missing or lacking in life.

From page 5:

In its broadest sense, codependency can be defined as “an addiction to people, behaviors or things.” Codependency is the fallacy of trying to control interior feelings by controlling people, things and events on the outside. To the codependent, control or the lack of it is central to every aspect of life.

The codependent may be addicted to another person. In this interpersonal codependency, the codependent has become so elaborately enmeshed in the other person that the sense of self – personal identity – is severely restricted, crowded out by that other person’s identity and problems.

Excerpts from
Robert Hemfelt, Frank Minirth and Paul Meier’s
Love is a Choice:
The Definitive Book on
Letting Go of Unhealthy Relationships
Thomas Nelson, 1989

Four Ways We Can Handle Anger

Christians weighing in on Botkin Syndrome:
Excerpts from "Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves" by Drs. Stoop and Masteller.

From page 240:

Four Basic Responses
to an Anger Reaction

1. We can repress the emotion.
Watch out! Repressed emotions create pressure that will eventually result in an explosion.

2. We can vent our anger.
“Don’t delay. Don’t hold back. Be ‘authentic’ with your feelings ” Following such advice can provide momentary relief, but it eventually ruins relationships and undermines our own health.

3. We can feel our anger but decide not to express it right away.
Often it pays to “count to ten.” This strategy gives us the space to respond rather than react.

4. We can learn to confess our anger to someone we trust.
The goal is to understand our feelings so that we can decide how best to respond to them.

Excerpt from
Dr. David Stoop & Dr. James Masteller's
"Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves:
Healing Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families"
Regal/Gospel Light, 1996 (Servant, 1991)


Adult Children Learn to Assume the Blame

Christians weighing in on Botkin Syndrome:
Excerpts from "Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves" by Drs. Stoop and Masteller.

From pages 246 - 247:

We regularly see an interesting phenomenon occur among adults who were abused as children. Thy experience an overwhelming need to cast blame somewhere. Because of the dynamics of childhood – where adults are bigger and more powerful, and therefore perceived as “always right” – abuse victims invariably place the blames on themselves.

But they soon start accepting the fact that they were only children, innocent, unable to either chose or prevent the things that were happening to them. “For the first time I realized that I wasn’t to blame for all the problems that existed in the world,” one woman said. “I felt I had to blame someone. I couldn’t blame the adults, because after all, they were adults. So the only one left to blame was me.”

Once this realization hits, they often start blaming others with a vengeance. Some are simply programmed to blame others for everything. One man named Jerry, remembers growing up in a family where everything was regarded as someone else’s fault. He can remember times when they hoped for a sunny day and it rained. His father would say, “Even God is against us today.” Jerry grew up very confused about the matter of responsiblity. If he himself didn’t bring about the wrong, then he had to point an accusing finger at someone else.

A more mature understanding of the world tells us that sometimes things just don’t work out the way we hoped. There are disappointments, unexpected developments, changes in plans, that are no one’s fault in particular... Being able to accept this reality, without always having to point the finger of blame, is an important component of personal maturity and emotional health.

Excerpt from
Dr. David Stoop & Dr. James Masteller's
"Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves:
Healing Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families"
Regal/Gospel Light, 1996 (Servant, 1991)
. .

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Christians weighing in on Botkin Syndrome:

Excerpts from "Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves" by Drs. Stoop and Masteller.

From pages 298 - 299:

All of recognize that there is no such thing as a perfect parent. All of us are descended from imperfect parents, and grew up in imperfect families. But to acknowledge this as an intellectual proposition is one thing. To actually admit that our parents have failed us is, for some of us, a very hard thing to do.

It may even seem like a wrong thing to do. Doesn’t the Bible teach that we are supposed to honor our father and mother? (Exodus 20:12). Indeed we are. But what does it mean to honor our parents? Does it mean we should never acknowledge their weaknesses, limitations, and mistakes? Does it mean we should never acknowledge the pain they may have caused us? I don’t think so.

The original Hebrew word used in the passage literally means “assign weight to.” It is as though someone told us something and we replied, “I want to carefully weigh what you’ve said.” If we consider their words and decide that they are important, we are, in a sense “assigning weight” to them. Thus to “honor” our parents means to assign weight – value, importance, significance – to them.

When that original Hebrew word was translated into Greek for the New Testament, the Greek word had to do with “giving glory to” the thing being honored. Both the Greek and the Hebrew carried the sense of honoring people because of the position they held, not necessarily because of intrinsic value.

One way to understand this is to imagine that you are in a banquet hall. Part way through the banquet, your city mayor walks in. Now, let’s suppose that you are not particularly fond of this mayor. You didn’t vote for him in the last election, and you think he has made some bad decisions. Even so, when he walks into the room, you stand up with everyone else to greet him.

Why? Because he is the mayor, and honoring him is the appropriate thing to do. You assign a certain value, or “weight” to him because of the position he holds. This does not mean you now have to start liking him, or even respecting him, as a person. It does not mean you have to start pretending that you agree with everything he has done as mayor. The honor is accorded to the position he holds, not so much to the individual.

In the same way, we can honor our parents – accord them an appropriate degree of “weight” – because of the position they hold in our lives as parents. Similar to our example with the mayor, the fact that we honor them does not mean we have to pretend that they have never done anything wrong or hurtful to us.

