Dee's Blog
Fri 02/29/2008
Listening for Our Fathers
Topic: coping

Not sure how the father voice fits into the picture, but I'm convinced that for many it's the stronger voice.  At least equally as strong.  I think his voice often gets minimized in the mental health arena.  

Perhaps thanks to Freud, all of our failures are heaped onto our mother's failures.  Thanks to our society, the tendency has been to heap all of our successes onto our father.  I'm not the first to see that as a very unhealthy split, and splitting isn't a good sign in people or in professions or institutions.

Look at how it works with abuse.  We recognize the physical and sexual abuse as a problem that is more likely to be perpetrated by fathers.  Yet what about the voice of the perpetrator--our focus seems to be more on the acts, rather than the words or attitudes. 

Our fathers have just as much potential to influence us in positive ways, depending upon how much they were in our lives.  Just as much as our mothers.  And just as likely to be negative forces, as well. 

Try listening to how often the voices of both parents play in your head.  Compare the volume now with long ago.  Keep what's good.  Nurture it.   And join me in throwing out the garbage.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Thu 02/28/2008
Hearing in Stereo
Topic: coping

Never saw it in print, but I have a theory about the source of a great deal of anxiety. I believe it's often caused because we are hearing two voice--the two that were often in conflict in our childhood or youth.  We hear our mother's voice, perhaps louder for most people than our father's.  Yet his also rings in our ears, quietly, throughout our lives.

If either parent wasn't around for some reason, there's usually at least one other voice that is strong.   Not necessarily a voice of strength for us, but a voice that dominates so much of our thinking and behavior.  No doubt much more often than we recognize.

There are other voices that may even over-ride those those of our parents.  As we mature.  Voices of grandparents or other family members, teachers or church leaders, or the voices of peers.  The voices of spouses loom huge for most of us, as well. 

Those voices do not have to be positive.  Hopefully more are positive than negative, though. 

Finding our own voice and making it say the positive things or to speak words of truth and reality--that's what helps healthy people mature beautifully. 

Yet we have to be very careful that we are checking out our voice at times with wise people who can provide some guidance.  That's something we all need--sort of like having parents that we learn to choose wisely as we mature.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Mon 02/25/2008 7:49 AM CST
Wed 02/27/2008

Topic: Power

 In 1999, following a PBS documentary on Mormonism entitled "American Prophet," Richard Leiby of the Washington Post wrote his reaction.   It's well worth reading

Most interesting to me is that eight years after the creation of this new religion, Missouri's governor signed an order allowing the militia to exterminate or expel Mormons "for the public good."

I do not believe it was "of God" or even within the grey area of ethics that seventeen of Smith's followers were gunned down.  

Yet I love Leiby's assessment:  "But he (Joseph Smith) had God--and good looks--on his side."  I'd venture to say that he still does.  Despite the many wonderful things being taught by its missionaries, what is called simply polygamy is one that is difficult to explain away even though my own experience with some fine Mormon people is that they would be horrified to be associated with the practice of polygamy.

Just as many people in more traditional Christian faiths are horrified to admit that they and their church leaders may have colluded with clergy sexual abuse and misconduct.  It's unthinkable.  Yet very much alive this very day--my inbox evidences it frequently!

The general that Leiby refers to, who was apparently called on to arrest Smith was an eye witness to this man's foolishness:  "I carried him into my house, a prisoner in chains, and in less than two hours my wife loved him better than she did me."

That's power beyond imagination!  To the average citizen, anyway.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Wed 02/27/2008 7:33 AM CST
Tue 02/26/2008
The Victims of Joseph Smith
Topic: Power

The primary victims of Joseph Smith were his wives.  Including his first wife. This is a point that might be argued among those of us who have written on clergy sexual misconduct, but that's how I see it.  As opposed to the stories of today, Joseph Smith forced his wife to accept that "celestial marriage" was of God, even though it was illegal, and she was called to stay with him.  Historians tell us she was first deceived and later devastated at her fate.  She really did not have the choices, though difficult, that wives of perpetrators have today.  She had married him without a vow of "in monogamy or polygamy."  As with all clergy perpetrators, Smith broke sacred vows to his wife when he accepted what he saw as other sacred vows from God.  Not unlike many of the delusions that are fed by clergy perpetrators to their victims today.

Among the many secondary victims were the men and women he persuaded to follow him into polygamy.  Yes, some of his victims became perpetrators, as well.  The most famous being Brigham Young. 

Not that Smith assaulted or molested Young.  He did not.  Young was such a devoted follower, however, that he felt he could not refuse Smith's direction.   Young's pleas, which he recorded in a letter to Smith, ring from the grave as heart-wrenching:  "No, I cannot. Ask me to do anything. Ask me to sacrifice my wealth, my fortune. Ask me to be away from my family. But don't ask me to do this." 

