Saturday, February 28, 2009

Being Who Our Parents Need Us To Be

"Beyond Survival:
The New Testament Solution
for Adult Children of Alcoholics"

by Nancy Curtis

As children, we tend to mold our personalities to adapt to our environment. If our environment is supportive, nurturing, and flexible, we are freed to express our own individuality. If our environment is rigid, demanding and conditional, however, we are forced to shape our behavior to fit the needs of others. We substitute our true self for a false self that is more acceptable to our parents, whose love and approval we need desperately. In essence, we compromise who we really are, and become what our parents need us to be.
(p. 53)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Fair Lady with the Alabaster Flask

A Poem by Adele Hebert

Fair lady with the alabaster flask
How I wish I were there
To smell that fragrance in the air
All through the house
And what a cost A year’s wages
I would not forget that wonderful smell
And who could forget what you did?
Many saw you
Many knew you
Many smelled your precious perfume
Fair lady, I wish I had been there

You took quite a risk fair lady
You were not invited
Nor welcomed
And to enter a room
Full of men
Some were angry to see you there
Some are still angry
Some don’t care

Jesus was not though
He saw you and smiled
He knew why you came
Only a woman could do it
Only a woman would do
It had always been men before
Men prophets, men kings, men men

But suddenly now a woman
The time was right
A woman with some means
Who would buy the best
Who was compelled to come
Who dared to enter
Who dared to take a man’s place
Oh Fair lady, you were so brave

To anoint… the Anointed One
Not for a crown
Not for a title
But for his burial
A life giving sacrifice
For you and me
Fair lady, how did you know?

It was a special task
You broke that alabaster flask
…And it broke your heart
To see your Lord
You loved him so
To feel his skin
Knowing he would die
To smell that sweet fragrance
For his burial
He would have no funeral
Yet he was so alive
Oh fair lady, how could it be?

No singing in your heart
Only tears that night
Uncontrollable quiet tears
Sweet powerful smell
Tears pouring down
Costly ointment poured out
Oh fair lady, I can hardly bear it
Tears mixed with nard
Sweet sad agony
You used your hair
Oh fair lady on your knees

Jesus knew
Your heart and soul
He defended you
Against those men there
Said it would be a memorial
To remember you fair lady
Jesus knew
And so did you
What lay ahead
That’s what was so sad

But it had to be done
Jesus dying was the only way
The ultimate act of love
He loved you fair lady
Thank you for your precious nard
And especially for your tears
May we never forget you…
Mary of Bethany (Jn 12)

Fair lady with the alabaster flask.

Adele Hebert

Sunday, February 22, 2009

What's Normal? How Would You Know?

Children don’t know what causes their misery. In fact, children don’t realize their dysfunctional home is abnormal.

Even physically abused kids don’t realize, while young, that normal parents don’t beat their kids, they think that there is no other way to live.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Botkin Family Shame Existence Binds

The shame-bound family system is fixed in its form and highly resistant to change, even though change is a natural fact of life.

This system is analogous to peanut brittle, with each person fixed in stereotyped, inflexible roles and relationships to one another...

When change exerts enough force all at one moment upon a rigid system, it may break and splinter.

The shame-bound system does not have good capacity to absorb very much stress and still regain its integrity.
(pg. 61)

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, February 16, 2009

Basic Garden Variety Dysfunction and the Botkin Syndrome Contrast

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

From pages 32 - 33:

Let’s recognize, then, that we are talking about a problem with a range of expressions. Some of us will consider ourselves products of.... “you basic, everyday, garden-variety dysfunctional family.” We recognize that our parents had their flaws and our family its weaknesses, but we have never felt that our adult lives have been negatively affected by them in a major way...

Still others will be unsure at this point. You may never have heard the phrase “dysfunctional family” before, let alone understand what it means or how it may apply to you.

All you know is that
“something’s not right”
in your life.

