Overview: The Crisis, pgs. 1-22 in Bradshaw On: The Family, 1996, Health Communications, Deerfield Beach, FL.
Overview: The Crisis
The last 45 years have ushered in a new awareness about the impact of families on the formation of solid self-esteem. While we've always known that our families influence us, we're now discovering that the influence is beyond what we had imagined. We now understand that families are dynamic social systems, having structural laws, components and rules.
The most important family rules are those that determine what it means to be a human being. These rules embrace the most fundamental beliefs about raising children. What parents believe about human life and human fulfillment governs their way of raising children. The way children are parented forms their core beliefs about themselves. Nothing could be more important. Children are any culture's greatest natural resource. The future of the world depends on our children's conceptions of themselves. All their choices depend on their views of themselves.
But a crisis exists in the family today. This crisis centers on our parenting rules and the multi-generational process by which families perpetuate these rules.
Sickness of the Soul: Shame
The parenting rules I refer to are abusive and shaming. They destroy children's self-esteem, resulting in shame. According to psychologist Gershen Kaufman in his book, Shame, shame is
. . . a sickness of the soul. It is the most poignant experience of the self by the self; whether felt in humiliation or cowardice, or in a sense of failure to cope successfully with challenge. Shame is a wound felt from the inside, dividing us both from ourselves and from one another
According to Kaufman, shame is the source of most of the disturbing inner states that deny full human life. Depression, alienation, self-doubt, isolating loneliness, paranoid and schizoid phenomena, compulsive disorders, splitting of the self, perfectionism, a deep sense of inferiority, inadequacy or failure, the so-called borderline conditions and disorders of narcissism-all result from shame. Shame is a kind of self-murder. Internalized, shame is characterized by a kind of psychic numbness that becomes the foundation for a kind of living death. Forged in the matrix of our source relationships, shame conditions every other relationship in our lives. Shame destroys self-esteem.
Shame and Guilt
Shame is at the heart of our wound and differs greatly from the feeling of guilt. Guilt says I've done something wrong; shame says there is something wrong with me. Guilt says I've made a mistake; shame says I am a mistake. Guilt says what I did was not good; shame says I am no good. The difference is distinct and profound.
Our parenting rules have not been seriously updated in years. They come from a time when monarchial patriarchy ruled the day rather than democracy. The high divorce rate; violent teenage disorders; massive drug abuse; and epidemic incest, eating disorders and physical battering all are evidence that something is radically wrong. The old rules no longer work. Our consciousness has changed, as has our view of the world.
Shame Through Abandonment
Our parenting rules primarily shame children through varying degrees of abandonment. Parents abandon their children in the following ways:
1. By actually physically leaving them
2. By failing to model their own emotions for their children, and by failing to affirm their children's expressions of emotion
3. By failing to provide for their children's developmental dependency needs
4. By physically, sexually, emotionally and spiritually abusing them
5. By using their children to take care of their own unmet dependency needs
6. By using children to take care of their marriages
7. By hiding and denying their shame secrets to the outside world so that the children have to protect these covert issues in order to keep the family balance
8. By not giving children enough of their time, attention and direction
9. By acting shameless
Children's needs are insatiable in the sense that they need their parents continuously throughout childhood. No five-year-old ever packed his bags and called a family meeting to thank his parents for their support and guidance as he got ready to make his way in the world. It takes 15 years before nature awakens these urges to leave home and parents. Children need their parents to be there for them.
Abandoned children have no one there for them. Children may even have to take care of their parents. The preciousness and uniqueness every human child possesses are destroyed through abandonment. The child is alone and alienated. This abandonment creates a shame-based inner core.
Emergence of the False Self
Once a child's inner self is flawed by shame, the experience of self is painful. To compensate, the child develops a false self in order to survive.
The false self forms a defensive mask, distracting the true self from its pain and inner loneliness. After years of acting, performing and pretending, the child loses contact with the true self. That true self is numbed out. The false self cover-up makes it impossible to develop self-esteem.
The crisis is far worse than is generally known because adults who parent their children badly cover up their shame-based inner selves. So the crisis is not just about how we raise our children; it's about a large number of people who look like adults, talk and dress like adults, but who are actually adult children. These adult children often run our schools, our churches and our government. They also create our families. This book is about the crisis in the family today-the crisis of adult children raising children who will become adult children.
