Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Religion-Induced Emotional Abuse

Those of us who operate within Orthodox religious circles read the newspapers. We know about scandals pertaining to sexual abuse or molestation, physical abuse and degradation, and financial fraud. One area we have not as of yet discussed enough deals with the problem of religion-induced emotional abuse.

Part of the problem is that people have a very fuzzy idea of what emotional abuse is. For instance, can someone be emotionally abusive without intending it? Are people to blame for being emotionally abusive? If someone is emotionally abusive, does that of necessity make them bad? And why doesn't everyone have the same reaction to the same stimuli?

God created a world in which there are many different creatures: animals, fish, vegetation and humans. In the same way that all of these creatures differ from one another even though they may fall into the same category, so too do humans.

For instance, in the same way that a dandelion and a Venus Fly-Trap may differ, even though they are both forms of vegetation, so too may a shark and a school of tuna differ. As such, and due to their roles of predator and prey in various instances, they will react differently to different stimuli. Thus, while a school of tuna may flee rapidly from the jaws of a shark, a shark will feel no fear in the presence of another shark. One's reaction to various stimuli is largely dependant upon one's size, role and place in the food chain.

Human beings are similar. Miriam Adahan penned a fantastic book entitled Awareness: The Key to Acceptance, Forgiveness and Growth. This book is specifically intended for the Orthodox Jewish community and discusses the role that personality type, as evidenced by Enneagram type, plays when it comes to our reactions to different stimuli, among other things. The added bonus is that Adahan offers examples specific to our community. I would highly recommend the book.

Here is an example of how people may differ in reaction to the same stimuli: Suppose that you have planned a party and something goes wrong. Is your immediate reaction to externalize or internalize the blame? Type Ones will externalize it; Type Fours will internalize it. Obviously these reactions can be worked on and overcome or redirected, but I am speaking of one's internal self; the switch to which your emotional, operational and intellectual gears are originally set. Different people will have different modus operandi. This is why two people can be placed in the exact same circumstances and yet one comes out healthy and the other one unhealthy. Due to their specific and individual personality types, they have adapted to their situations differently and have been hurt or healed to different extents.

Now, despite the fact that King Solomon advocates, "Educate the child according to his way," most people do not actually adhere to that. Our educational systems and institutions generally aim toward an ideal model of a child and strive to educate that child. In Orthodox society, Adahan writes, Enneagram Type Fives are the most sought-after commodity.
    IDEAL FIVES: IDEAL FIVEs have brilliant minds and a depth and breadth of knowledge that astounds others. They are the most mentally alert and the most curious of all the personality types. They are pioneering visionaries, perceptive observers and extremely knowledgeable experts. They are able to share their wisdom with others in order to elevate and enlighten the masses.

    They possess the qualities which are most valued by Orthodox society: they are extremely intelligent, love gathering information, love learning for its own sake, are intellectually curious, can live on very little (a minimum of food, sleep, material possessions, human contact, etc), can be oblivious to their physical environment, are excited by highly detailed, complex thought systems, and have such self-discipline that they can study with total concentration for extended periods. Their minds are extremely fertile, constantly producing new ideas. For FIVEs, thinking is in itself a highly pleasurable activity.

    ~Awareness by Miriam Adahan, page 214
Now, what happens if you are any other Enneagram Type born into a world that only (or mostly) values Type Fives? What if you are raised by parents who decide that they will make you into a Type Five, like it or not?

Well, in that case, it's like being born a baby girl in China. You might not be the victim of gender infanticide, but emotionally speaking, it's possible (especially if you are a Type Two, Three or Four, the Feeling Triad) that you will be the victim of emotional abuse, intended or otherwise. Your parent/ teacher/ advisor/ role model may intend well but his/ her actual actions may be harmful for you, undermine your sense of self and give you the impression that you are not worthy or valuable for who you are. This is in contrast to normal and effective discipline, where parents, teachers or rabbanim are trying to change behaviors but not the actual essence of a person.
Here are the Triads:

The Feeling Triad is comprised of types TWO-THREE-FOUR.
The Doing Triad is comprised of types FIVE-SIX-SEVEN.
The Relating Triad is comprised of types EIGHT-NINE-ONE.

