Lourdes, Lifeboats, and Bounded Choice: Part III (Raised in a Totalist Institution)

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Using Katie Botkin’s lifeboat analogy, Cindy Kunsman explores the “Second Generation Adult” and Lourdes Torres-Mantefeuel’s alleged sex abuse by Vision Forum’s Doug Phillips

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Lourdes MirandaPart III in a Series

Link to Part I

Link to Part II

By Cindy Kunsman, UnderMuchGrace.com

On the same day that Lourdes Torres-Manteufel’s petition was filed, the first cousin of Vision Forum’s Stay at Home Daughter evangelists/role models published a blog essay that I found deeply moving. Katie Botkin, the daughter of Geoffrey Botkin‘s brother Greg, noted that attorney David C. Gibbs III filed the documents on the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Doug Phillips used the event as a talking point and celebrated the testimonies of survivors for 20 years, if I recall correctly.  Katie pointed out this significance, and she elegantly likened the lawsuit to Lourdes’ petition for a lifeboat rather than going down with the ship.

I found great comfort in Katie’ writing – especially while I found myself unexpectedly sorting through thoughts about what might have been and what I woulda/coulda/shoulda done if I hadn’t felt and been so powerless as a child. Until I’d read the court documents, it never occurred to me that I’d been like a much younger Lourdes. What the lifeboat reference brought to my mind was the remarkable fact that Lourdes could even conceive of the idea of calling for a lifeboat, let alone give herself permission to seize the opportunity as an act of dignity. Many young women who find themselves in similar circumstances would not have felt worthy of a lifeboat, and some would not have the resources to know how to begin to ask for one. All people in a totalist system experience some degree of bounded choice, but for children, teens, and budding adults, the access to choice becomes even more complicated.

I’ve heard it referred to as a lack of the Realistic Right to Exit. Jill Mytton states the following, in reference to patriarchal groups and the difficulties that women face:

When we leave, we actually don’t have what we need to survive outside. And yet when we leave, we should have the right – the right to choose to leave. Either choosing to leave the religion or choosing to leave the culture. Or if they’re entwined, you’re leaving both.

 

Lourdes HostageUnderstanding the Child who Grows Up Under Totalism

I don’t know Lourdes’ circumstances prior to her family’s enamored (and seemingly indentured) service to the Phillips Family. But I pray she had a “good enough” upbringing before which hopefully laid the foundation for the strength she has found in herself in her lifeboat petition.

Good enough” parenting gives a child sufficient resources for successful lifelong growth and development. Unfortunately, parents involved in a total institution often instill a different legacy – a difficult one – in their children.

I don’t know of the nature of the parenting Lourdes had, but the question highlights the problem of those children whose growth and development was hindered by their religious system and what it required of their parents and them. Lourdes classifies as a “Second Generation Adult” (SGA) – the adult who grew up under parenting that was dictated by and within a closed ideological system.  The needs of “SGAs” are very different from those of the adults who make the choice as adults to yield themselves to such a system. These children who are born or inducted into a group never had the luxury of making such an independent choice. Depending on the group, many of these SGAs find that the parenting they received fell well below a “good enough” standard.

If you’re not acquainted with someone who is an SGA, think of people you know who were reared in a family where they had very strict standards for appearance, behavior, talking, not talking, work, outside activities, etc. For instance, that kind of profile of rules and regulations has often been seen in the families of pastors, missionaries, and other “professional ministers.” It can often have a crippling effect on PKs (pastor’s kids) and MKs (missionary kids), leaving leaves them overly compliant – or perhaps the opposite: out of control and rebellious. Such parenting that is constantly on view by the public may not be “good enough.” As the saying goes, “MKs and PKs often end up not OK.” (To which saying has been added HKs – homeschool kids.)

Finding the Gaps:  Defining “Not Good Enough”

I am a nurse. As part of creating a client’s comprehensive nursing care plan, I must assess their “growth and development” to make sure they can adequately recover, care for themselves, and maintain their health independently whenever that is possible. My profession defers to Erik Erickson’s stages of development as the guideline. 

