Tag Archives: families

the power of denial

i had a conversation with a client the other day about his brother who is presenting him with quite a bit of bafflement. “he (let’s call him noah) is such a nice guy; wise, funny, understanding, compassionate, self aware. and then – there is this part of himself that he seems to be completely unaware of. whenever his brother-in-law gary shows up, he turns into this macho, obnoxious, beer-guzzling football fanatic. even gary is embarrassed. and he just can’t see it.”

my client can’t ignore or avoid the behaviour, either, because he spends a lot of time at noah’s place. “i don’t get it! noah is such a great guy otherwise. but as soon as gary shows up, i can’t stand him, i don’t want to be around him. what’s worse, he loves to make plans when gary is around and drags us all into it. we’re at our wits’ end. we can’t talk to him about it because he insists that nothing is wrong and points out how we trust him otherwise and rely on his sensitivity. which is true. i don’t know what to do.”

i don’t know what the outcome will be; there are many possible scenarios. maybe noah will wake up one day and realize what’s going on. maybe people will start retreating from him. maybe his family will tell him often enough how uncomfortable they are with his behaviour that he will change it or take it elsewhere.

what interests me here is the incredible power of denial that can put a chink into even the most self-aware, conscious person. and i wonder – do i have a blind spot like that, too? how would i be able to tell? as we can see here, such blind spots can exert considerable negative power over people – and i mean that in the plural; noah is by far not the only person who is affected. swiss psychoanalyst adolf guggenbuehl-craig says that one of the best ways of minimizing such situations is to constantly make oneself vulnerable to those dear and near. scary! but what’s the alternative?

i’ll make sure to show this post to my friends and family. if there is a blind spot that they would like me to see but haven’t found a way to do it, maybe this will open a door.

cults

during the blogathon, one of the entries was about about a woman leaving a cult. coincidentally, just a few days later, one of my stumbleupon friends pointed me to steven hassan’s work. interestingly enough, this also led me to another article relevant to a blogathon post about guru shopping.

from what i’ve seen so far, i quite like steven hassan’s approach, which is informed by his own experience in the moonie cult. his organization is

dedicated to respect for human rights, spirituality, and consumer awareness. we endeavor to be a safe and responsible place where you can turn to for resources, news and information about destructive cults, and mind control techniques, as well as learn how to help yourself and others. steven alan hassan is a nationally certified counselor (ncc) and also a licensed mental health counselor (lmhc) in the commonwealth of massachusetts and is an expert on destructive mind control issues. he offers a unique method of specialized counseling, called the strategic interaction approach.

here is some information on this approach, which again sounds good to me – it is respectful of the whole individual; i.e. it looks like it does not replace one form of brainwashing with another:

the strategic interaction is a customized approach that encourages everyone to develop positive, constructive patterns of communication. … the goal is to restore the creative, flexible, interdependent adult. we want the cult member to understand what happened to him by helping him fully digest and integrate the cult experience. …

the strategic interaction approach liberates and then integrates the parts of the pre-cult identity that were co-opted by the cult identity. in addition, we draw out the individual’s “authentic,” or higher, self and enlist its help to make new associations with the cult self. for example, we recognize that idealism is an integral part of our loved one’s authentic identity. by pointing out discrepancies between cult doctrine and hypocritical cult policies, the idealistic component of the cult identity can be encouraged to begin the questioning process.

by taking an oppositional, “i’m right, you’re wrong” approach, deprogrammers and exit-counselors often unwittingly create a win-lose mentality. strategic interaction encourages adaptability and creativity by widening one’s experiential base, which results in a win-win environment. for instance, if family members have never meditated and their loved one is in a meditation cult, then i encourage them to experience meditation. …

i urge you to scrutinize the beliefs and affiliations of people who offer to rescue your loved one from a destructive cult. many of these people will seek to impose their own ideological perspective. the ethical approach is to avoid imposing any ideological or theological viewpoint on a mind control subject.

if you’re interested in getting a closer look at steven hassan, watch this video:

three family blessings

christmas day. after a nice walk through the winter snow here in kelowna, we just came back from one of our numerous big traditional family get-togethers during the holiday season. once again i’m struck by how easygoing and friendly my husband’s big clan is. what are they doing right?

snow on a kelowna winter night

  1. they are tolerant – and it’s a tolerance that, i’m sure, doesn’t always come easy. when the kids grew up, for example, i assume grandma and grandpa didn’t envision that most of them were going to marry outside of their ethnic origin.
  2. they keep gossip to a minimum, and it’s never mean. people talk, of course, and in every family there are things that ask for commentary. but i’ve never heard a “can you believe …”. never heard any juicy details dragged through the mud.
  3. they don’t burden people with big expectations. i never felt that i “had” to do anything. some people help with the dishes, others don’t. some send christmas cards, others don’t. there might be some mild eyebrow raising once in a while when a wish is not fulfilled – but no biggie, it’s all good.

i’m very grateful to be part of this family. and i wish you all that you, too, can experience a tolerant, discreet and uncomplicated family life.

(photo by LN)

(this article was included in the gonzo gratitude carnival