To explain a little about the triads, I'll cite Adahan once more:
    The Enneagram consists of nine types within three triads. Each type has a unique power, or "gift," which he needs to share with the world in order to grow spiritually.

    The Feeling Triad. TWOs, THREEs and FOURs all share issues involving feelings. If IDEAL, they use their emotions to form loving relationships. If INTERMEDIATE, they want closeness, but are more concerned about their own feelings than the feelings of others. At the UNHEALTHY level, they are out of touch with people. TWOS attempt to force closeness, THREEs are emotionally suppressive in order to accomplish more, and FOURs are preoccupied with their own feelings.

    The Doing Triad: FIVEs, SIXes and SEVENs have common issues which involve anxiety about doing. If IDEAL, all three types can make great achievements. If INTERMEDIATE, they still accomplish a great deal, but are handicapped to some extent by anxiety and insecurity. If UNHEALTHY, they are paralyzed by anxiety. FIVEs tend to substitute thinking for doing. SIXes are too conflicted to act, or they act impulsively. SEVENs overdo to escape anxiety.

    The Relating Triad: EIGHTs, NINEs and ONEs share issues concerning relating. If IDEAL, they relate to others positively, often becoming leaders in the community and in politics. If INTERMEDIATE, they tend to relate more to things, principles and formulas rather than people. If UNHEALTHY, EIGHTs and ONEs over-control in a punitive fashion, while NINEs under-control and under-function.

    ~Awareness by Miriam Adahan, page 36
Now, some of these types can be unhealthy for other types and can impact them in very unhealthy ways. At an IDEAL level, if people are actualizing their good qualities, then each type can complement one another. However, if one person or the other is at an UNHEALTHY level, they may end up harming others, especially emotionally. This has to do with the way that each of these different people see the world.
    EYES: Different types have different "eyes," because they focus on different aspects of the world and people.

    TWOs see who has a problem and what can be done to solve it.

    THREEs focus on outer appearances and are aware of who is accomplishing the most and doing the best.

    FOURs are mystical, see the inner spiritual meaning in events and pick up the subtle emotional cues being transmitted on an "extrasensory" level.

    FIVEs see the hidden meanings and patterns within the information presented to them.

    SIXes focus on loyalty or disloyalty, safety or danger.

    SEVENs see the possibilities for fun, excitement and adventure.

    EIGHTs see who and what can be controlled or protected, and how to do so.

    NINEs focus on the good in events and in people, seeing how best to create harmony, unity and peace.

    ONEs focus on cleanliness, structure and strict "piety," noting if people are dressed correctly, if the spelling is correct, if things are clean and orderly, and what needs to be fixed.

    ~Awareness by Miriam Adahan, page 33
Religion-induced emotional abuse occurs when people fail to realize that all people are God's children and thus all have specific skills, abilities and pathways to Divine service. A child's talents may not fall into the specific skill-set or personality type Orthodoxy most values (Type FIVE) and a child should not be punished for that. Even statements such as, "Not everybody is cut out for it," or "Those who aren't cut out for kollel can go into business" are dismissive and imply that the child is lacking due to the fact that he doesn't, for example, enjoy learning copious amounts of Gemara at all times. Rather than deciding that the ideal is to learn Gemara and we should feel bad for those who don't, we should focus on what is shining, worthy, important and beautiful within that person and the way that he can best serve God.

Especially in the Chareidi world, many educational systems and schools are geared not toward developing a child's full potential and illuminating his strengths in order to determine how he can best serve God, but rather toward creating a certain mold or cookie-cutter child who fulfills all of that society's ideals. This is the 'Learning Boy' and 'Kollel Wife' archetype. Modern Orthodoxy often has a more diverse and all-encompassing approach to education; the problem in their institutions is that many times the children are receiving mixed messages (they are taught one thing in school and see something entirely different practiced or not practiced at home) or have not been educated appropriately as to why they should value the things they are being taught to value. Thus, Modern Orthodox dayschools may produce individuals who have developed more of their talents, but their talents are not necessarily being used in service of God.

