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)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Thoughts About Enmeshment and Covert Incest and Botkin Syndrome: A Short Review

Enmeshment occurs when individuals within families fail to develop a healthy and functional identity and ability to survive apart from the family group identity. There is a high degree of emotional fusion, poor if any boundaries at all between individuals within the family, and this fusion interferes with the individual’s ability to develop a clear sense of self. It interferes with normal growth and development for children who are raised within an enmeshed family, producing relationship problems as well as varied degrees of psychological problems.

Covert emotional incest occurs within enmeshed families and describes the dynamics of enmeshment.

In “Facing Love Addiction,” Pia Mellody describes effective bonding between parent and child as a functional and intimate activity that the parent sustains for the child. She likens this emotional connection to an umbilical cord that flows from parent to child, so that the stable, secure, and more grounded adult, from a position of maturity, nurtures and supports the child. Covert emotional abuse reverses the flow, so that at times, the parent draws emotional nourishment from the child to meet needs that should only be met in the context of adult relationships. The child lacks the wealth of resources that adults have including a sense of self, the ability to self-soothe, and the choice to direct themselves, something that they should be learning and deriving from their parents in varied ways until they enter adulthood. From resources that are drastically limited in comparison to an adult, the child must draw from their own limited resources to nourish the adult. (Pg. 43-4).

Another analogy used to describe the role of parent in the development of their child is that of a mirror. The child looks into the mirror of the parent who should reflect the image of the child back to them, a process that requires effort on behalf of the parent because it is needful for the proper self-awareness, learning, and growth of the child. For the parent who uses the child to inappropriately satisfy their adult needs, rather than reflecting the child’s image back to them, they project their own image and their needs on to the child so that the child understands them as their own issues and responsibilities.

This type of enmeshment tends to occur in families where an adult is ill and must rely on a child for physical support in order to compensate for their physical needs. The emotional sense of responsibility for the parent becomes unavoidable in many such cases. This also happens with adults who are too immature or fearful to be appropriately intimate with another adult, finding the intimacy too threatening emotionally. But they do not have such setbacks with children because the balance of power in the relationship is always in the adult’s favor. The child is not only vulnerable due to immaturity, the child will not abandon the parent because they need the parent in order to survive.

Children gain a sense of power and reward from the relationship, but this comes at a tremendously high price. While the parent promises complete devotion to the child and offers what seems like an adult-like status and level of control, the child also becomes overwhelmed by the unspoken understanding that they are emotionally responsible for the welfare and needs of the adult or perhaps for the survival of the whole family. The responsibility engulfs the child, and they learn that love is demonstrated by and depends upon their performance.

Rather than intimacy which requires balance and cooperation of both parties, the child learns that love is earned and is expressed through duty. This destroys true intimacy. As adults, these children generally find their value in caretaking and their worth in performance. Rather than finding intimacy as a caregiver, they end up using those they care for as objects which provide them with self-worth which is what their adult parent did with them when they were children. Their lives become defined by the needs of others and at the expense of themselves.

Another feature of this type of relationship includes a high degree of risk-taking, drama, and extremes. Because the style of communication within these systems is largely passive-aggressive as opposed to a mature and assertive style, the child learns to relate to family members in terms of intensity. Intensity is often mistaken for intimacy. This is also a characteristic of the patriarchy movement as Vyckie Garrison explains in her blog post entitled “We Didn’t Want to be BALANCED.”  Like the dynamics of a dysfunctional family, the dynamics that are found in families of alcoholics and drug addicts, intensity is used like a drug to numb the pain that results from the overwhelming duty that the enmeshed mistake for intimacy. They use intensity to medicate the discomfort experienced because of the loss of their own sense of self. People in patriarchy are encouraged to relate to one another in terms of intensity.

Within the system of family that the Botkins define, all individuals within the family revolve around their patriarch husband/father like satellites orbiting the sun. Within families of dysfunction, family members revolve around the addict or the primary user in the same way. Predictable dynamics ensue, dynamics that do not differ from those that define enmeshment.  In this sense, I believe that because the patriarch uses family members including their own children for emotional, psychological, and spiritual gratification, I consider the Botkin model to be a formally institutionalized system of enmeshment that is wrongly promoted as God’s highest and best for Christians. Lovely, photoshopped faces are used to promote the paradigm while the unattractive underbelly obscures cruel elitism that reduces women to creatures to be used by men and leaders without accountability. “Lovely families” obscure aspects of the system that teach people, according to Bill Gothard and a perversion of Calvinism, that have no rights and little recourse when they suffer under unjust authority. Is this not like the relationship that Pia Mellody describes where the strong draws nourishment from the weak wherein the strong defines their objectification as love?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Lesson From Alice Miller

For some time, I have thought about quoting Alice Miller on this blog.  She was a psychologist in Europe, living in Switzerland for some time, and she passed away earlier this year.  She wrote about the “poisonous pedagogy” or the “black pedagogy” as it translates from German, a term which describes oppressive practices that people use when raising children.  She defines this term as “the kind of parenting and education aimed at breaking a child’s will and making that child into an obedient subject by means of overt or cover coercion, manipulation, and emotional blackmail” (from the preface of The Truth Will Set You Free).

