Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Botkins on What it Means to Be a Helpmeet


Note: After receiving criticism on the topic, the Botkin daughters reportedly removed the word "helpmeet" from their blog with no notation or other explanation regarding the revision. "Spunky" (aka Karen Braun) discussed this online. The quote noted below mentions this as well.

From "What Exactly is a Helpmeet"
by Anne on the Whitewashed Feminists site:


.....My husband may have a dream or a vision for our family. And certainly I am helping him to further that dream or vision. That may even be part of what it means for me to be his helper. But I hardly think that’s all of it. If being a helper or helpmeet is all wrapped up in helping someone achieve their goals or vision, than why did the Botkin girls change their stance on that and remove the word from their writings? I mean, if that’s what it is, then they are in fact, teaching girls to be helpmeet’s for their fathers.

I’ve seen it written many places that one of the reasons that women shouldn’t be working outside the home is because it makes them helpmeets to other men. I find that really interesting. If being a helpmeet to your husband can be compared to being an employee, then it would seem that the militant feminists may be right about something. Some of the more militant feminists argue that marriage is a form of institutionalized prostitution. I have never agreed with that in the slightest. But, if being a man’s helpmeet means being his employee, doing his will, and being open for sex in exchange for food, lodging and protection, maybe it is! What a horrible view of marriage!......


Read the whole post HERE.
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Friday, August 15, 2008

The Enmeshed Family

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


From pages 85 - 87:

The Enmeshed Family

Enmeshed families are characterized by an extreme sense of closeness, so much so that almost any expression of independence or separateness is seen as disloyalty to the family. This kind of false loyalty is a very high value in an Enmeshed family.

Take Marti as an example. She expressed a great deal of hostility toward her mother. But then she was overwhelmed with guilt at her “disloyalty.” How could she speak of her own mother that way?

Marti had very few friends growing up. Her mother dominated her use of time and energy. Marti felt obligated to check everything she did with her mother, to run all her plans and ideas past her for approval before proceeding. Even after she grew up and got married, Marti felt compelled to seek her mother’s approval for decisions she was making about her family. On one hand, Marti greatly resented this state of affairs; she knew it was a way for her mother to keep her under her thumb. But the thought of breaking free from her mother terrified Marti...

Where does one person’s business, one person’s identity, one person’s life, end – and another’s begin? Within the Enmeshed family, boundaries are virtually non-existent. Everyone experiences his life as almost totally “overlapping” with everyone else’s.

Interestingly though, Enmeshed families tend to have remarkably rigid boundaries vis-`a-vis anyone outside the family. Marti said her mother never tired of warning everyone that “family business was family business” never to be discussed with outsiders.

Enmeshed families can look attractive and inviting from the outside. Take George’s family, for example. George had built a successful bakery business in his town. His three grown sons were all very active in the business. Together, George and his sons had established a virtual monopoly on the baking business in their area. They had also established a virtually monopoly on one another’s lives.

Consider Tim, the oldest son, who wanted to get married. He was almost thirty years old, and had cancelled three previous engagements because his family did not think the girl would “fit in.” Finally he found a girl that everyone approved of. She was quiet and docile, and came from a family in which people were aloof and uncaring. “I finally found a real family.” she would say, and Tim’s parents and brother would smile contentedly.

In time, Tim’s two brothers also married. As tieh Tim, their wives came from highly detatched, uninvolved families. Each was quickly absorbed int their new clan and into the bakery business. This is a classic example of a moderately enmeshed family – not quite suffocating enough to cause the kinds of discomfort that Marti experienced, but enough to blur the individual members into what one family researcher calls an “undifferentiated ego mass.” (Quote sites Murray Bowen!)


From pages 89 - 90:

The Attached Family

While the Enmeshed family feels suffocating, and the Disengaged family leaves the individual feeling isolated, the Attached family strikes a healthy balance. There is a sense of individuality without a loss of connectedness. People in an Attached family enjoy being together and doing things together, but are able to relate to people and be active outside of the family as well. When they are away from the family, they do not feel guilty or disloyal. They are able to share outside experiences with the family, knowing other family members will understand and accept their choices.

In the Attached family there is a mutual respect that allows freedom of activity, without any hidden agendas that trigger guilt. There is support for individual uniqueness, coupled with shared appreciation for one another’s accomplishments. Like all delicate balances, it is difficult to find and maintain, but it is well worth the effort.