The ideal in an Orthodox society would be to have a school which focuses upon each child's unique talents and abilities, hones and polishes them and nonetheless also focuses upon spiritual values and teaches a child to utilize his talents in service of and in appreciation of God.

Religion-induced emotional abuse begins when one does not value a person for who they are. The representatives of religion then emotionally blackmail, seduce, bribe, flatter or otherwise manipulate the person in order to make them fit a certain type of mold which is 'better,' 'higher' or more worthy. (This problem is exacerbated because there are traditions within Judaism that are meant for certain types of people that are often expanded beyond their focus. For instance, the Musar approach, per R' Chaim of Brisk can certainly heal someone who is already ill but has the potential to make someone healthy ill. The fact that there are sources that support trends or ideas that can be used in inappropriate, ineffective or abusive ways make teaching a position of great power and responsibility.) The victim of religious emotional abuse may react to this in one of two ways. Dependant on his personality type, he may internalize or externalize the comments being made about his entire essence and being. If he internalizes them, he may feel a sense of guilt for not living up to the ideal his teachers desire of him or may feel unworthy, lacking or bad. If he externalizes them, he may feel a sense of anger, rage and frustration with a system that is so blind to the truth. If a person internalizes these feelings, it is more likely that he will stay within Orthodox practice, whereas if a person externalizes them, it is more likely that he will leave Orthodox practice.

Even if the child stays within Orthodoxy and doesn't outwardly demonstrate his unhappiness or discontent, that does not mean he is healthy. For example, if he is part of the Feeling Triad, he may now conflate criticism and the desire to change him as an expression of love, and thus may be more likely to enter into an abusive relationship. If he is part of the Relating Triad, he may copy what he has seen done and use religion as a form of control, dismissing those who do not meet his strict standards. If he is part of the Doing Triad, he may try to distract himself by engaging in pleasure-inducing or exciting behaviors that long-term are harmful to try to replace the emptiness and lack of love he feels.

Religion-induced emotional abuse does not only occur within Orthodox Jewry. Anyone who has read Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man can attest to that. Rather, religion-induced emotional abuse is an all-too-common side-effect of living within a strictly orthodox society. It is unfortunate and wrong. Perhaps if people can be educated about the fact that they are innately different, by nature are geared to react to the same situations differently and can accurately assess their strengths and weaknesses, such situations might be avoided. Parents, Teachers and Rabbanim especially should be educated in this regard. The effects of the emotional abuse we inflict upon our children or youth, even unintentionally, do not disappear. Indeed, they linger and entrench themselves further. Unless a child is willing to do a lot of work in order to try to become a healthy person, it is possible that they will suffer the consequences for the rest of their lives.


Scraps said...

I generally agree with what you wrote, except that I think your characterization of orthodoxy as idealizing type 5 is not necessarily correct. Orthodoxy idealizes type 5 in boys, but I'd say it idealizes type 2 in girls - the selfless woman who does everything for her family/society and nothing for herself. Hence the ideal of a kollel wife who supports her husband in learning and/or supports her family so her husband doesn't have to.

Anonymous said...

Chana,what an excellent post! A lot to think about and figure out as far as where my kids fall exactly . Will purchase the book and put its content to good use.. Thanks again.

Shadesof said...

Dr. Adahan has another book "Appreciating People"(Feldheim 1988), using a different classification system, for which "Awareness" was a sequel to.

TPW said...

This was really fascinating. Rav Dessler, I believe, wrote that depression results from what you do and what you believe being out of sync. Obviously, clinical depression is a real illness, but there is a lot of truth in those words.

Anonymous1:45 said...

