Saturday, January 30, 2016

Pendulums and Plumb Lines: Adventures in Ambiguity (Part X)

Like a swinging pendulum, when we exit a group, we can easily get caught up in the drama of life and created excitement, mistaking it for healthy living. (And keep in mind that as dynamic beings, we do swing out to extremes now and then, but we tend not to live in the extreme all of the time.)

This takes quite a bit of time for us when we exit a group. We have to learn what it feels like to be comfortable with balance – and for many of us, we had little to none of it to watch and learn and live. I, too, experienced my own swinging around to find my own balance, and I also still work at emotional self-regulation.

Riding out the Swing?

Pendulums are driven by inertia which keep them swinging until their energy depletes. The dynamics of being alive, like gravity's pull on a Focault pendulum always puts some drive into the swing as can be observed in science museums and with a tabletop pendulum which draws patterns in the sand, tracing the spin of the earth. The added energy from pulling the bob to an extreme angle from plumb and by the weight / mass of the bob translate to inertia which continues to power a wide swing.

By analogy, you probably can't do much about the chaos of the extreme angle where you started when you broke away from your rigid position of bounded choice. 

Many of us end up in bad relationships or other bad religions as we work to find our balance. Personally, I swung over from Word of Faith into Shepherding/Discipleship/Gothard, because that extreme of a micromanaged life seemed like a better alternative to the “name it and claim it” chaos. All I'd done was swing to a new extreme. But that's okay. I also left the Gothard church and ended up at the same Presbyterian church that Doug Phillips attended! But with more ease with freedom, time, and healing, my own inertia started to drop.

What can a former member do?

Can you do anything to drop your force of inertia? You can drop mass. Work through the baggage of your trauma and your tendency to prefer extremes in life with a therapist. It will help to drop the mass that powers the extremity of your swing. Stay physically active and keep a journal to work on building good, healthy internal dialogue to develop peace with the concept of balance, grounding, and plumb, and all these things will take force out of your swing.

As you may note in the video below, everything swings based on its inertia. Note that the bobs on the shorter strings swing faster and long ones swing at a slower rate, but they all eventually lose inertia. Also take note that all the bobs in the video below are the same size. Drop your own mass to drop your inertia, and you can do that by working through your trauma and by learning about healthy dynamics.


We are all different like the the varied lengths of the strings on which the pendulums are suspended. Our recovery will look different from that of others because we are all constructed differently and come from different places in life.

Another benefit? Drama drops to a minimum when we “find center” by finding plumb – and that takes much less energy that you can use to choose things that make you feel happy and fulfilled. You don't have to conform to the constriction of control any longer, and there's so much less drama and chaos. Life is still life with all of it's pressures and cares, but the former member can find that life offers choices that gives alternatives to the tiring extremes.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Reacting from a Place of Vulnerability: Adventures in Ambiguity IX

Before developing as fairly functional internal locus of control and as strong sense of worth, and until former members work through how to relate to others with both good internal and external boundaries, things can be very difficult for them. There's so much to do immediately.

The insecure person tries to build a network of safe friends who can relate to them and hae their best interests at heart. This is healthy in the beginning of recovery, but after some time has passed, it becomes self-defeating and inhibits recovery and growth. Some fall into the trap of surrounding themselves with people who are more comfortable for them and go to great, unhealthy lengths to isolate themselves from people who challenge them. They work hard to have as much control over their external life as they can. No conflict means no struggle which translates into peace and self-worth for them.

Default Reaction to Conflict

When faced with conflict, in the beginning of the process, former members will very likely to do what comes naturally – just like most people on the planet would do and as many do, even though they aren't struggling with so many pressures. They will react to the threat from their perspective of external control. They can't regulate their internal world, so they reach out to try to exert pressure and control on the outside world. (This is exactly what we see in people like Voddie Baucham and Michael Pearl who demand that their children have more self control than they do, and they accomplish this through brute force.)