His framework is especially important when caring for children who are ill. Not only does this assessment help to identify learning issues or delays, it also provides a critical measure of the child’s coping. If a child reverts back into the struggles associated with an earlier stage, that loss of competency and regression becomes an adjunct to the clinical findings, serving as an indicator of how well (or poorly) the medical team has met the child’s needs. (It’s not all psychobabble, and it has nothing to do with atheism, folks. It’s a measure of healthy growth. And actually, church planters and consultants use similar concepts, don’t they?)

Curtailed Summary of Erikson’s Growth and Developmental Stages

Erikson

For the sake of illustration, let us consider a toddler in early childhood. Children of this age should be busy learning where they begin and where they end, how to control themselves, and how to tolerate frustration from the constraints of life. The parent’s job involves setting limits for toddlers while nurturing and rewarding their ability to be patient, all while mastering basic skills that are often frustrating for them which initially feels uncomfortable as opposed to pain. Now, think of children who have been conditioned to be silent through blanket training or through use of the “Biblical rod” often and several times before breakfast. Their experience of learning mastery can very well become unbalanced, and they internalize far more shame and guilt as opposed to healthy independence as the basis for initiative.

Lourdes shallotAs a young adult, I worked on my deficits that arose because of the themes and problems in my life. I quickly realized that instead of focusing on and mastering intimate relationships, I had to go back to work on issues of trust versus mistrust – core issues of infancy. And I still contend with this remedial work but make progress by sticking with healthy self-care.

For instance, as a 38-year-old woman, I had to learn how to self-soothe – the skill that infants typically learn through satisfying and regular feeding, and through the serenity that their mother models for them by cuddling them. I also had to learn how to feel satisfied with any accomplishment. In the long run, this need did direct me back to “fill in the gaps,” and that has been a marvelous impetus to develop my character. I had to “reframe” the deficits that had created some debilitation. They became opportunities to purposely work at becoming the best person that I could be.

We all have gaps, but those with “good enough” parenting don’t suffer debilitation. Those from totalist environments usually suffer with a degree of impairment that requires soul searching and skill development later in life. But making peace with the idea that I even needed to do this because my circumstances robbed me of “what should have been” was also a developmental challenge. It was yet another area of acceptance and work – on top of everything else. I also did much grieving, for my anger voiced that grief. (Always remember that anger is not a sin in itself but is a symptom of a problem or a challenge. It is often a function of discernment and safety.)

Though this is another large subject, parents who raise their children within a high-demand system which they recreate in their homes for their children tend to develop unreasonable expectations for them. This series of posts discusses the more common pitfalls that parents fall into, often because their religious group denied that healthy children manifest immaturity. The primary qualities that parents must nurture in children and must give to them include value, a sense of human vulnerability (especially for children), imperfection, and the quality of immaturity which is normal for children. High-demand groups tend to see these qualities as sinful self-centeredness. 

I cannot help but think of Voddie Baucham’s First Time Obedience concept as an example of several of these traits which he denies and claims that he punishes, even when he sees some of them in other parents’ children. What do you think this does in the long run to babies, toddlers, children, adolescents whose normal development stages are constantly vilified as defiance and deviance? Who are punished for what should, according to Erikson’s stages of growth, be seen as progress? Who have expectations of adults and even “perfectionism” placed on them far before their chronological or personal ability to cope and their ability to discern and choose? Or do SGAs even really have normal choice?

What Those Outside the System and the Adult Recruit Take for Granted 

When people outside of a spiritually abusive system or adults who choose to join a group consider the actions of an SGA, they usually fail to take these developmental gaps into consideration. They also forget about the dependency of a child and the fact that the child doesn’t have the ability to challenge a parent through critical thinking. This generally does not start developing in the manner that most people expect until about age 12. This is why algebra is taught in high school and not taught to typical eight year olds. Younger children don’t yet have that ability.

This discussion of enmeshment at Overcoming Botkin Syndrome points out this aspect of enmeshment which also intensifies a child’s and young adult’s dependency on their parent:

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). […]

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.

Oquivering daughtersther Lifeboats

For the Lourdes-like, I would like to suggest yet another type of lifeboat that is available to them in addition to the resources available at the Overcoming Botkin Syndrome site. I was honored to be a part of the development of and a contributor to Hillary McFarland’s book, Quivering Daughters: Hope and Healing for the Daughters of Patriarchy.

