Monday, August 20, 2012

Parenting as Life

I'm currently reading a book on parenting called "Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child" by John Gottman, Ph.D., in which I found some very interesting parallels to fundamentalism.  One of the four parenting styles Dr. Gottman discovered in his research he calls the "Disapproving Parent".  The following description and effects are taken (with slight editing) from pages 50 and 51 of the book:

  • judges and criticizes the child's emotional expression
  • is overaware of the need to set limits on their children
  • emphasizes conformity to good standards or behavior
  • reprimands, disciplines, or punishes the child for emotional expression, whether the child is misbehaving or not
  • believes expression of negative emotions should be time-limited
  • believes negative emotions need to be controlled
  • believes negative emotions reflect bad character traits
  • believes the child uses negative emotions to manipulate; this belief results in power struggles
  • believes emotions make people weak; children must be emotionally tough for survival
  • believes negative emotions are unproductive, a waste of time
  • is concerned with the child's obedience to authority
Effects of this style on children: They learn that their feelings are wrong, inappropriate, not valid.  They may learn that there is something inherently wrong with them because of the way they feel.  They may have difficulty regulating their own emotions.

You want to understand the problems of Fundamentalism in a nutshell? Here it is, right here. An entire subculture where feelings and negative emotions are "ungodly"; where "conformity to standards", obedience, and excessive criticism are strongly encouraged.

In my opinion, this philosophy engenders much of the rampant emotional, spiritual, physical and sexual abuse in Fundamentalism.  Abusers take the role of the judgmental enforcer; abusees are unable to listen to trust their own feelings - feelings like fear or anger that could help them leave.  This is also why confronting an institution or a person in authority results in explosive anger or completely shutting down discourse - the authority cannot regulate their own emotions because they are not allowed to have emotions either.

It still never ceases to amaze me how many times I come across something that so clearly describes Fundamentalism that wasn't written about Fundamentalism.  There were times I experienced such flashbulb moments before I left, but buried it under the heading of "surely it must mean something else".  Once I learned to trust my own inner voice and stop making excuses for Fundamentalism's bad behavior, it became much clearer and leaving became possible.  Just like any abusive situation.


  1. From the blog of an atheist, but he makes a point:

    The only difference between the fundamental Islamic bomber and the American Olympic Park bomber is that the American was not willing to lose his life in the process. It has become obvious to me that there is little difference in principle between the Imam who uses thinly veiled language that suggests executing someone for the drawing of cartoons and a highly influential fundamentalist Christian politician using gun-friendly language and putting cross hairs over opposing political districts on a website.


    1. Just because someone is an atheist doesn't mean they can't see truth at all.

      I would completely agree that American fundamentalism is, in essence, the same thing as Islamic fundamentalism. Whenever I read an in-depth description of the workings of an Islamic fundamentalist community, much of it is scarily familiar.

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