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)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Formulaic Thinking


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

From pages 54 - 57:

Donna was trapped in linear thinking. She figured that the way to move Fred in a certain direction was to give him a shove in that direction. If he did not move, then she simply needed to shove harder. What she did not realize was that Fred was shoving back. Every time she pushed him, he resisted. And the harder she pushed, the more stubbornly he resisted.

We pointed out to Donna that her experience reflected a basic reality of linear thinking; that trying harder only gets you more of the same result. We began to look at her relationship with Fred, not just in isolation but as part of a broader family system. She began to grasp that action “A” does not necessarily produce result “B” – that there might be a host of other factors to take into consideration...

By this point Donna could see that her efforts to “help” Fred become more sociable only provoked this well-practiced response, and that “trying harder to help him” was only going to generate more of the same. This realization came as a tremendous relief. If she wasn’t the cause of Fred’s problem, and if she couldn’t “fix” him by working on him, then she felt released to explore some of her own interests.

Interestingly enough, the minute Donna stopped “working on” Fred and began pursuing things she simply liked to do, Fred began to respond. Her nagging kept his reclusiveness in place. Now that she had given up the role of Family Nag, he seemed free to give up the role of Family Hermit. When he saw her doing things she wanted to do, without putting any pressure on him to join in, he started – very tentatively – to come out of hiding...

The value of seeing things this way is that it makes clear that either party can change the situation by changing his or her own behavior. Before, Donna thought nothing could change in her marriage until Fred decided to be different. But she discovered that she could impact their relationship positively by taking certain actions herself...

The case of Donna and Fred is a fairly simplistic one. It involves only two people, and it has a quick, happy ending. Most family systems are far more complex and unpredictable, and the outcomes are not usually so tidy. Still, the story of Donna and Fred really did happen, and the reason it happened the way it did is because Donna learned to see her situation as one component of a system. She learned how to think in interactive terms rather than in straight lines.

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, August 13, 2008

Intergenerational Enmeshment


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


From pages 120 - 121:


The main thing we saw was a problem with intergenerational boundaries in both families of origin. In each case, the children had become entangled in the parents’ problems: both Pete and Amy found themselves fused with their mothers in an attempt to survive the negative aspects of life with their fathers. As a result, each of them found themselves locked into the patterns they had learned growing up; it was almost impossible for either of them to break away and develop any other style of marriage or family life...

[Following a discussion of real-life examples of a married couple (“Pete” and “Amy”)]

Pete and Amy learned some common lessons from their families of origin. Both of them learned, for example, that Mother is the source of nurture and that Father, as the material provider, is allowed to be emotionally distant most of the time and openly domineering when on the scene. Both also learned very clearly the rule, “We don’t talk about our problems.”

They also learned some lessons that turned out to be contradictory. For example, Pete learned from his upbringing that a marriage and a family could function with very little shared time. Amy, on the other hand, learned from her family that no mater how bad the problems got, you still got together, did things as a family, and acted as if everything was just fine.


From Paul Meier and Frank Minirth in “Free to Forgive: Daily Devotions for Adult Children of Abuse”:

About 85 percent of us end up marrying someone very similar in personality dynamics to our parent of the opposite sex... We continue what we got used to in childhood. (June 21 devotional)


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)

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

You've Forgiven When....

“You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well.”

~ Lewis B. Smedes
in “Forgive and Forget”

Monday, August 11, 2008

Forgive Then Forget?


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


From pages 185 -186:

[Following the discussion of the details of a woman named Myra, seeking to forgive her abusive father.]


“Now, Myra, I said, we’ve talked a lot about forgiving your father. I’ve told you how important forgiveness is. But listen to me: I do want you to forgive your father, but I do not want you to forget what he did. Forgiveness has nothing to do with forgetting. Do you understand? Forgiveness has nothing to do with forgetting.”

It is easy to become confused. The Bible says repeatedly that God is able to forgive and forget. For example God says “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 21:34). But it never says that we are to do the same. We cannot. Only he can. One reason why God can forget is that there is nothing he needs to learn by remembering. There is often a lot of important information that we can learn by remembering, even though we may not want to remember.

I understood how Myra felt. I’ve felt the same way myself many times. Haven’t we all? We want to get rid of the pain of harmful things that have happened to us, and we think that the way to do that is by getting rid of the memory of those harmful things. If we can work ourselves around to believing that the hurtful incident never happened, then it can’t hurt us anymore.