It is healthy, not dishonoring, to acknowledge that our parents failed us, hurt us, damaged us in some way – especially if we are doing so for the sake of forgiving them. We do neither our parents nor ourselves any honor by denying reality, eliminating the possibility of forgiveness, and locking ourselves into dysfunctional patterns of thinking and acting.

Excerpt from
Dr. David Stoop & Dr. James Masteller's
"Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves:
Healing Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families"
Regal/Gospel Light, 1996 (Servant, 1991)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What does the literature on family dysfunction, covert incest and addiction have to do with the Botkins?

Explaining Botkin Syndrome

I present this information here to those who have some interest in the Botkin Daughters and Family because I believe their model, promoted by patriarchy/patriocentricity and groups such as Vision Forum is destructive and unhealthy, but the nature of the dysfunction is not so apparent. For those who are interested in the Botkin concept, I hope that you will benefit from my experience and the experience of the study of families who struggle to cope with the inevitable frustrations of life.

We have unavoidable tensions in life, many painful realities that even concern religion. The Apostle Paul said that we “see through a glass darkly” so that we do not know everything that we would like to know about God, the world and ourselves. That can be painful at times and leaves us with many unanswered questions. The so-called “Biblical patriarchy” in Evangelical Christianity has been termed more succinctly as “patriocentricity” because the practicalities or the daily working out of it describes all family life as centered around the father. His considerations and protections and wisdom comes first and it therefore the functional center. I believe that this father centered model is just another construct or tool that Christians developed in order to deal with the unavoidable pains in life, but it actually does more harm to people as opposed to helping them.

I grew up in a wonderful home, an only child with two wonderful parents that have been married 45 years, at the time of this writing. We went to church and I was a devoted Christian that loved God for as long as I can remember. I grew up and entered a helping profession as a nurse (though the available choices for me were very limited by my parents), then got married. But there were many problems along the way (which you can read about in greater detail by selecting the “personal testimony” tag). We didn’t have alcoholics or drug addictions, but we had other things that we did in order to cope, one of which was religion.

I was shocked to realize that though there was no substance use or gambling, we had all of the characteristics of an alcoholic family (centered around depression instead of substances or debachery). For some time, I followed two different religious alternatives in an attempt to cope with the pain of life: (1) the Word of Faith teachings that I shared with my family, and (2) a formulaic and rule-oriented Christianity through my church’s eclectic combination of Bill Gothardism, shepherding/discipleship from the Charismatic movement in the ‘70s, and through a misapplication of Theonomy (introduced to us through the Bob Mumford connections to Chalcedon through the shepherding movement). I believe that patriocentricity, the Botkin Model, is just another type of religious means of coping with life, and they differ little from the religious means that I used myself.

The Botkin Model

The patriocentric model, the Botkin model, describes and prescribes ways by which a person can hopefully avoid many of the pains, pressures and unpredictability in life through following the wisest plan of living: the Bible. But the Bible is not so specific, and application to our age must be clarified for us. In the process of making application of those principles to our daily lives, there is a great deal of our own ideology worked in as a part of the process. We select elements from our culture that have worked for us in the past. We work in our own personal beliefs as a consequence as well, since we are the ones who are working out the plan. We use what we grew up to interpret as “normal” as a guide for us. And for our family, this constitutes a good guide. For us, the effort has been noble and worthy.

But herein lies the problem. Those who grow up in a less effective family generally grow up coping with the struggles of the other members in the family. This need not be alcoholism. In my own family, it was depression. You stand on your head and move mountains to help the depressed person survive, through constant acts of self-sacrifice and service. This is not different than how the alcoholic family operates, and it is far from healthy. In my own family, I did everything I could to “enable” the depression itself. As a consequence, I developed and LEARNED my own similar ways of coping by being both depressed and sickly. Instead of being the bad kid, I was the very good kid but also the sick child because that was the only thing that pulled my other family members out of their depression. And while I was a child, it worked. And I learned very unhealthy and destructive ways of coping, and to me, they were “normal.” But I grew up, and none of it worked anymore.

I believe that the Botkins are perpetuating the same type of system. I do not know what the original problems were (addictions or a smothering parent or through some abandonment of some type) that produced the dysfunctions in the family systems of those who have constructed patriocentricity. What I can readily recognize is the pattern and the rules, both written and unwritten. I did not grow up with an understanding of “multi-generational faithfulness” in the terms that the Botkins now profess, but I did grow up with a devotion to my depressed and dysfunctional family that needed me to perpetuate it in order to survive the pains of life. I can spot the patterns a mile away. And I know well, along with every other adult child of a family trying to survive some pain of life, the destructive outcomes that the patterns produce. Those who hold the power benefit from those who support them, and I know well the role of the enabler (as well as the pleasure of the benefits of that role – the secondary gain).

(Read more under the "triangulation" tag from the label list for more information.)

What the Botkins declare to be a Biblical model -- that outlines the wisest way to live the Christian life -- I see as the die-hard attempt to make religion work to avoid the unavoidable and inevitable unpredictability and pain of living.

