Monday, May 4, 2009

Comments Welcome! Discussing "Not of My Making"

Today we are doing something a bit different here on this blog. Please post your comments in the discussion of “Not of My Making: Bullying, Scapegoating and Misconduct in Churches.”

In a previous post, I reviewed the book, and I also summarized the different subjects discussed in the book for those of you who have not read this new book. You can read more about her background at Pluck Press.

I would like to point out for the reader that Dr. Jones now attends an Episcopal Church, but unlike my own background and many of the readers here, she is not from an evangelical Christian background. That proved very insightful for me, for the dynamics of human interaction in groups that are spiritually abusive all operate in the same ways, though there are distinct differences in manner and degree. Approaching things from a Catholic experience as a child, the book outlines involvement in a couple of Unitarian Universalist churches where I find it amusing that the author was censured for being too traditional and Christian. An initial experience in the Evangelical Lutheran Church did not prove to be much safer for her.

The pastor of the ELCA affiliated church that the author attended shared inappropriate and private information with members of the church board and congregation. The Jones family also adopted a foster child, an older young man whom Lutheran Social Services brought from the Sudan, and this situation intensified their problems with the church. The book also describes the legal action that Dr. Jones pursued in an effort to hold the pastor and church accountable for what had happened to her in one too many settings where she was awarded a favorable verdict.

For those who come out of a spiritual abuse situation, I recommend reading several personal accounts, including "Combating Cult Mind Control" by Steve Hassan. Though Hassan's book traces his experience through the "Moonines," it is amazing to read it because his experience does not differ much from that of people in abusive evangelical churches. The trappings of the politics cross all denominational and even religious boundaries.
Join in the discussion and don’t worry about being off topic if we’ve moved on to a new one in what I hope will be an informative discussion about spiritual abuse!


Cindy said...
Dr. Jones,


I’m delighted to have you visit here to discuss the things you learned as a result of your own journey. I’ve pulled out some quotes from the book that discuss topics that I think would be helpful to those who read here. Some passages seemed to encapsulate the very same things I have heard from so many people who have been through this experience as well as the thoughts I’ve had myself. I marked this passage on my first pass through the book.

Pg 144 – 145, recalling a journal entry:

“I was really hurt and I wasn’t ready for others to know…There was no trust. I was terrified…I wasn’t ready. I still feel shame. And I want her [Rev. Patience] to know me as a strong, independent person. Not weak and needy… It makes me the identified patient. While it gets me nurturing, it also leaves me open to scapegoating… Rev. Dick used his knowledge of my vulnerabilities to hurt me…I let Sue bully me a little. I need to get better at defending myself…When I speak to Don, I must remember not to be bullied. I might call Sue and let her know how I felt about the things she said. And finally, the abuse is not a secret or something to be ashamed about, but I have a right to decide how and what people are told.”
This journal entry follows one of your earlier church experiences in the book where you mention scapegoating. Could you briefly define scapegoating for us?

You also note in your journal that you needed to get better at defending yourself and that you had underlying feelings of fear and shame. Of what were you fearful or ashamed about at this point in your journey?
Luna de Sorrow said...
Hi Dr. Jones!

I have unfortunately not had the pleasure of reading your book (yet) but I am excited for this opportunity to learn more about it and you.

In your experience with spiritual abuse in church, how would you address a woman who comes from a group very similar, with all of the elements of spiritual abuse and cult-like practices--the only difference being that the group is an all-inclusive family? Is there a difference in the approach?

Some say that fathers have a responsibility before God to be controlling or authoritarian. When this is coupled with all of the other hallmarks of aberrant religious groups, would you consider this still to be an exception based on the fact that it is a family, not a church? How would you suggest a woman begin to seek healing?
Good morning, there are a lot of good questions being asked. I will do my best to answer them throughout the day.

First I want to address Luna's question. I am uncertain what you mean by an "all inclusive family." However, there are some families that scapegoat one or several of its members. By that I mean, they blame that individual for whatever problems the family is experiencing. And of course teasing, ridicule etc. occurs in families as well.
Margaret Jones said...
Cindy asked what I mean by scapegoating. A scapegoat is when you heap the blame on someone for problems or mistakes with sufficient justification. In psychology we would call this projection and displacement. When you scapegoat you avoid looking at yourself and taking responsibility for your own mistakes.
Luna de Sorrow said...
By all-inclusive family, I mean a family unit that is completely dependent upon one another, often isolated, and does not rely on "outsiders" for accountability, spiritual headship, etc. An all-inclusive family could be for example, where the father is "prophet, priest and king", mother is his special helper, and the children perform/labor/live to fulfill the familial vision.

I apologize for prior ambiguity. Thanks for taking time to respond!
Cindy has just shared with me that many of the readers of this blog have come from extreme patriarchal families similar to the structure of many Moslems families. Fortunately i have never had that experience. My father, however, sought to control me through ridicule and some physical violence. I had to fight against his expectation that I be a stay at home wife and mother.

How did I overcome that and other abuse? I couldn't have done that without the help I received from therapists. The love and care of Dr. George Howard was instrumental in changing my life.