It may be anything from a lingering depression, to a problem with anger, to bouts of extreme anxiety, to inexplicable difficulties trusting others and getting close to them in relationships. You may have tried a number of things to deal with your problem, with varying degrees of success. You may be a deeply religious person whose commitment to spiritual truth has provided a great deal of comfort – but still you find yourself groping for the key to some personal difficulties that continues to elude you. If you place yourself in this category, we urge you to read this book carefully. It may well mark the beginning of an exciting time of self-discovery and growth for you.

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)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Family Styles From Rigid to Adaptable

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

From pages 78 - 83:

Chaotic and Rigid families – families at the extreme ends of the adaptability scale – have several things in common. For one thing, they are both rather poorly equipped for problem-solving. While the Rigid family will make some effort to discuss ways to solve problems, they tend to make decisions quickly and arbitrarily, and then to impose them on family members with little forethought or planning. The Chaotic family, by contrast, will often take a great deal of time talking about a problem, but in a confused, disorganized way that makes arriving at a clear conclusion very difficult. The Chaotic family typically does a poor job of following through with whatever decision it finally does come up with.

Both types of families also have a hard time dealing with emotions. The Rigid family tends not to allow the expression of emotions, and those that are expressed tend to be ignored. The result is that a great deal of anger builds up. But it is expressed in indirect and manipulative ways. In the Chaotic family, there is often a lot of expression of emotion, but the structure of family life is such that its meaning and significance get lost in the shuffle. The resulting implusiveness and volatility also stirs up anger...

The Rigid family is a very authoritarian family. Leadership is clearly defined and recognized: everyone knows who the boss is, and everyone knows what the rules are...

The Adaptable Family

The health balance between Rigid and Chaotic families is the Adaptable family. It is characterized by an approach that offers clear but flexible leadership and healthy but adjustable discipline. Everyone knows who is in charge; they also know that the leader is someone who can be talked to and reasoned with. They know that there are rules, and consequences for breaking those rules; they also know the rules are fair and sensible, and that exceptions can be made when the situation warrants.

Problems are discussed, and the discussion leads to a decision that reflects the input of various members of the family, both children and adults. Roles are clear – parents are parents, children are children – but communication is plentiful. People know what is expected of them, and they know how to negotiate those expectations when legitimate needs to do so arise.

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, February 11, 2009

Repenting of the Idolatry of Idealizing My Parents

From a series of posts examining "multigenerational faithfulness," examining unquestioned obedience and First Time Obedience as an essential component of multigenerational faithfulness as taught by the Botkin Family.

Excerpt from PART II Addendum: Spiritualizing All Activities, First Time Obedience, Multigenerational Faithfulness and Unquestioned Obedience:

In closing this post, I would also like to state that as a consequence of trying to conform to my parents standards and eventually abandoning what was a fantasy of idolatry for me, I did suffer something I deeply regret. I learned to be easily brainwashed by anyone who was like my parents or by anyone who occupied a position that seemed parental to me. I learned to sell out my mind for the greater good to any authority that I trusted, and particularly any authority that reminded me of my parents. If I could identify the worst and most terrible consequences of my all the experiences of my life related to what I learned by trying to conform by basically denying and even attempting to destroy who God created me to be, it would be this core of idolatrous self-hatred for identifying my identity in Christ as sinful.

Learning this process and wrongfully defining it as obedience to my parents has predisposed me to errors in judgement that have resulted in being molested and raped as a child (by one whom I identified as a trusted authority figure to whom I should submit) against whom I had no recourse. As an adult, it predisposed me to submitting myself to the unjust spiritual abusers and religious authorities in a very damaging, cultic Evangelical church that preached the Gospel and laid hands on the sick and operated in the gifts of the Spirit that I believed qualified them as trustworthy. For this reason, I believe that the costs of unquestioned submission and ideals like “First Time Obedience” do far more damage than good. It is convenient for parents who believe that they are acting in the best interest of their children, but I believe that trusting and naive young girls and women very much like me have reaped terrible consequences of this type of unqualified and demanded obedience.