Finally, he was worn down to the point of accepting what he knew in his heart and soul was wrong.  So, in a way, I see him as a victim.  In another, I see him as a perpetrator of sexual misconduct, though it is framed as a religious practice and called polygamy. 

Listen to Young's acceptance:  "I will accept this principle. And it's the first time in my life that I desire the grave. I wish I were dead rather than have to do this."  Some would say he had a choice.  I believe this question would be up for debate among authorities on religious power.  I myself cannot come to a clear-cut answer. 

I know for certain, though, that he had more than 50 victims.  People may argue that the women had a choice.  I don't think so.  Young, like Smith, held far too much power for a woman to refuse him in that community!  She would have been scorned and treated like an infidel for refusing a prophet!

Both men--unlike Abraham, yet like so many others who were carrying out the command to engage in "celestial marriage"--were quite secretive about this "God-sanctioned" practice of polygamy.  Of course, readers of this blog are likely to immediately recognize that secrecy is a hallmark of any abuse--why does one need to hide what is right and good?

Even today, this perpetrator continues to have an immense following.  Unlike Abraham, who was following his culture and living within the confines of the law when he participated in polygamy, this man broke the law.  This prophet had so much charisma that the town of Nauvoo, Illinois was rivalling Chicago in population, just a few years after the "faith" was born!

Polygamy may have been the straw that broke the camel's back, but it was more than a straw.  It was sanctioned by the charismatic prophet, a man that I believe (as many scholars do) had delusions of grandeur.  The power that was already his, I dare say because the people had given it to him, didn't just threaten the city of Chicago.  It allowed Smith to create a following that continues provide inspiration, intrigue, and scorn for a religion that was actually born during the period of time when fundamentalism, a form of twisted Christianity that still permeates a large portion of our society, sprung up rampantly. 

Not that the persecution and violence was an appropriate and moral outcome, however.  That's where the story turns more tragic.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Mon 02/25/2008 8:56 AM CST
Mon 02/25/2008
Polygamy or Clergy Sexual Misconduct?
Topic: Power

Religious freedom is something I believe in, just as much as racial or gender equality.  People have a right to believe and practice whatever they choose when it comes to religion, provided they do not undermine the rights of others.

However, I'm going out on a limb today.  At the risk of sounding like I am seriously prejudiced against one of the largest growing religious groups in the world.  I do not know that anyone else has ever suggested it.  Some people may ask what gives me the right to be so bold.  Well, it's not the first time I was out on a limb!

After carefully looking at the history of Joseph Smith, the prophet of Mormonism, I am convinced that his story has some classic themes of clergy sexual misconduct.  Perhaps one of the most "successful" and long-running stories of all time.  Yes, I believe this prophet was an incredibly credible perpetrator!   In no uncertain terms.

He deceived his wife and followers, then covered it over to say that he had received a revelation from God that he was to follow the Old Testament patriarchs.  What a creative way to suddenly gain MORE power.  Blame it on God! 

Not unlike what many people who refuse to accept scientific evidence that would change some basic fundamentalist beliefs that no longer help us to do anything except keep our delusions.

I'll be talking more about Joseph Smith's victims tomorrow.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 7:48 AM CST
Sun 02/24/2008
The Problem with Tradition in Theology
Topic: spirituality

"Make new friends, but keep the old.   One is silver, the other is gold."

 I can still hear my daughter, as a 9-year-old Brownie, singing that song at the top of her voice.  Three decades later, she's learned how to do that quite well. 

My mother, who grew up in the Great Depression, also does this very well.  She recently sent me a picture of herself, at about age 6, along with her sister a year older and a good friend.  That good friend still lives near Mother, who is now 82.  In fact, my mother wrote recently that she takes her friend to the grocery store and helps her shop, while the friend leans on the grocery cart. 

It may be that these two stayed bonded to one place for a large chunk of their growing up years.  My mother in a little farm community in Texas, my daughter in Malawi, C. Africa (even though she went away to boarding school, along with some of her friends, perhaps bonding her to them even more).  Yet Renita also has a lot of friends left from college.  Perhaps because she still lives in the same neighborhood and attends a church across the street from the university, it's easier to keep up with people. 

Whatever the reasons, these two keep the old while reaching out to the new in ways that I'll never know.

There is a close parallel that I see between how theology can serve us well as we "make new friends" with emerging concepts while keeping the old concepts that still work from long ago.  That's where I'm going, in this blog, starting tomorrow.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Fri 02/22/2008
New Toys Needed
Topic: Making Changes

The granddaughters reminded me over the weekend that they are outgrowing some of the toys.  It's true.  For the first time since we acquired the noisy Playschool train with it's shiny red track, back in the year 2000, I didn't hear it this visit.  The noise this time came from the wheels on the "shopping cart," sometimes turned into a "stroller," that were moving so fast across the wood floor upstairs that I went to investigate at one point.