I was also fortunate that I did not get involved with drugs as many of my classmates did at the time. Instead I turned to reading and from there pursued an education.

I am wondering what in my experience can be of help to other women. Not everyone has a Dr. Howard in their lives. But you need to find support from somewhere. Keep looking until you get it.
Margaret Jones said...
Cindy asked, what I was afraid of. She was specifically referring to the time when a minister without my permission told people about my sexual victimization. Like most victims I was still feeling shamed by the assault. I hadn't yet figured out that it wasn't my sin that caused my "uncle" to molest me. I feared there was something terrible and evil about me. It was like I was wearing the mark of Cain. After all, when your own parents fail to love you, there must be something inherently wrong and evil about you, mustn't there be? I didn't really get it until I read Marie Marshall Fortune's book, Sexual Violence and her discussion of sin, that I finally got it. It was an epiphany for me.

A family is a kind of special group but the dynamics aren't much different. In families it is more likely people are bound together by love and motivated to take care of one and another. There are some really dysfunctional family systems that operate more like cults. Social workers often refer to these as enmeshed. One of the first steps to breaking free is to expand your perspective beyond what the head of the family is teaching. The isolation gives such a dictator power and they will work to prevent you from going outside the group. That is why reading is closely monitored and even forbidden.
Cindy said...
Dr. Jones writes:

I am wondering what in my experience can be of help to other women. Not everyone has a Dr. Howard in their lives. But you need to find support from somewhere. Keep looking until you get it.
I did not grow up in a patriarchal home, but I did grow up with a "1950s" ideal with parents who saw the strengths of my personality as weaknesses and tried to work them out of me. I have always had my "Dr. Howards" in my life, and those people were generally school teachers, Sunday School teachers and even my pastor. There has always been one person in my life who celebrated what most other people discouraged.

So I think that there is a lot of value and wisdom for people in "Margaret's" experience, because she was rejected for being different. Those differences were not necessarily good or bad, but who she was as a person was not highly valued in the different groups she found herself within. Family, school, church... I didn't really find my niche until I started teaching patients (and nurses after I had some experience under my belt).

Patriarchal families are intensely focused on roles, and though my own family did not observe those roles, they did have their own "family script." That experience of rejection and what was at times for me a scapegoating is something that I see as a universal experience, regardless of the type of system.
Margret W Jones said...
What behaviors left me open to scapegoating?

Simply my failure to defend myself. When people teased me I tried ignoring it. That was impossible and my tormentors knew they were getting to me.
If you want to stop bullying you must assert yourself and your rights in some manner. That doesn't mean being violent. There are several verbal strategies you can use to stick up for yourself. Some of them are mentioned are the Bullies2Buddies website. I don't agree with everything he says about victims but his Izzy's Game is worth listening to and learning to implement.
Cindy said...
Part of the model in what some of the dissidents have named "patriocentricity" (the family patriarch being central to family life and family members) prescribes a narrowly defined role for women.

As each man is his own priest and king over his family, the loyal subject is taught to refrain from reading material that has been vilified. Sticking up for oneself when speaking with men is also vilified. (A friend of mine whose husband was about to pass out from diabetic low blood sugar was reprimanded for demanding that her husband drink a Pepsi, for example.) So learning how to do this kind of thing can be difficult because it is not allowed in the paradigm.
Cindy, my family was similar to yours. My mother encouraged independence and education but to the exclusion of love and tenderness. On think I realized when my maternal grandmother died, only my mother was allowed to openly express distress and anger. I was expected to be the girly girl who obeyed her father without question. But by temperamentI am emotionally demonstrative. I cry easily. That really bothered my father.
I have too much of an independent streak to be submissive to anyone, male ore female. That was part of the problem in the churches to which I belonged. Gretchen who is in the book wrote an email saying I needed to learn how to be a member of a group. By that I think she meant I needed to learn how to go along to get along. I have never mastered that trait and have quit trying. It doesn't work for me. I now believe God meant me to be different. I once heard a CIA man when talking about a former CIA agent who correctly warned about 9/11, "You need to take care of your mavericks, they may save your life one day." I realized that mavericks or people on the margins can play an important role in the family and other groups.
Cindy said...
Restriction of emotional display was huge for me. Anger was outlawed, and it is in many Christian homes. The Apostle Paul says to be angry and sin not, but the self-protective emotion is taught to be evil in and of itself. Anger can indicate fear or sadness in a child and particularly grief in adult men. Though anger in a person can indicate sinfulness such as greed or entitlement or lack of self-control, the emotion itself is not sinful.

Unfortunately, we often treat anger this way, and it makes people uncomfortable.
Cindy, In what epistle did St. Paul say be angry and sin not? Since you read my book you know I was dechurched for raising my voice in my own defense. In every Christian church I have belonged to anger has been viewed as sin. But I agree it is a self protective emotion and what matters is what you do with it. Feeling it is not a sin.
Cindy said...
Ephesians 4 talks about how the Believer in Christ should be different from other people as opposed to acting like everyone else.

24And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

25Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.

26Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

27Neither give place to the devil.

