Monday, August 30, 2010

National Instittute of Mental Health Connects Childhood Maltreatment with Long Term Health Problems In Adults

Back in February, I completed my contribution to Hillary McFarland's book, "Quivering Daughters," a section that became the "Afterword" which addressed physical health problems that arise from the consequences of how children are treated when they are young.

In this previous post on Under Much Grace, I noted that research had started to confirm that cortisol and the investigation of heart rate variability in PTSD suggested strongly that physical health and emotional health were more strongly connected than previously suspected.  By the time I worked on the material for "Quivering Daughters," several new strong research studies connected both physical and verbal/emotional abuse to several specific health problems in adulthood

I wish that NIMH had released this statement so that I could have included this material in Hillary's book, and it is something that parents and adult children should both consider.
It's well known that early life experiences can affect a child's cognitive, emotional, and behavioral development. A recent study funded by NIMH takes this link one step further showing that negative childhood experiences, such as abuse or neglect, can affect a person's physical health as well. Published in the February 24, 2009, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study suggests a history of child abuse or neglect can lower a person's overall immunity and ability to manage stress, and that this effect may be long-lasting. (Read more.)

Visit the Quivering Daughters Blog and find *hope* and *healing*.   Read Chapter One HERE.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Connections Between Illness and Discipline in Childhood

"A research team in San Diego in the 1990s asked a total of 17,000 people, with an average age of fifty-seven, what their childhood was like and what illness they had suffered in the course of their lives.

The study revealed that the incidence of severe illnesses was many times higher in people who had been abused in their child than in people who had grown up free of such abuse and had never been exposed to beatings meted out to them "for their own good."  the latter had had no illnesses to speak of in their later lives.

The title of this brief article was "Turning Gold into Lead."  The author [Dr. Vincent J Felitti] who sent me [Alice Miller] this article, commented that these findings are unambiguous and highly eloquent, but at the same time covert and hidden.

Why hidden?  The reason is that they cannot be published without leveling accusations at the parents."

Excerpt from (pp 29 -30)
Alice Miller
The Body Never Lies:  The Lingering Effects of Hurtful Parenting
WW Norton, New York, NY (2004)

From the article 
"The Relation Between 

"The ACE Study reveals a powerful relation between our emotional experiences as children and our adult emotional health, physical health, and major causes of mortality in the United States. 
Moreover, the time factors in the study make it clear that time does not heal some of the adverse experiences we found so common in the childhoods of a large population of middle-aged, middle-class Americans. 
One doesn’t “just get over” some things."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fear Mixed with Dutiful Obedience ~ An Unsatisfying Counterfeit for Trust and Love

[Many people] cannot love and honor their parents because unconsciously they still fear them. 

However much they may want to, they cannot build up a relaxed and trusting relationship.

Instead, what usually materializes is a pathological attachment, a mixture of fear and dutiful obedience. . .

Individuals who believe that they feel what they ought to feel and constantly do their best not to feel what they forbid themselves to feel ultimately fall ill --
unless, that is, they leave it to their children to pick up the check by projecting onto them the emotions they cannot admit to themselves.

Preface, pgs. 14-15
Excerpt from
Alice Miller
The Body Never Lies:  The Lingering Effects of Hurtful Parenting
WW Norton, New York, NY (2004)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hidden In the Heart of the Adult Child

In every adult who has suffered abuse as a child lies dormant that small child's fear of punishment at the hands of the parents if he or she should dare to rebel against their behavior.  But it will lie dormant only as long as that fear remains unconscious.  Once consciously experienced, it will dissolve in the course of time.

(Pg 27)

Excerpt from
Alice Miller
The Body Never Lies:  The Lingering Effects of Hurtful Parenting
WW Norton, New York, NY (2004)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Processing Emotional Pain Brings Relief to the Body

From Alice Miller's

"The Body Never Lies":

Children have no choice.  They must repress their true feelings if they have no "helping witness" to turn to and are helplessly exposed to their persecutors.

Later, as adults lucky enough to encounter an "enlightened witness," they do have a choice.  Then they can admit the truth, they can stop pitying and "understanding" their persecutors, stop trying to feel their unsustainable, dissociated emotions, and roundly denounce the things that have been done to them.

This step brings immense relief for the body.  It no longer has to forcibly remind the adult self of the tragic history it went through as a child.  Once the adult self has decided to find out the whole truth about itself, the body feels understood, respected, and protected.   (pg 27)

Excerpt from
Alice Miller
The Body Never Lies:  The Lingering Effects of Hurtful Parenting
WW Norton, New York, NY (2004)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

One of Many Motivations for Resorting to Manipulation

From Alice Miller's

"The Body Never Lies":

These patterns of childhood will inevitably then be adopted by their victims and used on their partners and their own children, at work, in politics, wherever the fear and anxiety of the profoundly insecure child can be fended off with the aid of external power.  It is in this way that dictators are born;  these are people with a deep-seated contempt for everyone else, people who were never respected as children and thus do their utmost to earn that respect at a later stage with the assistance of the gigantic power they have built up around them.  (pg 28)

Excerpt from
Alice Miller
The Body Never Lies:  The Lingering Effects of Hurtful Parenting
WW Norton, New York, NY (2004)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Who's Pulling Your Strings: A Must Read Book!

A bit about Dr. Harriet Braiker's fine book, "Who's Pulling Your Strings:  How to Break the Cycle of Manipulation and Regain Control of Your Life."

What I love about this book:
It condenses and encapsulates the best and most practical aspects of many books about communication and self-confidence, all without having to read 7 - 10 books on separate topics related to manipulation.  If you find a particular aspect of manipulation comes up for you as you work through the book, it can be a great guide to point you in the direction for further study.  But if you're in a place in life and you need just the short version, it's a great book.