Or can it? The fact is that very often the harmful effects of past injuries stay with us whether or not we consciously remember the injuries themselves. This is why we say that remembering, not forgetting, is the key to forgiveness. Only when we are clear on what has, in fact, happened to us can we deal with it effectively.

We may make connections between current difficulties and painful experiences from our past. The way a friend treats us today may trigger memories of the way our parents or siblings treated us years ago. These memories, in turn, may uncover connections to other past hurts. Many of the problems people bring into counseling stem from things in their past that they needed to remember clearly before they could deal with 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)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Avoiding Superficial Forgiveness


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


From page 220:

There is nothing wrong with needing time to work through the process of forgiveness...

In his book, "Caring Enough to Confront," David Augsberger says, “Forgiveness is a journey of many steps.” That little sentence sums up much of what we have been saying. As much as we might like forgiveness to be quick and easy, it is a process. It is a journey, which can take many steps. The first step – choosing to forgive, choosing not to hang on to the emotional IOU – is important and should not be overlooked. But the other steps are important, too, and we should not pass over them.

We can learn a great deal from forgiveness. Being hurt by someone only teaches us to protect ourselves and to mistrust others. Forgiveness, however, presents us with a choice as to how to respond. We can brush off what has happened by extending superficial forgiveness, ending up bitter and resentful. Or we can choose the path of true forgiveness, and learn lessons along the way that will shape our lives for the better.

If we are going to take God’s principles seriously, we will see that forgiveness isn’t optional. It is essential. What is optional is whether we choose the quick and easy path of superficial forgiveness, or the harder but more rewarding path of genuine 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)

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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Six Steps of Forgiveness


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


From page 179:



The Six Steps of Forgiveness

1. Recognize the injury.

2. Identify the emotions involved.

3. Express your hurt and anger.

4. Set boundaries to protect yourself.

5. Cancel the debt.

6. Consider the possibility of reconciliation.


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)

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Friday, August 8, 2008

Our Drive to Fix the Past


People who grow up in families where their needs, wants and desires were rigidly controlled carry a great deal of baggage with them into their adult relationships. We are creatures of compulsion, and we tend to seek out the familiarity of our original family. We are also trying to work out the unresolved parts of our past as well -- trying to find the solutions that we were unable to find when we were children. Somehow, if we can make our current situation work out well, it will solve and heal some of the hurts of the past as well.

But we go about it in all the wrong ways! Our minds will pull us back to that which is familiar, but without taking an honest inventory of ourselves and our relationships, we are likely to play out the same old problems.

This is my great concern with Botkin Syndrome. I'm concerned that children that grew up in a Botkin or patriocentric home will seek refuge in marriage but will be highly likely to repeat and replay the problems of their past. Even after emerging from the system, they will have a tremendous amount of work to do.



Love is a Choice: The Definitive Book on Letting Go of Unhealthy Relationships by Hemfelt, Minirth and Meier.


From pages 108 - 109:

A woman emerging from an alcoholic family vows to leave that misery behind forever. She marries an alcoholic and may well become an alcoholic herself despite knowing from experience what alcoholism is. A man whose home life was disrupted by several divorces finds himself constantly and repeatedly “unlucky in love.” Claudia Black wrote a landmark book on the problem with the self-explanatory title “It Will Never Happen to Me!” Numerous other sociologists and social workers have recorded the constant phenomenon: adults from dysfunctional families end up with dysfunctional adult relationships, for they have become codependents.

Why? Surely the man or woman who grew up knowing first hand the misery alcoholism or other compulsive behavior causes would know what to avoid. Can’t the sufferer see all those blatant warning signs?

We at the clinic, as well as other counselors, not a sadly intriguing fact: somehow, people who are powerfully codependent literally blind themselves to the red flags other people would flee from. No, they don’t see the warning signs, because they unconsciously choose not to. Unerringly they find themselves attracted to exactly the people they swear they’ll never end up being or joining.

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

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Stoop on Boundaries


Christians weighing in on Botkin Syndrome:
Excerpts from "Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves" by Drs. Stoop and Masteller.
From page 86:

An example of a boundary is our skin. It holds what is inside of us inside, and it keeps what is outside of us outside. Without the boundary of our skin, our organs would simply fall out. Germs and other undesirable things would enter us at will. We would have no protection and no real definition of who we are. A boundary is like a fence around our property – it lets us know where our property ends and someone else’s begins.
Where Are My Boundaries?

