Showing posts from 2014

D. Mackler and M. Morrissey "Understanding Your Role in the Family"

The following text is from the book "A Way Out of Madness" by Daniel Mackler and Matthew Morrissey.

Chapter 4
Understanding Your Role in the Family

We all grow up playing roles in our families, and more intensely and rigidly so in more troubled families. Family roles and family dynamics are generally unspoken and unconscious, especially in families with a higher degree of conflict. Sometimes these roles can be somewhat healthy and prepare us for a strong, independent adult life. Yet other times they can literally cripple us. Understanding your own historical role or roles in your family offers you the key to make more informed choices about your present life, to modify the way you interact with the world, and ultimately to unfold your life and your future. As the saying goes, “The truth will set you free.”

Some family therapists even go so far as to see psychiatric disorders as an expression or a facet of troubled family dynamics. They share the observation that when f…

Alice Miller "The Newly Recognized, Shattering Effects of Child Abuse"

The following text is from Alice Miller's book "The Untouched Key."

For some years now there has been proof that the devastating effects of the traumatization of children take their inevitable toll on society.

This knowledge concerns every single one of us, and—if disseminated widely enough—should lead to fundamental changes in society, above all to a halt in the blind escalation of violence. The following points are intended to amplify my meaning:

1. All children are born to grow, to develop, to live, to love, and to articulate their needs and feelings for their self-protection.

2. For their development children need the respect and protection of adults who take them seriously, love them, and honestly help them to become oriented in the world.

3. When these vital needs are frustrated and children are instead abused for the sake of adults' needs by being exploited, beaten, punished, taken advantage of, manipulated, neglected, or deceived without the intervention of …

Setting Boundaries with Toxic People (Part 2): Learned Dependency

In the previous blog post I’ve talked about the learned confusion that comes up when one is trying to set personal boundaries. In this article I will talk about another aspect of the boundaries-related struggles many people have difficulties with: learned dependency. (I recommend to read part one first.)

People who have been raised in a controlling environment, i.e., the vast majority of us, often have an incorrect perception of themselves (self-esteem issues), which leads to an inability to accurately perceive others and have healthy relationships). Children who are not allowed to be themselves – to feel, to think, to have needs, preferences, interests, and healthy boundaries – learn that:
Their emotions and thoughts are incorrect (self-trust and self-worth issues, confusion, self-doubt, destructive and/or self-destructive behavior). Their needs, preferences, and interests are less important than others’ (people pleasing, social anxiety, social fears, “shyness,” passivity, chronic fe…

Setting Boundaries with Toxic People (Part 1): Self-Doubt

Recently I’ve written about the difficulties of being raised in a controlling environment and about how controllers try to drag others down and manipulate others through guilt and shame. (If you want to get more value out of this post, I recommend reading those articles first.)

When we become aware of the truth about the real dynamics of a toxic relationship we participate in, we, for obvious reasons, may decide to stand up for ourselves and break away from it. However, more often than not this is a highly difficult process.

It’s easier if it’s a random person on the street, but much harder if it’s our toxic mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, friend, or acquaintance.

If an unknown person comes up to us on the street and hits us in the face, we don't feel that such a situation is a dilemma wrapped in a conundrum. We don’t feel bad for feeling angry, upset, hurt and wanting to get away from this person. Then why …

Being Controlled by Shame and Guilt

In the last article I’ve talked about one of the mechanisms controllers use to manipulate people that is dragging others down. Another one is the attempt to trigger feelings of unjust shame and guilt in the person they want to control and manipulate.

If you have grown up in a controlling environment, the chances are high you are very familiar with this phenomenon, and you may be prone to it today or even use this mechanism on others yourself. How does it work?

When you are a small child, you need your parents’ acceptance to survive in this world. A child needs to feel that their primary caregiver accepts them, cares for them, and approves of their existence. If a parent says to a child – explicitly or implicitly – that the child is bad or somehow defective, the child feels shame and guilt, and at a fundamental level sees it as a risk to their bond with their caregiver (which means there is a potential threat to your survival and well-being). Also, because a child needs their caregiv…

The Control Mechanism of Dragging Others Down

At one time or another, probably we all have interacted with people who try to demotivate you, extinguish your enthusiasm, scare you, and drag you down. For the sake of simplicity, let's call them Down-Draggers.

A Down-Dragger is a person who constantly tells you that you better not do this or that because you will fail, something bad will happen, you will harm yourself, it's not in your best interest, it's too much of a risk, you will regret it afterwards, your accomplishments don't matter, you are not ready, you are not strong enough, you're not good enough, and so on, and so on, and so on.... By the way, I'm not talking about constructive feedback and genuine care for another person. I'm talking about fear mongering, lack of curiosity, manipulation, acting out your own unpleasant, unprocessed feelings, and narcissistically trying to meet your own needs by attempting to control another person. 