Paul actually encourages people to deal with their anger and to do so in a timely manner, so that it is dealt with before going to bed that night. When he goes on to say "neither give place to the devil," on the heels of the statement about anger, it suggests that retaining or ignoring anger predisposes us to sin. I take that as Paul encouraging assertiveness.
I wonder what my priest, a Biblical scholar, at my present church would say about your interpretation of Ephesians. I have disagreed with him on anger before. Mostly because he confuses the feeling with overt behavior. However, he has never said I was wrong to be angry with the people from Immanuel. When I told him I did not know how I would feel if I came face to face with people from Immanuel, he was unconcerned. There was no indication that he thought that sinful. Like with so many things people say one thing and react in another way. Social psychology research has long shown that there isn't a one to one relationship between attitudes and behavior.
Cindy said...
Paul is one of the more interesting New Testament characters, and though he clearly loved deeply, he was no pushover. When confronting the Galatians about their legalism, confronting the Apostle Peter, in Galatians 5:12, he says that he wishes that these legalistic men would go emasculate themselves. I would say that this classified as anger, but the Bible does not classify the statement as sin. (I don't think you'll find that recommended in "How to Win Friends and Influence People" anywhere!

I think also of the Gospel that says that it is not what goes into a man that corrupts him, but rather what comes out of him that defiles him. That's in Mark, Chapter 7, about a dozen verses into the chapter. Galatians, in that same chapter, talks about self-control. It is how we choose to deal with our anger and how we learn mental discipline to not be readily given to anger (slow to wrath) that is important. We are to be slow to wrath, but wrath is not outlawed. (James chapter 1 comes to mind, and Proverbs 15 on the slow to wrath point)

Dr. Jones, in your book you do display for us how people behave in ways that help them avoid their own emotions or their negative emotions. It really is a good study on how even people who desire a good end will behave to protect themselves from their own troublesome emotions rather than face them and grow and heal. Most people often show a level of discomfort with other people's difficult emotions as well.
There is so much in the Bible I don't know having rejected it for so long. Now I find great comfort in it. It was how I survived through one summer of my dechurching. I read through the Psalms.

I desperately needed something to cling to as I faced rejection and abandonment once again in my life. It became and remains an important anchor.

I am going to break for lunch but when I get back in an hour I want to turn my attention to the questions you asked about self injury and how I overcame it.
Cindy said...
There are many young women who read this blog, many who I know struggle with self-injury, sometimes related to anxiety disorders, trauma and possibly as a behavior associated with ADD/ADHD. The behavior is also diagnostic for a particular personality disorder.

I’ve interacted with many young women in closed systems or high demand environments of a spiritually abusive nature since I’ve started this blog, so I hope that you might be able to share something to encourage them today.

In your book, you describe your own struggle with this behavior and how it provided a “white space” for you that you describe as “soft and safe.” You feel free of pain there, and “all reason was turned upside down” (pg 261). Can you describe to the readers here who do not understand the behavior what this experience was like for you and how you make sense of it all, looking back on it?

Particularly for young women who contemplate or experience the phenomenon, what were the most helpful measures, realizations or therapies for you, enabling you to control and/or cease the behavior? Understanding this phenomenon from an addictions model as a means of coping with shame as opposed to substance abuse or some other addiction, several authors suggest that the behavior does not ever completely cease.

Would you share your opinion about the model that views the behavior as an addiction, considering your own experience with the behavior?
Self injury isn't an easy subject for me to write about. The behavior waxed and waned over the years. It was associated with bouts of depression and anxiety. There was a period of ten years or more when I didn't engage in the behavior or even think about it. Then the problems with church happened. When my anxiety became unbearable the desire to burn myself returned.

I do not think self injury is a sign of a personality disorder. Actually I don't believe there are personality disorders. But that is a subject for another time. What has really helped me is learning to call someone when I am anxious. The self harming or the urge to self harm occurred when I felt I wasn't seen. Usually it was preceded by a desire to call or talk to someone. But I had learned it was dangerous to reach out and even told it was pathological. Dr. Steve Emmett really helped me with this. It made me see the need to call someone was the healthy side of me. Once he got me to start calling him the behavior dropped out. Now I now when I get anxious I need to talk to a friend or at the very least write about it.
I view self harming as a kind of addiction. It gave me temporary relief from high levels of anxiety. It was more reliable than the people around me who appeared more interested in silencing me. When people try to silence me or when i feel they don't really see me, that I am insignificant that was when I would burn myself. The white space was a kind of dissociative state where I didn't feel emotional pain and it was relieved by the rush I would get from burning my arms. Although it felt safe that was an illusion. If I kept going there eventually I would have killed myself.

I have overcome this behavior by handling lower levels of anxiety better. When I don't feel seen or understood I now talk about it with family and friends. I also write about it.

I believe if I allow anxiety to reach a high intensity I am at risk for returning to the white space. BTW, I can't will myself there. I suppose that when I am intensely anxious the high levels of stress hormones takes me there. Hence the importance of intervening before I get that anxious.
Cindy said...
My understanding of self-injury from a clinical perspective is that of understanding overactivity of the Basal Ganglia, an anxiety center in the brain. On a SPECT scan, a bloodflow scan that reflects metabolism, self-injury is associated with overactivity in this anxiety center.