Do I regularly find myself saying “yes” to others – especially to other family members – when I really want to say “no”?

Do I frequently become burdened with other people’s problems because they see me as the kind of person they can come to with their troubles? Do I frequently feel resentful about this later?

In establishing preferences and desires, do I find myself wanting what I want or what “we” want? In formulating opinions, do I ask, “What do we think?” or “What do I think?”
Do I sometimes find myself feeling what other people feel? Their feelings seem to be mine as well. I am unable to stay objective.

Answering “yes” to these questions may indicate a need to clarify blurred personal boundaries within the family.

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, August 6, 2008

Anger as a Virtue: The Apostle Paul


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



From pages 226 - 228:

Paul also wrote some helpful things about anger. Much of the content of his letters in the New Testament has to do with wisdom for daily living. In a letter to the church at Ephesus, he is making the point that all Christians belong, in some sense, to one people. He then goes on to give practiced advice on how to live together as part of a united family, including: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. ‘In your anger, do not sin’: Do not let the son go down while you are still angry...” (Ephesians 4:25-27).

Notice the line, “In your anger, do not sin.” That line can also be translated, “Be angry, and do not sin.” Paul seems to be saying –

that there is a difference between “anger” and “sin”;
that it is possible to be angry without sinning;
that there are times when it is actually right for us to be angry, so long as we do not sin in doing so;
some anger can be sinful.

The line, “In your anger, do not sin,” is actually a quotation from the Psalms: “In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent” (Psalm 4:4).

The image of lying on our beds at night, quietly searching our hearts, helps to give meaning to Paul’s warning: “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” On the one hand, we can take this literally. Paul warns that anger is a destructive force, both in terms of our own spiritual health and in terms of our relationships, and we should make dealing with it a priority. If possible, we should try to clear up whatever is standing between us and the person we are angry with...

That helps us grasp another, somewhat more figurative, understanding of Paul’s words. We can hear him saying, “Do not let your anger go into the darkness – into that place where you cannot see it, or feel it, or even acknowledge its existence.” We have already seen how harmful it can be to repress our feelings; anger can be one of the most harmful feelings to repress. It is like an acid that eats away at us from the inside.

Anger that is left unresolved, or that is buried in the darkness of denial, takes root and produces bitterness and resentment. The longer we postpone dealing with anger, the more bitterness and resentment it engenders, and the harder it becomes for us to get in touch with its existence and purge it from our hearts. Once we are aware that we are angry, we know immediately that we must at least begin the process of forgiveness, and keep our anger in the daylight where we can deal with it.

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, August 5, 2008

Thoughts About Anger


Quotes about ANGER from Dr. David Stoop, noted in "Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves":


John Bradshaw in “Healing The Shame that Binds You”:

"Perhaps the most damaging consequence of being shame-based is that we don’t know how depressed and angry we really are. We don’t actually feel our unresolved grief. Our false self and ego defenses keep us from experiencing it. Paradoxically, the very defenses which allowed us to survive our childhood trauma have now become barriers to our growth."

(pg. 137)


Herbert L. Gravitz and Julie D. Bowden in “Recovery: A Guide for Adult Children of Alcoholics”:

"As adult children become increasingly aware of having been cheated out of their childhood, a wave of anger is likely to ensue. The adult child may want to be forgiving, but will still feel angry. Sometimes the anger is directed not at the alcoholic, but at the sober parent – the parent who seemingly should have known better and should have protected the child."

(pg. 31)
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Recognizing Anger: Essential for Forgiveness?


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

From pages 223 - 225:

Would you agree or disagree with the following statements?

  • Without anger, most forgiveness is superficial.
  • Genuine forgiveness almost always includes anger.

Long experience helping people deal with dysfunctional family issues lead us to agree with those statements. However, many people are bothered by them. They tend to have a certain amount of mistrust concerning anger, and are especially uncomfortable connecting it with something like forgiveness. But the fact that anger and forgiveness tend to be intimately connected. In most cases, we cannot really forgive until we have dealt with our anger. To put it another way, working through anger is often a crucial step in the process of forgiveness.

