Archive for September, 2011

Mental Consequences of Spanking

After my post last week on anger and rage, I thought about how I think about what I wrote about how I couldn’t have to do something but others could.  I mentioned, I believe, that I believed that I had to be a stay-at-home mother and never work outside the home while other women who could be mothers and work.  I have always believed that there were special rules just for me and that I was always in danger of breaking them.  This dichotomy of one set of rules for me and a different set of rules for everyone else plus the spanking and the heavy handed punishment towards me and the lighter to non-existent punishments my sisters received shaped my thinking processes.  I’m not sure if I’m going to explain this very well so please bear with me.

In anthropology and in sociology there is the concept of us-vs.-them.  Us-vs.-them is the idea that one group is pitted against another for survival or in anthropology/sociology, one group holds another group’s differences to be so anathema to the first group’s beliefs that the second group has to be discriminated against or even eliminated.  This us-vs.-them mentality is also apparent in Michael Pearl’s child rearing manuals such as To Train Up a Child and his and his wife’s website No Greater Joy.  He argues that a parent is in a battle against the child’s will hence the us-vs.-them where the child is the “them” while the parent is the “us.”  This mentality is dangerous and damaging to not only the child but to the parent as well.  While I mention Pearl and his work, this isn’t a post about his work and my mother, to my knowledge, has never heard or read anything by Michael Pearl.  However, this mentality of us-vs.-them still exists in spanking and other means of corporal punishment.

When a child learns that it is okay to hit as long as you are an adult i.e. spanking, it sets up the foundation for this us.-vs.-them thinking.  A child learns that as long as he/she is bigger and stronger that it is okay to hit/punish while it is wrong (read “bad”) for a child to do any of these things.  A child become angry but has to hide that anger because a child isn’t allowed to feel or show his/her anger while it is okay for a parent to show anger and to even use that anger as a means of expression.  Beyond the us-vs.-them mentality, the child learns to split his/her thinking especially if that child is the main object of punishment, that is, the parents punish one child more or blame one child more than the others.  The child learns that she must be bad and unlovable and to live by a special set of rules just for her.  Add in a heavy dose of religion especially saying things like, “Bad girls like you go to Hell,” or “Godly girls know how to be good girls,” or “I have to beat the sin out of you,” then it gets really bad.  The child learns that not only does mom and dad not love them very much but that God is out to get them as well.  There is nowhere safe for them.  They are afraid almost all the time.  They realize they have to live by one set of rules otherwise mom and dad and God will be upset.  They learn that other children are more special and more loved than they are.  They learn that they are at the bottom of the heap and that the good things that happen to other people will never happen to them.  They believe that they are so bad that nothing good can happen to them or will happen to them.  They learn that the only thing that will happen to them is being punished.  They come to believe that they deserve that punishment or the very least learn to accept that they can do nothing to stop the spanking.

Growing up like this and seeing no way to change things leads to what psychology calls learned helplessness.  Learned helpless is the condition of a human person or an animal in which it has learned to behave helplessly, even when the opportunity is restored for it to help itself by avoiding an unpleasant or harmful circumstance to which it has been subjected (Wikipedia).  When a child has learned to suppress their feelings and to suppress any hope of things changing though the situation (spanking) later changes they have learned to be helpless.  This learned helplessness also plays into the changed/split thinking.  A child learns that not only are there special rules that she has to follow she also learns that nothing she does will prevent her from being spanked and while she tried her hardest to follow the rules perfectly she realizes that nothing will change.  After a while, she won’t try to change and she definitely won’t try to leave because she believes (without evidence to the contrary especially if she is sheltered and/or has limited contact with the outside world) that it is the same everywhere.  When the situation does change, that is the parents stop spanking because they are tired of it or they realize that yelling and screaming and just threatening spanking works just as well, the child won’t resist because she doesn’t know how to any more.  Yet, this is what Michael Pearl and even parents who don’t follow his teachings want: submissive children who obey.  Except it really isn’t obedience, it’s fear.  Actually, more like terrified.

What am I getting at?  While I’m not sure I explained the split/double thinking very well, I believe I did show that thinking does change when one spanks. We know that a child that was spanked and had to repress their anger and rage at being spanked learned that hitting was okay as long as an adult does it.  So when that child grows up they take the anger and rage they couldn’t show and couldn’t feel as a child and possibly take it out on their children.  They may justify this spanking as necessary discipline or even as commanded by the Bible.