Actually the disorder that is associated with self-injury is now viewed as a trauma response rather than a personality disorder. And that's interesting, because it confirms and goes right along with the idea that this is a physiologic response to trauma.

It is unfortunate that it has such a difficult stigma attached to it.

I also understand that the process is not only dissociative but that it also releases endorphines that act as a type of soothing medication that the body generates itself (as opposed to taking a substance like alcohol).

It is also seemed as a means of dealing with shame.
Cindy said...
In the chapter “Drowning in Grief,” I found that you described many situations and feelings that seem to be universal to spiritual abuse. In this chapter, I began to see you just starting to put your whole experience together, what I would describe as integration. A way of explaining this process would start by what great disappointment tends to do in a person’s mind and soul. Pain causes you to shrink back from having an unbiased perspective, yet our bias is very much part of our human experience and a means of survival for us when we have been hurt.

Our emotions become walled off from our better reasoning, and we “second guess” ourselves as a result of the negative reinforcement and confusion. We become splintered and distracted as a result. The task before us then would be to pull everything back together, take an inventory and “reintegrate” those aspects back into ourselves so that we are fully restored and healed. This is a process, and emotional healing is never linear. We seem to make progress then will regress, yet this is how emotional healing works. When we find ourselves stressed in the process of healing, we tend to drop back to a safer mode of function which seems like taking one step forward and two steps back. I can really see this process of growth beginning quite notably in many ways for you in this chapter.

For the benefit of the reader here, this chapter follows soon after you describe the problems you encountered after bringing an older Sudanese foster son into your home through the Lutheran Social Services to live with you, your husband and your older teen daughter (and occasionally with your adult son who came home infrequently to visit). In addition to the problems you encountered related to the patriarchal culture that James (your foster son) was familiar, you also had some specific discipline issues with him. There were individuals in your church that helped with James, but you also describe how some of the people undermined your parenting with James.

You state (pp 263 – 4):

“The thought of walking through the church doors on Sunday was terrifying. What was everything thinking of me? What would they say? Would they welcome me?

…The shunning made it clear. They were blaming me for James’ departure from my home. People who did less condemned me for not having done more. I knew that out of my hearing they were demonizing, blaming and judging me. They thought I had more power than I had. They refused to see that James had some responsibility for what happened. He stole. He defied his father and me. He refused to make amends. I was being held accountable for things that were beyond my control. I felt shamed all over again…

When I got home, I called my sister. “You’re responsible, Maggie, for the effort, not the outcome” she said.

“They’re blaming me for the outcome.” I feared there was only a place for me at Immanuel if I succeeded, or if I subjugated myself to their will.
This section jumped out at me, and I have found this type of experience to be quite a universal one for people who have endured spiritual abuse. Using Robert Lifton’s criteria for manipulative idealistic groups, this would qualify as the “Doctrine Over Person” and the “Demand for Purity” used to gain a member’s compliance. Acceptance is based upon the rules and mores of the group which are not openly, directly or objectively communicated to group followers, but they are understood by the way things like shunning both elicit and teach behaviors desired by the group through negative reinforcement or punishment. Groups often set unrealistic standards for members, “demanding their purity” though it can rarely if ever be attained. Sometimes, members do not even understand these standards, learning about them only after they violate them.

Can you tell us a bit more about how you felt at this time soon after you noticed definite changes in the way people reacted to you at church and how your sister’s encouragement affected you?
When I realized that I was once again being shunned, I felt desperate. It couldn't be happening to me again. I was grieving my loss of James and my "friends" abandoned me when I needed them most. I imagined I felt as Jesus must have felt in the Garden of Gethsemane. Would no one sit with me? My sister's words relieved a lot of the fear and I knew she was right. She eased any guilt I might have been feeling for failing with James. Her words gave me something to hold on to. I hadn't done anything wrong.
Corrie said...
"I once heard a CIA man when talking about a former CIA agent who correctly warned about 9/11, "You need to take care of your mavericks, they may save your life one day." I realized that mavericks or people on the margins can play an important role in the family and other groups."

Wow, what an insightful comment, Dr. Jones.

I am enjoying this discussion.
I believe your biochemical understanding of self injury is correct. You also correctly identify the problem of stigma. Many people assume someone who self injures is borderline personality disordered. I think therapists give that diagnosis to clients they either don't like or don't understand. They often deny the role trauma plays. It is like putting the mark of Cain on a survivor's head. Once diagnosed with borderline personality disorder very few if any therapists will work with you because they think a "borderline" is more likely to sue for malpractice. I don't think any of that is true.

I strive to accept and embrace my position in groups. The role of maverick appears to be the one God has chosen for me. Perhaps all those years of isolation and reading has given me a unique and valuable perspective. That other people are threatened by it doesn't make it wrong. However, the role of maverick can come with much pain. The guy who warned about 9/11 died in the twin towers as their head of security.
Cindy said...
What, if any, were the similarities between this situation at the Lutheran Church and your experience at your previous churches? Did you connect anything back to your childhood? How did your previous experience affect you (feelings, anticipation, behavior, for example) as you returned to church after you arranged for James to be placed in a new home? How did the church hurt or help you through this process of grief and loss you describe so vividly in the book after James was placed elsewhere?
Mary's World said...
Hi All, I have enjoyed getting caught up with your discussion here and wanted to make a comment of my own. I realize that you have moved off of the topic of anger but that is the part of this discussion that I would like to speak about.