Braiker presents lists of questions related to particular traits and weak points that easily manipulated people tend to demonstrate.  In Chapter 13 entitled "How to Make Yourself a Hardened Target" (echoing details and groundwork presented in previous chapters in the book), the author lists several questions and several solutions to weak thinking that sets a person up for failure and manipulation.  Two sections in this chapter explore in greater depth the problems associated with Locus of Control, a topic recently explored here on this blog.

Read several excerpts from the book (in the form of several blog posts) HERE at

How to get the book:

I cannot recommend this book highly enough, and though it is worth buying (mine is delightfully covered with my own notes and highlights), you can now download it for free!  The download seems to be designed for a particular e-book software, but I was able to read the book in Adobe without any problems.

Order it from

Enjoy, and I hope the book changes your life in the best of ways.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thoughts About Therapy

From Alice Miller's

"The Body Never Lies":

[W]e can give ourselves the attention, respect, the understanding for our emotions, the sorely needed protection, and the unconditional love that our parents withheld from us. . .

If we want to achieve this assistance from a therapist who can accept us for what we are, who can give us the protection, respect, sympathy, and understanding we need in order to realize how we have become what we are. . .

We need such a companion -- what I have called an "enlightened witness" -- if we ourselves are to act as companions for the child within, if we are to understand its "body language," to engage with its needs instead of ignoring them. . . 

In that process one can shed one's symptoms, free oneself of depression, regain joy in life, break out of the state of constant exhaustion, and experience a resurgence of energy, once that energy is no longer required for the repression of one's own truth. 

The point is that the fatigue characteristic of such depression reasserts itself every time we repress strong emotions, play down the memories stored in the body, and refuse them the attention they clamor for.   

Excerpt from
Alice Miller
The Body Never Lies:  
The Lingering Effects of Hurtful Parenting
WW Norton, New York, NY (2004)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Quivering Daughters Book is Now Available For Order!

For those of you who have been waiting for Hillary's book, it is now available for order through both Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Currently, Barnes and Noble has the best price, but Amazon also offers the book as well, and the selling prices seem to fluctuate for some unknown reason.  ???  Both sites offer free shipping for orders over $25, so why not order two books? 
I still haven't seen an actual copy of the book yet, but it is somewhere there in cyberland, making its way to me.

In about a month, I want to host some kind of event at, giving away a few copies.   I'll have to think of some creative way to figure out who gets a freebie.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Communicating with Narcissistic People: Avoid Direct Conflict!

As noted in previous posts, communicating with people who have traits of narcissism (those who suffer from certain personality disorders and often people in patriarchy) proves to be a difficult task. Narcissists feel very threatened whenever criticized in any way, and they have difficulties understanding how other people feel. Communicating with a narcissist can feel like a futile task, and they can be quite demeaning and angry in a conflict because they feel so threatened and fearful inside. And they go to great lengths to obscure and conceal these feelings from themselves and others.

In addition to the major considerations of the childlike nature of narcissism and the helpfulness of a strong internal locus of control, those who wish to effectively communicate with a narcissist must realize that direct confrontation rarely ever works! Confrontation triggers a survival response in the narcissist, and their anger will rapidly escalate. Potentially stressful topics must be approached indirectly.

Twenty years ago, I read in a Minerth Meier book that confronting an emotionally sensitive person who operates out of denial is much like dealing with a snake. In the book, the author asked why people rarely see snakes and promptly explained that snakes will hurry to slither out of the way as a means of survival. They hide and avoid all conflict. When they are cornered and have no means of escape, a snake will take a defensive posture and will defend themselves aggressively. They are definitely not assertive creatures.

I also had a professor who kept snakes, and he explained to me that they are very intelligent. They never go anywhere unless they have a plan of escape. They also do not make direct eye contact with one another, and looking at a snake from a head-on approach will provoke very defensive behavior. Snakes only make direct eye contact with prey, right as they get ready to strike and feed. They only like direct eye contact when they are in complete control and dominant.

This is a good analogy to keep in mind regarding the approach that should be taken with a narcissist. Another good analogy is that of a cornered, wounded wild animal. They are very hurt and frightened, and they do not trust human beings, even when we intend to help them. The do not understand anything except their consuming experience of fear, pain, and escape. Narcissists behave the way that they do in open and direct conflict for these same reasons. They strike when they get cornered and they bite when they feel terrified.

Focus on the Family offers a downloadable profile (LINK HERE) which discusses aspects of narcissism, giving helpful ideas about how to deal with someone with narcissism and how to discourage the trait in children. (Note: The statistics included in the article are quite dated, and they do not reflect newer research currently available.) The profile refers to Townsend and Cloud’s ideas about boundaries, the limits that you set for what you are willing to do in a relationship and what you will allow others to do for you. Stating boundaries as our desires for what we would like to see in a relationship set the standard for others, and we must defend those boundaries by following through with consequences when someone crosses our boundaries. (An undefended boundary is just a nice idea and is really no boundary at all.) Boundaries flow from a strong and internal locus of control, also something that the FOTF article discusses. It also notes that an indirect approach is essential for effective communication with a narcissist.

Randi Kreger, an author who specializes in Borderline Personality Disorder, recently wrote about narcissism on her blog. She recently featured author Bill Eddy’s writings on narcissism there, noting a section from his book on dealing with difficult people. Eddy also has a book about how to best go about divorcing a narcissist. In his book, “It's All Your Fault! 12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything,” he offers these and other helpful hints (which are reviewed in greater depth in the original post):
  • Find their strengths and regularly compliment them.
  • Prepare to set limits.
  • Resist the urge to “put them down.”
  • Don’t withhold your empathy, attention, and respect.
  • Keep a comfortable distance.
  • Don’t feel like you have to listen too long.
  • Use indirect reasons for changing behavior.
  • Explain the possible negative consequences of certain behavior.

