Tag Archives: psychology

Try to be objective about this


“…without a subject, nothing at all would exist to confront objects, and to imagine them as such. True, this implies that every object, everything ‘objective’—in being merely objectivized by the subject—is the most subjective thing possible.”

— Medard Boss, in The Analysis of Dreams (1958), quoted in this intriguing overview of phenomenology

The Boss quotation could explain a lot of things, especially, in terms of this blog’s typical themes and audience, the world’s 8,196 Protestant denominations based upon the same Bible.

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‘Undue Influence’ As A Possible Legal Recourse Against Authoritarian Churches And Bullying Ministers


Steve Hassan, an expert on religious cults and high-control groups, explains “undue influence” in this short video — and pay close attention to the segment starting at about the 38-second mark.
 

 
“In my experience, anyone is vulnerable to undue influence…” Another quick explainer:
 

 
Next, Hassan explains the problem with undue influence.

“[W]e’re using the legal term undue influence, because that best describes what it’s really about. It’s the exploitation and manipulation of someone with power over someone else to make them dependent and obedient…”
 

 
Here’s another interesting point, also from the video immediately above, regarding undue influence and its ability to manipulate vulnerable people:

“So there’s no informed consent. When you think of a destructive mind control cult, always think, people may say, ‘I chose to join,’ but they didn’t in my professional opinion choose to join. They were lied to, they were manipulated, and they were indoctrinated, and once I have a chance to teach them what we know about social psychology, what we know about hypnosis for example, people wake up and they realize, ‘I didn’t choose.'”
 
In the next video (below), Santa Clara Law Professor Alan Scheflin and Hassan give back-to-back presentations.

Scheflin quotes Lunde and Wilson from a 1977 publication: “No reported case in Anglo-American law has accepted brainwashing as a defense to criminal liability.”

That is why “undue influence” has become a more viable option by which to make legal claims against high-control groups.
 

 
Read more and see more videos at FreedomOfMind.com.

‘Religious Trauma Syndrome: How some organized religion leads to mental health problems’


In an interview with Psychologist Valerie Tarico, Dr. Marlene Winell says,

“Religious trauma syndrome (RTS) is a set of symptoms and characteristics that tend to go together and which are related to harmful experiences with religion. They are the result of two things: immersion in a controlling religion and the secondary impact of leaving a religious group. The RTS label provides a name and description that affected people often recognize immediately. Many other people are surprised by the idea of RTS, because in our culture it is generally assumed that religion is benign or good for you. Just like telling kids about Santa Claus and letting them work out their beliefs later, people see no harm in teaching religion to children.

“But in reality, religious teachings and practices sometimes cause serious mental health damage. The public is somewhat familiar with sexual and physical abuse in a religious context. As Journalist Janet Heimlich has documented in, Breaking Their Will, Bible-based religious groups that emphasize patriarchal authority in family structure and use harsh parenting methods can be destructive.

“But the problem isn’t just physical and sexual abuse. Emotional and mental treatment in authoritarian religious groups also can be damaging…”

Read the entire interview at: Religious Trauma Syndrome: How some organized religion leads to mental health problems.via Religious Trauma Syndrome: How some organized religion leads to mental health problems.

Creativity Taps Both Fallible Reason and Fallible Intuition


The title of this post is my spin on the following book excerpt.

Michael Hyatt writes:

“Most of us have spent a lifetime ignoring — or even suppressing — our intuition. I don’t know if this is a product of modern rationalism or American pragmatism. Regardless, I believe intuition is the map to buried treasure. It is not infallible, but neither is our reason. And it can point us in the right direction. We need to pay attention to this inner voice.”

— from Hyatt’s book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World

In honor of Blaise Pascal’s birthday


One of the premises of this blog is a quotation from Blaise Pascal: “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”

He has been proven right again and again.

But I’ve made that point enough — at least until the next example hits the news.

Pascal (1623-1662) was a French mathematician, scientist, and philosopher. Some might also consider him a Christian theologian, considering much of his philosophical writing dealt with religious questions.

While Pascal is considered a Christian apologist, he is also considered a forerunner of existentialist thinkers, and in his written work, he frequently sounds like “intuitive psychologists” Soren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche, to use William Barrett’s phrase.

In honor of Pascal’s 392nd birthday, I offer some of my favorite excerpts from his unfinished book, probably his notes for a book, posthumously collected and published as Penseés (or Thoughts).

Greatest Hits by Pascal

“Cleopatra’s noes: had it been shorter, the whole aspect of the world would have been altered.”