The Family Rules
The rules about raising children are the most sacred of all rules. They are authenticated by religious teaching and reinforced in our school systems. Seriously questioning them is considered sacrilegious. This is why the crisis is so dangerous.
Like the story of the emperor with no clothes, we are not supposed to look. But in this case, the consequences are far more serious. We share a collective denial and a cultural no-talk rule. This no-talk rule is rooted in the rules governing parenting. Children should speak only when spoken to; children should be seen and not heard; children should obey all adults (any adult) without question. To question is an act of disobedience. And so the rules are carried out by the obedient child in all the adults who are raising families. The hidden child in every adult continues to obey, so that the rules are carried multi-generationally, and "the sins of the fathers" are visited on the children, to the third and fourth generations.
The crisis is cunning and baffling because one of the rules comprising the sacred rules is that we can't question any of the rules. We are not supposed to talk about the rules. This would dishonor our parents.
We have no alternative. We must break the sacred rule and question these rules because unless we talk about them, there is no way out. We must evaluate them in the light of our newfound knowledge of families as systems.
We must also examine these rules so that we can come to terms with our compulsiveness. Shame, with its accompanying loneliness and psychic numbness, fuels our compulsive/addictive lifestyle. Since the child in the adult has insatiable needs, we cannot find fulfillment. As grownups we can't go back as children and sit in Mom's lap or have Dad take us fishing. And no matter how hard we try to turn our children, lovers and spouses into Mom and Dad, it never works. We cannot be children again. No matter how many times we fill the cup, we still want more.
Shame fuels compulsivity and compulsivity is the black plague of our time. We are driven. We want more money, more sex, more food, more booze, more drugs, more adrenaline rush, more entertainment, more possessions, more ecstasy. Like a starving person, even more of everything does not satiate us.
Our dis-eases permeate everyday life. Our troubles are focused on what we eat, what we drink, how we work, how we sleep, how we are intimate, how we have orgasm, how we play, how we worship. We stay so busy and distracted that we never feel how lonely, hurt, mad and sad we really are. Our compulsivities cover up a lost city-a place deep inside of us where a child hides in the ruins.
I understand compulsive/addictive behavior as a pathological relationship to any mood-altering experience that has life-damaging consequences. Such a definition helps us move from our stereotypical pictures of the dives and back alleys of drug and alcohol addiction to the respectable corporate and religious lives of work and religion addicts. It also helps us see the effect of the broken relationship with our original caretakers that produced shame. Because our original dependency bridge with our survival figures has been broken, we are set up for problems with dependency and with relationships. In the abandonment relationships that shame us, our compulsivities are set up.
Our families are the places where we have our source relationships. Families are where we first learn about ourselves in the mirroring eyes of our parents; where we see ourselves for the first time. In families we learn about emotional intimacy. We learn what feelings are and how to express them. Our parents model what feelings are acceptable and family-authorized and what feelings are prohibited.
When we are abused in families, we learn to protect ourselves with ego defenses. We repress our feelings; we deny what's going on; we displace our rage onto our lovers, spouses or our friends; we create illusions of love and connectedness; we idealize and minimize; we dissociate so that we no longer feel anything at all; we turn numb.
Our addictions and compulsivities are our mood alterers. They are what we develop when we grow numb. They are our ways of being alive and our ways of managing our feelings. This is most apparent in experiences that are euphoric, like using alcohol and drugs, compulsively having sex, eating sugar, the adrenaline rush that comes with the feelings of ecstasy and righteousness. It is not as obvious in activities that are used to distract from emotions, such as working, buying, gambling, watching television and thinking obsessively. These are mood-altering nonetheless.
Addiction has become our national lifestyle-or deathstyle. It is a deathstyle based on the relinquishment of the self as a worthwhile being to a self who must achieve and perform or use something outside of self in order to be lovable and happy. Addictions are painkilling substitutes for legitimate suffering. To legitimately suffer we have to feel as bad as we feel.
The fastest-growing problem in our country is sexual addiction. Some estimates say that the number of sex addicts is equal to the number of chemical addicts. Grave social consequences have arisen from this problem. The spread of AIDS is certainly fueled by sexual addiction, as are incest and molestation. And while all sex addicts are not child molesters, most child molesters are sex addicts.
Another major factor in family dysfunction is the addiction to power and violence. Battered children and battered wives expose the horror of physically abusing families.
Violence itself can be an addiction. An essential component in any abusing relationship is the addiction to being victimized. Traumatic bonding, a form of learned helplessness, is a true addiction that enslaves and soul-murders.