Read the entire post HERE, and visit an entire blog dedicated to The Narcissism Epidemic for even more information on this subject of narcissism and NPD.

If you struggle to communicate effectively with the narcissist in your life, I hope that you will explore all of these resources more fully, finding new strategies so that you can build new bridges of trust with them.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Breaking Free of Victim Mentality: Narcissism, Patriarchy, and the Locus of Control

Part of the problem with patriarchy involves the idea that by living a certain way, that behavior will have a controlling effect on other people.  If the wife behaves properly, her husband will become more “godly,” and this will not only give her the kind of husband she wants but will provide her with self-worth and identity.  Much of the book by the Botkin Sisters, “So Much More,” promotes this idea, suggesting that men can’t be the men God wants them to be without intervention on behalf the women in their lives.  Women need to prop up their men, be they daughters or wives, but this idea sells so well in the book because the mindset and theology strip women of much independent identity, authority, and worth.  Everyone needs to feel significant and valued, and patriarchy encourages followers to find these things in performance, outcome, and outward appearance.  I suppose this system works well for people who are very physically healthy and are enjoying pleasant seasons in life.  Things work well during fair weather.

On a more basic level, these beliefs suggest that we can have control over events in our lives if we follow “THE” formula, and assumption that life tends to be fair (if you do all of the right things).  Life is even more “fair” for those who are elite among the elect like the leaders and model citizens.   Under patriarchy, following a particular “law” yields particular results when those results have been properly merited, especially concerning spiritual things according to patriarchy’s mindset.  I recently spoke with a wife whose husband has a problem with a particular sin.  She admitted that she became involved with patriarchy because she believed that it would somehow make him stop engaging in this sin.  Her husband didn’t like the ideology, as many men don’t at first, but he definitely enjoyed the benefits that came with his dutiful wife’s submission after awhile.  Soon, he felt entitled to those benefits, just as he felt entitled to his particular sin.  Ahhhh.  There is that “entitlement” word again.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Understanding the Narcissist: More Features that Botkin Style Patriarchy Shares with Personality Disorders

In the previous posts, I presented some similarities that borderline personalities share with abusive patriarchy, and I only alluded briefly to Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).   Everyone has healthy self-interest, and some of us have more of a problem balancing that healthy self-interest with interest and empathy for others.  Young people are narcissistic, and because of how we are constructed as human beings, we do start out with awareness of ourselves.  As we grow and as life “puts us in our place,” we quite naturally grow out of our own extreme of self-interest because of perspective and into a balance with responsible and kind care for the interests of others.  NPD, like all other personality disorders, emerges as a stable personality pattern in mature adults that is to enough of an extreme that it creates significant problems for affected person in their both their personal relationships and in their own emotional and thought life.  Though we all can be narcissistic from time to time as a function of our personality, those with NPD have a consistent (or stable) problem with the core elements of the diagnosis.

Patriarchy and NPD:  A Matter of Extremes
In a way, NPD is “too much of a good thing.”  This is something that is very true of patriarchy:  It starts with very desirable and good things, and it takes those good things too far with too much zeal and ambition, and soon the end justifies the means.  Perhaps that is something that makes patriarchy so misunderstood.  It starts from a very good place with very good intentions, but it is not balanced and it does seek intensity and drama.  We live in a world that has serious problems, and it can be so appealing to go out and sacrifice everything to make a difference, setting the world on fire with passion for the things that should matter most and changing it for the better.  My college days and shortly thereafter were full of these kinds of social efforts from “Hands Across America,” to “Live Aid,” and into later Christian causes like “Operation Rescue.”  Those things can be very exciting and rewarding, but most people cannot achieve that “high” on a regular basis.  Much of life is about the matters of “every day” life which are not so exciting, and I see patriarchy, among other things, appealing to the desire for excitement and significance by celebrating the every day things.  I think it goes off track because at some point, the creature concerns replaced the Creator as a focus, and elements of daily living became sacraments.  Gender became a sacrament that imparts holiness and spiritual merit, for example.  I think that this is something that NPD and patriarchy share in common in that they make too much of a good thing.  It lacks balance in its means and in its kind respect and consideration for others who differ from them.

What is NPD?
If you read the posts about Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), you likely already understand much about NPD.  I have heard others refer to NPD without the memory problems and other hallmark behaviors that are unique to BPD because both disorders share the same core problems.  In a most basic sense, narcissists with NPD display exaggerated self-interest because they are compensating for fear and high sensitivity to criticism.  This exaggeration is a means of coping with and resisting the disturbing emotions that they feel deep inside, emotions that they deny feeling, even to themselves.  Some of the hallmark features of NPD include personal grandiosity, an excessive need for admiration/attention, a sense of entitlement, and a diminished capacity for empathy.  When a person with NPD feels threatened or becomes uncomfortably aware of their internal sense of shame and inferiority, they behave in a number of predictable ways which creates problems for those with whom they interact.

On a practical level, narcissists create a great deal of drama in relationships, and they manipulate others to get attention and affirmation.  Because of their diminished capacity for empathy (those areas of their brains do not work well), they use other people like objects that are provided for their use.  The “Golden Rule” does not come naturally or at all to the narcissist because they are preoccupied with their own survival and emotional distress than they are with the experience of others.  It is difficult to work with a narcissist, because empathy is seen as a matter of the will.  The non-compliant narcissist can be seen as merely willful and lacking integrity, but they cannot easily correct their perspective.  (I believe that much of it is physiologic, based on new advances in the study of the brain.  Dr. Daniel Amen refers to this as the “hardware of the soul.”  A software program [e.g., good training, Bible Study, good morals] cannot work properly if the hard drive is broken through a stroke or another disease, one of which is NPD.)  Because of the nature of the problem, the narcissist has little motivation to change their behavior.  They are, by nature, not interested in balancing power and respect in relationships, so they have difficult setbacks to overcome in order to mature beyond their tendencies with little if any motivation to work toward change.