I don’t agree with her on some points, and I don’t like the anger that I discern when I read sections of her work, particularly other books.  Yet at the same time, she was a brilliant, brilliant diagnostician in terms of developmental growth and patterns of family dysfunction.  She also struggled with aspects of Christianity including aspects of the gender debate, and though I don’t always share her conclusions about all of these matters, she was honest and fair to read and consider the Bible.  I have great respect for those who do not share my religious opinions but have honored me by thoughtfully considering my own.  She brings a valuable perspective that I think Christians would be wise to heed.

I have also been reluctant to bring her name up on my blogs because she has worked as an anti-child abuse activist, contributing to the UN’s initiate regarding children’s rights.  At this point, I’ve been called so many things from Communist to lesbian, I don’t really care anymore.  I quoted Stalin in a paper that I wrote, something I cited from a book by Donald Howard, so I guess this is proof that I am a Marxist?  My quoting her does not mean that I think that the UN is a terrific organization or that I am some Communist that wants to give our country to China and other third world nations.  (I think that this has already happened in many respects.)  I have read the literature and mailings concerning groups like HSLDA’s activism against the very causes that Alice Miller advanced.  This does not mean that I support any of these groups.  If you like, consider my cause for citing her as what PG Wodehouse once placed in the literary mouth of his Jeeves character when he said “It is best to know what tunes the devil is playing.”  I don’t feel at all threatened by the cogent things she had to say, and it is my hope that we can learn from her wisdom.

On the night of what I understand was originally scheduled as a pre-trial hearing for Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz after the events that you can learn about elsewhere, I thought it would be fitting to quote Alice Miller since so little accountability for all of this matter has been shown by the Christian community.  Caesar will apparently keep us honest, or will make fools of us for burying our heads as a Church, the group that should set ethical standards, not be shamed by secular ones.  I think that we can learn, at least, from her honesty and from her compassion for wounded and hurting children.  I wish I could quote more of her book here.  I think that though many of those who are healing from “Botkin Syndrome” would also not agree with her on some points, I believe that many would find it insightful and validating.

I believe that, from the epistemology through which I best make sense of the world (How we know what we know), that truth is transcendent.  Some say that all truths must come from the Bible first, and that what our senses tell us about the world is a lower order of truth.  I am often criticized for being too much of an evidentialist, putting too much emphasis on worldly facts as opposed to Godly wisdom.  In short, I do not think that these types of knowledge compete with one another, but I see them as “coherent” and “corresponding.”  Statements from unbelievers can that bear truth can be very true in this sense, if they correspond to what is real.  I am going to agree with Winston Churchill about truth who sums it up quite eloquently:  The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is.”  I don’t think that he would be intimidated by Alice’s statements either, because “here they are.”  I think they stand on their own merit.

This section appears in “The Truth Will Set You Free” in the epilogue entitled “From Ignorance To Knowledge and Compassion.”  (In my edition, this section appears starting on page 190 and concludes with a section appearing on page 195.)  The book speaks of “generational faithfulness” as old patterns of dysfunction, of how parents unknowingly use their children to medicate their old pains of the past.  The whole chapter speaks respectfully of the Bible, but it draws into question the traditions of men. 

The figure of Jesus confounds all those principles of poisonous pedagogy…  Long before his birth Jesus received the greatest reverence, love and protection from his parents…  His earthly parents saw themselves as his servants… Would it not make eminent sense to encourage believers to follow the example of Mary and Joseph and regard their children as the children of God (which in a sense they are)?

[T]he members of the upcoming generations will have the courage to call evil by its name…It is high time to relinquish the destructive models and to mistrust the principle of obedience.  We have no need of docile children brainwashed by their upbringing to be ideal targets of seduction by terrorists and lunatic ideologists, ready to fall in with their commands even to the extent of killing others.  Children given the respect they deserve from their earliest years will go through life with open eyes and ears, prepared to fight injustice, stupidity, and ignorance with arguments and constructive action.  Jesus did this at the age of twelve, and the scene in the temple (Luke 2:41-52) demonstrates eloquently that, if need be, he could refuse the obedience his parents asked of him without hurting their feelings.

With the best will in the world we cannot truly emulate the example of Jesus.  None of us were carried by our mothers as the child of God; indeed, for far too many parents, children are merely a burden.  What we can do, provided we really want to, is learn from the attitude displayed by Joseph and Mary.  They did not demand docility from their son, and they felt no urge to inflict violence on him.  Only if we fear the confrontation with our own histories will we need to have power over others and cling to it with all our might.  And if we do that it is because we feel too weak to be true to ourselves and our own feelings.  But being honest to our children will make us strong.  In order to tell the truth we do not need to have power over others.  Power is something we only need in order to spread lies and hypocrisy, to mouth empty words and pretend they are true.

I hope that we are not too pious as a Body to fail to honor and learn from her words before it is too late.

Please pray for the Schatz family and everyone whose lives have been touched by them.  I don’t even have words to express my great sorrow or to find words to pray.  What confidence that I have in Him, for He understands groans.