Beautiful analysis as usual. Though I'm not too optimistic that institutions would be willing to change. It is far easier for an instituion to implement a cookie cutter approach than to train its employees to be wise and discerning. Also, an interesting question arises; do we all fit perfectly into one type, or are we a mixture of different percentages of the different types, with one being more dominant within us? The different types of people is one of the things we see in the different personalities of Yisraels sons, The differences between the brothers are evident - Yosef, levi, Yehudah... Bereishit gives us the best exmples to live by of any book - yet it's the least studied because it has the least laws. The point being - why are there different tribes to Am Yisrael? To show that each person has their own unique qualities and is to serve Hashem using their unique gifts. In fact were this not the case the Torah could have only recorded the life of one Tzadik (Say Avraham Avinu), and through relating his/her whole life we could have learned all the Torah through their example and story. The reason diff people - because we have inate differences. Thus, some may serve Hashem like Avraham and some like Eliyahu and some like David....

Anonymous1:45 said...

Oh, another quick thing. I think that the point of the blog was that the correct method would be to go about instilling a love of Hashem and Torah in a way that fits each childs own nature. This way the child can happily employ all their talents and nature for good. The question though is which movement does this the best. In reality thee is no such thing as Charedi, or Modern Orhodox. Quick, which one of the Two was Avraham, Moshe, Betzalel...? Betzalel was expert in the sciences, Avraham Avinu was wealthy... Should we say they were Modern Orthodox? Let's see, would they be watching T.V.? Should we say they're Charedi? The point is that these terms are religiously meaningless. They simply are a facet of the varying opinions as to which metho is the best to serve Hashem. The point of my pointing out that there is no M.O. Judaism or Charedi Judaism is to show that there is no reason to think that one must necessarily have a cookie cutter approach as to which "movement" to follow. Each opinion has it's merits, and as an extension of the types, different movements may be proper for different people. So that it s not necessarily the case that any movement or way would fit everyone. Thus, perhaps these movements are just extensions of the diff types. The problem is - what if you re of type x but are born into a movement which is more suited to type y. This is why it is important for people to realize that M.O.,Charedi, Chabad, Sephardi, Ashkenaz, Breslav, Black hat, Kippah Serugah....are not real Torah differences. It is the same Torah with diff approaches thus, in my opinion, a person can mix and match and choose (in a way that keeps the Mitzvot) which facets of each philosophy to employ in their service of Hashem. Each has it's merits and each may be right for diff people or at diff times or a combination may be right for diff people at diff times. In General thoug I do agree that M.O. gives a greater opportuniy to use all God given faculties to serve Hashem. However, it is also true that statisically speaking Charedi has lower rates of assimilation and intermariage than M.O. So which is better? Perhaps let's take the self actualization of the M.O. and mix it with the devotion of the Charedi and thus infuse 'secular' life with service of Hashem and understand that Business or science is not secular but rather approach it as everything an opportunity for religious expression. For instance an opportunity for Kidush Hashem, or Simchah, or avodat Hashem...

shualah elisheva said...

stellar analysis, as usual.

Joseph the Dreamer said...

This is an amazing, amazing post!

I loved this book (or at least the parts that I've skimmed/read), but I didn't like the enneagram in comparison to MBTI for example, because it's not so clear cut. I see some people as being a mixture of four and five etc. (or as some refer to it a Four with a Five wing, etc. etc.).

But yeah, overall dead on. Now to the post:

Think of a One. It would be really hard for him to individualize his teaching skills to everyone's needs because it is his very nature to have routine/structure/rules. And he needs to have a system of rules (or principles) to stick by, no matter what. To ask him to have different rules for different students is against his nature, it'd be like asking him to play twister- emotional twister.

Is this always the case with ONEs? I don't know. Maybe the healthy ONEs are different. What would I suggest as a solution? I don't know that either. (Unless Miriam Adahan would like to run a school? :-)

"This problem is exacerbated because there are traditions within Judaism that are meant for certain types of people that are often expanded beyond their focus... The fact that there are sources that support trends or ideas that can be used in inappropriate, ineffective or abusive ways make teaching a position of great power and responsibility."

Beautiful! This is my understanding of "Eilu V'eilu divrei Elokim Chaim."

Anonymous said...

A good book for understanding differing personalities within the system of MBTI:


Or something simpler/for beginners (just for understanding the basics of the types):


Anonymous said...

