Second Generation Adult, Cynthia Jeub, Gaslighting, Homeschool Movement
Breaking the Pattern of Idealizing Parents: Cynthia Jeub and the Trap of All-or-Nothing
By Cindy Kunsman
Think for a moment about the manner in which children learn. We teach basic distinctions to keep them safe – such as hot and cold – sensations which are rarely ambiguous. Fire and ice show the extremes, but as the child matures, they learn the degrees in the gap between the two. In fact, at about the age of five or six years, a child will often go through a normal and healthy phase wherein they define most things by extremes. One of the hard challenges for a parent during this time involves teaching their child to be balanced, instructing them to have a broader perspective while keeping them safe.
As the child begins to mature, particularly as they head into adolescence and develop critical thinking, they begin to learn the hard lessons of life that people are anything but black and white. Another painful lesson that must be learned as well is that people can change over time, too. And there’s the problem of even greater complexity: the wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Pitfalls in the Process
One of the ways that high demand systems discourage critical thought and encourage dependency on the leader involves gross oversimplification of the complex elements of life – especially concerning people and relationships. This process of objectification (treating a person like an object) results in some denial of an element of the humanity of a person, whether they are idealized or devalued — echoing the simplicity of all-or nothing thought. The ideal of fantasy becomes more important than reality, but people who desire to make the system work require everyone to play their role to prove the fantasy to be true.
The system forces the dynamic people within it to suppress or repress their true selves to serve the fantasy. The people who run the system often use gaslighting by pretending things happened or didn’t happen to help make the fantasy work. As mentioned in a previous post, for children who grew up in such a system, the process contributes to a tendency towards compulsiveness. (These children grew up without viable choices in high demand religious systems and have been called “Second Generation Adults” or “SGA”s.)
The child finds themselves in a double bind, for they are not permitted to criticize the parent or to see them as fallible – they may only revere their parents. As the Christian psychologist David Stoop states it, the child realizes at a young age that adults are bigger, smarter, have power, and that they can hurt children (pg 199). Alice Miller writes extensively of the powerlessness of children to resist this process and how very willingly children accept fault when the inevitable consequences of life manifest. Pia Mellody also describes how the child who is dependent on the parent for survival has no other choice but to soothe the their pain with the fantasy of the idealized parent as if that “wishing will make it so.” This maladaptive coping skill helps the child survive the pain of childhood. (Read more about idealizing parents HERE.)
Breaking the Pattern
Cynthia Jeub has embarked upon writing her personal account of the process of separating from her family of sixteen children – a family that not only made their living as part of the Evangelical Christian homeschooling movement but was also featured on a Learning Channel reality series in 2008. I found her first post about Melting Memory Masks to be powerful. Her artful and melancholy writing captures the hearts of many who identify with the process as she illustrates well the typical problems that SGAs must face. Two of her sisters stand with her according to online comments: Alicia who moved to the other end of the globe, and Lydia who was cast out of the home along with Cynthia.
Below, you will find a list of posts to date that chronicle this unfolding saga. In reading them, I found myself thinking about what many say about differences in perspective. “There is your memory and my memory and the truth.” The most painful element for me at this point in the process are the strong, public protests on the part of the Jeub Family. I’m troubled that the family so quickly rushed to discredit her publicly, claiming that she’s mentally ill. To me, even if that is an honest concern of a parent in the midst of a tragic conflict with their daughter, is that something that they would naturally rush to put into a podcast made available to the world?
In time, may history bear out a story wherein the parties involved honor one another’s perspectives and pain through mutual respect. May they all find their way out of the trap of all-or-nothing. May living color replace the extremes of objectified black and white.
Cynthia Jeub’s Posts:
- Melting Memory Masks
- The Breakthrough Moment
- Why Does This Have to be Public?
- Why Mom Never Told Us
- ‘We Didn’t Kick You Out’
- How a Logical Girl Talked Herself into Fundamentalism, Part 1
Jeub Family’s Posts:
- The Jeub Family on TLC
- Stiff Necked Legalism (Condemning abuses in the Vision Forum-style patriarchy movement after Cynthia was specifically targeted by Kevin Swanson as a “homeschool apostate” in 2013.)
- Responding to Heartache (Lamenting why foolproof parenting strategies fail)
- Cynthia’s Post (response of Cynthia’s grandmother on her own blog)
Jeub Family’s Podcast Discounting Cynthia:
- Video capturing the deleted podcast on YouTube
- Blog to showcase the video
- Transcript of the podcast (courtesy of Susan Gabriella Douglas at The Little Fighter That Could)
Reactions Around the Blogosphere
- Growing Up Jeub (Libby Anne at Love, Joy, Feminism)
- Why the Homeschool Movement Was Frightening (Lana Hope at Wide Open Ground)
- “I See Things That Nobody Else Sees” (Libby Anne)
- The Smoke and Ash of Melting Memories (Cindy at Under Much Grace)
- #HoldThemAccountable: Eric Novak’s Appeal to Christian Homeschoolers (Video at Homeschooler’s Anonymous)
- Four Reasons Why I Believe Cynthia Jeub (Susan Gabriella Douglas at The Little Fighter That Could)