Please consider this following technique of self-deprecation used as a tried, tested and true technique of thought reform. I believe that just as adults who are subjected to spiritual abuse suffer these consequences, I believe that these are very similar dynamics that I learned in my own home because I did not fit the expected norm. And I believe that this made the process of religious conversion in a Bible-based cult all the easier and more familiar for me, almost seeming to offer a solution to my primary problem: my perpetual failure to earn my parents acceptance. If I have lusted after anything in my life, surely nothing has compared to the idolatrous lust I’ve followed in seeking after my parents’ approval. And the quest to satisfy that lust has hurt me far more than any other factor in my life. My parents never intended this to be so, but they didn't undertand that they were fostering idolatry in my heart. Surely they never would have done so if they had known. None of us knew.

Son of David, have mercy on me for having served them, my own lust for their acceptance and the wounds of my own heart. All I ever really desired was You and wholeness in You through your Atoning Blood. And I didn’t know any better. Please spare Your people this same pain. My heart is ever contrite before You, my Creator. Ever let Your strength be made perfect in my – Oh so many – weaknesses. Search me, know me, see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

From Biderman’s Chart of Coercison on the reFocus website:

Devaluing the Individual

  • Creates fear of freedom
  • Creates dependence upon captors
  • Creates feelings of helplessness
  • Develops lack of faith in individual capabilities

Abusive leaders are frequently uncannily able to pick out traits church members are proud of and to use those very traits against the members. Those with natural gifts in the areas of music may be told they are proud or puffed up or "anxious to be up front" if they want to use their talents and denied that opportunity. Those with discernment are called judgmental or critical, the merciful are lacking in holiness or good judgment, the peacemakers are reminded the Lord came to bring a sword, not peace. Sometimes efforts are made to convince members that they really are not gifted teachers or musically talented or prophetically inclined as they believed they were. When members begin to doubt the one or two special gifts they possess which they have always been sure were God-given, they begin to doubt everything else they have ever believed about themselves, to feel dependent upon church leaders and afraid to leave the group. ("If I've been wrong about even *that*, how can I ever trust myself to make right decisions ever again?").

Warning Signs:

Unwillingness to allow members to use their gifts. Establishing rigid boot camp-like requirements for the sake of proving commitment to the group before gifts may be exercised. Repeatedly criticizing natural giftedness by reminding members they must die to their natural gifts, that Paul, after all, said, "When I'm weak, I'm strong," and that they should expect God to use them in areas other than their areas of giftedness. Emphasizing helps or service to the group as a prerequisite to church ministry. This might take the form of requiring that anyone wanting to serve in any way first have the responsibility of cleaning toilets or cleaning the church for a specified time, that anyone wanting to sing in the worship band must first sing to the children in Sunday School, or that before exercising any gifts at all, members must demonstrate loyalty to the group by faithful attendance at all functions and such things as tithing. No consideration is given to the length of time a new member has been a Christian or to his age or station in life or his unique talents or abilities. The rules apply to everyone alike. This has the effect of reducing everyone to some kind of lowest common denominator where no one's gifts or natural abilities are valued or appreciated, where the individual is not cherished for the unique blessing he or she is to the body of Christ, where what is most highly valued is service, obedience, submission to authority, and performance without regard to gifts or abilities or, for that matter, individual limitations.
Consider that this is what you are doing to your children when you demand your way and your desires for their lives, even from the time they are small and seek only to run to you and hide themselves in the comfort under the shadow of your wings. No parent desires to reduce their children into automatons or two dimensional beings with no depth of character to leave them wounded and confused. But that it what happens to many of us. We were not made for the Sabbath rest but the Sabbath rest was made for us. Yet for many of us there is only striving to meet demands of perfection wherein there is no rest for the people of God. So many of these parenting paradigms are millstones, hung around the necks of little ones. And we weep.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Denial and the Illusion of Control

Our symptoms are born out of emotional denial and they serve to maintain that denial. They are ways that we allow ourselves to live one kind of life while convincing ourselves that we have a very different kind of life.

And while they serve to give us the illusion that we are in control, they are in fact clear indicators that what we have really done is to give up healthy control of our lives to something outside of ourselves. (p. 23)

As Cited In
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, February 7, 2009

Family Myths

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

From pages 68 - 70:

The opposite of family secrets are family myths. Myths are the things we talk about but never do. George Bernard Shaw once said that most history was nothing more than “a lie agreed upon.” Family myths are like that. They represent a silent conspiracy to pretend that things are different than they are. Ask almost anyone about their family, and the first thing you are likely to hear is one of the family’s myths.

