Just Like my Daddy: Loyalty and the Moral Defense–Part 2

Military recruiters and police academies all over the world know intuitively that the way to create loyalty is to traumatize the recruits. Humiliate them, spit on them, call them names, scream in their faces, scare them, traumatize them, and in return you will get loyalty. Unfortunately you won’t get good positive interactions between these trainees and the public. What you will get from these traumatized trainees is authoritarian challenges, groupthink, and in general, running roughshod over the public’s civil rights. If you don’t believe me, try exercising your federally protected civil right not to testify against yourself, next time your vehicle is stopped by an officer. You will regret it.

Patty HearstThe public was baffled in the 1970s when a newspaper and magazine CEO’s daughter named Patty Hearst, was kidnapped by a gang of revolutionaries, the Symbionese Liberation Army. She was later caught on a bank’s security video carrying a machine gun into the bank, helping to rob the bank. The American public decided she had been brainwashed. She had been brainwashed, but first she was traumatized.

Stockholm syndrome

Bank employees held hostage in Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm Syndrome is named after the 1973 hostage taking of bank employees for six days, who later defended their kidnappers and adopted the kidnappers’ values. But this has always been true. Freed slaves wanted to own slaves. People freed from concentration camps were harsh on their children. The prisoner realizes, at a subconscious level, that in order to survive she has to take on the viewpoint of the kidnapper: Identification with the Aggressor.

BXP52548Who is fascinated by casinos? Probably those whose parents made big promises and then didn’t keep the promises. Gambling casinos match that original parent-child interaction, and the adult who bonded with a parent who never kept his promises is fascinated by a similar mirage in adulthood. Instead of running as far away from unfulfilled promises, we run towards whatever reminds us of the dysfunction and trauma of our childhoods.

But why would anyone be sucked in by an abusive church? That one is easy: Because abusive churches fascinate those of us who grew up in abuse.

Jesus said if we are not willing to forsake our mothers and fathers then we are not worthy to be his followers. Almost every interaction Jesus had with his family was difficult, negative and rejecting. He had to oppose his family from the beginning in order to accomplish his work. Jesus’ family represented themselves as followers of God, and they were upset and baffled when he ignored and contradicted them, walking away from his family.

Fairbairn, an early theoretician of Object Relations Theory and Attachment Theory, taught that children, in order to form their own identities, first bond with their parent/s. If they see negative in their parents, they are compelled to ignore it or justify it in order to maintain the kind of bonding they need to form their identities. So if their parents are neglectful, harmful or rejecting, they must justify that behavior by pronouncing themselves bad. A four year old girl told Fairbairn: “My Mommy broke my arm because I was a bad girl.” This is necessary, posits Fairbairn, because if she admits her mother is bad, she loses all hope of forming a positive identity in adulthood. She might as well jump into the abyss as to admit that her mother is not worthy of her adoration and imitation. You can see this attitude clearly in first grade boys who each insist that his father is the best father in the world.

Erikson, who floated 7 stages of psychosocial development in a person’s life, said that we could get stuck at any stage along the path, failing to accomplish an essential psychological task, and we would move forward without the equipment that stage was to provide us with. All a parent needs to do to prevent a child from declaring independence in the teen years is to traumatize the child earlier. The result of post trauma in teen years, according to James Marcia, are three choices: identity moratorium, identity diffusion and foreclosed identity. What we see most often in the sect I grew up in is foreclosed identity: taking on the identity and values of one’s parents wholesale, without critical examination. Moving forward into Identity Achievement would require courage, strength and resources that the traumatized person does not have. You can see this on Facebook with friends or relatives who repeat news stories on Facebook that support the beliefs they were raised with, without any effort to check these stories to see if they are urban myths.

house-of-cardsSo in the hard line Churches of Christ, each generation accepts their sect’s house of cards without being willing to examine the beliefs and values in any new light.

Traumatized people stay blindly loyal to their church, unwilling to break free from the dysfunctional organization that reminds them so much of their dysfunctional parents they have not been able to differentiate from.


About Mark

I was raised in the conservative non-institutional churches of Christ and attended Florida College in Tampa, Florida. I served as a minister for 8 years in the non-institutional churches of Christ, and 4 years at a mainline church of Christ in Vermont.
This entry was posted in civil rights, Dishonesty, History, Manipulation, military, Nonviolence, politics, Psychology, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Just Like my Daddy: Loyalty and the Moral Defense–Part 2

  1. SteveA says:

    Though you and I have never met, it is amazing how well you describe what I have seen and experienced within our shared heritage. My experiences corroborate to me what you have said. It was the first semester of my senior year of college, Harding U., when I began to question and to lose confidence in some of the things I’d been told. The next semester I took Psych 101 and was quite enthralled with what it taught me, providing guidance for further exploration. It was the early seventies and it seems that our culture was generally more open to listening to and learning from psychology than in more recent decades. Psychology Today, which I subscribed to in the seventies and eighties was at one time a very successful magazine. Around 1990 there was some kind of change that happened to society. Confirmation bias, fear, resentment and spite are winning the day. Friends and family have forwarded to me many of those urban legends and willful distortions you mentioned. I feel sometimes like I’m living in the Twilight Zone.

  2. Mark says:

    Yes, the massive change in the availability of information, and the change in how we talk to each other has changed the outlook of young people. What makes sense to young people is very different from what makes sense to older. I remember the book Soul Tsunami: Sink or Swim in New Millennium by Leonard Sweet, in which he argues that this information age is like the movie Waterworld, in which the old wisdom does not work in the new world. Wise people instructed young people to 1. go to college and 2. buy real estate, both instructions ruining people financially 2008-2012.

    • SteveA says:

      You caused me to dig up my copy of Soul Tsunami. Hadn’t picked it up in ten years I guess. Don’t even remember buying it or why. My, what a barrage of ideas, thoughts, quips, quotes, aphorisms, and word plays. Hundreds of references. An instructive manual for our developing postmodern situation. By the way, are you familiar with Morris Massey’s “You Are What You Were When” series? They showed his videos at my work in the eighties and it made a big impact on me, clarifying the differences between various age groups and explaining to me why older people were upset at things that seemed relatively unimportant to me. The basic insight is that people tend to be gut level programmed at age ten. The way things are when they are ten years old is how things ought to be.

    • garycummings says:

      The old wisdom? Go to college and buy a house. I had about 0 years of university and grad school. Some learning did take place. Then to become an RN to support my wife and I went back to a Jr.College. My advice is: get a vocational trade/license, and then rent and old house in the suburbs where one can have some animals and a garden. Live simply.

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