Very capable people manage to do this fairly well until a bad day comes along. They are then left with the overwhelming feelings of low worth and a sense of powerlessness. All that an external locus of control does is create the illusion of peace and safety. But real peace and safety that abides – that doesn't dissolve on a bad day -- comes from within. But this is something that is largely unknown to the person with an external locus of control, poor self-worth, and unhealthy boundaries.

Adopting High Demand Thought Policing and Counterattack

When a person feels out of control, they are more likely to fight for survival, and that is often what ends up happening soon after a person exits a group and begins finding their way into some semblance of wholeness. Rather than tolerating discomfort and sitting with the reality that other people have different perspectives that seem threatening (something not taught to them as a healthy means of coping), many who have yet to find a sense of balance will repeat the tactics of control that they experienced in their high demand group. 

The most natural, early response involves an attempt to control their own milieu by silencing differences, and pejoratives start flying as the counterattack of retaliation launches. Milieu control quiets criticism, and scapegoating takes the competition down a notch or two so that they feel like less of a threat.

Quite often when a hypervigilant person reacts in this way, their reaction is far disproportionate to the situation and the matter at hand. And why would it not be? They are frustrated, tired, lost, and they feel threatened. They do what they know. They do what comes most naturally out of their feelings of pain and fear.

The Conundrum of Internal Boundaries

This makes internal boundaries perhaps the most difficult element of recovery to master, and I found that I had to build a good chunk of an internal locus of control before I could even think about internal boundaries. I had to have a certain amount of self worth along with experience at deriving peace and joy from in myself. I had to learn how to respond to my environment and those around me with moderation, too.

I'd spent my life reacting to circumstances because of my feelings of helplessness, and the idea of being put back into a position of dependency felt horrible and terrifying. Becoming aware of my own powerful emotions like anger intensified how I reacted to everything until I was able to accept them and then learn how to appropriately express them (because all I knew was inappropriate or maladaptive expression). It was only until I'd developed some emotional self-regulation and containment that I found practice of internal boundaries to be possible. (But everyone's journey comes together in a different way.)

I did resent the idea that I often had to “be the bigger person” in some situations, because I had to accept the limitations of a situation or the people with whom I interacted. I was also compromised and in great pain, and on many levels, I felt that it was wrong to show any kinds of softness. I didn't want to adjust my expectations to something more realistic for others, for I could not recall any instance of them doing so for me. But I chose to be healthy and considerate, as I know too well how difficult recovery can be, especially early in the process when I felt completely out of control. I made the choice to heal and be healing instead of continuing in my desire for justice that I began to realize that I would never get.

I realized that if I demanded peace and tried to control others, even through my disdain and anger which was merited, I would be no different than those who tried to control me.  I'd been deprived of my voice and was saddled with bounded choice, and I knew how hard that was.  I made the decision to be vulnerable to safe people who could help me heal so that I wouldn't end up doing the painfully horrible things that had been done to me.  My peace did not come from either creating or retreating to "no conflict zones," but I learned that it was something that I had to build and nurture inside of  myself -- for myself.

It was by no means a quick or easy process, and it is still uncomfortable to experience conflict or even take the ammunition that someone else displaces and directs at me instead.  But I lean on my internal locus and maintain and defend my external boundaries.  And I endeavor to always maintain my internal boundaries, but this is so much harder for me.  Those external boundaries require that I give up the fantasy of what I want to be true, and I'm not always happy with what is left over in the realm reality.

Hypervigiance in the Wider World: Adventures in Ambiguity (Part VIII)

High demand groups manage tension and pain which arise from natural and healthy disagreements and differences by forcing uniformity. Again, we come back to the fact of life that we human beings are very dynamic and diverse, something that a group purports to “correct” for the member, giving the illusion that they've resolved that healthy tension. Anyone who espouses beliefs that are different from the group are discounted or demonized which further galvanizes the control that they hold over a member. In doing so, they force and reinforce the idea that the wider world outside of the group is very unsafe.