The Botkin model, that of patriocentricity, contains many Christian elements and concepts that are Christianly in general, but it also has the dysfunction of the addicted family rules woven in it. From my vantage, it is obvious to me that those who drafted the specifics of it have not dealt with the grief and pain of elements of their own past, and have made patriocentricity their drug of choice.

The tragedy is that they claim that their potpourri of preference (Christianity, Old Testament Legalism, Victorian and Medieval culture, the cult of domesticity, American Nationalism, and the dynamics of dysfunctional and addicted families) is the only Biblical alternative for effective Christian living. In reality, they are preaching the family dynamics of addiction, representing them as faithful Christianity.

They are using the integrity of Word of God to legitimize (and market!) their own emotional and psychological disease processes.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Why Should I Bother: Why Can’t I Keep My View of an Idealized Family?

Christians weighing in on Botkin Syndrome:

Excerpts from "Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves" by Drs. Stoop and Masteller.

From pages 294 -295:

We also learn that some of our long-protected illusions about ourselves and others must change. Childhood expectations and idealizations of the way people should behave may wind up influencing us long into adulthood with harmful results.

For example, it is a common childhood expectation that all families are happy: mom cheerfully takes care of the kids’ every need; dad goes off to work each morning with a smile on his face, and returns each night for dinner; the family schedules all kinds of outings for the weekends; everyone is happy and fulfilled all the time. That picture of “normal” family life is reinforced in dozens of ways in the storybooks we read in school, in the shows we watched on television, and so on.

As we grow older, we recognize that this rosy picture is an idealization, not the norm. We recognize that few – if any – families really look or act this way. We recognize that our own family does not look or act this way.

Or do we? In some cases, it is more accurate to say that part of us recognizes and accepts the unreality of this picture. But another part of us lings to it desperately, still believing it is to be true, and ever more conscious of the ways in which our own situation falls short.

Stoop quotes from Lewis Smedes’ “Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve":

“...we want our parents to be sheer light, with no darkness at all; and we feel a little foul if we allow shadows to darken our memory. We don’t want them to need forgiving; because if we forgive them, we must have found fault with them first, maybe even hated them.”

In working through the process of forgiveness, we need to figure out how our own expectations may have set the stage for our being hurt. Part of maturity is accepting responsibility for our own outlook on life and relationships. If others have hurt us by failing to live up to our expectations, then one of the things we need to do is examine whether those expectations may have been inappropriate and unrealistic.

If so, forgiveness for us will need to involve repentance (a fundamental change of our own minds and hearts about what we should rightly expect from others) as well as our working through our pain. The pain of unmet expectations is still very real, and still needs to be dealt with, even if those expectations were unrealistic.

Excerpt from
Dr. David Stoop & Dr. James Masteller's
"Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves:
Healing Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families"
Regal/Gospel Light, 1996 (Servant, 1991)

Idealizing Our Parents: Fear and the Loss of Autonomy

Christians weighing in on Botkin Syndrome:

Excerpts from "Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves" by Drs. Stoop and Masteller.

From pages 197 - 201:

If we accept these notions about our parents – as children, we really have little choice – then we have to conclude that they know what is best for us, and that they are always right. This tendency to always view our parents as all-good is called idealization.

Idealization often occurs in families that are very religious, especially in those kinds of religious homes that draw very strict boundaries to define acceptable and unacceptable attitudes and behaviors. The high value that is placed on family, and on respect for parents, makes it almost impossible for children to integrate their parents’ failings and weaknesses....

Adult children who have practiced this degree of splitting and idealization tend to be driven by fear. First, there is a fear of being abandoned. “I was always afraid my mother was going to leave us,” one woman remembered. “When we did something bad, she threatened to walk out and never come back. I remember many afternoons when I ran home from school, afraid that the house would be empty when I got there. She never actually left, but I always feared she would.

Such [adult] children also fear loss of control or loss of autonomy. For children growing up in a dysfunctional family, control is all-important. It is the only answer to the chaos that surrounds them. The problem, of course, is that none of us can control life completely, and the more we try, the more out-of-control we feel. But the fear of losing control drives us to try all the harder, despite the suffering and frustration it causes...
The blame for this has to land somewhere. If children idealize their parents, they become the only available targets. Children grow up thinking they are the bad ones. Even if others try to tell them they are good, inwardly they don’t believe it. How could it be true? Other people just don’t realize how awful they are. “I have trouble whenever anyone says, “I love you,” one woman explained. “In our family, whenever I hear those words, it meant I was about to be taken advantage of.”

The normal reaction to these kinds of injury should be anger. But since children in hurtful environments are often forbidden to express anger – or are too young even to realize what is happening to them – they repress their feelings and they deny their memories of what happened.

But even when denial shuts out the source of pain, the feelings of anger, helplessness, despair, suspicion, fear of rejection, abandonment, anxiety, and pain are still present. They may find expression in psychological disorders or in such self-destructive behaviors as substance abuse or suicide. When these adult children become parents, they may take revenge on their own children for the mistreatment they received in childhood. Or their unresovled negative emotions may find expression in destructive acts against others, even leading to criminal behavior.

When denial is allowed to continue into adulthood, it opens the door to many problems. The answer to those problems is never to “forget.” It is remembering that makes healing and freedom possible.

[Read more on "splitting" by Stoop and Masteller HERE.]