The world does not lack for posts that say Chanoch Lanaar al pi darko and bemoan the current system - what we need to think about is why the current system is as it is - I don't know but I'd hestitate a guess that it works well enough for enough people that no clearly superior system is obvious (taking into account cost considerations). Food for thought

Joel Rich

Anonymous1:45 said...

Kt - Joel Rich - First, just because something is oft repeated does not mean that it is truly learned, understood, or done. Secondly, just because a system is in place does not make it the ideal system. There are many ways that systems form way of functioning. Most of the time the development of systems follows the path of least resistance - not necessarily the ideal methods. The fact that a one size fits all system has emerged simply means that it is easier to implement this then an individualized system. That says nothing about it's merits nor does it imply that the cookie cutter mold benefits more people or most people more than a wise system would. It only means that it was easier to create. The fact that the norm/conventional wisdoms in lfe have formed does not mean that these things are ideal, only that they took the path of least resistance (were the easiest) to form. For example, the western diet has formed the system is - eat fast food get sick and get prescriptions. Is this system ideal- would you argue it must have formed for a reason? The only reson was it's easy. If you think that conventional wisdom or existing strategies are correct symply because they have formed than this will not be good. Most people in the U.S. follow existing strategies- Most people in the U.S. are also unhealthy, unhappy, not optimally using any of their faculties. Is this ideal? It must be, after all it is the system that has developed. For the record, I bear no grudges as I rarely had a bad teacher and the scholls and teachers I went to, in my mind were ideal, and were very individualzed and wise in their administration of knowledge.

ChayAiz said...

I am "willing to do a lot of work in order to try to become a healthy person"

let's hope it works

harry-er than them all said...

I have mixed feelings about the eaneagrams you described. At the insistence of a girl I dated, I took one of the test to find out which one I am (she wanted to know to help our relationship)

I happen to be a Two, and while I may agree with the analysis of what they may tell you about a person, the classification system fails to take into the broad range and aspects that go into deciding which type you are.

The test requires a lot of time as it has about 170 questions. You are given a statement and decide which one of two answers describes you the best. Depending on the question you tally a letter, and when you are done, whichever letter you received the most tells you which type you are. The problem is that while I received highest marks that correspond to Two, I was also high on One, Nine, and Five. So while it is very nice that I am a Two, it ignores other aspects of a persons personality. Some people are stronger in some areas, but everyone has some degree of each type.

The usage of such a classification system is controversial for counseling purposes with some psychologist swearing by it, and some dismissive at best.

I think another point you missed is that there are Ideal, Intermediate, and Unhealthy levels; meaning a child who does not fit into a 5, with an Ideal level will react differently than a child with an unhealthy level.

Anonymous1:45 said...

Harry-er than them all - I agree with you. It should be noted that, regarding relationships, there is no evidence or data which shows any higher success rate for couples who use personality profiles (i.e. eHarmony or some such thing) when compared to random couples. A person can look at these things as interesting or somewhat illuminating, but these are not magic predictors of things. First, I think it is important to note that although we hav certain tendencies we can overcome them. I think thoug, that her blog was more about the need to undersatnd where each child is coming from and treat them accordingly as opposed to being about the predictive validity of personality tests. There is a saying that 'Am Yisrael Me'al Hamazal' (this applies to anyone who clings to God including righteous non jews). Though I wouldn't go so far as to say that personality tests are like Mazal, the comparison is that your future or future relationships are not pre-determinantly bound by your personality type. Not only are there many suddle things going on that fog up the accuracy of the results, as you mention, but there are many other holes and defficiencies which can be pointed out. Categories can only help a bit sometimes; in the end it comes down to wisdom, without it the categories are meaningless; with it hey can be somewhat useful in knowing when to apply them and to what extent. The whole is more than just the sum total of it's parts and the human being is more than just (even if it was perfectly accurate and applied, which it is not) is more than the sum of his/her personalit types. But again I think the blog was more about wisely taking into accountthe individual in institutions of learning.

Anonymous1:45 said...