So what happens when a person exits a group? They lose their support systems (family and those associated with the group), they are in a state of hypervigilance because of the trauma of burying their identity, their critical thinking skills have been lulled to sleep in order to survive in the group which does their thinking for them, and the group has alienated them from their own autonomy. For those who have grown up in the group, they may never have experienced autonomy. There is no switch to flip that causes a person to reset and reboot. Whether they like it or not and on top of having to learn how to deal with the realities of life outside of their group, they find themselves saddled with a tremendous amount of personal development to do as they recover from their experience.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Finding a Healthy Locus of Control: Adventures in Ambiguity (Part VII)

We've already noted that a person's concept of self suffers while in a high demand group or family, since the member's sense of worth must be derived from the group. Though they may appear to have autonomy, their choices are bound and limited to that which is determined by the group.

Building on Emotional Self-Regulation: Adventures in Ambiguity (Part VI)

In the previous post, we explored the challenge of developing a healthy sense of personal power that we encounter when we exit a high demand group. How on earth can we get through life with a faulty set of coping tools, where do we go to learn them, and how can we figure out how to be balanced when all we've seen modeled for us is extremes of power and of emotion?

This topic is a huge one, but a person can do a lot of good work on their own to develop healthy Emotional Self-Regulation after exiting.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Pitfalls in Personal Power: Adventures in Ambiguity (Part V)

In the previous post, we explored a couple of ways a person can work on their own to develop better Emotional Self-Regulation after exiting or after growing up in a high demand group. Healthy internal dialogue and building self concept provide individuals with a good opportunity to do a great deal of healing and growth on their own.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Map is Not the Territory: Adventures in Ambiguity (Part IV)

And the territory is definitely not the map.  

This saying came from a scientist and philosopher named Alfred Korzybski who launched the study of how human understanding and the nervous system intersected, particularly concerning how language shapes our perceptions. He was a Polish-born Russian who served in World War I as an intelligence officer, but he became a citizen of the U.S. In 1940.

The original phrase that Korzybski coined in 1933 illustrates the problem of mistaking an abstraction of something for the genuine article. Another wise friend in the discussion where I first learned of this phenomenon pointed out that this is actually an informal logical fallacy called reification or concretism, a subset of fallacies in thinking that fall under ambiguity.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Self-Regulation? What? How?: Adventures in Ambiguity (Part III)

How can I possibly know anything about emotional self-regulation? I was faced and am often still faced with the quandary of growing up without it, not really knowing that I lacked it, and then trying to figure out how to develop it. And though trauma therapy helped me make great strides to develop it, I still have my days...

The process works out differently for everyone, and some people have less difficulty than others.  This represents what I experienced in my journey thus far.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Emotional Self-Regulation: Adventures in Ambiguity (Part II)

In the previous post, we explored the problem created by the black and white thinking that was forced upon us in a high demand religious group. This is especially difficult if we grew up in an ideological group, because we likely didn't see anyone model moderation or another way of thinking. We end up adopting the strategy that if one thing is bad and unsafe, it's extreme opposite is likely the best safe alternative.

High demand groups don't tolerate uniqueness, and they make the mistake of defining uniformity as a type of unity. They don't tolerate much of anything that falls outside whatever their group defines as appropriate under their black and white rules. When we exit such a world of black and white thinking, we can't just flip a switch to make ourselves more tolerant, putting to rest the impulse to think in black and white. We have to go through the hard work of critical thinking first as we get some experience being flexible.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Black and White Thinking after Exiting: Adventures in Ambiguity (Part I)

I spent much time studying chemistry, thinking about the Bohr Model of the Atom, and I was so fascinated by the periodic table.  I suppose that along with math, it seemed like one of the few consistent things in my life.  Language could be misinterpreted, but chemistry presented a fixed, definitive type of truth.  And I lacked that in my life.

How can something be true and untrue at the same time?