I stated earlier that the old rules no longer work. What are these old rules?
The Swiss psychiatrist Alice Miller in her book, For Your Own Good, groups these parenting rules under the title "poisonous pedagogy." The subtitle of her book is Hidden Cruelties in Child Rearing and the Roots of Violence. She argues that the poisonous pedagogy is a form of parenting that violates the rights of children. Such violation is then reenacted when these children become parents.
The exalts obedience as its highest value. Following obedience are orderliness, cleanliness and the control of emotions and desires. Children are considered "good" when they think and behave the way they are taught to think and behave. Children are virtuous when they are meek, agreeable, considerate and unselfish. The more a child is "seen and not heard" and "speaks only when spoken to," the better that child is. Miller summarizes the poisonous pedagogy as follows:
1. Adults are the masters of the dependent child.
2. Adults determine in a godlike fashion what is right and wrong.
3. The child is held responsible for the anger of adults.
4. Parents must always be shielded.
5. The child's life-affirming feelings pose a threat to the autocratic parent.
6. The child's will must be "broken" as soon as possible.
7. All this must happen at a very early age so the child "won't notice" and will not be able to expose the adults.
If followed, these family system rules result in the absolute control of one group of people (parents) over another group of people (children). Yet in our present society, only in extreme cases of physical or sexual abuse can anyone intervene on a child's behalf.
Abandonment, with its severe emotional abuse, neglect and enmeshment, is a form of violence. Abandonment, in the sense I have defined it, has devastating effects on a child's belief about himself. And yet, no agency or law exists to monitor such abuse. In fact, many of our religious institutions and schools offer authoritarian support for these beliefs. Our legal system enforces them.
Another aspect of poisonous pedagogy imparts to the child from the beginning false information and beliefs that are not only unproven, but in some cases, demonstrably false. These are beliefs passed on from generation to generation, the so-called "sins of the fathers." Again, I refer to Alice Miller, who cites examples of such beliefs:
1. A feeling of duty produces love.
2. Hatred can be done away with by forbidding it
3. Parents deserve respect because they are parents. (Note: Any 15-year-old can be a parent without any training. We give telephone operators more training than parents. We need telephone operators, but we need good parents more.) [Emphasis mine.]
4. Children are undeserving of respect simply because they are children.
5. Obedience makes a child strong.
6. A high degree of self-esteem is harmful.
7. A low-degree of self-esteem makes a person altruistic.
8. Tenderness (doting) is harmful.
9. Responding to a child's needs is wrong.
10. Severity and coldness toward a child give him a good preparation for life.
11. A pretense of gratitude is better than honest ingratitude.
12. The way you behave is more important than the way you really are.
13. Neither parents nor God would survive being offended.
14. The body is something dirty and disgusting.
15. Strong feelings are harmful.
f 6. Parents are creatures free of drives and guilt.
17. Parents are always right.
Probably no modern parents embody all of the above. In fact, some have accepted and imposed the opposite extreme of these beliefs with results just as abusive. But most of these beliefs are carried unconsciously and are activated in times of stress and crisis. The fact is, parents have little choice about such beliefs until they have worked through and clarified their relationships with their own parents. I referred to this earlier as the problem of adult children. Let me explain further.
Children's Belief Patterns
The great paradox in child-parent relationships is that children's beliefs about their parents come from the parents. Parents teach their children the meaning of the world around them. For the first 10 years of life the parents are the most important part of the child's world. If a child is taught to honor his parents no matter how they behave, why would a child argue with this?
The helpless human infant is the most dependent of all living creatures. And for the first eight years of life, according to the cognitive psychologist Jean Piaget, children think nonlogically, egocentrically and magically. You can better understand nonlogical thinking by asking a four-year-old boy, who has a brother, if he has a brother. He will probably answer "yes." But if you then ask him if his brother has a brother, he will usually either be confused or answer "no."
An example of egocentric thinking is to stand across from a pre-five-year-old child who knows his right hand from his left. Hold your hands out and across from him. Ask him which is your right hand and your left hand. As his right hand will be opposite your left hand, he will say that your left hand is your right hand. His mind is immature and has not yet attained the ability to completely differentiate or separate himself from objects around him. The child projects his own view of the world on everything. His viewpoint is the only viewpoint. Winnie-the-Pooh has exactly the same feelings the child does. Little matter that Pooh is a toy bear. This egocentricity contains a survival value- for the child as it relates to self-preservation.
