It wouldn’t make sense to end a series on dysfunctional family traditions without mentioning mind control. Many parents play the Fear, Shame and Blame Game to manipulate their adult children. It’s easy for them to push our buttons because they installed them.
If you had controlling parents chances are they used mind control. It’s hard to break away from someone who convinces you they might die if you fail to meet their expectations, but the best medicine for mind control is to discover the truth. Jesus says, “The truth will set you free.”
There’s not enough space and time to list all the ways parents use mind control on their children, but here are a few–
1. Fear is a Great Motivator–
“Something bad might happen if you do that.” This generic statement has kept many young people locked in fear until they finally feel they can’t take it anymore and must take a huge risk. It is sort of like crying wolf because there is nothing more insane than running from imaginary danger.
When I was a teenager, my mom told me I shouldn’t talk to my dad about my lack of education because he might die from a heart attack. In this sense I had to choose between my education and my dad’s health, so of course I chose my dad.
Many Christians use the fear of hell to manipulate their children to do as they want. I used to lay awake at night scared that Jesus would come and kill me, because whenever I did something my parents didn’t approve of, I was told, “Jesus is coming so you better straighten out and be ready.”
This kept me from trusting Jesus and it caused me to try to be good enough out of fear. But once again like the little boy calling wolf, young people grow up and often either ignore such warnings or rebel to them.
2. Shame Incriminates–
If only you weren’t such a trouble maker, bed wetter, ignoramus, or temperamental brat. These are the remarks some parents use to shame their children. Notice they are actual nouns. That’s because shame attacks our identity. Remember even if you have made some mistakes they are not your identity.
This goes for our parents as well. There are dysfunctional family dynamics and toxic situations, but they are no one’s identity. Our parents were probably shamed by their parents too. The entire human race is sagging under recycled fear and shame.
Incriminating shame attacks our identity and causes us to feel guilty of things we might not be guilty of in the first place. It makes us believe we are unworthy of friends, an education or love. None of this is true–even if we did make mistakes, every human being not only deserves friendship and love, but we can’t thrive without them.
3. Blame Destroys Relationships–
Whether someone is guilty or not, blame never heals. However, parents who wish to avoid their own responsibility, often blame their children. Sometimes we are blamed for things we have no control over like getting the mumps or raising our younger siblings, or being born so they couldn’t finish school. Any conversation about blame is unhealthy and you should leave.
Another form of blame is parents suggesting their children are responsible for their feelings. If parents refuse to take responsibility for their own feelings and their own mistakes they need someone to blame and it often ends up being their children. They play the martyr by saying, “Why do you have to remember the things I have done to you? Why can’t you just forget everything before age twenty? Can’t you see you are making me unhappy, depressed, poor, sad, etc?”
This scenario is easily fixed when parents take responsibility for their part in misunderstandings and stop trying to manipulate their adult children. When everyone shares the pain it actually makes it go away. As long as they need to be right and in control it will continue to obstruct any healthy relationship with their adult children.
Probably the most toxic mind-warp is when one parent justifies the lies and abuse of the second parent. This leaves no advocate for the child or the adult child. You can never win if both parents are lying and in agreement to never disagree with each other. This means the child growing up has no choice but to believe their parents are right.
Lying teamwork between two parents is potent mind control–
Layers of Lies;
when one person’s lies
are placed on top of another person’s lies,
there is an extra layer of lies to work through.
In other words, when someone is devaluing you,
and another person confirms that the first person is “right”
or has a right to treat you that way,
it is harder to see how wrong they both are
because the second person is validating the first person
instead of validating you.
Remember fear, shame and blame all originated at the tree in the Garden of Eden. They are the results of being disconnected with our original Parent.
Mind control allows people to buy into the lie we are judged by other people. Some people spend years trying to be a good Christian to gain their parents’ approval. That, my friends, is mind control. If you are going to church or doing anything for God to please someone else, just quit until you can do it for your sake and God’s sake. Please don’t accept the judgment of others. Just get real and get honest with God.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.
Remember this mind control trip doesn’t always end with childhood. It continues far into adulthood whenever parents chose to coerce and manipulate. They will try to control at first, but if that no longer works, they might spread stories to other people. Their message is loud and clear, “You do it our way, or we will talk about you and ruin your relationships and reputation so no one will believe you.” The good news is that Jesus is always on the side of truth. He allows people to have their day, but ultimately the truth will vindicate us.
So what can we do if we have been barraged with mind control growing up or we have parents who still try to manipulate us? We can be dedicated to truth at all costs.
Mind control is about lies and truth always sets us free. Even if you believe you are not good enough because such a story was spun to you like a repeating 8-track, remember Jesus is the Truth–He supports truth and He reveals truth. It is through truth God renews and heals our minds and changes our patterns so the next generation can have a healthier family.
Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your minds
so that you can figure out what God’s will is—
what is good and pleasing and mature.
-Romans 12:2, CEB