The most common of these, perhaps, is the one that says, “Oh, our family was very close.” Time and time again I have asked people in the clinic to tell me about their families, and the first words out of their mouths are, “Well, you know we’re a very close family.” Tehn they go on to tell me about all the problems, hurts and disappointments their family has caused them, describing anything but closeness and warmth. But as they finish their account, they invariably conclude by saing, “But our family is really close.”

There are other common myths. People will say that their family was very loving or caring. People from strong religious backgrounds will often say that their family was very spiritual, even when there is little evidence of it.

Not surprisingly, family myths are frequently connected to family secrets: the one thing in the family is most ashamed of will be the thing they try to cover over with a myth. I remember Anne telling me about her family. In between the various problems she described, she mentioned repeatedly that her family was “very supportive.” “We’re always there for each other,” she would say. But about two weeks later, she exploded. “I thought my family was supportive,” she said. “But here I’ve been in the hospital for two weeks, and not a single one of them has come to see me. They haven’t even called. It’s like they don’t want to admit I’m here...

Where do family myths come from? To some degree, they are simply a social convention, as when someone asks, “How are you doing?” and you answer, “Fine, thanks.” But there is more to it than that. We have all been programmed in various ways as to what a “normal” or “happy” family is like. It is like the families we have seen on television programs, or read about in school books growing up. We know what a family is supposed to look like, and we have a natural reluctance to acknowledge that our family was not like that. Never mind that the images we have in our minds may be absurdly unrealistic. We want to believe that they are true, and that our life compares well with them. To acknowledge otherwise – to others, and even to ourselves – would be too painful.

This, of course, raises the question yet again: What is a “normal” family? And how do we measure deviations from that norm?

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)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Tears Are Treasured

Tears are Treasured

A study on all the Tears in the New Testament

A guest entry by author, editor and independent scholar,
Adele Hebert

There are few words spoken by women in these gospels, but many tears are shed and recorded, mostly by women, some even by Jesus, the man of sorrows. The fact that all these tears are detailed says that God values all our precious tears, whether for joy or sorrow. Psalm 56:8 tells us that, “God knows our troubles and our wanderings, stores all our tears in a bottle, has counted each one of them, and they are recorded in the Book.”

The beginning of the New Testament opens with glad tidings, the announcement of two children, which brought tears of joy to Elizabeth and Mary. This joy would be short lived for Mary, as Joseph tells her that he will put her away her quietly. The betrothed was heartbroken, to say the least. An angel in a dream restores their marriage. After Jesus is born, Mary and Joseph bring the child to the temple, and it is prophesied to Mary that, “a sword will pierce your soul.” Lk 2:35. When Jesus was missing for days, she would have been beside herself with worry, but Mary would experience many more tears.

Following the joyful birth of Jesus, other women are not so lucky. Mt 2:18 “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamenting and weeping bitterly: it is Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted because they are no more.” Those women were bereft; Herod had given the order; the soldiers had killed their babies.

There was a woman in Lk 7:37-44,

“who had a bad name… and had brought with her an alabaster jar of ointment. She waited behind him at his feet, weeping, and her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them away with her hair; then she covered his feet with kisses and anointed them with the ointment. 'You see this woman? I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet, but she has poured out her tears over my feet and wiped them away with her hair.” Jesus was touched by her tears.

There was another woman, taken in adultery, Jn 8:1-11. This woman would have been shocked, sobbing uncontrollably, knowing she would be stoned.

A man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, had a daughter who died. Lk 8:52 “They were all crying and mourning for her, but Jesus said, 'Stop crying; she is not dead, but asleep.” No doubt the woman who touched his hem, and was healed of her hemorrhage for 12 years would have rejoiced. Other women who would have wept with joy are the Syrophoenecian woman whose daughter was cured, the widow of Nain whose son was brought back to life and given back to her, the woman who had a crooked back for 18 years… and many more who heard the wonderful words of their Lord.