Fear and the feeling of injustice are often (in my experience and opinion) two of the main things that feed anger. I often refer to the verse in Ephesians 4, that Cindy typed in here, as a help for others dealing with anger. Paul was quoting Ps. 4:4 here to that not all anger is sin, but that we should deal with it in not only an appropriate manner but a timely manner as well.

We can also look at what Jesus told us, relayed by Mark, in Mark 11:25~ And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.~

It is very hard to tell a victim of any kind to forgive. Because they usually are blaming themselves rather than the abuser; that blame needs first to be placed where it belongs so that they can take it in prayer to be forgiven.

Mary's World said...
I understand very little outside the clinical definition of self injury. I have a friend that has attempted to help me to understand this better. I am going to be quiet and just read this afternoons discussion into this; so that I may learn something more of it.

I have had only two clients that have told me that they have done self harm in the distant past. I talked to them both about how to find a therapist that is experienced with this and urge both of them to return to therapy for self harm if they felt the urge to self harm again.

Dr. Jones, do you feel that was what I should have done? I am a life coach and so do not deal in therapy techniques and methods. I felt it better help them determine the best person to help them with this.

Nothing bad came of either of those situations, but what if in the future I have a client who tells me they are self-harming; should I also refer them to a therapist equipped to help them? Should I help them by helping them find the correct therapist?
As with all my dechurchings, people were quick to judge and unwilling to discuss things with me. I thought people were my friends who weren't. I failed to notice that they weren't inviting me out or into their homes. I mistook civility for friendship. I was naive. Our values were different. I wanted more from church than "some coffee and a little spirituality." Immanuel did not help me at all with my grief. In fact, they got angry with me. I don't think they thought it was real.
I didn't connect any of this with my childhood until I began writing Not of My Making. Writing the book helped me put it all together. Now I realized that my childhood left me vulnerable. Bullies go after people they perceive as weak. It also stigmatized me. A lot of people think survivors are abusers and want nothing to do with them.

Scapegoating also serves the function of uniting a group against a common enemy. In all the churches, that person was me. I was a foil. They successfully drew attention away from the real issues. In short, I was played. But it is better to be played than to be the player. At least I haven't lost my soul.
Cindy said...

Thank you for joining in the conversation.

I can tell you that I am at an advantage having read the book! Dr. Jones makes reference to a book I found helpful in my recovery process (and I worked with a Social Worker who bears this name, so it is burned into my brain). It is Judith Herman's "Trauma and Recovery."

The thing that I've heard so often is the "Just get over it" comment. Get over being angry or hurt or afraid. I used to wonder why people thought I had the capability to get over certain events and chose not to do so, like their comment would make it so. If there had been a pill I could have taken, I certainly would have done so, long ago! I'd actually done many things (extended fasts and such) to make it happen. From a Pentecostal background, I also asked for "deliverance prayer" as a fix several different times.

In "Not of My Making," there is just a brief mention of what the author Judith Herman points out concerning the needs of those who have been traumatized. People don't understand that PTSD causes people to get stuck in a survival response that wont shut down. It is not rational or reasonable, but requires attention just like physical injury.

There are 3 stages of recovery: • Establishing safety
• Reconstructing the trauma story
• Restoring the connections between survivors and community

So often, Christians expect us to be able to just go right to the last phase of reconciliation without first establishing safety. Yet we wouldn't ever dream of asking someone who was burned in a fire to go back into a burning building again, and we wouldn't expect a person who was assaulted to go back to the scene of their assault without much care.

In the last chapter of the book, Dr. Jones says that she needed the truth to be told before the healing could begin. It seems as though the truth was a safety parameter meant to protect from further harm.

Any thoughts, anyone?
Hillary said...
The truth being told, knowing and acknowledging the truth, and understanding the roots of our wounds are some of the strongest undercurrents throughout my own work in progress. In my experience, perpetuating falsehood through denial and deception are some of the biggest stumbling blocks to healing.
Mary's World said...
Hi Cindy and thanks for the welcome! I have "Not of My Making" and I am about half way through it, I have not gotten to the parts that you are talking about yet...although I just cheated and flipped forward to see if I could find them!

I completely understand where you are coming from as I was raised in a Pentecostal family as well; but we were not as strict as most.

I to was at first confused, then angry when I was healing from past abuses, when others who did not understand would tell me to just get over it. At that time I did not know that what I was going through was probably PTSD.

I understand ALOT more about PTSD now however; because I now have it due to my military service. I am finding that the healing required now is not the same and that the same techniques are not working like they did when I was healing from Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse.

I would tend to agree with you on first glance about the truth being a safety measure. You are very correct in that we would not ask a burn victim to re-enter a burning building without safety precautions and therefore should not ask a victim of any other type of trauma to re-live that trauma either; without first having set the groundwork for the safety precautions.