The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know. We feel it in a thousand things. I say that the heart naturally loves the Universal Being, and also itself naturally, according as it gives itself to them; and it hardens itself against one or the other at its will. You have rejected the one and kept the other. Is it by reason that you love yourself?”

“Reason’s last steps is the recognition that there are an infinite number of things which are beyond it. It is merely feeble if it does not go as far as to realize that.”

Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but his is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapour, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantages which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this.”

“It is the heart which perceives God and not the reason. That is what faith is: God perceived by the heart, not by the reason.”

“Man finds nothing so intolerable as to be in a state of complete rest, without passions, without occupation, without diversion, without effort. Then he faces is nullity, loneliness, inadequacy, dependence, helplessness, emptiness. And at once there wells up from the depths of his soul boredom, gloom, depression, chagrin, resentment, despair.”

“Not to care for philosophy is to be a true philosopher.”

“We are not satisfied with the life we have in ourselves and in our own being. We want to lead an imaginary life in the eyes of others, and so we try to make an impression. We strive constantly to embellish and preserve our imaginary being, and neglect the real one. And if we are calm, or generous or loyal, we are anxious to have it known so that we can attach these virtues to our other existence; we prefer to detach them from our real self so as to unite them with the other. We would cheerfully be cowards if it would acquire us a reputation for bravery. How clear a sign of the nullity of our own being that we are not satisfied with one without the other and often exchange one for the other!”

“The more intelligence one has the more people one finds original. Commonplace people see no difference between men.”

“Cromwell would have ravaged the whole of Christendom; the royal family was lost, and his own family was about to become all-powerful, except for a little grain of sand that lodged in his bladder. Even Rome was about to tremble beneath him. Once this little piece of stone became lodged there, he died, his family was disgraced, peace was established all round, and the king was restored.” (Desmond Clarke includes this quotation in a discussion of Pascal’s proto-existentialist mentality. Clarke also says, “Many of Pascal’s intuitions about the contingency of human existence were a commonplace in the period, especially among Calvinist theologians.”)

Random Pascal Publishing Notes

  • Nobel-prize winning poet T.S. Eliot wrote an introduction to a 1931 edition of Penseés.
  • The 1952 set of Britannica Great Books includes a volume devoted to Pascal, including The Provincial Letters, Penseés, and Scientific Treatises.
  • In his classic 1958 study of existentialism, Irrational Man, William Barrett included Pascal as one of the forerunners of existentialism.
  • In 1966, Leicester University Press in England published The Rhetoric of Pascal: A Study of His Art of Persuasion in the Provinciales and the Penseés by Patricia Topliss.

 

Previous Posts about Pascal

Christian apologist Blaise Pascal had some good tips on writing

Paradoxes for Better Living, 5

The limits of knowledge

Fear of the Lord — and astonishment at his creation (Jurgen Moltmann)

As a man thinketh, so goes his health

Happy birthday, Blaise! And I have no idea how to pronounce your first name!

Lives damaged by Bill Gothard’s teachings; insights into fundamentalist child abuse


Please Note: Home-schooling can be a great thing. My wife and I home-school our three daughters. Unfortunately, home-schooling  too often has been a veil behind which the worst elements of fundamentalism have festered. To be clear, nothing in that statement is meant to advocate any other form of childhood education.

I’ve occasionally reblogged posts from the Homeschoolers Anonymous blog. A new post worth reading is “Man Shares Personal Testimony of How Bill Gothard Used Bible Verses Which Led to the Abuse of Children.” Actually, the post first appeared on Spiritual Sounding Board. (Background on Bill Gothard here.)

The man goes by the name “Dash,” and he tells Homeschoolers Anonymous what Gothdard’s teachings did in his family. Here are two excerpts (the second is from Part 2):

“The beatings were delivered to the buttocks, thighs, and lower back, and sometimes the hands, fingers, and forearms (defensive injuries), in response to any perceived slight, offense, or rules violation.

“Depending on the severity of the punishment, anything from a wooden spoon to a 3/4″x2′ dowel rod was used. My parents actually had an array of dowel rods to choose from (at least a dozen) ranging from a thin one about 1/8″ thick to the 3/4″ terror previously described. Occasionally my dad would use his belt, a heavy leather belt with a weighty brass buckle. Not often, though, because the belt would leave visible bruises.

“My sister and I would go to school with huge black and purple welts across our buttocks, carefully placed so that they were covered by our clothes, and we would sit at our desks in excruciating pain with tears streaming silently down our faces. This was during our initial participation in [Gothard’s program called] ATI, but before we enrolled full-bore in home-schooling….

“As our family began to seriously decay and slide toward doom, punishments extended to include: making a salad incorrectly, accidentally dropping a dish or a milk bottle, getting the bathroom floor wet during a bath, not setting the table for dinner quickly enough, forgetting to put clothes in the laundry basket, putting a book back on the bookshelf in the wrong place.”