It was written for the benefit of those who find themselves faced with the great difficulties faced by SGAs, specifically for the daughters of patriarchy. It offers a lifeline and mercy for the Lord’s precious daughters, letting them know that they are not abandoned and alone. It points towards the hope of healing that God offers to those who have suffered because of the system and the Stay At Home Daughter paradigm. (Insiders on spiritual abuse survivor blogs often abbreviate Stay At Home Daughters as SAHD, in case you want to search for posts and resources.)

Interestingly, the best research in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder validates the SGA experience. It shows that because of the lack of “internal resources” (skills, experience, ability to self-soothe, autonomy), children who experience trauma suffer a host of problems. They grow up to be adults who not only have a higher likelihood of suffering more abuse, but they tend to suffer with complex trauma with a much longer recovery period. There are also the physical problems associated with trauma in childhood as well as the hope and growing numbers of helpful resources (HERE and HERE) that are increasingly more available. 

It is so significant that top researchers in the field of trauma psychology are advancing a new, separate diagnosis that they propose for those who suffer trauma as children. Their Development Trauma Disorder validates all that we have learned about SGAs, based upon their unique struggles and recovery needs.

May Lourdes and those like her find abundant lifeboats of all sorts of varieties, and may they even pioneer their own as Lourdes has begun to do to recover her future and hope.

Part IV discusses how the experience of growing up
in a totalist group intensifies bounded choice.

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Additional Resources:

Exploring PTSD (Posts exploring the effects of trauma among post-fundamentalist young women)

Bounded Choice at Hephzibah House (BlogTalkRadio)

Jill Mytton’s SGA Interview (Video)

Nori Muster’s Child of the Cult (Kindle book)

Hillary McFarland’s Quivering Daughters  (Website and downloadable book)

32 comments on “Lourdes, Lifeboats, and Bounded Choice: Part III (Raised in a Totalist Institution)

  1. Great post. My graduate school minor was in intellectual development. One observation often made is that many parents assume that a child has a greater ability intellectually to comply with requests by the parent than is actually the case, because the child sometimes does what the parent says — sometimes accidentally, sometimes willfully, etc. And sometimes does not — sometimes not being able to comply, sometimes not aware of the request or demand (!), sometimes accidentally, and sometimes willfully.

    Parents often punish children assuming that the child intended to do whatever, based on the consequences. Once a child can talk and deny intent, then most parents modify their response in some portion of the events, taking intent into account. So children in infancy are treated much like we treat criminals, as if they intended the consequences of their act; and once they can talk and deny intent, we treat them more like the immature and the mentally incompetent, and do not punish solely on the basis of the severity of the consequences of their behavior. Interesting conundrum. It is why infants should not receive corporal punishment — they do not know what they do or why!

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  2. What do you think this does in the long run to babies, toddlers, children, adolescents whose normal development stages are constantly vilified as defiance and deviance? Who are punished for what should, according to Erikson’s stages of growth, be seen as progress?

    If it works, you get “Reek” (formerly Theon Greyjoy of Pyke) from Game of Thrones — a thoroughly-domesticated animal.

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  3. For instance, that kind of profile of rules and regulations has often been seen in the families of pastors, missionaries, and other “professional ministers.” It can often have a crippling effect on PKs (pastor’s kids) and MKs (missionary kids), leaving leaves them overly compliant – or perhaps the opposite: out of control and rebellious.

    When a PK snaps, he can go one of two ways — total conformity with the Party Line (often even more zealous and extreme) or total rebellion and opposition.

    Fred Phelps or Marilyn Manson, nothing in-between.

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  4. HUG,

    I don’t know about a PK snapping, but I’ve snapped in several compartmentalized areas of my life at different times. And I don’t think that I had it in me to revisit some of this stuff until I approached middle adulthood. (But then, transition times usually do cause reflection, even for the healthy.) I was so relationship-driven (like I was supposed to be), I didn’t have the drive to face some of these things until I’d resolved some of those bigger challenges of early adulthood. Everyone has their different timetable for working through it.

    It’s like buying a new computer and turning it on to find that half of the software is missing, and you don’t know what elements are gone. That “good enough” experience early in life is invaluable and precious.