Then I bolt off to college at sixteen, still very young and desperately searching for consistency in life.  I didn't know who I was, really, but I could learn about reality around me.  Well, imagine my dismay when my freshman chemistry professor says, "The Bohr atom isn't really real.  It's only a theory."  The nice and neat picture in my head of electron shells that encircle an atom were merely a statistical means of representing how matter behaves, but it is all theoretical.  It's based on quantum theory, yet another theoretical science.
  I want my Bohr atom dream back!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Dwayne Walker's **TOMMY -- The First Survivor War** guest post by Dwayne Walker,

Thanks to Dwayne who gave me permission to post this a few years ago.  Every time I think of it, some survivor has either just gone on some diatribe rampage about me somewhere, and I decide not to fuel the fire.  I think he's an unsung genius who now makes films out on that far coast of California or Nevada or one of those foreign places.  If I ever get rich and have money to burn, I want to give him the $ to make an Escape from Alcatraz version of the IFB teen homes.  We can work Zack Bonnie and CEDU in there somewhere, too.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

**Revisiting** Generation Gaps and the Moral Imperative of Totalitarian Niceness


The following list describes the desired traits that non-Christian young people desire to see in Christians, particularly among their elders as compiled by the authors of “unChristian: What A New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity....And Why It Matters.” When I presented quotes from this book on my blog last year, I suggested that we as believers should extend the same considerations to those who follow patriarchy as well as to young unbelievers. I would like to use this list (from pp 194-5 of the book) as a point of departure for relating to young adults in general. Those interviewed suggested that these considerations would improve their receptivity to the Gospel message from Christians, both young and old.

1. Listen to me.
2. Don't label me.
3. Don't be so smart.
4. Put yourself in my place.
5. Be genuine.
6. Be my friend with no other motives.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Before it Gets a Chance to Begin

Below you will find a video that uses some unpleasant descriptors of women, written in a the form of a letter from an unborn baby girl to her father.  It talks about how we can use idle words used to describe women and how those words end up affecting us.

I consider myself rather lucky in many ways.  To my knowledge, I was never called a whore by any young men.  During my last week of public school when I was twelve, one kid who was very bright and seemed to me to have a good future ahead of him wrote a note to me in a yearbook that used one of these nasty names as part of an infantile rhyme.  I remember feeling very distraught because I did respect him.  He was a smart and interesting kid.  He grew up to be a fine young man who was very kind to me when he waited on my table at a restaurant when I was 21.  I talked with him, and I learned that he was in college.  He ended up becoming a fine podiatrist in my home town.  I'm sure that he has no memory of writing that horrible little rhyme that would have amused his male peers then.

The only other person that I recall ever really using the word "whore" around me was my mother.  I once wrote a blog post about how I felt the first time that I took notice of her use of it.  And the day would come when, in anger and in an attempt to control me as a young adult, she would call me a whore.  Though its sting is gone, her voice and her words are still burned into my mind, just as a branding iron leaves a permanent scar.  It seems far worse, coming from her.  Within a few days, I moved out of my parents' home.  I wasn't who my mother wanted me to be, and she seemed to feel that she could resort to any means necessary to turn me into whoever it was she wanted me to be.  I don't think that she even really knew or knows now what she wants.  I do know that the experience was exasperating and painful.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Okay, so it's now "Book Quarter" for the rest of 2015....

Life doesn't always go as anticipated, so there are still more books to come.  :)

In the meanwhile, here's a thought from War and Peace:

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Lighthearted New Review: Homeschool Sex Machine (Babes, Bible Quiz and the Clinton Years)
I can't even remember how I came across this little gem, but I identified quite a bit with it.  The previous two reviews here were of a heavy nature, and I thought I'd highlight one that was humorous.  I'm glad that Matthew Pierce wrote his book, if only to provide a little bit of levity and brevity to the genre of books about the religious or high demand group experiences of teens.

I was not homeschooled, and when I was the age of the author, we were just entering the Reagan years. I never coped well with socialization in public school, and after a trauma that my parents didn't even know about, I could barely stand middle school with my peers in budding puberty while "Love Boat" glamorized the one night stand.  Christian school seemed like a nice alternative.

The author describes what many of my homeschooling mom friends do now, especially if they have kids that are interested in sports or hit subjects that they can't teach well themselves at home:  They enroll their kids in a Christian school part-time for those kinds of benefits.  So I thoroughly enjoyed those familiar aspects of Homeschool Sex Machine.