And that post is far, far, far from the only one testifying about the impact of Gothard’s degrading philosophies — and, of course, Gothard’s philosophies aren’t the only venomous ones snaking their ways through American home-schooling circles.

So, really, the entire site is worth reading for anyone who wants to be aware of how the Christian Right packages genuinely poisonous thinking.

The problem is more substantial than religious discussions about child-rearing.

The problem comes down to destroyed lives.

The Mayo Clinic identifies child abuse as a typical source of dissociative disorders, which are especially difficult mental-health problems, damaging to even basic functionality for some people.

According to the Mayo Clinic:

“Dissociative disorders usually develop as a way to cope with trauma. The disorders most often form in children subjected to long-term physical, sexual or emotional abuse or, less often, a home environment that’s frightening or highly unpredictable. The stress of war or natural disasters also can bring on dissociative disorders.

“Personal identity is still forming during childhood. So a child is more able than an adult is to step outside of himself or herself and observe trauma as though it’s happening to a different person. A child who learns to dissociate in order to endure an extended period of youth may use this coping mechanism in response to stressful situations throughout life.”

The rigidity and specificity of Gothard’s teachings make abusive scenarios likely. People who were raised with Gothard’s teachings for long periods of time likely experienced long-term abuse, thus making them likely candidates for dissociative disorders.

Personal testimonies of fundamentalist abusiveness make clear the reality of dissociative disorders.

For example, according Lana Martin’s recovery testimony:

“Fundamentalist Christians often avoid psychiatric help and effective talk therapy due to their skepticism of scientific and humanistic thought. Learning disorders are seen as malevolent inventions of the public school system. Violence toward women and children can be normalized and justified with authoritarian, patriarchal ideology….

“Adolescent depression is perceived not as a medical condition or experiential phenomenon, but as a sinful teenage rebellion. The imposed isolation characteristic of many abusive homeschooling situations only worsens these problems for both parents and children who are struggling to identify and manage a mental illness….

“And, so I thought, my depression, anxiety, insomnia, hypervigilance, dissociative episodes, panic attacks, persistent sadness, suicidal thoughts, and explosive anger might be easily resolved once removed from the toxic home in which I grew up. I should be able to get over the past and move on with life once free, employed, and college-educated. But it didn’t work out that way.

“Ten years later and 1500 miles away, I still felt like an awful person, permanently damaged, incomplete. “I still drowned in shame when I thought about my past, but couldn’t shed a tear over my injuries and losses. And I still experienced quite a few undesirable symptoms of unresolved stress and trauma. I judged myself harshly for this perceived failure.”

Compare Lana’s story with the Mayo Clinic’s list of symptoms of dissociative disorders:

  • Memory loss (amnesia) of certain time periods, events and people
  • Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts and attempts
  • A sense of being detached from yourself
  • A perception of the people and things around you as distorted and unreal
  • A blurred sense of identity
  • Significant stress or problems in your relationships, work or other important areas of your life

Worse yet, the Mayo Clinic says, “People with a dissociative disorder are at increased risk of complications and associated disorders, such as… Post-traumatic stress disorder…”

And here we have a testimony from “Susannah,” entitled “My Mind Wasn’t Lost, I Had PTSD.”

The site has so many more similar stories. Only by the fallacy of special pleading can someone ignore such evidence. (“Special pleading is often a result of strong emotional beliefs that interfere with reason,” says Bo Bennett.)

A little more than a year ago, Bill Gothard got into substantial trouble with his own board. The only reason this happened is because people were courageous enough to share their stories.
 
What shepherd repeatedly forgives the wolf?

What lamb gives the wolf a second chance?
 

Preventing a repeat


FT Magazine has as regular feature entitled “The Shrink & the Sage,” written by therapist Antonia Macaro and philosopher Julian Baggini. A recent topic for their column was, “Should we ‘get over it’?

Here are two excerpts.

reasons to choose differently next time

“A big part of getting over something is learning from past events so that we can act differently in the future.” — Antonia Macaro

The Prosecution looks to the future

“Think, for example, of the friends and relatives of people who have died due to the negligence of others. They may embark on tortuous legal processes, usually with the aim that no one else should have to go through what they did. Sometimes, it might be true that their persistence is indicative of a failure simply to accept that things happen. But often this is a principled move that has real benefits for others. The fact that life might have been easier for all concerned if they had tried to move on quicker is besides the point. Justice needs to be done, more to prevent future tragedies than to try to fix what can’t be mended.” — Julian Baggini