The train will probably be among the things that get tossed in the next few weeks, before the three grandsons descend on our place, as we watch with a kid's delight to see what interests them this time.

Throughout my life, I've outgrown a lot of things.  Not necessarily things that indicate immaturity, though hopefully I've outgrown a lot of those, too.  There are just interests--even careers--that I can proudly say:  "I used to......" 

We adults have to be constantly assessing our own new "toys" or objects or beliefs or ideas or activities that work for us.  Boredom is the ultimate sign of dysfunctional aging, I believe. 

It's obvious that I'm not going to grow old without physical pain, but I plan to grow old without the pain of boredom.  It appears that the grandkids are going to do their best to see that I do!

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Thu 02/21/2008
New Challenges from a Three-year-old
Topic: Making Changes

Over the weekend, I asked my granddaughters what we needed to change in the grandkids' room upstairs at our place.  "Paint more things on the wall?" said three-year-old Kellyn, with eyes brightly shining.

"Good idea," I replied.  "We'll have to think about that."  I asked for suggestions and got "a barn and farm animals."  Immediately, I thought of the challenge.  Painting animals will be a daunting task for this amateur, but I promised to look into it.  I explained that the wall under the windows started out to be a barnyard years ago, but it didn't turn out the way I wanted it to.

Reminds me of our lives.  We have our plans, but circumstances come along that alter those plans.  The end result isn't always the way we envisioned it on the easel.  Or the wall, in this case. 

So, it's back to the drawing board.  First I'll have to imagine myself even trying to paint animals.  Wonder what they'll turn out looking like?  Part of me can't wait to get started.  Part of me doesn't WANT to start.  That's the way it goes.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Wed 02/20/2008 7:39 AM CST
Wed 02/20/2008
Growing Up
Topic: Making Changes

As I see it, we are all constantly in the process of growing up.  None of us ever will be totally grown.  Depressing perhaps to some, I find this idea energizing.  We have to continue learning and growing as long as we live.  There's work to do!

Over the weekend, my two preschool granddaughters visited us, along with their father.  Upstairs we have a kids' room that used to be a huge junk closet for the former owners of our country cottage.  This grandmother,  who grew up in a parsonage with the ghostly fear that anything we did to the place where we lived might get us in trouble, had the time of her life.  I literally drew all over the walls!  With paint.  Hot air balloons, a castle, a city, mountains, a windmill, a playground, animal "clouds", a spaceship, children, and a forest are among the recognized objects.  Later the oldest grandson and the older granddaughter decided things needed to be added.  Micah wanted a rocket blasting off--he got it.  Haley quietly inquired of her father one day:  "Where's the sunshine?"  While there was evidence of it peering through the clouds, and even a fireball sunset over the mountains, she seemed to want something bright and shiny.  She got that, too, though I may not have succeeded in spreading the "sunshine" through the many square feet of wall space, to her satisfaction. 

The building of full-length beds in that room is a project long overdue.  A professional carpenter is starting that task tomorrow. 

For families, just like individuals, have constant changes and challenges.  What a gift to be a part of this thing called life, so we can all grow together.  In families, as well as in community.  Meeting the predictable changes.  And the unpredictable.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Wed 02/20/2008 7:38 AM CST
Tue 02/19/2008
Starting at Home
Topic: Making Changes

One of the prime symptoms of depression that was so starkly evident to me as a mental health nurse had to do with environmental factors.  Seriously depressed individuals tend to be either focused on nothing.  Or focused on remote things, too far removed and unrelated to the real world in which they live to be practical.

It's as if the world close at hand is so dismal, especially the internal world of self, to clean up the visible messes that are tangible.  Even in the physical environment.  Things just get stacked up, and those things are representative of the emotional housecleaning that needs to be done in order to be productive. 

I've even known of families that required two large moving vans to drag around all of the things they never found the time or energy to sort through as they moved to a new location, to transplant all of the problems (and junk) that would take too much time or energy to go through in order to make significant changes in the quality of living.  Allowing them to find the things that were really important.

Whenever I begin to feel frazzled or at loose ends, I know it's time to evaluate what's close to home. To find the closets I've neglected or the drawers that could be used for things related to the present, occupied by things no longer useful.   What fun it is to discover forgotten treasures, hidden under things I don't need at all.

Ironically, when I begin that process in my physical house, I find synergy.  In other words, my emotional house--the internal sense of self--comes into focus.  Perhaps because the things that are passed away, keeping the present from becoming new and shiny, force me to make choices.  Throwing away the useless objects often results in me cleaning up the clutter in my own psyche.  Then, I can narrow it down to a manageable short list of priorities.  Down to what's really important.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Tue 02/19/2008 1:15 AM CST

Newer | Latest | Older

« February 2008 »
1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29
You are not logged in. Log in