Also even if it were a thousand questions long it couldn't tell if people were right for each other. First of all, there is the fact of the subjectivity of individuals perception of themselves. For example, two people may score the same on a personality test and yet have completely different natures. How is this so? Well because the questions are answered by the person and the person may percieve him/her self to be different then they really are. Thus, lets say the question is - are you more patient or angry - Both people may answer patient yet one may be an angry person who sees themslf as patient. Thus,two people with completely different natures may answer the bulk of,or even all of, the questions the same simply because the standard that they are using to determine the meaning of the anwers are different. Or simply put, since they each have a different perception of the answers in the test ( due to their diff natures), they therefore give the same answers yet measure those answers (patient/angry) using a different ruler. That is to say that what means patient to one is not what would qualify as patient to the other. Yet you could have two good people who are both very similar in nature, and yet give completely different answers on their test because, for example, although by societal standards they are both patient, one of theirs' idea of patience might be more then the other so although they are both patient to the same extent one might all himself impatient. Thus, a far more objective, and thus far more accurate, way of assesing true nature is through keen observation rather than personality test. For example, the two with the different natures yet same personality score on the test. While both may have called themselves patient, keenly observing how they react to diff situations would quickly reveal their differences, and who is really patient. So, the girl you were going out wih would have learned far more from observing you than she could from any personality test. And as per the blog, a (wise) teacher will learn far more from observing and understanding the student then from a personality test, which is why the use of such testing seems very limited. It is easy, but it is not very accurate. Real understanding of a person, takes more time effort and clarity of mind (unless your a mind reader lol) where you learn more and understand more about the person as diff situations arise. This cannot be replicated by a few questions in a test where the level of subjectivity in the answers given can not be determined (a confound, if you will)....continued...

harry-er than them all said...

anonymous 1:45- i wasn't arguing that chanoch lenaar al pi darko is not true, nor that educators and parents should be very aware of every child being their own unique snowflake (just like all the other unique snowflakes ;) )however using such "personality" types to explain a child being different seems flawed

Anonymous1:45 said...

The problem of course, is the same one regarding Platos Republic. Yes, the perfect society may be one ruled by Sagacious philosopher kings. But how do you ensure such people rule? So too, in this case, Yes, the perfect school would be one with wise educators who understand how to relate to each student a pe his/her own needs and heart and nature. But how would you ensure the hiring of such wise educators? Personality tests can't do it, as shown by the example above in my last comment (which s just one of a dozen or so confounds in the personality tests); in fact, they could actually hurt students by pigeonholing them with a false label or into a mold that the student doesn't really fit into, but just fell into as a result of the problems of subjectivity of the test. So it seems that the reality is that, unless you can somehow hire only wise and kind educators, you cannot have an individualized system (other than telling the teachers to try to behave this way, but they may fail due to their shortcommings). Thus, this is where the parents come in. The parents are in a much better position to understand their childs nature than anyone else, and thus this indivisualization system is best applied by them. And if the parents don't do it, then no matter,because Hashem is with us always and thus Am Yisrael Meal Hamazal.

Anonymous1:45 said...

Harry-er - I don't disagree with you at all. If it seems that I disagree than I have stated my view unlearly. But insteadof typeing alot more, which I'm not very good at and don't like to do, let me just clarify - I don't disagree with youa t all and I agree with you completely.

David Fryman said...

I think the Torah u-Madda approach is particularly susceptible to this kind of elitism. It's only made worse (ironically) but the success of our yeshivah system in recent years.

I don't have a great answer but it's something out education system has to confront in the coming generation.

discerning clinical depression said...

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REDTred said...

First-time on your site through bad4shidduchim's recent post.
YOur post really clarified and connected loose ends.
Wow- I wish my high school teachers understood this philosophy!
I just read Miriam Adahan's '' Awareness" this past summer, and could hardly believe the Cost of my ignorance throughout my teenage years. Thanks,and Mazal Tov!

REDTred said...

First-time on your site through bad4shidduchim's recent post.
YOur post really clarified and connected loose ends.
Wow- I wish my high school teachers understood this philosophy!
I just read Miriam Adahan's '' Awareness" this past summer, and could hardly believe the Cost of my ignorance throughout my teenage years. Thanks,and Mazal Tov!

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