Another consequence of diminished empathy involves what is thought to be an impaired ability to observe or notice the emotional responses of other people, something that adds to their impaired ability to understand the emotions of others.  This is also a feature of many disorders “in the autistic spectrum” of diagnoses such as Attention Deficit Disorder.  Just as research continues to show in people with BPD, those with NPD also have very limited faculties when it comes to comprehending how other people feel.  The areas of the brain that govern some of these functions are small and atrophied, and functional studies such as SPECT and f PET diagnostic testing show that these brain areas do not show the same levels of activity when their findings are compared with the normal population.  (Plasticity of the brain – the ability of the brain to adapt through rewiring and growth through behavioral and cognitive change – does offer great hope for recovery, but the mindset of the disorder itself does not give the affected person much motivation to change at all.  The brain does not have to stay in its original condition, but it is difficult to get the narcissist to make the first step toward healing because they deny that they have a problem that needs healing.  That is a feature of the disorder.)

More practical information discussing the traits of a narcissist with NPD:

Living with a Narcissist  (Coping as an Adult Child of Narcissistic Patriarchy)

If you are a child or partner of someone with NPD, you will find them unable to handle any kind of criticism, resorting to demeaning tactics and intense anger when they feel threatened (though they will never let you see that they feel threatened because of their grandiosity).  They NEVER admit to wrongdoing, and when consequences force them to realize that they have failed to be perfect, they will become even more dramatic, emotional, and aggressive.  Life is all about blaming other people for their shortcomings, because they are really just terrified inside.  Like playground bullies, they don’t take well to open confrontation.  Direct confrontation usually becomes explosive, as the narcissist prefers to be passive-aggressive because they actually fear confrontation.  That makes them hard to understand, because on the exterior, they seem to seek out conflict and aggression.  Considering their inner experience of helplessness and fear seems oxymoronic (if not impossible) when you are on the receiving end of their wrath and if you believe their exaggerated perceptions of themselves.

Narcissists also demonstrate an emotional aloofness, and they can come across as cold and exacting.  They are not in touch with their real emotions.  (Their inner world is a war effort against true feelings and a desperate flight from emotional discomfort.)  Their flattened emotions concerning some matters manifests as a function of their flattened empathy.  Trying to negotiate a healthy relationship with a narcissist is very difficult because they do not listen to others (and cannot listen to some extent).  Conflicts are usually seen as all-or-nothing challenges wherein there is an absolute victor and a shamed loser.  They tend not to comprehend “win-win” situations wherein both parties in a conflict can arrive at mutually equitable solutions or agreements.  Every game is a zero-sum game.  If they perceive that their opponent in a conflict has any sense or position of personal power, because of their fragile sense of self inside, they believe that they have no power.  Power, truth, happiness, and things like fulfillment seem like “finite resources” to them.   In their minds, there isn’t enough power to go around for everyone.

Narcissists feel that they always must be the winner for these stated reasons.  If they cannot win, they tend to completely remove themselves from the relationship because their internal discomfort is so great.  They would rather avoid the terrible discomfort of losing or the reminders of past loss by completely avoiding people with whom they are forced to share a balanced sense of power and worth.  Narcissists don’t share these things.  In terms of patriarchy, this behavior and response manifest frequently.  Patriarchy isolates families from venues wherein they are not in control, and those outside of their system are demeaned and devalued.  Because those in patriarchy are special and have a corner on truth, they can rationalize their isolation, thus avoiding the work of interacting with others who compete with them, particularly in terms of ideology.  (Oh, those evil Marxists and secular humanists…)  Some of this involves a fear of  “contamination” as Vision Forum’s Kevin Swanson puts it, but a great deal of it involves a “refusal to play” when they know that their group cannot “win the game.”  Refusal to cooperate or even make the effort shields them from the annihilating pain and rage that they face inside when they loose.  Patriarchal families also use this as a means of coping when their children reject their belief system through the practice of shunning.

Another aspect of NPD that can be seen in patriarchy is the tendency to take too much pride and credit for the accomplishments of their children, another behavior and attitude that reduces family members into objects, merely things that exist for their use.  Their sense of grandiosity gives them the idea that they are of higher worth and status than all others, even their children in a functional sense.  (They likely have ideals that attribute great worth and laud to their children in theory, but as the captors of their own internal personal pain, their habits and behavior functionally bear out a sense of superiority over their children which objectifies them.)  This sense goes hand-in-hand with the narcissist’s tendency to control and manipulate their children in ways that benefit their own interests as opposed to behaving in a way that preserves the best interest of their children.  They medicate their own sense of low personal worth with their children’s lives and success, and this temporarily fills their sense of internal emptiness.  They can also become pre-occupied with money and the social status that comes with wealth, and this can also be projected on to children.

All that makes for a great deal of difficulty, because any suggestion to a person affected by NPD results in drama and desperate self-defensiveness on their part.  They become like a drowning man who is reaching out to grab onto anyone or anything to stay afloat emotionally.  Professionals who are trained in the best ways to handle narcissists struggle in their efforts to help their narcissistic clients, so it is no wonder that loved ones and family members also struggle!  Rewarding and intimate relationships require negotiation and common respect, and the narcissist does not have the tools to be able to accomplish these ends.