Excerpt from
Dr. David Stoop & Dr. James Masteller's
"Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves:
Healing Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families"
Regal/Gospel Light, 1996 (Servant, 1991)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Explaining Botkin Syndrome Triangulation (Part I of III): Objectification

Having reviewed the basics of triangulation, I would like to explain my concerns about the Botkin model for raising families. The model views deems males more powerful and capable in respect to both essence and capability, physically and spiritually. In addition, all family members, boys until they are deemed adult men and all women and girls throughout their whole lives, must serve their male “federal head.” (Many Reformed ministers I know attest that the Botkin/patriocentric interpretation misrepresents and grossly misinterprets "federal headship".) In addition, women and girls are required to defer to males in general as well, whether they are their brothers or even their 13 year old sons. Many believe that two factors combine to create a very dysfunctional environment for women, particularly daughters, as is promoted in the teachings of the “Visionary Daughters.” Women, particularly young women and girls are used as objects to gratify needs, particularly by fathers but also by all males in general.

Objectification of children and all females

Whether they formally profess agreement with the ontological subordination of females as the “derivative” or “indirect” image of God in comparison with males (the direct image of God) matters little. Coming right out to admit this would be interpreted as a red flag to people, so they say anything but that direct statement, using unstated assumption and intentional vagueness for the purpose of denying culpability. They use these logical fallacies and propaganda techniques to convey their message subtly and deceive their intended audience. They will not come out and directly state “Woman is made in man’s image” because those specific words would be inflammatory to most Christians, though I believe that everything else that they teach is completely consistent with this premise. It is subtle and crafty.

The consequences of this assumption objectifies women, or that which treats all females as objects to be used like a tools. It is far easier to blame a lesser creature for one’s problems, just as it is quite easy to “kick the dog” after a hard day of frustration. Original sin, seeking to be like God (not woman seeking to be like man as some teach), was followed fast with blame by Adam. In Genesis 3:11-12, when God asks Adam why he disobeyed God’s command to refrain from eating of the Tree of Knowledge, Adam explains that he did so because the woman that God gave him gave him the fruit to eat, so Adam ate. Many interpret this as a very unmanly attempt to reduce his own culpability or “pass the buck” to both God first and then to Eve. The Botkin model does not follow the “flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone” concept that Adam states himself in Genesis 2:23, but more closely approximates the Genesis 3:12 concept that woman is at fault for his own shortcomings and choices.

Under such conditions, it is quite easy to “scapegoat” all women, laying blame upon her for all the ills of mankind. Many notable Bible teachers affiliated with CBMW teach that sin actually entered mankind through woman, but as a technicality, God made Adam responsible because of either or both “federal headship” and “progeniture.” I believe that this interpretation can only be “read into” the text (eisegesis) because of the presuppositions that define all females as lesser creatures. This is also a “Fallacy of the Simple Cause” or "Single Cause" that explains relationships in oversimplified terms, explaining relationships with faulty causalities. Scapegoating is then a consequence of this oversimplification: A single cause or element is identified and vilified as the source of all undesirable circumstances or outcomes. The scapegoat distracts the audience from other possible contributing factors. These teachings are well noted in “So Much More” and “Return of the Daughters” wherein women are attributed the driving desire to usurp man’s authority (and not to be like God as the Genesis account teaches). In redefining women in this way, I believe that the enmity that God placed between the serpent and the woman has been improperly reassigned between man and woman. (Wives are redefined as a husband’s adversary and not as his helpmeet.)

Explaining Botkin Syndrome Triangulation (Part II of III): The Father/Husband Patriarch as an Idol


Karen Campbell coined the term “patriocentricity” to describe the concept and social framework conceived and promoted by those who promote Botkin Syndrome. They have termed it “Biblical patriarchy” but it is far from Biblical and does not actually reflect traditional patriarchal systems but rather a type of male hegemony. (Power must not only be established, it must be willingly yielded by subordinates without protest or constraint. It is not enough to follow and submit to the pattern in obedience to the law, but it demands a surrender if not destruction of any opposing will. “They say it cannot be taken; it must be given,” says the Merovingian character in the third film of the “Matrix” trilogy.)

From Wise Geek’s definition of hegemony:

Hegemony dates to the Greek verb hegeisthai which translates to “to lead.” Early leaders who were able to exert a great deal of control and influence over a group of people might be referred to as hegemons. A hegemon had to have a great deal of support from at least one dominating class, in order to keep the people of the state from rebelling against the leadership.

From Wikipedia on hegemony:

The processes by which a dominant culture maintains its dominant position: for example, the use of institutions to formalize power; the employment of a bureaucracy to make power seem abstract (and, therefore, not attached to any one individual); the inculcation of the populace in the ideals of the hegomonic group through education, advertising, publication, etc.; the mobilization of a police force as well as military personnel to subdue opposition.

Within this model, fleshed out extensively in “So Much More” authored by Elizabeth and Anna Sophia Botkin, all family members revolve around and serve the needs and vision of the patriarchal husband/father. The model encourages sons to “cast visions” and have callings of their own, so long as they are approved by the patriarch. Daughters may follow pursuits that are both circumscribed by the patriarchal father but also the “sphere of the home.” In other words, women must not be permitted any activity in the public square, the sole domain of men. Marriage is deemed the only “normative” role, so any premarital pursuits must be directed only towards that which will prepare the daughter for marriage and motherhood.

