A Critical Review of Joy for Mourning

Part Two

by Martin & Deidre Bobgan


Joy for Mourning by Anne Miller is a personal memoire about memories of abuse.1 In Part One of "A Critical Review of Joy for Mourning" we describe our concerns about the unholy mix of the Bible and worldly psychological theories and therapies and particularly with the resultant public undressing of private lives and the dangerous Freudian influence in recovered memory counseling. In Part Two we discuss our concerns about how recovered memory therapy encourages counselees to use and interpret their dreams, to dishonor their parents, and to relive memories of abuse. We also address the issue of memory and how re-created and enhanced memories can be harmful to counselees and their families.

God Speaking in Dreams?

Miller describes and analyses three dreams in her book. Unfortunately some people seek truth through their dreams and some counselors seek to understand their clients by encouraging them to search for meaning in their dreams. They are following the example of Freud, who used both free association and dream analysis as he probed the contents of what he believed to be a powerful unconscious that was determining feelings, thoughts, and behavior. While much of his writing has been discredited, his ideas continue to show their ugly heads, particularly in various forms of psychological analysis, dream therapy, so-called inner healing, and delving into a personís past to understand their present state. Worse yet is when people attribute their dreams to God, when their dreams are more likely the result of what they have been reading, hearing, and thinking, rather than divine revelation.

Miller used her childhood dreams about a pig to recall a memory (12). Exploring dreams is a common method encouraged by counselors to convince their clients that their present problems are due to past abuse. One also wonders how many stories of abuse Miller had heard and how many books on memories of abuse she had read in addition to her counseling before she came to that point when she "understood the real-life incidents symbolized in my dreams" (12).

Millerís chapter titled "A Bucket of Shame" begins with her telling about what she dreamed "the other night," meaning that she had this dream during this time of searching her memories (123). She tells of trying to hide the bucket behind her garment bag, but then she discovered that Eric, the abuse perpetrator from childhood, had emptied the bucket and cleaned it out. Her interpretation was that "Eric had taken responsibility to dump out my shameful bucketís contentsÖ. The responsibility for my shame was on Eric, not on me." She then says, "God had touched another damaged emotion in my heart and restored it to health" (124). Miller sets a bad example for others who may start looking for answers and guidance from God in their dreams. There is also the human tendency to interpret a dream in such a way as to make oneself feel better.

Honoring Father and Mother

Miller further sets bad examples by violating the commandment about honoring parents (Ex. 20:12; Eph. 6:2-3) in a number of places. She condemns her parents and exposes them to scorn because of their alleged poor parenting and its impact on her sexual abuse. Miller says, "A closer relationship with my parents as a small child and more open communication with them would have greatly reduced the devastating effects of sexual abuse" (102). She also says, "As I continued on the path of recovery, I saw other feelings in my relationship with my parents that had even greater effects on my abuse wound" (135).

Miller refers to her "parentsí failings" and says, "I read the list I had written and marked the things Mom missed providing for me. I scanned the list again marking the things Dad missed providing for meÖ. My parentsí responses to life shaped much of my response to sexual abuse" (137-139). Miller mentions that she and her husband both received a considerable amount of counseling, and her above condemnation of her parents is one result of counseling. Even though Miller has her parentsí permission "to expose their imperfections," bad mouthing her parents publicly sets a sinful, unbiblical example for others to follow while exposing her own ungratefulness and complaining.

Recovered Memory Counseling

During the era of recovered memory counseling, much of which has been scientifically discredited through research on memory,2 counselors and authors encouraged people to search out their past and examine their dreams to uncover forgotten memories. Many counselors mistakenly attributed nearly every psychological problem to forgotten memories of abuse. Such faulty and erroneous memories seriously harm numerous individuals, relationships, and families.3

While some memories of abuse are rooted in fact, others are stimulated by books on recovered memories, and more are created in therapy. Miller must have been encouraged in this direction, as she recalls her repeated childhood dream of the pig (12), which she then later saw as a symbol of her abuser.

Whether true, enhanced, or created, describing and experiencing memories during counseling can be more distressing than the original abuse that may have occurred. Many people have been led through experiencing horrendous memories of events that never happened. But, even for those that did happen, the reliving can be excruciating. In fact, the memories, which were vague in Millerís mind, possibly due to the grace of God, did not bring forth the intensity of the agony that she later experienced as she formed and experienced the vivid enhanced memories. We say "enhanced" because memories are not saved intact in the brain, but need details to be filled in. She says, "The emotional pain of all the memories was so intense that I could not function as a mother or wife. I needed medication to bring me back to the dayís duties" (p. 12). This is quite typical in recovered memory therapy, as many people become significantly worse.4 This has happened to people whose memories were proved to be false as well as to those with memories of real events. The more one talks about abuse in counseling and reads books about abuse, the more possibilities for distortion, enhancement, exaggeration of the original memories, and pain.

Emotional Healing or New Life?