But take courage!  In an upcoming post, I will point you to some approaches and tactics that will help you communicate better with the narcissist in your life in a way that they can best hear your perspective without triggering their defenses. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

How Enmeshed Families Affected by Both Patriarchy and Personality Disorders Can Benefit from the Literature Concerning the Concentration Camp Survivor

More About Borderline Parenting Styles

The previous post discusses the primary characteristics of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and how it affects the children of those affected by the disorder (abbreviated as “BP” which stands for “borderline person”). In “Understanding the Borderline Mother,” Christine Lawson presents four different “character profiles” of affected mothers, one of which she names the “Witch Mother.” Please note that BPD can affect both men and women, and in terms of how the example of BPD relates to patriarchy, it should be noted that the father can be substituted wherever “mother” appears in these posts to make it even more applicable.

Note: [Bracketed terms] in any excerpts were adapted and added by this blog host for the ease of the reader of this post in order to abbreviate the terminology which was explained in the context of the book (in terms of character subtypes) but is beyond the scope of this post.

BPs that Lawson identifies as the “Witch” variety wrestle with annihilating rage, and this kind of BP mother believes deeply that she is evil and must compensate for an inadequate sense of self. When she feels threatened, she becomes predatory and demands submission as a means of medicating her own emotional state at the expense of her children. She often singles out one of her children as the receptacle for her self-hatred, though she may show this side of herself to all of them. The message she communicates to her children is that “Life is war.” This is also the rarest of the subtypes Lawson describes, and quite often, this type of mother tends to hide within another BP persona or apparent competence until something triggers the predator within (pg 38).

Borderline mothers can be difficult to recognize (pg 38) because BPs:
  • Seem normal to casual acquaintances
  • Have unique symptom clusters
  • Are different with different people, including their own children
  • Have different external or public personalities
  • Function well in structured environments and specific roles
More Similarities Between Behaviors in Botkin Syndrome and BPD Parenting Styles
Parents who follow Botkin-style patriarchy sometimes manifest these same traits or variations of them, and in the previous post, I explore several other similarities between parenting styles within these two groups that both manifest enmeshment. The reader should understand that this post draws a comparison between the common features of both groups in order to help children of enmeshment both understand dysfunctional families and thus move through their pain into wholeness. Though I believe that the ideology of patriarchy lends itself well to those with personality disorders which makes those who do have such a diagnosis more protected within these patriarchal systems, I am in no way contending that parents in patriarchy suffer from BPD. The followers of patriarchy sometimes behave very aggressively with critics, showing intense anger and demeaning those who do not meet their expectations, both inside and outside of their families and groups.  Like the high functioning BP who keeps more unpleasant matters well-hidden by showing only a careful fa├žade to most others, patriarchy follows a very obvious rule: the parent can never be wrong and fathers can never be criticized.

Those who follow the Family Integrated Church (FIC) system see each individual father as the gatekeeper concerning doctrine and related practice for his own family, and in many FIC churches, men are even discouraged from talking directly to other women concerning conduct and doctrine because it is interpreted as interfering with the authority of the patriarch as independent prophet, priest and king over his own family jurisdiction. The FIC system itself tends to naturally insulate against criticism, inhibit legitimate concern for members within a family, and the system itself is quite punitive and intolerant of deviation from its narrow standards. Often in the same manner by which parents with BPD use their children to bear and contain their negative emotions, parents in patriarchy often objectify and scapegoat their own children to preserve their devotion and high regard for their ideology, the leaders they follow, as well as the outward appearance of the family. Also noted in the previous post, dysfunctional families spontaneously and unconsciously assign identified roles to family members, and one individual tends to be labeled and serves the family as the primary scapegoat. Because of the inequitable balance of power in families (favoring the BP and the patriarch), any subordinate within the family system can be blamed, however. Black and white thinking fosters this response in both BPD and cultic families where ethical issues as well as dynamic people reduce down to static elements – objects of use – which are understood through narrow predefined prejudices.

Drawing Insight from the Personal Accounts of Concentration Camp Survivors
Lawson and other authors concerned with child abuse report that enmeshed children and adults often find value in reading literature concerning concentration camp survivors. Many report dreams about captivity themes because they feel guilty, falsely condemned, trapped, and hopeless. Many of these things reported by children of BPs and abuse victims echo the statements and feelings of those who grew up in spiritually abusive patriarchy. As so many in patriarchy profess to be acting in the best interest of their children by following the prescribed paradigm, something the loaded language of this cultic group describes as “shepherding” or “protecting the hearts” of their children, BP mothers also feel entitled to their duty to dominate their children as a part of their role as parent. They do so because they believe that this treatment is “for the child’s own good.” When confronted by therapists, the BP becomes very defensive because they do not recognize their behavior as destructive. Lawson states,
Having been raised by parents who demanded absolute loyalty and obedience, the [borderline] mother wields her power as blindly as she once relinquished her will to her own parents. Denial of her child’s pain comes as easily to her as denial of her own pain. The [borderline mother] projects the war that rages within her onto the no-good child (pg. 273).
Many people who did not grow up in dysfunctional homes often question why people remain in destructive and demeaning relationships, and this is very true of people who do not understand BPD. Likewise, people who do not appreciate the concept of “bounded choice” do not understand the plight of the children within Botkin-style patriarchy because they do not understand the subtle dynamics and complex pressures upon adult daughters within the patriarchal system. But the survivor of a concentration camp knows deeply and intimately what the ill-affected daughter in patriarchy faces, something Lawson in particular points out as true of the children of BPs in “Understanding the Borderline Mother.” This kind of degradation at the hands of a parent is vastly different from that which comes via a stranger because the child builds their own identity upon that which the parent gives to the child. If this is based upon denigrating shame, it has a devastating affect on the child.