Even so, these pursuits must be approved by the father and must directly and indirectly serve and benefit the overall “family vision” as declared by the father. Home based businesses are strongly promoted, though they must be deemed appropriately feminine in nature as circumscribed by the concept of the so-called “Biblical patriarchy.” Daughters are permitted, however, to serve the visions of their brothers who are encouraged to have their own, independent pursuits that are not necessarily permanently directed at the family unit. A distorted interpretation of Numbers 30 serves as the only Scriptural basis for this belief.

This is idolatry, and it is not even an optional choice of children but is a required element of “multi-generational faithfulness.” This adds to the concept that the family patriarch serves to purify and sanctify all those women assigned to him. Add to this the Botkin teachings that all daughters are to be “helpmeets” to their fathers until they are given in marriage to the spouse of their father’s choice. The ideology teaches that girls should refrain from all emotional interest and attachments to potential mates, directing those only towards family members, until their father presents a suitable mate to them. Presumably, the daughter has the option to decline a particular spouse, but based upon a concept of bounded choice, this option is only an illusion. What viable choice does the daughter have to decline? Is she not required to submit to her patriarch’s will in all matters? She cannot flee the home because she has been taught that to do so is apostasy and will render her completely deserving of God’s wrath and Satan’s pleasure. Leaving the home deems her anathema. That is not choice but is bounded choice. The idolatry of the father and then the husband after marriage is non-optional.

Explaining Botkin Syndrome Triangulation (Part III of III): Relationships and Implications

Relationship Triangulation in Botkin Syndrome

The evangelists of the Botkin model of family promote enmeshment with daughters, using their children to gratify adult psychological and emotional needs, and in some cases, physical and financial needs. Daughters are taught to defer to the father primarily but also to the wishes of all men, as reinforced by the Botkin teachings concerning relationships with brothers. All women are restricted to roles that define them as the helpers (“ezer” in Hebrew) as well as subordinate. This teaches both young women as well as young men alike that the fairer sex has one purpose only: tools to be used to meet the needs of men. It is not only just an issue of prescribed or limited roles for women, but their very essence defines them as lesser creatures: tools and objects for the purpose of service and meeting needs.

The subtle and psychological implications of this are profound. The boundaries between sexes become virtually non-existent. This is not to say that those who intend the paternalistic protection of their daughters out of love purpose these negative outcomes at all. I believe it is an oversight wherein the followers of this teaching become blinded so that they cannot anticipate these implications. As with all idolatry, the fruit and final product produced often ironically yields the very opposite of what was originally intended. Consider Romans chapter 1 wherein idolatry of man (worship of the creature over the Creator) will actually produce gender ambiguity. There is quite a bit of this notable within the movement already, while preaching gender priority actually produces men with very effeminate characteristics and behaviors. The group has become so culturally irrelevant and detatched, they do not even recognize this growing evidence of the effete. Also, there appears to be a developing trend of estrangement between grown children with their patriarchal families, characterized in some patriarchal groups (not necessarily formally connected with the Botkin teachings) by rebellion, depression, self-punishment and suicide.

The book “So Much More” focuses upon the critical nature of the father and daughter relationship, teaching both spiritual and physical salvation for daughters through service to fathers. This might not be so troubling if there was an equal attention devoted to the relationships between daughters and mothers, but mothers are rarely referenced in this capacity within patriocentricity. Fathers have all the priority, and mothers seem to be pushed off to the side. Victoria Botkin, mother to Anna Sophia and Elizabeth and wife to Geoff Botkin, is rarely referenced, photographed or discussed in the literature. The mother and daughter relationship is rarely discussed if at all.

In regard to triangulation, what we see is an unhealthy relationship triangle where father and daughter are aligned, but husband and wife as well as daughter and mother are not.

Following the example presented in the writings of Dr. David Stoop, the implications for other relationships are quite notable, primarily the adult child’s relationship with a new spouse. (I can attest to this difficulty personally, as both my spouse and I had enmeshed relationships with our mothers.) Parental enmeshment destroys intimacy and relationships between husband and wife like nothing else. Within the synoptic Gospels, Jesus tells us that not only can a house divided not stand, but it is also impossible to serve two masters. If one attempts to serve two masters, Jesus said that one will love one master and hate the other. The “multi-generational faithfulness” concept as taught by the Botkins may work for the initial family, but it will undermine the relationship between the new husband and wife.

The next implication of enmeshment involves what Pia Mellody identifies as an inevitable gender-related “Love Avoidant” pattern. According to her model that expands upon the triangulation model of family therapy, enmeshment (covert incest) produces a “Love Avoidance” toward all members of the sex of the parent with whom the adult child shares enmeshment. If these fathers so control and derive non-sexual need satisfaction from their daughters, the daughters will be love avoidant with other men. They will have intimacy difficulties with their husbands, compounded by the competition that is created with the father-daughter relationship that they carried with them into the marriage. In an attempt to stress appropriate gender relations as Biblical and “kingdom architecture” (as the Botkin girls define it), they are actually promoting a milieu that drives women away from men.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Another Way of Looking at Triangulation in Relationships

Just something else to ponder.

