Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Choices Not Your Own

Several months ago in Between a Rock and a Heart Place, I responded to some comments that had been left over at Quivering Daughters. The comments were in response to my story and the situation in many relationships between us "civilians" and daughters of patriarchy. Here's a snippet of the comments...

The father creates a negative atmosphere of confusion for the daughter, who wants to obey and fears disobeying, but also has the conflicting desire for the relationship. Then the father points out how confused she is, how indecisive she is, how immature she is, how depressed she is, how she is not stable enough emotionally, etc....all are true descriptions of the daughter; he connects this to her being in a relationship outside of the father's authority, but the truth is that he has created this constant state of devastation, to further control her actions. He withholds love and is joined by the wife in a painful process of rejection until the daughter comes "back under."

What you see there is manipulation, cruelty, and both spiritual and emotional abuses. What was (and perhaps still is) being done to this young woman is evil and abusive.

If you've read here or at other blogs with similar subject matter, you've probably heard the term "Bounded Choice". I want to shine the light on BC for just a bit and step out into the mindset around it. I see it as one of the most effective, and most cruel, tools in the belt of leaders within cultic dynamics. First of all, Hillary at Quivering Daughters has an excellent piece on BC HERE, and Cindy at Under Much Grace has an excellent article HERE. I won't be plowing much in the way of new ground, as they've both covered it very, very well. What I hope to do here is keep it in the forefront of thinking and discussion concerning P/QF issues. It's a biggie.

This issue is a very personal one for me. All of my ex's family and circle will tell you that she made her own choice concerning me, and did so unimpeded and without manipulation. Even worse, SHE would/will tell you the same thing. She genuinely believes it. It's laughable on every level, but she believes it. She made a bounded choice. It was her own freely made bounded choice...and that's the beauty in the bounded choice for a cult leader. Example...

If someone kicks you out of an airplane at 10,000 feet, and you're lucky enough to be wearing a parachute, you have two options: pull the rip cord or become a greasy spot on the ground. Now, make no mistake, the decision to pull the cord and open the chute is all yours, free and clear...Do you see where this is going? The guy who kicked you out of the plane made your choice for you when he kicked you out of the plane and left you with only one viable option, BUT, he can distance himself from you choosing to open the chute because, technically, he wasn't there when you made this "choice".

When you add to this dynamic a victim (in P/QF families, a daughter) who hasn't been raised to be discerning, but rather to be reliant, who hasn't been raised to think critically, but rather to accept blindly, who hasn't been raised with a sense of personal autonomy and individuality, but rather as part of a collective, who hasn't been given the full spectrum of information, but rather only controlled information that fits the group ideology, well, this is a person who has been trained since birth to never even see the manipulation coming, and in many cases, to be thankful for it, seeing it as God's intervention.

The typical daughter of patriarchy, in the situation my ex was in, is faced with the following choice...

A) I can pursue my future with the man I love, and be shunned, estranged, considered sinful, selfish, and rebellious - essentially being rendered an orphan, cut-off from everyone and everything I've ever known.
B) I can ignore my evil heart and remain in God's will by submitting to my father, because God won't do anything in my life without giving my father peace about it first.

Would you call that a "free" choice? Young women from the P/QF cult are given these same options just for pursuing their own path, whether a romance is involved or not. Choosing "B" results in a hearty round of emotional pampering, love bombing, babying, false peace, and the like, which creates the illusion for the woman that "B" was God's will.

Remember, she's been raised to be naive and unstable. She been trained to view anything she says critical of her family as betrayal and sinful - because again, parents in the P/QF dynamic are infallible, serving as God's chosen, ordained, appointed, and utmost vassals to their children, incapable of mistakes as long as they follow the formulas - or at least this is the image presented by the movement's ideas. So, with this sense of betrayal hanging in the heart and mind, when seeking counsel, a daughter of patriarchy (still at home) will leave out key elements of information, leaving her counselors incapable of giving sound advice. For instance, consider the following two statements/questions from the same person seeking advice on the same issue...

1) Should I go and take a shower?
2) There's a rattlesnake in the shower. Should I go and take a shower?

The advice given in response to the second statement/question would look considerably different, don't you think? A person still under the weight of guilt, fearing betrayal, and operating within boundaries of choice manipulated and determined by someone else will lean toward statement #1. 