From Lawson, Pgs 273-4:
The words of a concentration camp survivor reflect a child’s blind faith in the parent: “Why did we not fight back? . . . I know why. Because we had faith in humanity. Because we did not really think that human beings were capable of committing such crimes” (Klein ["All But My Life"], p.89). The [borderline mother’s] children, too, fall victim to their own faith in humanity and therefore repress awareness of their mother’s destructive power. . . Children have faith in their parents and believe in their greater wisdom.

In his book on moral life in concentration camps, Todorov ["Facing the Extreme"] (1996) observed, “In the totalitarian ethic, loyalty to the leader is a fundamental obligation” (p. 189). Young children need to believe that their mother knows what is right and good. Their trust and loyalty are truly blind, for they have no other experience by which to assess her judgment. They believe in her basic goodness, more so than they believe in their own goodness. It is safer to accept the view that they are evil than to consider the consequences that the mother is evil.
Just like a survivor of a Nazi prison camp, the child of a BP must realize that if they do not take responsibility for their responses to their captivity, they run a great risk of becoming like their captors. This is very true for those in recovery from spiritual abuse who must address the lure of the benefit that they believed the ideology offered to them, because they are also at high risk for allowing their devotion to idealistic virtues serving as justification for behavior. They must make peace with their former abusive leader and work toward forgiveness, one of the long-term goals in recovery that occurs in the final stages of healing after steady progress and perseverance. They must also admit to themselves that their former ideology was flawed, just as the recovering BP parent must perform a painstaking moral inventory in order to take the first steps toward their own healing. Lawson quotes Todorov saying “Someone who sees no resemblance between himself and the enemy, who believes that all the evil is in the other and none in himself, is tragically destined to resemble his enemy” (p. 200). For me, this echoes that “if we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us” (1 John 1:10, KJV).

As a part of working through their trauma, it is essential that those who have been hurt by any trauma, be it spiritual abuse, a personality disorder in a parent, family enmeshment, or Botkin Syndrome must be able to express themselves as they make sense of their experience so that they can progress through it into full healing. The silence must be broken regarding the silent suffering of Jesus’ little lambs. Lawson quotes another concentration camp survivor concerning the importance of telling one’s story to encourage healing.

Pg 290:
Those who experienced imprisonment . . . are divided into two distinct categories . . . those who remain silent and those who speak . . . those who remain silent who feel more deeply that sense of malaise which I for simplicity’s sake call “shame,” . . . The others speak . . . because . . . they perceive . . . the center of their life, the event that for good or evil has marked their entire existence. [Levi, p.149]

Lawson concludes this chapter by pointing out again, that like the BP parent who is often difficult to recognize and mistake the child of the BP as the problem in the family, concentration camp survivors were not believed at times. History has documented accounts of many who escaped camps in the early phases of WWII who were not believed when they escaped to tell the horrors of what they endured. For the adult children of patriarchy, this is absolutely true in many cases, because it is painful for people to be shaken out of their comfort zones to consider a very disturbing truth. Things aren’t always as they seem, and few people often believe what both the children of BPs and the children of abusive patriarchy have to say.

In conclusion, I would like to offer the footnote on page 290 of Lawson’s book:
Primo Levi (1988) writes in The Drowned and the Saved: “Almost all of the survivors, orally or in their written memoirs, remember a dream which frequently recurred during the nights of imprisonment, varied in its detail but uniform in its substance: they had returned home and with passion and relief were describing their past sufferings, addressing themselves to a loved one, and were not believed, indeed were not even listened to” (p. 12).
Lawson also states that,
“Pain that is expressed, heard, and believed is not experienced in vain. Pain that is heard can then be tolerated and healed” (pg 290) . . .Children need to be held, to be mirrored, to be soothed, and to be given some control throughout their childhood, but especially following separation and loss. Unbearable pain that is expressed, heard and believed becomes bearable (pg. 304).
It is my great hope that the daughters and sons of patriarchy can speak the truth about their experiences and also see them for what they are. I pray that they will be able to separate from the oppression they endured, can forgive their parents for their shortcomings and what many experience as spiritual, psychological, and emotional abuse. I pray that they can see themselves as good and can trust in their own personal goodness, no longer serving as a scapegoat and source of blame for the family. Exploring some of these writings about the plight of the concentration camp survivor as well as the child of a borderline personality can offer helpful encouragement to the children of enmeshed families.

Without intervention, their emptiness, hopelessness, rage, and fear will be passed to the next generation . . .

Borderline mothers are not evil; evil lies in the darkness of unawareness. They cannot see what they are doing.

Those of us who can see must shine the light of our understanding like a beacon guiding a ship to harbor, or share in the responsibility of allowing mothers to drown their own children in a sea of despair
(Lawson, pg 307).

Excerpts and adaptations from
Christine Ann Lawson
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Lantham, MD (2004)
Oxford (2000)

Primo Levi
Vintage (1989)

Tzvetan Todorov
Holt Paperbacks (1997)
Gerda Weissman Klein
Hill and Wang, expanded edition (1995)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Botkin Brand of Patriarchy and Personality Disorders: BPD Commonalities

Those affected by patriarchy in the style of the Botkin Syndrome face a set of challenges and often struggle to see their experience in a way that helps them understand what happen to them.  After establishing a place of safety in safe relationships, retracing and recounting personal history is an essential stage of recovery, something that comes before the stage of reconnection and intimacy with others.  This is also true of children who grow up in other types of dysfunctional homes, such as those who had parents who suffered from personality disorders like narcissism.  Because of the many similar elements that are common to the enmeshment of Botkin Syndrome and the enmeshment that takes place between children and the parent with a personality disorder, this literature is often helpful to those who are working their way out of patriarchy.  In particular, I like “Trapped in the Mirror” and “Children of the Self-Absorbed” because the functional problems faced by children and adult children from patriarchal homes are so similar.