This is not from David Stoop's book, but it likely influenced the writing thereof. This is a representation from one of the earlier writings on triangulation for you to consider. This is the Karpman Drama Triangle that comes out of the writings concerning Transactional Analysis. Think of it as just another simple way of thinking about roles in relationships.

This also depicts the type of "all or nothing" relationships that we can become trapped within when we do psychological splitting, plunking people in a static role rather than a dynamic sharing of role and responsibility within relationships. I would not want to be any one of these persons in this triangle, yet I have and still am each one of them and all three at the same time in some way.
Look at the triangle and each point on it, asking yourself if you fall into one of these roles, if you can honestly identify with any of them and whether or not they nudge you to make some changes in your behavior. Personally, I find it convicting and difficult to consider each one of them, because I know that in this flesh of mine, they are all at work.

Original Source © 1968 by the Transactional Analysis Bulletin.

Hat Tip to Rhoda Mills Sommer!

Keep checking back... More posts to come from Stoop on "psychological splitting."

Creating a Diagram of Your Own Relationships

Get a clean piece of paper and chart your own relationships, and possibly those of previous generations in your family. Get creative! Use different colors or special lines and express yourself.

Christians weighing in on Botkin Syndrome:

Excerpts from "Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves" by Drs. Stoop and Masteller.

From pages 148 – 151:

Charting the triangles is often tricky because, as we have seen, the dynamics of relationships are not always clear and simple, and not always what they seem to be at first glance...

[D]o they help you see more clearly how the dynamics of your family life affected you? Do they point out particular relationships that did not work well, particular individuals whose impact on you was harmful in some way?

If so, your tendency may be to get angry or bitter at such individuals. That would be an understandable reaction. But our goal has not been simply to nail down “who did what to whom” so that our blame and bitterness can be more accurately targeted. Rather, our goal has been to get a clearer picture of where the damage lies so that we can respond to it constructively.


...But the important thing is not just discovering where the problems and who the “villains” are. The important thing is what we do with this information now that we have it. Whatever may have been done to us while we were children, we are now grown-ups who must take responsibility for our attitudes and actions. Whatever others may have done in the past, what matters is what we do today.

It is not enough for us to label others as “villains” and blame them for all our troubles. We need to understand what has been done to us so that we can take responsibility for our lives as adults and find the freedom from our past hurts. We cannot change what has happened to us. But we can learn to respond to what has happened to us in a way that helps us to rise above the negative influence of the past.

How can we learn to respond in such a way that we can begin to experience the freedom of forgiveness? What about those who have hurt us? Can they be released from their pain as well? In Part Two [of Stoop's “Forgiving Our Parents...” the source quoted here –YOU should BUY the book if this resonates with you!], we shall discover that there can be release for ourselves and others if we and they learn the lessons of forgiveness.

Excerpt from
Dr. David Stoop & Dr. James Masteller's
"Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves:
Healing Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families"
Regal/Gospel Light, 1996 (Servant, 1991)

Biblical Examples of Triangulation

Christians weighing in on Botkin Syndrome:

Excerpts from "Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves" by Drs. Stoop and Masteller.

From pages 146 - 147:

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

We can also use triangles to better understand some of the dynamics in the families descended from Abraham. Again, we constructed a genogram for Abraham and his descendants in Chapter 4. Charting the triangles helps us get a better handle on what happened among some of the key characters.

At the start, when Ishmael was born, all seemed well in Abraham's family. We would represent it with a balanced triangle out of all straight lines.

But things got more complicated when Isaac was born. Sarah, as we have seen, rejected Ishmael and made Isaac her favorite. This put Abraham in a bind. For him to remain loyal to Ishmael would have driven Sarah – and, presumably, Isaac – away.

Here's how we would represent the resulting situation. Notice that we overlap two triangles to show the inter-relationships among the four people. Notice also that the triangles are in balance.

Stoop continues to discuss family relations in Isaac's family, including his relationships with Rebekkah, Esau and Jacob, accounting for their unique alliances. The book also explores the interesting dynamics of Jacob's relationships between his two wives, Rachel and Leah as well as the effects of those relationships on Jacob's relationships with the children of both women. The Old Testament provides us with generation after generation of the effects of prior relationships and the consequences each relationship had. They were all burdened with unique problems, and the Old Testament patriarchs provide us with many examples of family dysfunction. Even in the very first family, we see terrible relationship problems between Cain and Abel, resulting in murder. (Pun intended: Apples generally don't fall far from the tree!)

Taking these examples into account can become a mirror (James 1:22 -25) for us to view our own lives and relationships with greater clarity.

Excerpt from
Dr. David Stoop & Dr. James Masteller's
"Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves:
Healing Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families"
Regal/Gospel Light, 1996 (Servant, 1991)

The Predictive Power of Triangles

Christians weighing in on Botkin Syndrome:

Excerpts from "Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves" by Drs. Stoop and Masteller.

From pages 140 – 142:

We actually see this sort of dynamic occur around us all the time. Let's take a simple example. Imagine that you are the parent of a six-year old girl. One Saturday, you invite your daughter's best friend from school to come over to your house for the afternoon. You also invite your child's best friend from church. These children have never met each other before.

