Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Revisiting family rules

Alice Miller, the famous child psychoanalyst, broke from her ranks to discuss her paradigm changing ideas about how Hitler's Germany happened and factors that helped to foster his ascendancy. She believes the roots for his rise were intertwined with how children were raised in a culture of violence, hate, and fear. She believes that a culture that treats children with these values will perpetuate itself, those children growing up to rear their children the same way. While she now has effectively distanced herself from the traditional world of psychoanalysis, she continues to write books and lecture on this subject.

Reading about the world views of the Christian far right, as seen in recent articles, made me want to revisit her views of Germany's ideology. While I've written about this before, it bears repeating that these rules translates into how one sees the world, especially in how one sees the role of government in one's life, which is also a cornerstone of Lakoff's work. In the words of Alice Miller For Your Own Good, pp.58-60 (1983, Noonday Press):
    1. Adults are the masters (not the servants) of the dependant child.
    2. They determine in godlike fashion what is right and wrong.
    3. The child is held responsible for their anger.
    4. The parents must always be shielded.
    5. The child's life-affirming feelings pose a threat to the autocratic child.
    6. The child's will must be "broken" as soon as possible.
    7. All this will happen at an early age , so the child "won't notice" and will therefore not be able to expose the adults.

    The methods that can be used to suppress vital spontaneity in the child are: laying traps, lying, duplicity, subterfuge, manipulation, "scare" tactics, withdrawal of love, isolation, distrust, humiliating and disgracing the child, scorn, ridicule, and coercion even to the point of torture.

    It is also a part of "poisonous pedagogy" to impart to the child from the beginning false information and beliefs that have been passed on from generation to generation and dutifully accepted by the young even though they are not only unproven but are demonstrably false. Examples of such beliefs are:

    1. A feeling of duty produces love.
    2. Hatred can be done away with by forbidding it.
    3. Parents deserve respect simply because they are parents.
    4. Children are undeserving of respect simply because they are children.
    5. Obediance makes a child strong.
    6. A high degree of self-esteem is harmful.
    7. A low degree of self-esteem makes a person altruistic.
    8. Tenderness is harmful.
    9. Responding to a child's need is wrong.
    10. Severity and coldness are a good preparation for life.
    11. A pretense of gratitude is better than honest ingratude.
    12. The way you behave is more importan than the way you really are.
    13. Neither parents nor God would survive being offended.
    14. The body is something dirty and disgusting.
    15. Strong feelings are harmful.
    16. Parents are creatures free of drives and guilt.
    17. Parents are always right.

While her set of rules aren't as nicely configured as Lakoff's more rigorously defined set of cognitive rules in his models of world views, still I thought these are very instructive statements.

Replace parent with nation or president or administration above; here is the flavor for the kind of mindset we see with the lack of questioning, the unquestioning trust placed in authorities, and the general lack of 'thinking'. The Arnold phenomena certainly fits in with this model. "He is the movie-star parent we adore; we do what he says because he says so" type thing.

The accompanying dynamics include the inability to question, the inability to think for oneself, the fear of rocking the boat, the difficulty in challenging authority figures, denial, idealization, black and white thinking, use of intimidation, and so on. Maybe not coincidentally Stroussian ideology comes from this foundation as well.