The magical part calf the child's thinking deifies the parents. They are gods, all-powerful, almighty and all-protecting. No harm can come to the child as long as he has parents. This magical idealization serves to protect the child from the terrors of the night, which are about abandonment and, to the child, death. The protective deification of the parents, this magical idealization, also creates a potential for a shame-binding predicament for the child.
For example, if the parents are abusive and hurt the child through physical, sexual, emotional or mental pain, the child will assume the blame and make himself bad in order to keep the all-powerful parental protection. For a child at this stage, realizing the inadequacies of parents would produce unbearable anxiety.
In essence, children are equipped with an innate ability to defend their conscious awareness against threats and intolerable situations. Freud called this ability an ego defense. The earliest defenses are archaic and, once formed, function automatically and unconsciously. It is this unconscious quality of these defenses that potentially makes them so damaging.
In a recent book called The Fantasy Bond psychologist Robert Firestone elaborates on Freud's work. According to the author, the fantasy bond is the core defense in all human psychological systems, ranging from those of psychotics to the systems of fully functioning individuals. The fantasy bond is the illusion of connectedness we create with our major caretaker whenever our emotional needs are not adequately met. The fantasy bond is like a mirage in the desert that enables us to survive.
Since no mother, father or other parenting person is perfect, all humans develop this fantasy bond to some degree. In fact, growing up and leaving home involves the overcoming of this illusion of connection and protection. Growing up means accepting our fundamental aloneness. It means that we face the terrors of the night and grapple with the reality of death on our own. Most of all, it means giving up our parents in their illusory and idealized form.
The more emotionally deprived a person has been, the stronger his fantasy bond. And paradoxical as it sounds, the more a person has been abandoned, the more he tends to cling to and idealize his family and his parents. Idealizing parents also extends to the way they raised you.
Development of the False Self
No child, because of his helplessness, dependency and terror wants to accept the belief that his parents are inadequate, sick, crazy or otherwise imperfect. Nature protects the child by providing the egocentric, magical and nonlogical mode of cognition I spoke of earlier. To be safe and survive, an abandoned child must idealize his parents and think of himself as bad, thus splitting himself. This split-off part is actually the parts of his parents that he has rejected. He projects this split and forbidden self to others, that is, to strangers who are not of his clan or family. He then introjects his parents' voices. This means that the child continues to hear an internal shame dialogue he originally had with the parents.
The child parents himself the way he was parented. If the child got shamed for feeling angry, sad or sexual, he will shame himself each time he feels angry, sad or sexual. All of his feelings, needs and drives become shame-bound. The inner self-rupture is so painful, the child develops a "false self." This false self manifests in a mask or rigid role that is determined both by the culture and by the family system's need for balance. Over time the child identifies with the false self and is largely unconscious of his own true feelings, needs and wants. The shame is internalized. Shame is no longer a feeling; it is an identity. The real self has withdrawn from conscious contact and therefore cannot be the object of his esteem.
Even after the magical period passes, around the age of eight, and the child moves into a more logical way of thinking, nature continues to provide an egocentric idealization of the parents. The youngster now thinks in a concretely logical manner and assumes the point of view of others. He "gets it" that Santa Claus cannot be in six department stores at the same time. At this stage he is more cooperative in games and play. He is less magical (stepping on a crack does not really break Mom's back). He now has greater appreciation for rules.
Even so, the logical child will remain egocentric and undifferentiated until early puberty. Only then will he have the capacity for full other-centered love and understanding. Until then, he will make a hypothesis and then cast it in bronze. If new data emerge to refute this hypothesis, the child will revise the data to fit his hypothesis.
One such hypothesis carried by children (because it is taught at the magical age) is that adults-parents especially-are benevolent and totally good.
Parents are good and no amount of evidence to the contrary will convince children differently. In addition, the emotional and volitional reasons the child clings to this belief is that children love their parents and are emotionally bonded to them. Abused children are more powerfully bonded. Abuse creates intense bonding because as a child is abused, his self-esteem diminishes and his choices are limited. The more he feels worthless, the more he feels powerless to change. The more he feels powerless, the fewer choices he feels he has. And the more he accepts the rules and introjects the parents' voices, the more the child idealizes these rules so as not to separate himself from his parents.