Things go well for awhile. But soon the friend from school corners your child and says, “I thought I was your best-best-best friend. Am I?” Your child reassures her that, of course, she is her best friend. Immediately, this little girl runs to the other guest and says, “I'm her best friend and you're not!”

...As any parent knows, before very long, one of two things is almost certainly going to happen. Either one of the two friends will feel hurt and will start whining that she wants to go home, or both of the invited guests will become “best friends” with each other and ignore your child...

Children seldom have the maturity and the relational skills to resolve this kind of situation such that everyone winds up being friends – even with parents' help. When that does happen, we are usually so amazed by it that we comment about it to others! Nine times out of ten, what happens is that the two pair off against one. That is the nature of this kind of triangle, and the reason why we consider it an “unbalanced” triangle...

This principle of balance holds true with a remarkable degree of consistency and tenacity. Our experience (and that of other family system theorists) shows that over time, in a close, intimate setting like the family, all three way relationships will inevitably resolve themselves into one of the “balanced” triangle patterns. [Blog host note: Either all relationships and communications between points will be healthy and appropriate, or two persons will align to provide a stable and united front against the third party. Each system provides a type of stability that the other alternatives do not provide. Even human relationships work towards stability or “homeostasis.”]

Not only that, but the characteristic of any given two-way relationship (whether it is a straight-line or a [red, dashed-line] relationship) will remain the same no matter what third party is added.

Sometimes people will say, “My brother and I always got along great.” But then an interesting thing happens. When we draw a triangle to include their mother, there is a straight line between them and their brother. The same thing happens when we draw a triangle to include the sister. But when we try to add in their father, they say, “Well, the three of us never could hit it off together. In that case, you'd have to put a wavy line between my brother and me.”

Our response would be, “Something's not right here. Experience shows us that the quality of your relationship with your brother should remain the same no matter what third party we include.” We will then probe more deeply to see if the individual is not either idealizing his relationship with his brother in the first two settings, or wrongly estimating the negative impact of his father in the third setting.

Excerpt from
Dr. David Stoop & Dr. James Masteller's
"Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves:
Healing Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families"
Regal/Gospel Light, 1996 (Servant, 1991)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Defining "Balance" and "Healthy" in Terms of Relationships

In general, a balanced and healthy relationship between two parties defines that which respects the abilities, limitations and needs of each party. Another very simple way of describing these relationships through an application of the “golden rule”: each party considers the needs, wants and feelings of the other party so that they act as much in the best interest of the other party as they do their own. Healthy and balanced relationships are not NOT “zero-sum” situations where if one party benefits, the other party suffers some type of loss. There are always times when one person will sacrifice on behalf of the needs, wants or feelings of the other party, deferring their own out of love and respect of the other, but this is episodic and it is reciprocal. Such a way of relating to the other party strengthens and builds trust and therefore the relationship, because needs, wants and feelings of each party are held in both mutual love and honor.

In order to achieve this, both parties realize and accept the limitations and abilities of one another, refraining from unrealistic demands or expectations. As an example, if one party were very short in stature and the other was tall, the taller person would not expect, ask or demand that the shorter person be capable of reaching on to a high shelf to hand something to him (assuming there is no step-ladder or other device to aid the short person, of course). Likewise, provided that the short person realizes that the ceilings in a basement do not allow for the tall person to stand fully upright without leaning over, they are unlikely to expect, ask or demand that the tall person perform many activities in that basement. Not only are they not capable of normal function in that environment (standing upright – something all human beings should be afforded), doing so causes them physical pain and harm that is very difficult to avoid. The short person then assumes responsibilities for the “basement duties” whenever possible out of respect of the needs, wants and feelings of the taller one. As a general rule, the tall person reciprocates, sharing in the responsibilities of the needs, wants and feelings of the short person by assuming the duties that come easier to a taller person (reaching for items on shelves).

Unique Consideration of the Parent-Child Relationship

Parenting adds additional considerations because of the inequitable abilities of children to meet their own needs as well as the duties of parenting to teach children nearly everything. In addition to providing for the obvious learning and care needs that a child cannot possibly provide for themselves, the parent bears the burden of teaching that child boundaries: where the child's own needs, wants and feelings begin and where they end in relationship to others. This is subtle but vitally important – an aspect of parenting that can be easily forgotten as the child grows older, taking more adult appearing behaviors and performance. (I often find this to be true when observing children who are far beyond the mean for their age group in terms of physical growth. My young cousin looked as if she was four years old when she was only three, and I often found myself “forgetting” that her abilities were still that of a three year old's.)

Because of these factors, all responsibility for the child falls to the parent. The relationship demands this because the child is helpless at birth and requires the parent's sacrificial provision for their needs. An infant provides the most obvious example of this, and the responsibilities are clear: the child depends completely on that parent. But as the child grows older and takes on more adult-like behaviors, the adult must never look to the child to meet their own adult needs within the parent-child relationship. Such a task is complex, because there is so much satisfaction and pleasure that parent's derive from their children. So there is an ever-changing demand placed upon the parent to wisely note that, though the child has developed certain abilities (listening, sharing work, encouragement, emotional support, etc.), the parent must always act in the best interest of the child within the parent-child relationship. Until the child grows into adulthood, the parent bears the heavier burden and must act in the child's best interest above their own. (This is completely apart from the idea that a parent cannot place demands upon children and does not presume that things like household chores or contributing to considerations of the family are improper expectations. This in no way should or does imply “child rights” or other such activism.)