Mary, a person who is cutting or hurting themselves in some way needs to see a trained therapist. Life coaching is not designed to do that. When faced with a problem you are not trained to handle the ethical thing is to refer out as you did. I would avoid referring such a person to someone who sees it as borderline behavior and is not aware of the connection to trauma.

In my book you will find a letter I wrote to my former "friends" where I say what you just said. You can't forgive someone until you clearly name what they did and put the blame on them. But I am at odds with a lot of Christians on forgiveness. I think it is a multidimensional concept that has many conflicting definitions. I never sought revenge against my antagonists but during my healing I made a conscious decision not to forgive them. That was a significant point in my recovery. My current priest who has read my book has said my former church mates were not seeking forgiveness but absolution which only God can give. I am not sure I know the difference between the two. I do know it is confusing when someone says they didn't harm you but you should forgive them for the nothing they did to you.

I hope the people here today will buy and read my book. If you send your email address to, I will gladly give you a 25% off coupon.
Cindy said...

Thanks for joining in!

It is amazing how intensely healing it is when people are honest with you. There are events when I look back and wish that healing had come. Sometimes the truth is told later, and there is still healing, but the collateral damage is high.

One thing I so enjoyed about "Not of My Making" was the honesty without concern about whether the response would be the right one. It just was what it was. There is something liberating in that, something we don't get to see in other types of books, even some Christian ones. Sometimes we are too worried about doing it right, so when things are written, they are sugared over a bit. This book does not do that.
Hillary said...
Cindy, glad to be here. :) I agree with what you said about honesty, and will add to your words with, honest with ourselves. For many years I denied the truth that my pain existed in the first place, or glossed over it calling it 'the flesh' or 'hormones' or any number of things. THANK GOD for His illuminating light and healing!
Cindy said...
Thank you for the coupon offer!

That is most grateful.

Not having been in the mindset of doing this kind of thing...

How about anyone that leaves a comment and also sends me their email address here today (I'll give you till midnight per this crazy blog time which I think is Pacific and not my Eastern zone), I'll put you in raffle for a free book. So tell your bibliophile friends!
Cindy said...
Dr. Jones,

If you still have time, I hoped you might get to another matter in the book as well. (This is my first cyber visit!)

I will post it here as it will give some insight into other content in the book for people interested in the topic. If we get to it, we do, and if not, people will just have to buy the book! The question is involved, but it would also lay out the dynamics in a way that people could understand. I hope it will provoke some thoughts for people in their own situations.

People tend to objectify the players in unfortunate situations, placing them in “black and white” or “all or nothing” roles, oversimplifying often complex situations to avoid the inevitable pain of realizing that life is not always fair and that all people are fallible human beings. Most people shrink back from reckoning these things in life, choosing a host of varied ways of coping with this disappointment. In your situation, you were identified as the factor of blame for the unfortunate and disappointing outcome with James, a situation that I understand developed rather quickly from my reading of the book.

On page 404 and after enduring at the church for some time, working toward a viable solution that would bring you back into a sense of community with those you loved there, you state:

It was time to move on. There wasn’t any way I could be a full participating member of Immanuel again unless other members reached out far more than they were willing. They never considered the impact of their behavior on me. Casting me as either sick or evil, they denied their culpability. I believed I was just as deserving of acceptance as anyone else.On the next page, you note the research presented in Thompson and O’Neill’s “Best Friends, Worst Enemies” that identifies five basic types of children within schools:
• Popular
• Accepted
• Neglected
• Rejected
• Controversial

You state that

"My dechurchings made me painfully aware that these social distinctions continue beyond childhood. Over the years my place in the social strata moved between the rejected and the neglected group.The situation with James in your home, layered on top of the situation in your church, was all very complicated, creating a very interesting dynamic. You’ve said in the book that you did not have a great deal of training at that time concerning triangulation. (I have studied Murray Bowen’s work and tend to see triangles and enmeshment developing because it was the first model that I used to evaluate my own life and conflicts.) So I am curious to see how you put all of these players into perspective in terms of the social structure of Thompson and O’Neill, and how you do so now that you’ve moved through much of the pain of the whole thing. (I would say that you have moved completely through it, but I think that it would be a quite na├»ve statement to make. You speak quite passionately about how much you loved James and how dedicated you were to making a positive difference in his life.)

If you were the scapegoat (the rejected and neglected) in this complicated situation of adopting an older Sudanese foster son into a new culture, who were the bullies and the bystanders in this situation?

James was seen as a victim by certain individuals in your church, but that was not the opinion of all of them. I would say that within your own family system, James became a type of bully as well, making the whole situation more complex.

How would you classify the other main players within the situation with the church, based on this list of basic types?

What could each player have done differently, as I believe that you could have realized a much better outcome? Who do you believe could have been the most positive agent for change in this setting?
Mary's World said...
Dr. Jones, thank you for your comment about referring people out and what to look for when doing so. I had not heard of the borderline personality disorder problem before and so now know more of what to look for.

I have referred clients to trained professionals for several things that as a life coach I am not trained to handle! I know many who do not, having also study psychology and having had to leave my schooling just short of completion I understand all to well what my trying to muddle my way through something could do to a person. My intent is not to make matters worse; but only to help those that are ready to learn to live more healthy and happy.