In other words, in order for a child to reflect on parental rules and find them wanting, be would have to separate and stand on his own two feet in childhood. A child cannot do this.
Once in adolescence, most of the child's energy is directed toward leaving the family, and it often appears as if adolescents are rejecting their parents' rules. In fact, the more fantasy-bonded an adolescent is, the more bonded he will become to his peer group, which serves as a "new parent." However, once this identity crisis is over, most adolescents return to the fantasy bond with their families. This is especially evident when a person settles down and starts his own family. What was famil(y)iar comes back and feels right, and this includes the rules for parenting. The poisonous pedagogy is transmitted multi-generationally as a sacred body of truth.
I stated earlier that these parenting rules are out of date. I contend that our consciousness and way of life have radically changed in the last 200 years. The poisonous pedagogy worked 200 years ago for several reasons.
First, life expectancy was much lower. Consequently, families were together a shorter period of time. Divorce was a rarity. The average marriage lasted 15 years and there was little adolescent family conflict as we know it. By age 13, most children had lost a parent. By 15, formal schooling was over. Puberty for women occurred in later adolescence.
Economically, families were bonded by work and survival. Father lived at home. Boys bonded to their fathers through work-apprentice systems. They watched and admired their fathers as they transformed the earth, built homes and barns, and created wonderful goods through manual labor. Today the majority of families have lost their fathers to the new world of work automation and cybernetics. Fathers have left home (someone estimated that the average executive father spends 37 seconds per day with his newborn).
Most children do not know what their fathers do at work. Motherbonding and fathers' inability to break that bond due to absentee fathering have caused severe marital and intimacy problems.
Children, especially males, were once the greatest asset to a family. The old Chinese proverb underscores this: "Show me a rich man without any sons, and I'll show you a man who won't be rich very long. Show me a poor man with many sons, and I'll show you a man who won't be poor very long.
Today children are one of our greatest economic liabilities. Supporting children through the completion of college costs a pretty penny. It also necessitates close interaction between parents and children for 25 years.
The rules governing parenting and personality formation 200 years ago were also the result of scientific, philosophical and theological views of human nature that have changed drastically. Two hundred years ago, democracy, social equality and individual freedom were new concepts not yet tested by time.
The world was simpler then. Isaac Newton had mapped out the laws of nature. He conceived the world much like the machines that would emerge from the Industrial Revolution. Thinking and reasoning were what progress was all about. Man was a rational animal. Emotions and desires had great power to contaminate and therefore were very suspicious. Emotions needed to be subjected to the scrutiny and control of reason. Men were content to enjoy the security of a fixed order of things. God was in his heaven and all was right with the world.....as long as men obeyed the laws of nature.
Those laws were also written into the hearts of men (and occasionally in women's hearts). This was the natural law. It was based on unchanging eternal truths.
Mothers and fathers carried God's authority. Their task was to teach their children the laws of God and nature and to be sure they obeyed these laws. Emotions and willfulness had to be repressed. Children were born with an unruly animal nature. Their souls, although made in God's image, were stained by original sin. Therefore, children needed discipline. Great energy was spent breaking their unruly passions and unbridled spirit. Spare the rod and you spoil the child. As Alice Miller reports, one 19th-century writer said:
"Blows provide forceful accompaniment to words and intensify their effect. The most direct and natural way of administering them is by that box on the ears, preceded by a strong pulling of the ear.... It obviously has symbolic significance as does a slap on the mouth, which is a reminder that there is an organ of speech and a warning to put it to better use . . . the tried and true blow to the head and hairpulling still convey a certain symbolism, too."
Any reaction to this punishment was deemed obstinate. Obstinate meant having a mind of one's own. Those were the good old days!
The work of Einstein ended this world view. The quantum theory replaced Newton's clockwork deterministic universe and its billiard-ball-like elements. Quantum theory challenged the basic notions of space and time. Everything in the universe was relative to everything else. Heisenberg's principle of uncertainty soon followed. He showed that while we can know that infinitesimal parts of matter exist, we cannot measure them.
Quantum physics brought a revolution in our way of viewing the universe. "Because of this," Dr. L. Dossey writes in Space, Time and Medicine, "we can expect it to wreak astonishing transformations in our views of our psychophysical self."
The old world view was definitively shaken by World War I and its 15 million dead.
Mankind had been basking in many illusions of inevitable progress. Rationalism and technological advances assured everyone that progress was inevitable. After World War I, people asked, "Where are reason and enlightenment?"