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  5. An Atty,

    Thank you for the good feedback. 🙂

    You make many good points about how development affects our expectations. We forget what it’s like or perhaps never think about what it’s like to be a child once we grow up. And sometimes, we can expect a child who is competent in one area (like academics) to be equally competent in another area but are actually lagging and need support.

    And then, there’s the soapbox topic of corporal punishment in and of itself. But many don’t think of these things as related.

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  6. And sometimes, we can expect a child who is competent in one area (like academics) to be equally competent in another area but are actually lagging and need support.

    As a Cold War-era Kid Genius who grew up in a Perfectionist atmosphere, I can attest that if a child is ahead in academics, they WILL be lagging in other areas. It’s like some sort of “Conservation of Neurological Energy”, where the more your IQ races ahead of your age, the farther your personality and emotional development lag behind. It can be made very much worse by the common reaction of seeing the Kid Genius as nothing more than an IQ score, a Giant Brain in a Jar. Never realizing that that giant Brain and IQ is connected to a little kid.

    Another factor is the isolation of a kid genius. You’re growing up in the movie Idiocracy, where everyone around you is borderline retarded, unable to grasp ideas and concepts that are naturally simple and obvious to you. Plus, since your intellectual level is that of an adult, you tend to gravitate towards adults instead of other kids. Again, this further retards your emotional, social, and personality development.

    I have read the same pattern (with different backgrounds) over at sites like Homeschoolers Anonymous; though I came up through a public school route in the Sixties and Seventies, because of the above my personality shows many of the same patterns as those from an Extreme Homeschool background of bounded choice. (I even ended up with the attitudes of Christianese Purity culture, and I sure WASN’T raised anywhere around Christianese Purity Culture! Maybe it was the Nifty Fifties atmosphere of the First 1960s and a family that retreated somewhat from the outside world in Future Shock.)

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  7. HUG,

    I think that we have a lot in common in the prudery of the Nifty Fifties culture factor. I was swimming in Future Shock, and my parents acted like life was an episode of the Donna Reed Show. We were more moral as opposed to fundamentalist — and my parents have been and always remained Democrats. While very realistic and down to earth, there was a ton of disconnect.

    I gleaned much from the book “Liberating Everyday Genius” which was republished as The Gifted Adult, though I never thought of the “kid genus” thing. I chalked most of it up to being an only child with parents who came from an isolated and behind-the-times part of the state, with my life partially reflecting their own culture shock. The only child gravitates to adults naturally, and we have our quirks that magnify this stuff. You develop a degree of maturity, but there are tradeoffs. There are always tradeoffs.

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  8. Cindy,

    This is such an important article. I am hoping it will make it’s way around the circles of people who are Second Generation Adults coming from these environments. I’ll be sure to pass it along to Nick and Ryan at Homeschoolers Anonymous blog because many are struggling with the way in which they were raised (and my own family is not exempt from this). It could really provide some answers for them. Sometimes these meaty posts don’t generate as much conversation. That’s okay. It takes a while for this to absorb and “click.”

    I appreciate all you do in helping to break down what happens emotionally/mentally for those in high-control groups. It is very, very helpful.

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  9. “Until I’d read the court documents, it never occurred to me that I’d been like a much younger Lourdes. What the lifeboat reference brought to my mind was the remarkable fact that Lourdes could even conceive of the idea of calling for a lifeboat, let alone give herself permission to seize the opportunity as an act of dignity. Many young women who find themselves in similar circumstances would not have felt worthy of a lifeboat, and some would not have the resources to know how to begin to ask for one”

    Yes. I was also pretty amazed that she thought of a lifeboat.. And I thought immediately that her filing this suit was an act of dignity. I am so glad you said this considering what is the typical response of most fundy Christians. Where she found the courage to up against one of the most deceptive hard core players in the patriarchal movement, I do not know. I am so glad she did for her sake. No matter how it plays out, she has sent a courageous and powerful message to many young women who are in similar circumstances.