I find it striking that *[people with borderline personality disorder] use many of the same coping mechanisms that are used by those who follow Botkin-style patriarchy.  This certainly does not mean that everyone who follows patriarchy has a narcissistic or borderline personality disorder, but I think that the ways in which the children of *[people with borderline personality disorder] are affected by their parent’s disorder can and may help those overcoming Botkin Syndrome understand their experience in a more meaningful way because of the similarities.

*[Late entry correction for clarity replacing an undefined abbreviation]

What is BPD?
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), so named because the disorder was once classified differently, as it was originally thought to be a very mild form of “borderline” schizophrenia.  As science and further study has now revealed that the disorder is actually a very specific reaction to trauma that takes place in childhood which inhibits aspects of brain development related to memory.  At the current time, the name of the disorder remains, even though it is a little misleading.  In addition to some more child-like means of coping with distress and reality, people affected with BPD fail to transfer very emotionally charged events into their long term memory.  For this reason it was originally thought that those with the disorder could not “take in” reality and make sense of it, but it is actually now understood as a type of complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that has affected brain function and development.  Throughout the rest of this post and for the sake of ease, I will refer to those who suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder as a “BP” meaning a “borderline person.”   As one author suggests, it avoids reducing those affected into a diagnosis and preserves their identity as a person apart from the disease.

Features Common to Both BPD and Botkin Syndrome
BPs rely upon coping mechanisms [See this link] that are commonly used within spiritual abuse.   In order to deal the depression and the intensity of mood swings, the BP uses defenses like distraction through fantasy and idealization to deny painful experiences, all in addition to the denial that occurs as a consequence of disturbance in memory.  People who follow patriarchy cling to an idealized view of family and see the world through patriarchy’s galvanized prejudice, and elements of this created system of idealism often does not meet with practical demands, something very much like the alternate reality of the BP.   Psychological splitting (a type of black and white thinking) also predisposes the BP to devaluation of others in order to protect their fragile sense of self, using devaluation, demoralization, and demonization of those whom they find threatening at a given moment.  Those who follow patriarchy also defend their belief system against their critics, detractors, defectors, as well as their own excommunicated followers in the same manner.  BPs use blame and projection in order to feel better about themselves, raising their own comfort level by “leveling the playing field” by focusing and attributing fault to others, regardless of whether they are deserving of that fault or blame.  Patriarchy uses these tactics through the concept of merited grace and safety which always falls on the shoulders of the devotee (“If you failed to get promised results, you are to blame because of personal failure or sin.”)

Patriarchy uses all of these primitive coping tactics to enhance the group’s sense of exclusivity and special status to blame and reduce those outside of the group to a lesser status.   For the loved ones of those with BPD, because of the high degree of manipulation used by the BP to avoid their fears and to survive their disorder, the “brainwashing effects” that the disorder has on their family and friends is very much like the thought reform employed within many systems of the so-called Biblical patriarchy.  Again, this does not mean that anyone who follows patriarchy has a personality disorder, but the dynamics of the patriarchal system do bear many similarities in some respects.   I believe that it is worth considering some of the wisdom from this literature to bring more insight.  I am also concerned on another level that patriarchy may attract both leaders and followers with some of these personality disorders because the ideology of patriarchy lends itself so well to the natural style of those who have both borderline and narcissistic personality disorders.

Relationship Dynamics
The story of the Wizard of Oz lends itself well to the disorder as a way of explaining what it is like to live with a BP.  The child of the BP lives in two worlds:  the BP’s world and real world which is governed by rational and predictable social rules and dynamics which are consistent.   Life with their BP is much like getting caught up into the whirlwind and carried to Oz – into an alternate universe where the regular rules don’t apply.  It has some elements of enchantment fantasy, but like Oz, it also has its villains, heroes and sojourners.  (Link HERE to a brief explanation of this metaphor.)   In general, a BP can function at very high or very low levels, being very capable or very debilitated.  Recognizing high functioning BPs proves more difficult for those outside of their immediate family or outside of the BP’s primary relationships, because it is masked by their high level of competence and skill at hiding their inner turmoil from others.  BPs also vary vastly in the way that they deal with their fears and anguish, either turning them inward to become collapsed personalities or turning them outward to become exaggerated personalities.

In “Understanding the Borderline Mother:  Helping Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship,” Lawson identifies four basic “character profiles” that tend to dominate the personality of the BP, but they may also overlap.  (BPs manifest their core issues in very complex ways, but understanding them in terms of profile types or metaphor such as “Life in Oz” helps their loved ones with their own understanding and interpersonal struggle with their BP.)  The BP may also behave consistently with one type of profile when coping well and may switch into another character profile when feeling threatened.  

Character Profiles of Mothers with BPD  (Lawson, pp 37-8):
(1.) The Waif Mother who predominantly demonstrates helplessness; “Life is too hard.”
(2.) The Hermit Mother who predominantly demonstrates fear; “Life is too dangerous.”
(3.)  The Queen Mother who predominantly demonstrates emptiness; “Life is ‘all about me.’”
(4.) The Witch Mother who predominantly demonstrates annihilating rage; “Life is war.”

The following chart, adapted from the book, describes the affects of the mindset of the BP on their thoughts and behaviors concerning their children.  It should be said that all parents make errors and that none are perfect, but parents who consistently respond to their children in the manners described in the Table do suffer with impaired relationships, and these ideas and resulting behaviors adversely affect their children.  (No parent can be expected to be the perfect, ideal parent, and few parents are ideal.)