The psychological mechanism of "dragging others down&quo…

Shyness Is Not a Cute, Insignificant Thing

I’ve heard many people refer to themselves or others as shy – both in the context of their current life and their childhood. “I am a shy person.” My child is very shy.” “Oh, she’s just shy.”

Basically, “shy” is a more socially acceptable and less direct way of saying that one is scared of, or anxious about, people. It’s a euphemism, if you will. In the dictionary the word “shy” is described as “nervous or timid in the company of other people.” However, when you say, “shy,” people usually don’t feel uncomfortable.

“What’s going on with her?”
“Nothing. She’s just shy.”
“Oh, OK.”

But when you say it how it really is, it makes some people uncomfortable. (Or it may be an uncomfortable thing to say about yourself.)
“He looks kind of meek and avoidant. What’s up with him?”
“He’s scared of people and social situations.”

Well, this raises questions and makes a lot of people uncomfortable.

“Why is he scared of people…? Why does he have low self-esteem…? I wonder, what happened in his past tha…

The Burden of Being Over-Controlled as a Child

If you as a child have had an over-controlling parent or other authority figure, the chances are you have developed some personality traits and psychological patterns that make your life more or less difficult. Over-controlling parents watch a child’s every move, tell them what to do, seek domination, constantly criticize them, teach unhealthy boundaries, have unrealistic or impossible standards and expectations for them, and use active or passive abuse to manipulate them and make them comply. It’s hard to breathe around such a parent – both mentally and sometimes even physically.

A child who grows up in such an environment often becomes a neurotic adult. Because they were under a magnifying glass for so many years, they have learned to adapt and monitor themselves. What was external, at some point got internalized, and such a person learned to treat themselves as their caregivers treated them. Hence now, as adults, they feel the “need” for constant vigilance and self-monitoring.


Alice Miller on Trauma, Repression, Masochism, Repetition Compulsion, and Therapeutic Work

The following text is from Alice Miller's book "Banished Knowledge."

As time went on it became clear to me that the idea of children inventing traumas is absurd. Anyone is free to check on the natural law that human beings will avoid pain rather than seek it. They seek pleasure, joy, reassurance. Masochism is no exception to this rule: It is a compulsion to inflict new suffering on oneself to keep former suffering repressed. The masochist who at great expense has himself whipped by a prostitute and insists on sitting on a chamber pot during the procedure is obeying a compulsion to reproduce the trauma of his toilet training and to keep the memory repressed at all costs. Another law of life is that the idealization of the parents with the aid of fantasy and repression helps the child to survive; thus to attribute bad things to one's nearest and dearest would run counter to natural defenses and the law of life. It follows that a child will never invent traumas. On the …

Playing With a Child's Trust Is Harmful

Some time ago on the Self-Archeology Facebook page I posted an article called “The High Cost of Tiny Lies” by a neuroscientist Sam Harris. In it, the author talks about the horrors of lying to children. Specifically about a very popular YouTube challenge by Jimmy Kimmel, where he encourages his viewers to lie to their kids or prank them, film their reaction, and put it on YouTube. This is supposed to be funny. And the more scared, sad, hurt, and confused the child gets, the more hilarious it is to people (to the parents, to Jimmy Kimmel, and to his audience).

In this article, I will talk about the harm of playing with a child trust. I will also address a couple of common defenses of such behavior and talk about why this is amusing and appealing to people.

Not a Big Deal?

I personally never liked the phenomenon of playing with people’s trust or being played by others – both in my childhood and in adulthood. I remember how I was feeling as a child when my caregivers and other authority …

An Analysis Of "Children Are the Victims of Adult Vices," a Sculptural Composition by M. Chemiakin

In May of 2008, I visited Russia for about a week. In Moscow, we went to see The Moscow Kremlin. To be honest, today I don't remember much about it, nor did I care much about it back then. But what left a huge impression on me was a group of sculptures we saw in a park in Bolotnaya Square, 2000 feet (610 meters) south of the Moscow Kremlin.

The composition is called "Children Are the Victims of Adult Vices," created by Russian artist Mihail Chemiakin. As its description says, it is a 15-figure composition intended by the author to be an allegory of the fight against the global Evil.

Mihail Chemiakin wrote to his future spectators:
"I created the sculptural composition Children are the victims of adults' vices as a symbol and a call for action to save the living and the future generations. For many years it has been declared and pathetically exclaimed: "Children is our future!" However, it would take volumes to write down all the crimes of the socie…