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  10. HUG, I share a lot in common with you. Because of my advanced intellect I essentially became a third parent to my brother who is on the Autistic Spectrum. This has created many years of resentment on his behalf because I shouldn’t have been a second mother but a sister and our relationship may never recover. I too tended to embrace the purity movement even though my parents did not. I’m pretty sure they were just grateful that I was not pushing boundaries that they didn’t stop to think that maybe that was unhealthy. In some ways my multiple disabilities and surgeries have been a blessing because I have been forced to go back to childhood to relearn the skills I missed out on as a too-brilliant kid. Even now I tend to think out loud and I do it quickly leaving my parents and fiance in the dust most of the time (and leaving us all frustrated). My fiance and I have had to learn together that there are two components to managing conflict in our relationship: Communication and Expectations. Our communication has to be open and our expectations have to be stated in order for a healthy state to be achieved. We each have our own traumas (he has an abusive ex-wife who is still wreaking havoc in our lives) but managing those two factors seems to help.

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  11. my parents decided they didn’t like any of the stages of childhood past exploration. now myself and siblings in our late twenties and thirties experiencing not just a delayed adolescence, but having to go through the whole childhood first, while raising our own kids. the only word i have to describe this is an expletive. (with much weeping and anguish) It has been like trying to push a semitrailer by myself. the very effort of maintaining an adult presence in order to maintain a job is almost too much, must less to nurture another person.

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  12. cnner,

    Welcome to the blog and thanks much for sharing your experience. The word picture you chose is powerful. I’ll bet many will nod their head when they read your words. 😦 Please do not hesitate to share more. We (parents) need to hear your collective voices.

    As a homeschool mom, I enabled some of this without knowing what I was doing. I’ve had to take responsibility for my part. 😦

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  13. cnner,

    I could not help but think of a friend of mine who received a terrible physical diagnosis with a lousy course of treatment ahead of her after seeing clueless or half clueless doctor after doctor. She was depressed, but I reminded her that in having a definitive diagnosis, she has a new, firm starting point. There is tremendous power in knowing where you are. Then you can go from where you are, once you understand that place. That’s a place of hope and power. There is torment and fear when a doctor has no clue what is wrong with you and can’t figure out how to treat you. In a very real way, these gaps in growth and development are very much the same and hold the same hope — because there is a roadmap written by people who have gone on before all of us and blazed the trail.

    In the early days of my own recovery soon after I was exit counseled, I was so overwhelmed that I would just sit and hold “Captive Hearts, Captive Minds” (republished as “Take Back Your Life”). I’d look at Mady Tobias’ picture (a nurse), and if she could make it and could write about it, I could, too. There was a way out. Though recovery from trauma is more like scaling a mountain than a walk through the park, it can be done, there are resources to help, and a whole community of people who have transcended this experience.

    We have to be kind to ourselves and honest, and we can sometimes share that with our kids, depending on what we’re dealing with. The honesty is intimidating and painful, but I think that is when God is most kind to us. We have to learn to be kind to ourselves — probably the hardest part of my own growth. There is much to grieve, but joy does come if you honor the losses and then move on from where you are. It’s a place of power.

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  14. I keep thinking today, on and offline, about Judith Herman’s statement in “Trauma and Recovery.” She says that the therapist is both a witness and an ally to help us. We need someone to bear witness to what happened to us. It works justice for us when we have a witness, especially if there is no way to compensate for what happened to us. And that witness becomes our ally who walks through the memories of the experience for us. Sometimes, the only way we can experience that is through grief. Sometimes, it seems endless. But if you keep working at it with good tools and good help, that grief does transform into peace.

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  15. Reblogged this on Becca's Tea Blog and commented:
    This excellent post by Cindy K explains how Second Generation Adults (SGAs) in ‘total institutions’ (such as the Christian homeschooling movement) do not have a ‘Realistic Right of Exit’. SGAs do not have the opportunity to experience the psychological, educational, and social development necessary to thrive in the outside world.

    I find this concept – SGAs not having a ‘realistic right of exit’ – fascinating because it is something both SGAs and their perpetrators can, and do, agree with.

    SGAs know how challenging it is to survive outside the ‘total institution’ – for many it is in fact impossible and literally their only opportunity for survival is to stay within the abusive community.

    The perpetrators, however – (Christian) homeschool leaders, homeschool convention speakers, homeschool support groups, homeschool pastors, and even homeschool parents, openly discuss how essential it is to condition SGAs one has power over (i.e. daughters, sons) not to leave the movement, and to not permit SGAs to develop skills that could lead to ‘independence’ (another word they openly despise).