I have not gotten to the letter in your book that you are referring to; I think I am almost there!

Thank you for taking the time to answer my question.

And, again thank you for writing this book that I know will help many.

Unfortunately, I never could quite figure out who was the bully and who were the bystanders. Some of the people were clearly bystanders. But who were the main culprits? What I tell people was I got run over by the bus, I have an idea who was on the bus but I am uncertain who was driving. Was Rev. Karen the driver or was Ruth? Beverly was probably a bully helper.

Ruth was definitely popular. All the other members of the chimes choir were accepted. Colleen was also part of the in crowd. It would be interesting to run the same experiment they did with kids with congregations and see what turns up, wouldn't it? I think this is an under researched area mostly do to psychologists lack of interest in religion.

I have to cook dinner now and go food shopping but I will check back for comments and try to respond where time permits. And don't forget to order the book. Everyone that participated is entitled to a 25% off coupon. I just need an email address so I know where to send it to. I will even give you free shipping. You guys have been great.
Sharon said...
Thanks so much for this discussion! It is very interesting.

I totally agree that talking to someone who really cares is a good way to avoid self harm. I think the key is to find a better way to deal with the pain. For me, the temptation to self harm (in my case cause bruises) came when I was feeling shame, guilt, and worthlessness. For many years, I didn't know there was anything wrong with it. But then again, I didn't know I was in pain either.

My emotions were so buried that it took me many months during my healing to match the names of emotions with the emotions themselves. I am still learning to identify how I am feeling.

Unlike most others, the only negative emotion that was safe for me to express was anger. All other negative emotions were routed through frustration, irritation, yelling, and other forms of anger.

Having people who genuinely care and understand the effect of trauma is essential to healing, in my opinion.
Sharon said...
Cindy, in your 12:47 comment, you mentioned the need to know the truth about the trauma before being able to forgive. That is so true! In my healing, I first had to understand that what happened to me was not right. That took some adjusting to. I couldn't believe it all at once. Part of the reason for that was that nothing "bad" happened to me. My trauma was mostly necessary "good" things that didn't happen. Emotional support that was not available.

I couldn't understand how I could be in such pain (when it finally surfaced through all the walls I had been stuffing it behind, it was rather brutal) when I had never been physically or sexually abused. I had never heard of emotional or spiritual abuse.

Only after I realized what the wounds were and that they were not normal, was I able to forgive and heal.
A Survivor said...
I have appreciated this conversation. When I read Dr. Jones' book, I found myself relating to quite a bit of it. I have been through different kinds of abuses, but I believe the underlying dynamic is fairly similar across the board.

One of the things that struck me was the idea of trying to identify who were the main bullies. I like the analogy of getting hit by a bus and having a pretty good idea of who the at least most of the passengers were, yet not being totally sure about everyone or about who was driving the bus. I know that, in one situation I was in, I think there were at least two people who were tag team driving.

I really appreciated Dr. Jones contacting me to do a review of her book. It was an honor and it actually helped me sort through a bit more of some of what I have been through.
Cindy said...
Sharon and Survivor,

Welcome and thanks for your comments.

My server went down for about 30 minutes, and then my husband came home and the feeding began...
Hillary said...
Sharon wrote: "My trauma was mostly necessary "good" things that didn't happen."

It took years for me to be at a point where I could admit this, but what you describe is neglect. That is a very insidious form of abuse because when it comes to spiritual or emotional neglect, it is not always apparent either to ourselves or to others. How can you know you miss it if you never had it? Thus the aching begins and we go CRAZY trying to figure it out. I am so glad that you have become healed.
Cindy said...

I was just getting ready to respond to this and you said much of what I was going to say! ;)

Neglect is difficult, especially if you've not been in a caring environment previously. You have either no standard of comparison or a very poor one. I am often asked why people stay in a bad environment. They may not understand that it was bad. Those environments are [generally] shame-based.

I think this is something that is described in "Not of My Making" quite well, depicted in how a person is taught to see themselves as not being worth the attention, merely from the neglect in general. Every human being has God given needs, and it glorifies Him when they are met. Often people are made to feel ashamed of their needs, something very common in situations where there is enmeshment.
Cindy said...

You mentioned the main bullies.

The bully concept sets the stage for us and puts the game pieces on the board, so to speak. How those players move is also a force.

I have all sorts of information listed under the Conformity Studies Tag that discusses the way individuals filter out in groups. The Asch Experiments show the tendency to survive (What do they know that I don't?) that works as a stressor for people in a group setting when their peers choose differently. Most people will choose the obviously wrong answers to gain social proof.

"Not Without My Making" talks about how people tend to like bullies, and they really do not like the victims in the group.

We do not spend enough of our energy teaching our kids and encouraging one another to stand up against bullies and to be what Zimbardo calls "everyday heroes." Hannah Arendt who studied philosophy and wrote an excellent book on totalitarianism, among other notable things, described what she heard reported at Nuremberg as "The Banality of Evil." The men there spoke of evil as though it was as simple a matter as taking a drink of water. It became commonplace. Zimbardo is on a campaign to encourage others to find heroism to be just as commonplace.
Cindy said...
As I stated a little earlier, I was not sure how much time Dr. Jones could spend with us today. I hope she has some time this evening to check back in here with us.