In my case, this split thinking let me to believe that others could have and do things I wasn’t allowed to.  That I was cut off because of my badness.  That others could have things but I couldn’t because they were good and lovable and liked by God.  I was just a bad girl and that I needed to keep up this kind of thinking otherwise I wasn’t being good and holy enough even though I was bad (how’s that for a contradiction?).  I had to keep thinking that I was a bad person, that I was totally unlovable, I was completely unworthy of help or respect or of anything, that nobody could want me around.  That this kinds of thinking was good.  That I had to keep punishing myself otherwise I really was so bad that I deserve to go to Hell this very minute.  And my mother loved to reinforce this kind of thinking, saying things like “bad girls like you go to hell;”  “you’re too slow;” “why can’t you be more like your sisters?” “you’re too fat;”  “you’ll never amount to anything.”  This kind of thinking and belief is very unhealthy.  And you wonder why I have depression.  I tried not to have dreams because I believed I couldn’t achieve them.  I repressed my feelings and hopes to make other people happy.  I did things I regret believing they would make things better not realizing that they wouldn’t even touch the symptoms let alone the problem.  I forgot my childhood so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the abuse and anger and the fact that my mother just couldn’t be the mother I needed.  I squashed “me” because I didn’t know the real me and thought that if I did everything others wanted then I would be a “good me” rather than a “bad me.”  I denied who I was because I believed that the me I was told I was wasn’t good enough or smart enough or strong enough or pretty enough or athletic enough or Catholic enough.

I had a hard time  now because now I know this kind of thinking is wrong.  Really wrong.  Some people might consider this negativity very holy, actually, I know there are people who think this kind of negative thinking is holy but it isn’t.  It’s a sin.  God doesn’t make junk and He is the only one that will love us.  People put conditions on love.  God doesn’t.  If God is love, and He is, then He can’t put conditions on himself.  He doesn’t expect us to be perfect before we come to him.  We are to come as we are: broken, afraid, unloved, worthless, useless, sinner.  He doesn’t place unrealistic expectations on us and then punish us for not meeting them.  He has no desire to crush us into little pieces.  Only people want to do that.

Now I have no idea if what I wrote is what I really meant to write (considering I wrote about a four page essay in about 45 minutes) but it is what it is.  I’m just trying to work on my own depression and this was something I believed effected it.

 

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Anger, Rage, and Abuse

This post at Why Not Train a Child? really highlights some of the issues I have today.  The anger that I was not allowed to acknowledge or express when I was a child when my mother spanked me usually for something I didn’t do (my mother just preferred to spank me).

I was not allowed to be angry.  Anger was bad.  Only Mommy could be angry and when Mommy got angry I was in deep trouble.  When Mommy was angry, I was scared.  Even when Mommy wasn’t angry, I was scared because I didn’t know what would set her off.  It didn’t matter if I did or didn’t do something, if one of my sisters did something, I was the one that got in trouble, got screamed and yelled at, got spanked.  I was the Bad Girl.  I couldn’t do anything right and Mommy didn’t love me when I was bad.  I was almost always bad.  Bad Girls like me go to Hell.

Now I have a lot of anger and rage that boils under the surface and it wants out.  But I’m not allowed to be angry or have rage.  As a woman, we are taught that we are to be nice and happy and cheerful and never feel anything bad.  As a victim of abuse, I was taught that my anger was bad.  That my feelings were bad.  That I was bad.  When I was being abused, I didn’t know that I was being abused.  I thought everyone went through the same thing.  Everyone got yelled and screamed and spanked by their mother.

Now I know I have anger and rage and it sits there.  Sometimes it’s pretty quiet and I don’t have to worry about it coming out.  Then there are other times (like reading garbage by traddies) that it just wants to burst out and beat the crap out of somebody.  But I’m not allowed to have anger or emotions.  Feelings are bad.  Other people can have them.  I can’t.  I have to hide, squash the anger and the rage and deny it’s existence if I want to be even remotely acceptable as a person.  Other people are allowed to feel and express anger.  I am not.  I am expected to keep quite and be nice and happy.  But I can’t.  I just want to pound the stuffing out of something.  I feel like if I don’t get the anger and rage out then it will consume me, that I’ll end up in jail (not because of what I did but because of me) or locked up in a mental hospital because I am not socially acceptable to my family (which I already am not) or to society (which I pretty much am not anyways).  I feel like there are rules and expectations and freedoms for everyone and that those rules and expectations and freedoms are different or are not allowed for me at all.  Other people get to have fun and have friends and be loved.  I am not allowed to have fun or have friends or be loved.  I am not worthy of those things.  I am BAD.  Therefore, I must be so horrible that a whole set of rules apply just to me.  I am not allowed to have anger while everyone else is.  They are allowed to express their anger and there are not consequences while I am not allowed to have anger at all and if I showed that anger in anyway or even just felt it then I would need to be harshly punished.  Remember, I am BAD.  I deserve to be punished.