    When a ‘Quivering Daughter’ / SGA leaves the fundamentalist movement, she is a victim of severe, long term trauma. But our culture has failed to provide a social safety net for these survivors, who are not yet officially recognized as survivors of domestic abuse or human trafficking, and whose perpetrators are rarely even prosecuted, let alone convicted, of any crime. And yet, not only did their perpetrators remove the SGA’s realistic right of exit *in effect*, they also did so knowingly, purposely, and with intent.

    As we continue to raise awareness of the SGA homeschooler problem, it is my hope that access to social and legal resources will be opened to survivors.

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  16. Becca, Your comment is excellent and thanks for reblogging. I hope Cindy’s post goes all over the place. I think it will really help SGAs to understand this complicated system they were part of. Knowledge is the first step to freedom and independence.

    As we continue to raise awareness of the SGA homeschooler problem, it is my hope that access to social and legal resources will be opened to survivors.

    I’ve been hearing rumblings of ideas like Becca has mentioned. If I hear of something more organized, I will definitely keep you all posted.

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  17. I think the SGA has had their childhood kidnapped by their parents and the other adults in their environments. Stolen away, and replaced with an extended babyhood followed by extended toddler status, followed by extended pre-teens. The last seem to extend until they leave the home, and for women, seem to extend into and through marriage if to another SGA who stays on program. Perpetual child status. What a travesty.

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  18. @BeccaIrene:

    SGAs know how challenging it is to survive outside the ‘total institution’ – for many it is in fact impossible and literally their only opportunity for survival is to stay within the abusive community.

    “He who was born in a cage
    Yearns for his cage;
    With horror I understand
    That I Love My Cage.”
    — Yevgevny Yevtushenko

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  19. Trigger alert: the following verse as interpreted by patriarchialists may have an adverse effect for those raised in the system.

    “Train up a child in the way she should STAY, even when she is old she will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 (Patriarchy Standard Version)

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  20. Excellent, Cindy K. Thanks!

    Thank God for Bessel van de Kolk, who developed the theory for developmental trauma disorder! After reading the Judith Herman book, it was he and the people surrounding him who showed what had happened to me and helped me find ways forward.

    If anyone’s interested, an academic-ish but broad intro to the work of these good/wise people was kindly put together by David Baldwin at his Trauma Information Pages http://www.trauma-pages.com/

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  21. Becca’s whole comment is excellent. (So is Cindy’s article.)
    I am married to an SGA. Though I spent 23 years in a toxic total institution, I wasn’t raised this way. I’ve found that my husband and I have very different ways of working through our trauma. I recognized this from the very beginning, and this article sheds a little more light on why. Becca is right that “independence” is a dirty word in a patriarchal world.
    A little step forward, that might seem insignificant to others, is a huge accomplishment to an SGA. Take time to celebrate it, if only by acknowledging it.

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  22. Becca Irene,

    I think I’m going to reblog your blog on my blog, UnderMuchGrace. I’ve started illustrating the Second Generation Adult effects there, now that this info has posted here on SSB. I love how you have put this big chunk of info here into clearer perspective.

    There is much tension between the First Generation homeschoolers, and parents often do see the dissidents as apostates for coming forward about the deficits with which many contend. HARO got bumped from a homeschooling conference. Sarah Hunt was marginalized when talking about the “Wild West” problems in homeschooling because of lack of oversight. First generation homeschoolers often don’t want to deal with the 350+ cases of documented abuse, and there’s the issue of low interest in college among this population.

    Yet there is friction. It’s tough for parents to reckon with the problems that they never meant to cause — particularly when they believed the lifestyle would insulate their children from pain and harm. Is there anything more painful for a parent? They are casualties of these systems, too — just with different issues.

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  23. BTDT,

    I didn’t get into this, but there is also a profound affect on mental development as a consequence of abuse and neglect. I wonder how some of these kids who grew up with Michael Pearl type discipline will fare, depending on how early and severe the “discipline” that they received. It’s heartbreaking.

