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
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
- 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
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.