Jesus was friends with Martha, Mary and Lazarus. When Lazarus died, everyone wept. Even Jesus wept. Jn 11 says,

“When the Jews who were in the house comforting Mary saw her get up so quickly and go out, they followed her, thinking that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Mary went to Jesus, and as soon as she saw him she threw herself at his feet, saying, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.' At the sight of her tears, and those of the Jews who had come with her, Jesus was greatly distressed, and with a profound sigh he said, 'Where have you put him?' They said, 'Lord, come and see.' Jesus wept; and the Jews said, 'See how much he loved him ' Sighing, Jesus thanked God.”

In Lk 23:28 Women wailed, “But Jesus turned to them and said, 'Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep rather for yourselves and for your children.” He had such deep concern for mothers and their children.

There is no telling how many tears were shed at that cross or the tomb, by Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and the other women. Their grief would have been unbearable. But on Resurrection morning, their tears of sorrow turn to shouts of joy.

Mk 16:1 says, “When the Sabbath was over, Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices with which to go and anoint him.” These women were still mourning for Jesus. Tears are louder than words.

Jn 20 says (twice) to Mary Magdalene, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Then he called her name, “Mary, go and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' So Mary of Magdala told the disciples, 'I have seen the Lord'.” Mk 16:10 “Mary Magdalene then went to those who had been his companions, and who were mourning and in tears, and told them.”

Apparently it was important to mention even in Acts 9:39 that, “all the widows stood round him in tears, showing him tunics and other clothes Dorcas had made when she was with them.” Another woman was brought back to life. Our tears are not for naught.

Jesus paid attention to all the tears; he saw them; he acknowledged them; he even cried with them. There are many tears in the NT, which says that Jesus knows our suffering, he hears our cries. Jesus also promised in Jn 16:22, “Now you are having pain. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.”

Thank God all our tears are recorded; each tear is counted, for our consolation. Jesus hears our cries; Jesus sees our tears. Jesus even cries with us.

Thank You, Adele!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Insightful Quotes

List of Quotes Cited in Dr. David Stoop’s

“Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves”:

First and foremost, children are taught to disown what their eyes see and what their ears hear. Because of denial in the family, children’s perceptions of what is happening become progressively and systematically negated. Overtly or covertly, explicitly or implicitly, they are told not to believe what their own senses tell them. As a result, the children learn to distrust their own experience. As the same time, they are taught not to trust other people. (pg 19)

What is common to all such families is the commitment of all family members to maintain the secrets through rigid rules about what may and may not be talked about. These rules prohibit spontaneity in the family relationships; with spontaneity the real feelings and facts might be revealed.

Family members create powerful myths about their histories, often leaving out the painful historical shapers of the shame. The children in these families are loyal through their lack of questioning about the past, thereby colluding in the family’s rules. (pp. 45-46)

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, February 3, 2009

Botkin Syndrome Secrets

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

From pages 64 - 68:

Family Secrets

Family secrets are the things that have happened – and may still be happening – that everyone knows about but that no one ever talks about.

As you look back at the various families we have met so far, it is easy, in most cases, to see what the family secrets were. Perhaps as you think back through your own life, you are aware of certain incidents, people, or problems, that no one ever discussed, eve though it was obvious that everyone was aware of them. Perhaps you can recognize the part you played in maintaining the conspiracy of silence.

That conspiracy was a significant factor in Richard’s family. Richard came for therapy with a great amount of reluctance. He was almost overwhelmed by the feeling that he was betraying his family members by talking about their problems to an outsider. “We were taught from an early age that family business stays in the family,” he explained...

Family secrets are like having an elephant in the parlor. You learn at a very young age that the one question you never ask is “Why do we have an elephant in the parlor? If friends or others outside ask about it, the correct answer is, “What elephant?” As the elephant grows, you put a lamp and a lace doily on it and treat it like part of the furniture. In time you have to avoid the parlor entirely. But you never ask about it or comment on it.

Family secrets are one of the main ways that family systems resist change. Everyone keeps doing what they have always done, as if nothing was wrong.

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)