A lot of confusing ideas circulate about anger. Many of us were brought up to believe that all anger is wrong, even sinful. But anger is a fact of life. It happens to us. We experience it. What do we do then? Many of us play word games with it. We say we are “a little irritated,” or “out of sorts,” or “a bit upset.” We go to great lengths to avoid coming right out and saying, “I’m just plain mad.”

But the fact is, we often are just plain mad – and there is not necessarily anything wrong with that. The emotion of anger, in and of itself, is not wrong. Let me say again, to make sure you get it: the emotion of anger, in and of itself, is not wrong. It just is. It is part of the “standard equipment” that comes with being a human being. It is what we do with our anger that makes it either right or wrong, good or bad, healthy or unhealthy.

We can use our anger wrongly, or express it in unhealthy ways. A simple example is when we “fly off the handle” at someone we love without good cause. Unhealthy anger separates us from people we love and want to be with.

But we can also use our anger for healthy purposes. For example, anger can energize us to overcome some challenge or obstacle. Who among us has not had the experience of “getting good and mad” at some stubborn problem, and finding that the energy produced by the anger gets us over the hump?

Anger can also alert us to the need to set boundaries, or limits, with other people. It is one of the ways we protect ourselves.

~~~~~

Lewis B. Smeades in “Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve”:

Healthy anger drives us to do something to change what makes us angry; anger can energize us to make things better. Hate does not want to change things for the better: it wants to make things worse. (pg. 21)



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, August 4, 2008

Denial, Forgiving and Forgetting



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


About Denial

From page 29:

Lydia’s parents sat silently through her presentation. [A woman confronts her parents about having been abused by them when she was a child.] When she finished, they stoically denied everything – both of them They were quite calm and matter-of-fact about it. The only emotion they showed was irritation that Lydia had accused them of “such terrible things” in front of a stranger.

From pages 203 - 204:

The power lies in the fact that we forgive even as we remember...

Forgiveness begins with remembering and accepting what has happened in the past. Acceptance is an act of integration. It is a movement towards wholeness. It is how we incorporate the past into the present, and build for the future.

A word of warning. Once we accept that “it happened,” we begin a process that will not be without its share of pain. It hurts to get in touch with how deeply we were hurt as children, to realize how those who should have loved us and protected us actually caused us harm. But as an old saying puts it, “You have to feel in order to heal.”...

Adult children of dysfunctional families often pass through the classic stages of grief: anger, denial, despair, and so on. We mourn over who we might have been, over what we didn’t get out of childhood, what we didn’t get from our parents. We may feel cheated, and stripped of self-worth. But it is important that we let ourselves feel these emotions, work our way through them, and then move on past them. Mourning is therapeutic. It is healing. It is letting go of our bitterness, canceling the emotional IOUs we are holding, so that those who hurt us no longer dominate our lives as they once did.

We can never change what has happened to us in the past. But we can change the way we respond to it in the here and now. That is the point of remembering: we remember so that we can accept and forgive. “Forgetting” is not the answer. It’s just another dead-end street. We feel regret over what happened and we wish it hadn’t happened. But it did. Now we can accept it, and let it go.

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)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Self-Love


Christians weighing in on Botkin Syndrome:

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

From pages 303 - 304:


The fact that they came from a home where secrecy was so prevalent makes them feel even worse about themselves. “Don’t talk” is always a cardinal rule in abusive homes...

For those who have been victims or have suffered the pain of growing up in a dysfunctional family, one of the most important truths of life is summed up in this saying of Jesus: “‘Love the Lord your god with all your heard and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39)

Most of us are aware that the Bible commands us to love God and to love our neighbor. But I want you to notice two little words in this passage. Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Many people struggle with the idea that we are supposed to “love ourselves.” It sounds so selfish. Actually, Jesus does not so much teach that we should love ourselves as he assumes that we do love ourselves. And why not? Are we not created in the very image and likeness of God? Is our welfare not of such importance to God that “even the hairs on our heads are all numbered? Should we not love the things God loves, including ourselves?”

We are not talking here about the kind of “self-love” that expresses itself in self-glorification, narcissism, despising others, and so on. Rather we are talking about a self-love that acknowledges our worth and dignity as one of God’s sons or daughters and acts accordingly. We have already seen that our duty to love our neighbors includes forgiving them when they do us wrong. Should we not likewise be about to forgive ourselves?


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)
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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Multi Generational Faithfulness: The Ultimate Tragedy