Stunned, the believers still espoused the faith. The League of Nations and the Weimar Republic were safeguards that this could not happen again.
Less than 20 years later, it did happen again. This time the modern world was shocked beyond any reason. Hitler and his followers were the agents of death for countless millions of people in the space of six years. His regime programmatically exterminated several million Jews in gas chambers and death camps. The heinousness of these crimes far exceeded anything known to human history. Their cruelty and inhumanity stretched beyond imagination. What would make a person want to gas millions of people? How could millions of others acclaim and assist him?
How Could Hitler Happen?
Germany had been a citadel of Christianity, the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation. Germany was a philosophical, theological and artistic giant among the nations of the world. How was it possible for all this to happen? How was Hitler possible?
Many answers to this question have been offered. None is satisfactory. Nevertheless, it is essential that we try to find such an answer. For at the end of the Nazi era came the new development of nuclear weapons, with their capacity for the annihilation of the human race.
How could Hitler happen? Certainly part of the answer lies in the harshness of the Treaty of Versailles, which robbed Germany of its lands. Another part of the answer lies in politics and economics. It has to do with self-interest, greed, the "haves" and "have nots." Part of the answer is sociological, having to do with special-interest groups and the laws that govern groups. This includes the shared focus and shared denials that group loyalty demands. And part of the puzzle of Hitler's Germany is psychological, having to do with the rules that govern the family structure.
The family is the place where persons are socialized. The rules governing the prototypical German family were almost a pure caricature of the patriarchal poisonous pedagogy. Indeed, obedience, rigidity, orderliness and denial of feelings taken to extreme led to the "black miracle of Nazism."
Erik Erikson voiced this powerfully in an article on Hitler. He writes:
It is our task to recognize that the black miracle of Nazism was only the German version, superbly planned and superbly bungled of a universal contemporary potential. The trend persists; Hitler's ghost is counting on it. [Emphasis mine]
The potential for this to happen again resides in the ever-present existence of the patriarchal poisonous pedagogy. Obedience and corporal punishment are still highly valued as the crown of parental discipline.
In the 1920s some did argue that the Weimar Republic would not succeed because of the totalitarian structure of the German family. The authoritarianism that gave the father such unequal rights over the mother and children did not provide a climate in which democracy could be learned.
Obedience Above All
Another factor in the black miracle was the patriarchal religious belief that all authority was from God and must be obeyed as a divine command. In its extreme form, this meant that one must obey authority, even if it is judged wrong.
Alice Miller has presented convincing evidence that Hitler was physically and emotionally abused as a child. His father was, in every sense, a totalitarian dictator. Some historians conjecture that Hitler's father was half-Jewish and illegitimate and acted out his rage on his children. Some believe that Hitler was reenacting his own childhood, using millions of innocent Jews as his scapegoats.
But Hitler could never have done this alone. What seems beyond all human logic is the fact that one madman could corrupt an entire elitist nation like Germany.
Erik Erikson has suggested that Hitler mobilized the dissociated rage of German adolescents. He was an adolescent gang leader who came as a brother and offered a matrix that institutionalized their rage. This rage was their unconscious response to their cruel upbringing and was neatly denied in the myth of the "master race." The scapegoated Jews represented the victimized part of themselves as they identified with their aggressive totalitarian parent. This national "acting out" was the logical result of an authoritarian family life in which one or two persons, the parents, have all the power and can whip, scold, punish, humiliate, manipulate, abuse or neglect their children-all under the banner of parenting and pedagogy.
In the autocratic German family, mother and children were totally subservient to the father's will, his moods and whims. The children had to accept humiliation and injustice unquestionably and gratefully. Obedience was the primary rule of conduct.
Hitler's family structure was the prototype of a totalitarian regime. His upbringing, although more severe, was not unlike that of the rest of the German nation. I believe that this similar family structure allowed Hitler to entice the German people.
Alice Miller has said that a single person can gain control over the masses if he learns to use to his own advantage the social system under which the people were raised.
At the Nuremberg war trials, murderer after murderer pleaded innocence on the basis of obedience to authority. People such as Adolf Eichmann and Rudolf Hess were trained to be obedient so successfully that this training never lost its effectiveness. To the end, they carried out orders without questioning the content. They carried them out just as the poisonous pedagogy recommended, not out of any sense of their inherent rightness, but simply because they were orders.