On a couple of occasions, my ex went to people outside of the P/QF dynamic to seek counsel about our relationship. The first time, she left out the P/QF beliefs of her father, she left out the behaviors and threats of her father, and presented the situation only as "tension" between her fiancee and father - all because she felt guilty in discussing her family. The counsel she received was "your fiancee and father need to resolve this tension before you marry". She finally realized that she couldn't get genuine, sound counsel unless she presented the entire field of information, good, bad, and ugly. The second person she sought counsel from, a pastor local to her area, upon hearing ALL of the information, told her "Your father is out of line. He doesn't own you or have authority over you. If you love this man, go and marry him." While our relationship benefitted from this counsel for a time, it was very traumatic for her to have to communicate the truth about her father and family and their bizarre beliefs. She had crossed established, cultic boundaries that would bring retribution from her family. She had left the native land of their beliefs, and they hadn't issued her a passport. Even worse, according to everything she had ever been taught, she was practically shaking her fist in defiance of God Himself, what with neglecting His ordained order!!!

There were so many unhealthy boundaries within her mind...all courtesy of patriarchy.

Many of the things the daughters of patriarchy do from day to day, things that make up the "godly" lifestyle, are done out of duty and obligation. P/QF types will tell you that performing these behaviors and tasks are labors and expressions of love. They're actually a series of manipulated, bounded choices, usually performed of out fear of the consequences of failing to do what someone else has determined for them is their duty and obligation.

Now...You tell me how someone can disagree with a P/QF family and exit this type of dynamic - and do so cleanly and uneventfully, without everything in their life being turned upside down. And then...Tell me it's not a cult.


  1. WOW. Excellent post Lewis, thank you.

    This is very true. I keep finding that my presuppositions about what constitutes brainwashing, what's bounded choice, how does freewill come into play, all need to be re-evaluated at intervals. As you say, I hope I am thinking and never merely accepting.

    Glad to see you posting again.

  2. Wow.....this is all so true and so reminiscent of what I went through in leaving home at the age of 20 to marry the man I loved. There is NO way that an adult daughter in this bondage can leave cleanly and uneventfully and I say that from personal experience.

    I'm glad you're posting again. Thanks for speaking up!!

  3. Excellent. I am living out the consequences of leaving the P/QF movement. I recently married a Christian man and moved several states to follow God's leading in my life. Since then, my family has rejected me and my husband and does not want a relationship with us. Thank you for being honest and sharing your heart. May God bless you and heal your wounds.

  4. To be perfectly blunt...this post really hit home for me. Thanks.

  5. It's just so weird to me that nearly everything you and others post about DAUGHTERS of patriarchy are things I'm already familiar just so happens that it reminds me of a SON of patriarchy. I guess I figured sons would be raised differently...but no, the fear, the manipulation, the bounded choice, the brain washing, the emotional abuse during "rebellion" and then the emotional coddling after "repentance"...there is no difference. He actually did the same thing your ex did...he sought advice about our relationship from someone who was not only NOT his parents, or someone in the P/QF community...but my own mother. Needless to say, his mother threw a fit.

    Every time his mother talked to me about it (since he wasn't and isn't allowed to talk to me), she began with "He feels..." or "He believes..." or "He has chosen..." Can I call BS? He feels and believes and has chosen what they told him to feel and believe and choose.

    And by the way! I was informed by his mother a few days after Christmas that he isn't interested in being my friend because I'm unrepentant. ...what exactly do I need to repent of? Standing there helplessly while they shoved their toxic legalism down his throat, trying to smack it out of him, and walking away when I realized he was a lost cause? I'm so, so sorry.

    Good post, Lewis.

  6. We as parents are to "train up a child" so as we do not have to repair them as adults. They may choose their own way when they leave home but they will never forget the standard set there. If done in love, we as parents can take comfort in the hand of the LORD to guide them back into that same standard. They are still individuals, and if they do not return, then we love them and they must stand alone and give an account of themselves to God.

  7. "Now...You tell me how someone can disagree with a P/QF family and exit this type of dynamic - and do so cleanly and uneventfully, without everything in their life being turned upside down."

    Nope. It is not possible. It's just not. Good post, Lewis!

  8. This is a very convincing post.

  9. "parents in the P/QF dynamic are infallible, serving as God's chosen, ordained, appointed, and utmost vassals to their children, incapable of mistakes as long as they follow the formulas"-

    This statement is so true and makes me sick to my stomach. As a parent who was tempted by this ideology, when you write it out in black and white it is so OBVIOUSLY an appeal to carnal pride that I am shrinking in disgust.