Miller, in one of several dream references, describes a friendís dream of a rose, crushed and restored by God. Her interpretation is sentimental rather than biblical. While every believer is given new life in Christ and is to put off the old, "which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts" (Eph. 4:22), the new life is not "the beauty of [anyoneís] inner being that had been damaged by a cruel, perverted young man" (xiv). Rather, the inner being that was damaged is part of the old life that is to be put off.

Millerís description of the dream appeals to the heart strings, but deceives believers into thinking that their own inner being, apart from Christ Himself, can become truly beautiful. Yes, the flesh can appear deceptively beautiful indeed, but that is not what Christ accomplished at the cross. Millerís understandings come from poor teaching about the depravity of the old nature, which hangs on but is to be treated as dead and worthless, and about the fullness of the new life in Christ according to Galatians 2:20.

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

In other words, the old life, including its pain and bruising along with its sinful depravity, must be put off and treated as dead, crucified with Christ. Otherwise individuals who follow the victim/recovery mentality will continue to live by that script, rather than continuing to put off the old man or the flesh and walk according to the Spirit (Gal. 5:16). For example, rather than Miller putting off the old and walking according to the Spirit she says, "That was the story of our lives. God was at work creating new roses of divine dimension to replace the torn and damaged ones" (xiv). Millerís sentence sounds close to the truth, but leaves out the most important need for the new life, and that is the utter sinfulness of the life that is to be put off, not just "torn and damaged" but exceedingly sinful! While she acknowledges some personal sin, her main focus is that she had been abused as a child and was now recovering through Godís help.

John Coblentz and Deeper Life

Ministries

John Coblentz wrote the Foreword to Joy for Mourning. Miller refers to Coblentz and his Deeper Life Ministries throughout her book. Coblentz extensively counseled both Anne and her husband, and his Foreword serves as an endorsement for the book. Thus, because he was so intimately involved in Anne Millerís life and endorsed her book, he must largely be held responsible for her unbiblical teachings and her insupportable psychological mindset.

In his Foreword Coblentz says that Anne Millerís life "held together with the glue of tight control over an inner world that had been devastated by experiences too complex for a childís heart to handle" (xi). This statement by Coblentz is a perfect example of the generalizations throughout Joy for Mourning. The research evidence indicates that "there is no known constellation of specific symptoms, let alone diagnosis, that is indicative of a history of abuse. Some genuine victims of childhood incest may experience many symptoms, others only some, and still others none. Moreover, nonvictims experience many of the same symptoms often associated with sexual abuse."5

The authors of 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology reviewed the literature on childhood sexual abuse and concluded:

"Scarred for life." Phrases like this appear in a seemingly endless parade of popular psychology books written for sexual abuse victims. The self-help literature is replete with claims that childhood sexual abuse produces lasting personality changes."6

"Thereís little doubt that child sexual abuse, especially when extreme, can produce harmful effects. Yet the most telling finding in the research literature on the apparent long-term consequences of child sexual abuse is the absence of findings. Numerous investigations demonstrate that the typical reaction to a history of child sexual abuse is not psychopathology, but resilience."7

"Nor is there evidence that survivors of child sexual abuse exhibit a unique profile of personality traits."8

Coblentzís counseling would have certainly involved some of what he says in his dramatic Foreword with such expressions as: "Anneís world fell apart"; "the turmoil and chaos of emotional overload"; and "We walked among the rubble" (xi). Anneís dramatizations of her experiences were no doubt influenced by Coblentzís counseling and thus he is to be held somewhat responsible for the sinful and mistaken end product. While Eric was responsible for Millerís sexual abuse, Coblentz must assume a degree of responsibility for Millerís spiritual misguidance. And, Christian Life Publications needs to be held ultimately responsible for publishing Joy for Mourning as it will provide a primrose path to worldly and spiritually distorted influences for the women who read it.

EndNotes

1 Anne Miller. Joy for Mourning. Harrison, VA: Christian Light Publications, Inc., 2010. Hereafter references will be indicated with page numbers in parentheses.

2 Elizabeth Loftus. Memory. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1980; Elizabeth Loftus and Katherine Ketcham. The Myth of Repressed Memory. New York: St. Martinís Press, 1994.

3 Michael D. Yapko. Suggestions of Abuse: True and False Memories of Childhood Sexual Trauma. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994; Richard Ofshe and Ethan Watters. Making Monsters: False Memories, Psychotherapy, and Sexual Hysteria. New York: Charles Scribnerís Sons, 1994.

4 Eleanor Goldstein and Kevin Farmer. True Stories of False Memories. Boca Raton, FL: SIRS Books, 1993.

5 Scott O. Lilienfeld, Steven Jay Lynn, Jeffrey M. Lohr. Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology. New York: The Guilford Press, 2003, p. 220.

6 Scott O. Lilienfeld, Steven Jay Lynn, John Ruscio, Barry Beyerstein. 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, p. 166.

7 Ibid., p. 167.

8 Ibid., p. 168.
 

(PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, May-June 2014, Vol. 22, No. 3)

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