Drawing a Relationship Triangle

Information based upon Dr. David Stoop's description of charting family dynamics.

Christians weighing in on Botkin Syndrome:

Excerpts from "Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves" by Drs. Stoop and Masteller.

[Note: Dr. Stoop uses a wavy line in his book, but I use dashed lines.]

Drawing a Triangle Diagram of Relationships

A balanced relationship between three people is represented by a triangle diagram. Each point on the triangle represents a person in the relationship, each point connected to the other by STRAIGHT lines. Each point and line is equally supportive and solidly connected to the other point (person) through healthy communication and appropriate intimacy for that relationship.

Unhealthy, Unbalanced Relationships

Within an unhealthy set of relationships, a RED, DASHED line between two points represents an unhealthy, unstable or inappropriate relationship between those two people within the group. This opens up three possible types of systems.

The first would depict a system where each individual in the system has a distorted/unhealthy relationship with every other person in the system. This is represented by a triangle with each three points (individuals) connected by RED, DASHED lines (unbalanced, unhealthy relationships).

Within the second dysfunctional system, two individuals have a healthy, stable and balanced relationship with one another, so one boundary of the triangle is represented by a STRAIGHT line between those two points. However, each of those two people (or points in the triangle) each have a troubled relationship with the third party in the system. So the two solidly connected people each have a RED, DASHED line connecting them to the third person in the triangle. The third person has no stable and healthy connections with anyone. That person is the “trouble maker” or the “odd man (or woman) out.”

This system is a bit more stable than the first example where all the relationships are rocky, as that one stable relationship between the two points (connected by a STRAIGHT line) acts like a base for the triangle. They are balanced and help to maintain more balance within the system as they can share and distribute the difficulties of the third party. They can work together, strengthening one another to ground the system. Stoop says that though it doesn't represent an ideal situation, it is capable of lasting much longer than the first system (with RED, DASHED lines between all parties). He goes on to say that the two people “aligned” against the third often “draw much strength from their mutual distaste for the third person” (pg. 138).

The third example of an unbalanced relationship is a bit more complicated, wherein one party has a strong and healthy relationship with the two other parties, so we see one point with two STRAIGHT lines connecting them to both of the other people in the system of three. This might seem like it is actually more balanced, because there is more healthy communication and better relationships overall. However, the one stable and more healthy person becomes a fulcrum that supports and balances the unhealthy relationship between the other parties (connected by a RED, DASHED line) who don't communicate well. The one with the two healthy relationships bears the brunt of the pressure, as this more stable person will be relied upon to support the system. They are the obligatory peace maker and the one who sacrifices most to support the others.

Before we venture any further into the discussion of Botkin Syndrome and what these dysfunctional relationships might look like, we should learn just a little more about how family relationships effect one another. In the next few posts, we will examine what Dr. Stoop has to share about what tends to happen in families and different ways families pull themselves into a functional balance, whether healthy or unhealthy. Another little taste from his book looks at relationships from the Old Testament patriarchs as an example of how families tend to develop and relate follows in future posts. He also gives pointers on how to diagram the relationships within your own family and significant relationships.

Excerpt from
Dr. David Stoop & Dr. James Masteller's
"Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves:
Healing Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families"
Regal/Gospel Light, 1996 (Servant, 1991)

Monday, July 21, 2008

“Triangles Help 'Blow the Cover' of Our Denial Systems” (a Dr. Stoop quote!)

Christians weighing in on Botkin Syndrome:

Excerpts from "Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves" by Drs. Stoop and Masteller.

From pages 131- 133:

[F]amily researchers have found that the best way to study what goes on in people's relationships is to look at what are called groups of three people, or triangles... But they soon began to find that the inner workings of a relationship were really unlocked when a third person was added to the picture...

Offset quoting of Harriet Lerner from page 151 of “The Dance of Intimacy”:

Two-person systems are inherently unstable. Anxiety and conflict will not stay contained between two parties for more than a short time. A third party will quickly be triangled in (or will triangle him- or herself in). This process operates automatically, like a law of physics, without conscious awareness or intent.

The third person in a triangle can also serve to uncover hidden dynamics in a relationship. Many husbands and wives, for example, grow accustomed to relating to each other according to established patterns, often with a number of secrets, myths, and unspoken rules in operation. When a third person comes along who either does not know the secrets, myths, and rules (or who knows of them and simply refuses to go along with them) the couple is suddenly forced to deal with realities that they are otherwise adept at ignoring or sidestepping. Triangles help “blow the cover” of our denial systems...

A note in passing. Usually when we speak of a triangle, we are dealing with a relationship among three flesh-and-blood people who actually interact together on a regular basis. Sometimes, though, the “third person” in a relationship can be more figurative, as when we say things like, “You're just like your mother,” or “You remind me so much of your father when you do that.” The spectre of an absent third party can be a very real presence in a relationship.

Excerpt from
Dr. David Stoop & Dr. James Masteller's
"Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves:
Healing Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families"

Regal/Gospel Light, 1996 (Servant, 1991)