Sunday, 15 September 2013

Differentiation and Emotional Cut-offs

Murray Bowen's theories on differentiation of self, and emotional cut-offs provide an excellent lens for viewing the complex relationships that exist between family members who were raised in quiverfull and Christian patriarchal families, where the family roles are artificially skewed by religious influence and the necessity for sibling-parenting due to sheer numbers in the family.

Bowen's theory on differentiation of self describes how people are inherently dependent on each other, but how each individual needs to balance how much to conform to a group for acceptance which is a universal need, and to what extent to be emotionally independent in order to deal with unavoidable conflict without having to take sides or dissolve emotionally (you can read more about Bowen's theory here:

Bowen's theory of emotional cutoff describes how sometimes people with complex relationships in their families may choose to create distance from family members or declare a permanent separation from them. The theory explains that this is not always a good solution because there are patterns of relationships that are formed in childhood that dictate how the individual relates to new people in life, because they may look to new people to fill emotional roles that are inappropriate to the relationship.

I left my quiverfull family when I was 17. I was the oldest daughter (second child) of nine. For a while I remained in contact with many of the people who contributed to the safety of the patriarchal environment, including my father and leaders of the church he attended. Acceptance in a group is a universal need, but the problem arises when the cost is too great. I had not really found a new group yet at this point, but the cost of acceptance in the former group was to return home and submit to my father. That was not an option for me.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Psychobiography 2010

The following is an essay I wrote in 2010 for a school project. I find it very interesting to read what thoughts and beliefs have changed since then, and what has remained the same.

My name is Sarah Henderson. I am 22 years old. I was born in Saskatchewan, and from there moved to Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and finally back to Ontario again. I was homeschooled to about Grade 7 or 8, and then at 17 I went to high school and finished in three years. I have one older brother, four younger brothers, and four younger sisters, who were born in various provinces as we migrated.
   I am married to a 25 year old man. We own a house and a car, and we go to church on Sundays. We volunteer a great deal, helping out with the youth program at our church, as well as volunteering for Family and Children’s Services. We also volunteer a lot for other church and community events. I am a full-time student, and my husband works full-time nights. We have a decently clean house and entertaining is very important to us.
    My family of origin is very conservative and religious, with very specific beliefs about family, the church, and the world. Many of these ideas are still in my head, and even though I do not want to subscribe to most of these ideas, I occasionally feel a twinge of discomfort when I do not follow them. These ideas include the censure of homosexuals, and conservative ideals about modes of dress and the order of authority in the home, as they believe that the male is in charge of the female in almost every situation.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Self Preservation and Mental Health

In my last post, I made a brief mention of how living in a state of survival affected my mental health. I thought it would be a good idea to expand on this issue, because in my opinion it is the crux of why having quiverfull families and homeschooling in chaos is abusive to the children involved.

As I have mentioned before, doing something that causes harm to your child is abusive regardless of your intentions or religious justification. Children are do not become raised in a vacuum. Children do not have the ability to protect their own interests, and as I have shown in a previous post, in fact unfortunately do not have the right to do so ( Therefore it is a parent's job to try to protect their children from harm as much as possible - no perfection required - and to introduce good things and reduce negative influences as much as possible. It is my belief that that most parents would not argue with this assertion, because most parents have their children's best interests in mind.

When a child is raised a quiverfull family, there is core belief involved that stipulates that older children should help raise their younger siblings. This is commonly known to those outside the quiverfull movement as the "buddy system", but survivors sometimes call this "sister-moms". The use of older siblings to care for younger siblings can cause various levels of neglect depending on how organized the family is and whether there is homeschooling involved. It is typically simply impossible for a mother of 6 or more children to recover from childbirth and unending pregnancies at the same time as being able to provide adequate care to that many children, provide adequate schooling for that many different grades, cook nutritious meals, do laundry, and keep house. Don't get me wrong, I do not object to children having chores. I do object to a ten year old child being responsible for a whole department of parenting or housekeeping, such as all cooking, or all laundry or all cleaning or all child care.

Monday, 2 September 2013

The Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network

About The Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network

The Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network was started by Vyckie Garrison and Libby Anne, from No Longer Quiverfull. There are quite a few excellent blogs listed in the Network, and I would like to have mine added as well.

If you are enjoying reading my blog, you may also be interested in reading blogs by other survivors of spiritual abuse. Here is the link to a list of other bloggers:

These blogs are written by people who have all experienced spiritual abuse, and are partly for processing and partly for raising awareness about spiritual abuse. I have noticed that many young girls do not realize that they are being oppressed and spiritually abused because they do not know what it is. They are taught that what they are experiencing is normal.

There is no dictionary definition for spiritual abuse, but from my experience I can tell you that spiritual abuse is when leaders or parents use fear and coercion to force compliance with the religious beliefs of the leader or parent. There are many other ways of exploring this issue, and I hope you will read about them in these other blogs :)

How I Left My Parents' Home

Several people have asked me about actually leaving my parents. It's kind of hard to explain exactly what happened, because there was not one day when I decided to leave.

When I was 16, I was still attending a conservative church with my parents. In my family we were still expected to wear head coverings all the time, but the church we attended only expected them in churches. So in December of 2004 (when I was 16) I decided to stop wearing one at all - to me you either follow that verse 100% or not at all, and I wasn't going to be the only one. I also secretly purchased jeans and changed into them on rare occasions when I was allowed out with church friends.

The summer of 2005 around my 17th birthday, I went for a week to visit my very secular grandparents in another province. They asked me some questions about what I wanted to do for a career. I had not been asked that question, as my destiny was to get married and be a homeschooling mom even though I didn't want that. My grandparents mentioned that I couldn't go to university without a high school diploma, and explained that I probably couldn't even get a GED with how little schooling I'd had. This was news to me since I'd always been told our way was the best way to do anything, but it had the ring of truth.