    What sober-minded Christian parent could possibly believe that about themselves, or gather to themselves that kind of power without feeling the least fear of God in their hearts holding them back? Reading that gives me the sort of fear and trembling David must have felt when his soldiers brought him that cup of water at great risk to their own lives.

    That sort of honor belongs to God alone. I would NEVER in a million years seek to usurp that place in someone else's life. To Jesus alone be our allegiance, always.

    Great post. I'm linking to it today. =)

  10. I am that daughter of patriarchy. Ironically, my dad isn't the one coming up with the patriarchal ideas: it's my mom. So really it's a matriarchy. She wants me to make the "right choice" and stop lusting (because OBVIOUSLY that's what it has to be -- it couldn't actually be genuine love or affection) and stop being rebellious, because we're "unequally yoked." My man and my parents are the ones that are "unequally yoked." Good thing he's not marrying them, then!

    Every day I come home from seeing him I'm confronted with the choice of rebelling against my parents for the man I love or running back to them to avoid their scalding disdain, contempt, and haughty shunning. No true God-fearing Christians should EVER manipulate others in this way.

    Thanks to them, I know we're meant to be. He has been patient and supportive through all of this and refuses to give up on me, despite the baggage I come with. Thanks be to God for this unspeakable gift.

  11. ThatBee...Very sorry you're going through this. You hang in there. Seek truth in all things.

  12. It most certainly can apply to males. I have also seen that myself. I once dated a guy from a family like that. WE were fine when he suddenly stopped talking to me. When I called him, his dad would answer and not allow me to speak to him. He would speak FOR him telling me what he supposedly thought and felt. I just knew that was not the man I knew. Then when I called again and demanded to speak to the guy personally, his dad called me a witch, said I was twising Bible verses, said I was a seductress, pretty much every negative word for a woman that could be used. WHY? Cause I kissed his son. Ooh. And without his permission. What a whore. When I finally did confront him at a Bible study, he actually said with tears in his eyes that he couldn't see me anymore. Maybe it was his choice, but he sure had a lot of HELP making that "choice".

  13. Oh, yeah. I'm not gonna tell you it's not a cult.

    I've been reading around the internet about this kind of stuff for a few months now, and I am feeling more and more shocked. I grew up in circles that probably intersected with these circles in some places, but were mostly much more "patriarchy lite"... a rather strange situation, with my parents--missionaries to France and intellectuals--being the most enlightened Christians I knew but still involved in a church culture that taught me some things I've really had to work to unlearn. And then a two-year relationship with a guy who wasn't CP... technically... but could very easily have gone that way, it was all there. That was tough. A dark tunnel. I've felt a sense of recognition, reading this stuff, and at the same time a sense of how much I have been spared. Wow. Wow...

    This explanation of bounded choice makes a great deal of sense to me. I experienced it in a little microcosm last fall. Long story short, I went to a spiritual retreat that turned out to use cult methods. Odd thing is, this thing is very mainstream, in many denominations, the original (Catholic) version is called Cursillo and they don't try to manipulate you life-long or anything, it's just one weekend with techniques meant to make you feel you've had an amazing spiritual experience. Only the most important thing about the weekend is, they won't let you leave. At all costs, no, you must not leave. (And somehow a lot of people have stories about how they wanted to leave, stayed, and had an amazing spiritual experience. Sound familiar?) They have you leave your car at a nearby church and be carpooled to the retreat center by volunteer staff, who incidentally outnumber the "guests" four to one, some of them incognito. Also: sleep deprivation. And if you want to leave everyone acts as if you are having deep spiritual issues that are being brought up by the weekend, and here let us counsel you... yeah. The deep spiritual issues that were being "brought up" for me were: you are triggering me, because believe it or not, spiritual manipulation is a trigger for memories of *spiritual manipulation*!

    Well, why am I talking about this? Just to say, I left that retreat, and according to claims made by leaders of similar retreats only one in several thousand people ever does so. I'm a strong-willed, spiritually healthy person and it cost me hours of anguish just to leave that stupid retreat, and why? ONLY because everyone around me thought what I was doing, which I knew perfectly well to be right, was wrong. Social pressure has got a power people simply don't understand. I can scarcely imagine the power of it for a person who has been severely indoctrinated all her life.

    So yeah. It's real. It's very real.

    Thank you for talking about it. Even for someone like me who has only received a few flesh wounds, it means so much.

    I am in the middle of reading your "The joke was on me" story. I grieve.