That mentality led me to doing some very harsh things to myself because I believed that if I was punished enough then everything would be alright, that I would be good enough, that I would be finally lovable, that I would be worthy, that I wouldn’t be arrested and thrown in jail for the rest of my life (still not sure where this came from but it was a major fear for many years; I still get anxious any time I see a police car even though I have never committed a crime and have had mostly positive interactions with the police).  I am not the only one.  I also call myself names, hit myself in the thighs ( I didn’t want anybody to see or know how bad I really was).  While I wasn’t raised in a patriarchal/quiverful/fundamentalist/traditionalist household I was raised in a household that had a mother that believed in corporal punishment and kept a paddle in the kitchen in open view and was very willing to use it. I felt by punishing myself I could stop my mother from punishing and abusing me.  Granted, a lot of what I did I didn’t do until I was in my teens.

I remember once (I don’t remember what I did) that I believed I had been so bad that I couldn’t sleep in my own bed but rather had to sleep on the floor in the downstairs bathroom (which had a shower stall, a toilet and sink so it was quite small and it was off the laundry room).  I remember being in tears not wanting to be sleeping in the bathroom but knowing that I had to sleep there because I was so bad.  I was in there for some time.  I even lay on the floor, so much in tears, thinking this was the only way to make things better.  Eventually, I left the bathroom and slept in my own bed.  The thing is, nobody knew what I had done.  It was the middle of the night and everyone but I was asleep.  I didn’t know that at the time I was depressed.  I just thought I was worthless and needed to be punished.

Even on my own as an adult I’ve felt that I needed to be punished.  I remember cooking one of those pasta dinners in a box.  I hadn’t been watching it and a lot of it stuck to the bottom of the pan and parts were burned.  I have to step back a moment and add that I struggle with my weight and how I view my body.  Even though I was never overweight till very recently, I was never a size 2 either.  I was healthy.  Yet my mother saw me as fat and called me fat and stupid to my face.  Even when I was a size 6 and had actually lost weight (when you live somewhere where you have to walk everywhere to do anything you lose weight) my mother still called me fat to my face.  She also didn’t like the fact that I was a vegetarian at that time (though it was fine when K decided to be a one) Well, I saw that burned food and while regular people would probably throw it out and/or salvaged the part that wasn’t burned, I decided that since I had screwed up so badly and that I couldn’t waste food because that would be a sin, that I had to eat the burned part and then starve myself to lose weight.  And yes, I am in tears at this point.  I was forced to eat a lot of food I didn’t like or couldn’t eat (there are foods due to texture or the digestive reaction that I have that I can’t eat certain food) growing up.  I think I ate three bites of it, in tears (which is what I am right now, in tears), and eventually threw it away even though I believed that I would be going to hell for wasting food like that.  As you can tell, I still have problems with food even as an adult who can cook and eat anything she wants.

At this point, I am going to have to stop.  I am getting too upset.  And I don’t want to make my depression worse.

Taking the Next Step

As I’ve posted on here before, I have depression.  Until yesterday, I  hadn’t done anything about it.  Saying I had depression was one thing.  It didn’t mean it was real.  It didn’t mean it was real or that I was really broken.  That I didn’t have all my shit together.

My depression was ephemeral, out of sight, out of mind in many ways.  I said the word depression to differentiate me from everybody else but I still wasn’t different.

Being mentally ill is not, was not something I wanted to be.

Aren’t most people who are depressed not really depressed at all but just not handling things very well?  I’ve heard that, read that.

Heard that people with depression or any mental illness aren’t really sick, they’re just looking for attention.

Mental illness is complete poppycock and totally made up.

If you have a mental illness, you really have unconfessed mortal sin, most likely unconfessed sexual sin on your soul.

No one who is a real Christian has a mental illness.  Only unbelievers and atheists get mental illnesses since they don’t have Jesus as the center of their lives.

If I was just married, stayed at home, and hat kids I would be happier.

If I dressed like Mary and never had an education and let a man run my life, I wouldn’t be this way.

If I was best friends with my parents and called them every day I wouldn’t be depresses.

I’ve heard or read or thought pretty much all of that.  But that’s not true.  None of that is true.