"This explains,' writes Alice Miller, "why Eichmann was able to listen to the most moving testimony of the witnesses at his trial without the slightest display of emotion, yet when he forgot to stand up at the reading of the verdict, he blushed with embarrassment when this was brought to his attention."
Rudolf Hess' strict patriarchal Catholic upbringing is well-known. His very religious father wanted him to be a missionary. Hess writes:
"I . . . was as deeply religious as was possible for a boy of my age.... I had been brought up by my parents to be respectful and obedient toward all adults.... It was constantly impressed on me in forceful terms that I must obey promptly the wishes and commands of my parents, teachers, priests and indeed all adults, including servants, and that nothing must distract me from this duty. Whatever they said was always right."
I believe that Nuremberg was a decisive turning point for the monarchial patriarchal poisonous pedagogy. Obedience, the star in the Christians' crown of glory, the meta-rule of all modern Western family systems, had reached its zenith of disclosure in terms of its potential for destruction. Suddenly the childhood idealism of the family structure was exposed as devastatingly destructive and with it, the whole substructure of life-denying rules.
Hitler and Nazism are a cruel caricature of what can happen in modern Western society if we do not stop promoting and proliferating family rules that destroy the self-esteem of human beings. Nazism marks the end of an epoch.
The Insidiousness of Total Obedience
Mine is an urgent, frantic plea for people to understand how insidious the rules that form the poisonous pedagogy can be. These rules are not insidious in themselves; they become insidious as absolutized and totalistic laws of human formation. Obedience and orderliness are essential to any family and social structure. Law as a guide to human safety through its protective structure is essential to human fulfillment. Learning to be agreeable, cooperative, unselfish and meek is useful and valuable.
However, obedience without critical judgment and innerfreedom led to Nazism, Jonestown and My Lai. It was obedience absolutized and cut off from human sensitivity and natural law.
Similarly, cleanliness and orderliness without spontaneity lead to obsessive enslavement. Law and intellectualism without vitality and emotions lead to mechanical coldness and inhuman, heartless control. Considerateness, meekness, unselfishness without the essentials of inner freedom, inner-independence and critical judgment lead to a "doormat," people-pleasing type person, who can be ruled by almost any authority figure.
We programmatically deny children their feelings, especially anger and sexual feelings. Once a person loses contact with his own feelings, he loses contact with his body. We also monitor and control our children's desires and thoughts. To have one's feelings, body, desires and thoughts controlled is to lose one's self. To be de-selfed is to have one's self-esteem severely damaged.
This tragic sense is a major cause of the rage that dominates our world. The rage is either directed against strangers in crimes of violence, or it is directed against ourselves as the shame that fuels our addictions.
My contention is that most families have dysfunctional elements because our rules for normalcy are dysfunctional. The important issue is to find out how specifically you were impacted by your family's use of these rules. Once you know what happened to you, you can do something about it.
The key points covered in this chapter can be summed up using the letters from the word CRISIS:
Compulsive/Addictive Behavior Disorder
The range of compulsive/addictive behavior in modern society is awesome. The bubonic plague of today is compulsivity. It affects our everyday lifestyle; how and what we eat; how and what we drink; our work; our recreation; our activities; our sexuality; our religious worship. Such behavior is modeled and set up in families.
Rules for Child Rearing
The poisonous pedagogy promotes ownership of our children. It preaches non-democratic ways of relating. It especially espouses inequality of power. It promotes the denial of feelings and corporal punishment.
Idealization of Parents and Family
One of the rules of the poisonous pedagogy is that the rules cannot be challenged. This means that parents and family cannot be critically evaluated. Children naturally idealize their parents out of survival needs. They grow up to be adult children who carry out their parents' rules to the next generation. This creates more adult children.
Adult children are adults with a wounded child living inside of them. The true self is ruptured and a false self must be created. Shame is a being wound.
Ideological Totalism_Nazi Germany
The ultimate expression of the poisonous pedagogy was Nazi Germany. Hitler created the master/slave national state. He used the socialization structures of the German family to create the Nazi regime. As long as the poisonous pedagogy goes unchallenged, the phenomenon of Hitler is still a potential in our society.
We now understand that social systems have laws, components and structural dynamics. Societies create "consensus realities" that ultimately become unconscious. Families are systems in which the whole is greater than the parts. Such systems have rules that, if left unchallenged, become closed systems, and such closed systems can go on for generations.