It cannot be stressed and stated more emphatically:  Parents in patriarchy or those who follow the Botkin Model of parenting do not suffer from BPD!  I present this material here to highlight how the similar coping and parenting styles of those with BPD are quite similar to those within patriarchy in some ways, and understanding this may be helpful for adult children who have been affected by particular elements of these parenting styles.  It must also be noted that, though this book discusses the Borderline Mother, within patriarchy, the controlling and manipulating comes from both parents, theoretically from the father in particular.  My point here involves understanding the general effects and problems, not to make a case that mothers in patriarchy control their families and that they are the source of the problems in the system.  But, children of BPs suffer from enmeshment just as do children in patriarchy, and many of the assumptions that BPs make about their children are consistent with adult children who have exited patriarchy.  It is a comparison, not an analogy.  Some of the doctrines and some of the functional problems manifested in patriarchy also manifest in BPD (functional problems that manifest and deviate from patriarchy’s ideology when the ideology s put into practice).    And for that reason only, the literature which addresses BPD can be helpful for those who are overcoming Botkin Syndrome.

Just as the BPs described here fall into predictable patterns of behavior, their children also develop predictable responses.  Children in dysfunctional families fall into certain categories.  Lawson notes these specific family roles for children of Borderline Mothers:  the “all-good child,” the “no-good child” and the “lost child” (pp 160-173).  Per the literature concerning addictions and recovery, the identified roles within dysfunctional, enmeshed families that children (and the non-addicted spouse) adopt include the “hero,” the “clown,” the “mascot,” the “caretaker,” the “rebel,” the “scapegoat,” the "mastermind," and the “lost child” or “loner.”  Children within systems of enmeshment feel constrained to remain in these expected roles in order to accommodate the needs of the BP which assuages them, because children become overly responsible for the well being of the parent and family at the expense of their own needs and their own personalities.  In patriarchy, exiting the family system is also tantamount to religious apostasy and loss of connection with God, so children within patriarchy feel even more pressure than do those in families where a parent suffers from addiction/dysfunction.

What Can We Learn from BPD?
Recently, while reading through the BPD literature, I noted several statements that Lawson makes in “Understanding the Borderline Mother” that apply well to those within patriarchy.  I offer only a few of them here for those who are working through the “Why?” and “How?” of the painful aspects of their experience of family, noting understanding and evaluation of personal history as an essential stage in healing from any type of trauma.  Working through and resolving their understanding of the painful aspects of their family experience will liberate them to be able to celebrate the good and beneficial elements of their families without hindrance or distraction.

Note:  [Bracketed terms] in the following excerpts were adapted and added by this blog host for the ease of the reader of this post to abbreviate the terminology which was explained in the context of the book (in terms of character subtypes) but is beyond the scope of this post.  To make the excerpts more relevant to those within patriarchy, consider substituting the term “family” for “mother.”  As previously stated, though the book discusses these issues as they pertain to mothers who suffer from BPD, these issues apply to family and also to fathers within the Botkin-style form of patriarchy.

Pgs 223-4:
Children of borderlines expect incongruent behavior from others.  They learn to hide their real feelings, to express their needs indirectly, or not to need anything at all.  Because this learning is unconscious, they are unaware of their own incongruence…  Children of borderlines keep the true self hidden, first from their parents and eventually from themselves. . . The real self will be hidden if it can not be fully expressed.

Pg 244:
Because borderlines lack object constancy, they have no access to an internal, loving, approving, protective self that is constant regardless of events.  Therefore, they try to rely on their own children to hold them together.  As adults, children of the [mother] have a choice about how much they are willing to give, how much they can emotionally withstand, and how much of their own lives they are willing to sacrifice.

Pgs 253-4:
The [mother’s] adult children must understand that those with healthy mothers cannot imagine the manipulativeness of the [mother].  Others therefore assume that the child, rather than the mother, is the selfish one…Attempting to separate from the [mother] can cause volcanic eruptions.  Everyone reacts to seeing the smoke and red-hot lava once it is flowing, but few people understand the forces beneath the surface that created the disaster.

Pg 254-5:
The [mother’s] emptiness distorts her perceptions of interactions with others.  Regardless of how much she is appreciated, loved, valued, or admired, she feels disappointed.  Gifts from the [mother] have strings attached because they are tied to her sense of self.  She gives in order to receive what she needs or wants…  The strange combination of the [mother’s] extravagant gifts and her inability to give what is actually needed reflects her own longing to be indulged…  The [mother’s] behavior elicits embarrassment about her need for recognition, attention, and control, and her children may react by becoming intensely private individuals...The [mother’s] adult children should accept only those gifts that do not leave them feeling indebted, uncomfortable, or guilty.

Pg 261-2:
“In normal development, the mother introduces the child to increasingly difficult levels of frustration so the child will learn that she does not always get what she wants.  At some point, the child’s ego realizes, accepts, and internalizes this, understanding that it is a normal, although disagreeable, fact of life.  The child with an arrested ego, however, will have a poor ability to tolerate frustration…” [Quoting Masterson, pg 76.]

Unfortunately, both the [mother] and her children can suffer from arrested ego development.  The [mother] cannot supply her children with something she lacks in herself, and she uses her children to mirror her self-worth.  This aberration in parenting results in children with selves that either respond with angry defiance and feeling of worthlessness or with false compliance and feelings of emptiness…  Adult children must learn to mirror their true selves instead of the [mother’s].


In an upcoming post I HOPE to explore the connection between literature written by concentration camp survivors and why the children of BPs often feel a connection to the plight of the captive.

Excerpts and adaptations from
Christine Ann Lawson
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Lantham, MD (2004)
Oxford (2000)

Quote from
James F. Masterson
Free Press
New York (1988)