I have depression.  I was abused.  These are facts.  These things are real and true for me and they impact my life.  So what if it makes me a bad Catholic?  So what if I don’t have my shit together?  So what if I’m not married?  These things wouldn’t cure my depression.  Dealing with the abuse and neglect caused by my mother that led to the depression I have now will treat it, not waving some magic wand and waving it all away like so many Christians/Catholics do.  They ignore mental illness or say it is all made up and put down, belittle, ignore, and down right abuse those who have mental illnesses.  WHY?  Because they feel and believe their opinion that mental illness is against the Catholic faith is held by the Church and has to be enforced by them.

So if I get kicked out of my parish because of my depression, it’s because people refuse to understand that people are broken and hurt and that that burt and brokenness was caused by supposedly good and faithful Catholics and supposedly good and caring parents.

I took the first step and got help.  I now have medication.  I will get better even if it means I have to lose my job and my parish. I am important and I need to take care of myself.  I don’t care if people think that I am being selfish and unCatholic and disobeying the Church by not praying the Rosary fifty times a day as a magic cure.  I am tired of thinking of myself as a damned worthless, useless, unlovable person just because I am a woman, because I heard that growing up, and that that’s what I am supposed to tell myself to be considered a “good Catholic woman.”

I am taking care of me and I don’t give a shit what the world thinks about.  Remember, I am getting in touch with my inner bitch and she wants me to take care of myself and to love me for who I am.

The next step is to get counseling.

Why I Need to Get In Touch With My Inner Bitch: The Traddies are At It Again

After reading this post at The Church Fanatic (I am in the process of writing an article about it for this blog but I am doing a lot of research for it so it will be a while) and seeing this thread at CAF, it seems like the Traditionalists are trying to out-extreme the extreme fundamentalists.  What’s worse, is that they seem to be able to convince innocent people that their opinions are Church dogma and that if they don’t follow they are going to Hell.  To top that, I get persuaded that I am not being a good enough Catholic, I start thinking all these horrible thoughts that I need to dress in a burqa, consider myself leading men into sin if they see my wrist, and that I need to go to the Latin Mass because the Mass I attend isn’t good enough even though I wouldn’t want to go anywhere near those kinds of people and there isn’t one near me anyways.

Actually, traditionalists have had such an impact on me that my thoughts go towards thinking

-I am horrible just for being born a woman (not true) (what’s worse is hearing this kind of claptrap from women who hate themselves) God made me woman.  God doesn’t make junk therefore I am not horrible for being born a woman

-not wearing skirt/dresses all time means I’m not dressing right (I’ve gained so much weight due to my depression that I only fit into my pants)

-that I need to be a stay at home mom (I’m not married nor do I feel called to marriage and I have to stipulate that this thought is along the lines of I have to be a stay at home mom but everyone else that is other women can have careers and hobbies and such while I have to stay home and never go out except to Mass) ( it goes along with my depression and the thought processes that I learned/fell into growing up) I was taught/learned that I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t smart enough, wasn’t athletic enough, wasn’t pretty enough so the only thing I was good for was being a mother and staying home.  Yes, my mother used to tell me I was stupid, that I wouldn’t amount to anything, and that I was going to Hell.  Can we say screwed up?  Oh, she loved to tell me I was fat when I was a size 6.

-that I am going to Hell because I’m not getting it, not living the Catholic faith “right”, not praying the Rosary 24/7 (I actually pray three decades of it on the way home from work because the local Catholic radio station airs it when I get off in the morning but I have issues with the concept to mother and Mary as my mother when my own mother abused me.  Plus, I want a mother all to myself and not one I have to share.  I know that’s selfish but that’s where I’m at emotionally when it comes to healing from the mother’s abuse.  Again, this comes from the traditionalists who want conformity and uniformity and not the universality that is the Church.  Traditionalists are so focused on the external that Jesus and God are practically forgotten except as a hammer to beat people over the head with to force people to follow the “traditionalist’ way of doing things.

There are more and they are usually worse at work (I work graveyard security and the radio doesn’t work in my patrol vehicle so I’m left with my thoughts).  Suffice it to say, I need to get in touch with my inner bitch.  What I mean by that is accepting and being pleased with the fact that I am a woman, that I have power as woman, and that I can and do make things happen.  That I can and should stand up for myself.  That taking care of myself is okay.  That I matter as a person.  That I am worthy of love and respect, not because of what I do but because of who I am.

I am me and that is Good.

I do not need to be afraid of me as I was taught.  I am not a bad person because my mother said so or because I don’t adhere to some anonymous traditionalist’s ideal.

I am me and God is okay with that.  He loves me for me.  He created me.  Like I said,  He doesn’t make junk.

 

 


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