    I think that the “good enough” element of the parenting that I did get has been a precious thing, though it could have been better. Van der Kolk has demonstrated how profound these lasting effects really are. I don’t know how some people develop any kind of optimism.

    http://undermuchgrace.blogspot.com/2012/02/example-of-effects-of-nurturing-and.html

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  24. Ah, Patrice. God bless Judith Herman and Bessel Van der Kolk. I so needed that validation (from them). As someone once wrote to me and said of some of the stuff I’ve repeated from these learned trauma specialist wise guys, “We figure out that we’re not all crazy.” We learn of a more realistic picture of what it means to be human.

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  25. “We figure out that we’re not all crazy.” We learn of a more realistic picture of what it means to be human.”

    Amen.

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  26. Yet there is friction. It’s tough for parents to reckon with the problems that they never meant to cause — particularly when they believed the lifestyle would insulate their children from pain and harm. Is there anything more painful for a parent? They are casualties of these systems, too — just with different issues.

    This is a difficult aspect for me to deal with, especially when there are many kids who do turn out okay and the parents use this as justification that the “system” works. I have to wonder what exactly are they looking at to determine the system works? Does it mean it works when their son gets a Master’s degree and has a good job? Or the daughter marries a great husband?

    What I have found is a big emotional and spiritual disconnect between parents and Second Generation Adults. I think many of the parents look on the outside and see accomplishments, but they do not really know their adult children to know they are truly struggling.

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  27. Cindy,
    I can’t thank you enough for pulling together all of this info. There is so much that I’m working hard to wrap my head around it all.

    I just learned of another example that I think fits with the lack of “Realistic Right to Exit.” My husband’s brother, another SGA, left our former patriarchal cult several years ago. He is planning to wed his girlfriend, who was not raised this way, in a few months. His parents are objecting that alcohol will be served at the reception. Another SIL, who is still part of the Total Institution, said she won’t bring her kids since it will be a bad influence on them. This is an attempt to pressure and manipulate the bride and groom to change their wedding festivities to accommodate the legalistic rules of the Total Institution. The bride wasn’t even raised this way! Most of the time, when SGAs leave Homestead and marry, their families completely boycott the wedding. As you can imagine, this is creating some trauma right now for my youngest BIL.

    Even into their thirties and forties these SGAs continue to be manipulated and controlled. I’m so sick of it!

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  28. Even into their thirties and forties these SGAs continue to be manipulated and controlled. I’m so sick of it!

    Yes, even long after leaving. You can escape it for your immediately family, but as you reach out to extended family, it rears its ugly head and reminds you, triggers you, etc. This is a very destructive system and the effects can last a lifetime.

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  29. BTDT,
    Thank you.

    I think of all of this stuff as just a different way of approaching manipulation of one type or another. A big chunk of it is just a function of love which seeks not it’s own but works to understand and honor others where they are. Just reframing it all that way gives us a lot of strength. We Christians who have been forgiven much learn how to love. Jesus pioneered the process for us and the Holy Spirit walks along with us as we seek to have compassion for others. It isn’t easy at times, but we are not without help and comfort when we seek for it with our whole heart.

    I love that line out of the long version of the Prayer of Serenity about taking this world as it is (like Jesus did), and not as we would have it. We have to discern what we can change, but we have to accept the stuff that is completely outside of our control. Most of these fundamentalist approaches try to control everything, and it’s just an illusion that gives a false security. I think the Torres Family is living all of that out right now, to their sad chagrin. Rather than an attempt to control because of fear, we can find power in the Spirit of Love.

    Zimbardo noted that most all of these group situations that bring out the worst in us pointed out the “realistic right to exit” as well. None of these situations or the groups themselves make it easy socially or functionally or spiritually to just gracefully walk away. That’s part of their power. Then add to that the lack of resources to be able to functionally exit. They are pressures that most people do not think about. But if we recognize that some of these social pressures can be challenged, and we figure out that we can resist what seems to come naturally through conformity, we can create our exit points.

    It’s just sad that the collateral damage is so great and extensive. It creates a great deal of extra work for us as we contend with these relationships. And it’s hard for us to learn how to be gracious with ourselves as we figure things out.

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  30. Pingback: Elephants and SGA’s Everywhere! Coming to Terms with Homeschooling’s Pitfalls | Spiritual Sounding Board

  31. Pingback: The Smoke and Ash of Melting Memories | Homeschoolers Anonymous

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