If not, I am thankful for her participation here today and grateful for her words of wisdom. Thank you for spending time with all of us today. It's been a great pleasure and I am surprised at how quickly the time passed today!

Please feel free to keep commenting here this evening. Dr. Jones may pop back in with us.

Thank you, everyone.
Hillary said...
Thanks for hosting, Cindy! This has been very enlightening. Thank you as well, Dr. Jones! I look forward to reading your book.

Anonymous A Survivor said...
indy, one thing about being an RA survivor is that, in RA,everyone in the group is a bully of sorts...even the ones who appear not to be. It is all about deception and subterfuge and power. In those instances, the main bully is really a spiritual one, not a human one. Well...actually...the Word teaches us that it is always really a spiritual one. We do not really fight people, but spirits.

In the human realm of abusive situations...there can often be more than one main human bully that all the others follow. However, I know of one instance where it appears that there were two main bullies...with each one using the other for her own purposes. Kind of ironic really. The abusers and users were being used, too.

Thank you for your input.
May 4, 2009 7:46 PM
Blogger Cindy said...

Maybe it's the later hour, but what is an RA survivor?

I have Rheumatoid Arthritis on my brain!

I came from a Pentecostal environment, and there things tend to be overspiritualized in some cases. I came to a point where I realized much of what got blamed on a spirit was actually related to the the fallen nature of man. It is man that does those things when he does not trust in the Lord and when he does not die to self. Sometimes I am my own worst enemy. Though I might fail to listen to and trust the Lord, I might be just following my own human nature which will desire my own satisfaction.

In Dr. Jones case, as she says, there was one main person driving the bus with some willing helpers.

When I first started working with an exit counselor a dozen years ago, I had a hard time understanding that my abusers were also abuse victims. In a way, they were far more trapped than I ever was. They were dependent on the system at that point, and many of them were financially dependent on the system. They could not leave without going hungry or losing their homes. Dr. Jones had a conflict with her primary pastor who manipulated the system and Matthew 18 so that it protected her (the pastor) and not Dr. Jones. In larger groups, the system also presses and manipulates the leadership. They become victims too.

It is ironic.

(Thanks for your input, too!)
May 4, 2009 8:05 PM


I'm turning off comments and going to bed!

26May09 Addendum comment submitted via email:
RA means Ritual Abuse. It is an abuse that is both physical and spiritual in nature. I do hear you about things being overspiritualized. However...this is what I look at.

First...we ARE in a spiritual battle. That is why we were given spiritual armor and why we are told to use it. That is why he is described as a roaring lion going about seeking whom he may devour.

Is that supposed to scare us? I don't think so. I think it is like using chemicals. We need to have a healthy respect for them...not fear them. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. Cowering fear? No...a healthy respect kind of fear that comes from knowing who He is and how sinful we really are.

I also see it being a humility on our parts as we recognize that everything we have and everything we are is a result of His blessing upon us...a blessing we do not really deserve. Ahhhh...what mercy! Ahhhh...what grace!

Second, Yeshua said that we are either for Him or against Him. There is no middle ground. Our father is either His Abba...or the evil one...the father of lies. No middle ground.

When we are not living in accordance to His ways...serving Him...we are, by default, serving the adversary. Our selfishness and self-serving ways feed into the adversary's plans...not our Lord's plans.

Ever since the beginning the adversary has been trying to mess up Yahweh's plan. He has not given up. Granted...he doesn't have to do a whole lot. I mean, after all, in our humanness and sinfulness we do enough on our own. However, he and his henchmen do get in there and stir the pot at times.

I don't think that every evil thing that happens is caused by a demon. Nope. It says that the human heart is wicked! But I do see there being a spiritual side to all things...both good and evil. We are spiritual beings. If we do not worship our true Creator, we will fashion something else to worship. You see it all the time. Every tribe...every people group...has some kind of god. Even the atheists have their god...themselves!

Regarding what happened to Dr. Jones...yes, people had the attitudes and took actions based upon those attitudes. They certainly were not serving Yeshua when they did it. So, who were they serving...whether they realized it or not? The adversary. Did the adversary make them do those things. No! But I'll bet he (or his cohorts) whispered a few things into those people's ears...a few lies here and there...playing on the weaknesses he could easily see were there. Remember that, unless we are true followers of Yeshua, we don't have the Holy Spirit. I have to wonder how many of the people who caused her grief were not true followers and how many may have been but they were deceived and vulnerable.

We tend to make two opposite mistakes as believers. We either blame everything on the adversary and ignore our own sinfulness and culpability. Or, we think the adversary is either nonexistent or harmless. Both are dangerous positions to be in.

We need to be always aware of our own potential for sinning and also aware of our spiritual adversary. We also need to be aware of who we are in Yeshua and of the authority given to us along with His Spirit!

I have appreciated reading the comments on this blog post. Thank you for including me.

Shalom and blessings,
A Survivor