Another Christian resource for overcoming Botkin Syndrome: Love is a Choice: The Definitive Book on Letting Go of Unhealthy Relationships by Hemfelt, Minirth and Meier.

In the very first chapter of the book “Love is a Choice,” the authors offer the story, what they would call a case history. They describe a couple with marital difficulties and a little about each of their grown children, using an example that allows us to see a more obvious example of how interconnected a family is, in both function and dysfunction. These books are filled with such little vignettes of people, examples of real life situations and how real people struggled with them.

The authors go on to describe how professionals came to understand this field of study – addictions, obsessive-compulsive disorders, workaholism, etc. – as a WHOLE FAMILY problem. He explains the history of the Christians who came up with the “Twelve Step” program for alcoholics, but how they soon noted that addictions were not just an issue of the person using some substance, as destructive and involved as that is. The problem is also one of the family, family roles and family behaviors, and addictions are just a symptom of a greater cause.

The alcoholic (or any who use a substance or a behavior as a means of coping or as a way of escape) becomes dependent upon either the behavior or the substance, whatever that may be. Because families all work together to help one another and provide balance (keeping all those relationship triangles in some kind of balance), each member of the family develops a role within the family. The addiction itself becomes problematic but is not the primary problem but merely a symptom. The real disease is whatever the addicted person tries to overcome or compensate for through the addiction.


From page 7:

The Ultimate Tragedy

Another tragedy with which we will deal in later chapters is a problem of multigenerational nature. The serious dysfunction in a founding family will be absorbed by the children’s families and then their children’s families, a ripple of misery extending farther and farther down through the years. The dependency or dysfunction may change: an alcoholic father may sire, for instance, a worka holic son who sires a compulsive daughter who spends her way to bankruptcy. But it’s there. It’s almost always there, wreaking it’s damage.



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

Friday, August 1, 2008

Psychological “Splitting” (and Idealizing Parents)



Christians weighing in on Botkin Syndrome:

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


From pages 193 - 199 [Please Buy This Book!]:


What often happens with children from dysfunctional families is that the integration process gets short-circuited. They do not develop the ability to see that their parents have both good and bad qualities [psychological splitting]. They continue to operate from an unconscious belief that things must be either all good or all bad. As we will see in a moment, this results in either outright rejection of the parents, or – what is far more likely – unhealthy idealization of the parents.



Three Types of Mothers

Typically, when the process of integration has been blocked in a child’s development, we find that the mother in the family was one of three types. (This isn’t meant as an attack on motherhood, by the way – heaven forbid ) But our experience shows it to be true more often than not. [I would also suggest that this role is not limited to mothers but can be applicable to fathers as well.]



1. The Intrusive Mother. She has to be in control at all times, because she is the only one who really knows what is best for everyone.

2. The Abandoning Mother. This kind of mother doesn’t always literally run away from her children – though some do. More common is emotional abandonment, simply neglecting the kids because Mom is too busy with other things, such as her job or friends.

3. The Unpredictable Mother. Sometimes she is warm and nurturing, holding her children and whispering words of love in their ears. At other times – and with no warning – she is cold, indifferent, and critical. Her children grow up in the land of inconsistency. They survive by expecting the unexpected, never sure of what life is going to bring their way next, distrustful of others, and robbed of basic scrutiny.


BLACK AND WHITE

Children raised by one of these kinds of mothers became stuck in their emotional development. The intrusive mother makes all our decisions for us, so we never develop the ability to judge things for ourselves. The abandoning mother and the unpredictable mother make life feel unsafe. But in all these cases, children aren’t able to recognize the harmful effect stemming from the mother’s dysfunctional behavior. The attribute the “badness” they experience in their mother to themselves.
This helps illustrate something called “splitting,” which is one of the earliest defense mechanisms that develops in children. It is more or less the opposite of integration: the inability to see that good and bad qualities can co-exist in the same person...

As we have seen, one of the first things we do in life is to divide reality into all-good and all-bad. If we are able to mature emotionally, we will come to see that life is not so easily categorized. We are albe to integrate seemingly contradictory experiences. When we are prevented from maturing emotionally, we continue to force everything into one of two categories: all-good and all-bad. When our parents are in question, the pressure is almost overwhelming to consider them “all-good” despite their problems.



It’s not hard to see why, when we look at parents through the eyes of a small child:
Adults are bigger.
Adults are smarter.
Parents have power.
Parents can hurt children.



[Make sure that you read this post on “Idealizing Our Family.”]


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)