Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Physical Illness and Fatigue after Spiritual Abuse

I’ve had the honor of speaking and corresponding with many new and old friends of this blog recently, and nearly all of them have problems with fatigue and health issues. Though it is difficult to make any kind of assumptions about how many people who leave patriarchy in particular suffer with health problems like fatigue and auto-immune problems, PTSD researchers do know that this population suffers Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and that people with PTSD have higher incidence of certain types of stress associated health problems. This subject has been on my mind over the past few weeks for several reasons.

I have explored physical illness and fatigue after spiritual abuse on this blog in times past and also within the Epilogue of the soon to be released book, “Quivering Daughters” by Hillary McFarland. The topic is somewhat ubiquitous in the discussion of trauma, so I don’t think in terms of one definitive reference for the connection between health and emotion. In Hillary’s new book, I do quote the new and very strong research linking non-physical child abuse with two chronic health problems, but you’ll have to read the book to learn more! The subject is one that deserves more attention, and though I am not prepared to delve into it that deeply at the moment, I wanted to draw attention to something I noticed that addresses this topic.

Upon reviewing the information on Borderline Personality Disorder for posts on the Overcoming Botkin Syndrome blog, I found a section in “Understanding the Borderline Mother” concerning stress related or somatic illness. The author, Christine Lawson, briefly addresses the subject and thought I would make note of it here while I was “in the neighborhood” in my mind and amongst my books.

Note that the Lawson wrote her original work before the advent of the technologies that now prove physiologically that physical illness is formally and strongly connected to covert abuse as well as the longitudinal research studies that we now rely upon for this information.

Concerning health problems related to dysfunctional and high demand families Lawson writes:
Cruelty endured from one’s mother may repress rage, direct it at the self, or direct it at those who represent the mother. Frequently, internalized rage takes a toll on the child’s body, possibly contributing to autoimmune disorders and other physical ailments. In her book, “Thou Shalt Not Be Aware,” Alice Miller (1986) observes:
“The truth about our childhood is stored up in our body, and although we can repress it, we can never alter it. Our intellect can be deceived, our feelings manipulated, our perceptions confused, and our body tricked with medication. But someday the body will present its bill, for it is as incorruptible as a child who, still whole in spirit, will accept no compromises or excuses, and will not stop tormenting us until we stop evading the truth.” [p. 316]
The body speaks for the soul if the soul does not find a voice.
(Lawson, pg 289)
Miller expounds upon this connection between health problems and family dysfunction in her book "The Body Never Lies:  The Lingering Effects of Cruel Parenting."

Many Christians find this discussion somewhat troubling, as well they should.  I happened over several discussion of this on Hillary's blog over the weekend, discussing the benefits and pitfalls of discussing some patriarchal homes as abusive.  Read more at the Quivering Daughters blog (and don't forget Overcoming Botkin Syndrome's new related post, too):

Side note and another subject and tangent for another day...

Ironically, I recently and finally relented to quote Alice Miller on the Overcoming BS blog ;) in a post which has served as my only commentary to date regarding the death of Lydia Schatz who was disciplined using the Pearl Method of Child Training. (That is another complex universe in a nutshell also, one I am also unprepared to address fully at this time.)

I believe that, just like the primary plot element in Dostoyevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov,” those who promote an idea or concept that leads others into error are just as culpable morally for the harm that ensues as a consequence of those ideas, a concept that I quake at when I consider that I also propagate ideas here on this blog. This was also a concern and a very motivating factor for Alice Miller, a psychologist that was an advocate for abused children. [Please read more HERE concerning both my disagreements with and my tremendous respect for Alice Miller.] I believe that I share many of the same concerns that Laurie M of Beauty for Ashes so eloquently and thoughtfully described in her blog post concerning this subject. Please continue to pray for the Schatz Family, splintered and broken, for God to use this situation for the great benefit of all of Church and for His ultimate glory. We have much to learn as a Body of Believers, and I believe that those who follow Pearl’s teachings could well be in the same position as Elizabeth and Kevin Schatz themselves as they await their trial. My heart breaks for everyone.

More posts to come regarding dissociation…

Christine Ann Lawson
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Lantham, MD (2004)
Oxford (2000)

Alice Miller
New York:  Penguin (1986)