Friday, May 7, 2021

Maxwell Mania: No One Is Allowed to Have a Bad Day!

I started this post prior to the announcement of Joshua Duggar's arrest on possession of images of child sexual assaults - and realized that I needed to redo the entire thing.
Let's be honest: training women to be good victims is the overarching theme of CP/QF life.

You start young by doing a half-assed version of homeschooling that prioritizes indoctrination over thinking skills of any type.  (See this recent post by Steven Maxwell to see how well one of his granddaughters has been trained in Maxwellian analysis of literature. Since the granddaughter is 11 or 12, I would hope that her grandmother/mother would be beginning to teach how to write a summary conclusion paragraph - and that is not a great example even for a junior high school student. )  

You continue in their teenage years by depriving your daughters of work experience while ideally teaching young women that the only virtue that matters is having an intact hymen at marriage.   If at the same time you can manage to convince them that all men outside their family are either going to rape them or convince them to have sex then abandon them and a parent-led courtship is the only way to prevent their lives falling apart like a Victorian novella, all the better.

The most effective method of teaching someone to be a victim, however, is to police their emotions rigorously.   Label a tiny bandwidth of emotions as allowed - like happy! content! - while labeling all other emotions as wrong.   

The part that would make this hard for most people is that we've learned that there are extenuating circumstances and that we should provide added kindness when someone is in the middle of a hard time.  For example, we'd assume that someone would look sad or tired or grumpy if they were dealing with a flare of chronic pain.  In the wider world, that would be a normal, acceptable reaction to illness because being ill makes you sad, tired and grumpy.   Instead of chastising the person, we'd offer whatever comfort we had available - medication, cuddling up on the couch with a favorite activity, or making them a beverage of their choice.

Compare that with Terri Maxwell's self-dismissal of a miserable health day for her in "Unwanted Feelings - Part 5":

I have lived with chronic back pain for many years. One day last week, I had my normal back pain plus a new pain that caused me to hurt every time I took a deep breath. I knew this new pain was temporary and would be gone in a day or two, but it still hurt right then. In addition, I had a sort of allergic reaction in my mouth that was causing the roof of my mouth to burn, ache, and itch. That morning a family member shared with me something I had said to them that they felt had an attitude behind it.

Were any of those very big problems? No! However, added together that day, they presented a spiritual battle. Rather than fight the spiritual battle with my thoughts of self-pity, I decided to cry.
Let's be honest: that sounds miserable.   

Terri's at higher risk for chronic pain than most people due to the fact that she's a woman, she's had a long history of untreated depression, and she's had eight pregnancies go to term.    Depression is a brain-based illness - and leaving it untreated means that the person's brain is producing chemicals that seem to make the person more susceptible to pain.   Scientists aren't sure why women seem to have more chronic pain issues than men - but repeated pregnancies, the physical demands of breastfeeding combined with the rigors of caring for small children do put women at risk for back issues.   Bluntly, the human back is designed to be used in a four-legged quadruped gait, not a two-legged bipedal gait.  Pregnancy adds a large amount of weight to the abdomen while stretching the abdominal muscles due to the increasing volume of the uterus.  People tighten their abdominal muscles to protect their back - but that's not a workable option during the second half of most pregnancies.   Add in the fact that a woman's body is producing a large amount of a hormone that loosens the ligaments and tendons in her body so that her pelvis will be able to expand to birth a baby - and it's pretty amazing that any woman who has been pregnant has a working back.

That's just the chronic pain issue! 

I had pleurisy once when my son was an infant.   That caused stabbing, ripping pain in my chest every time I breathed deeply.   I've never been that miserable in my life - and I include every physical complaint of being in multiple organ failure when my son was born with that.   There was nothing I could do to distract myself from the pain because I had to breathe.     I ended up in the ER because I had thought I had a pulled muscle - but the pain was spreading and getting worse by the minute.  I was given an MRI to verify that I didn't have a pulmonary embolism and then given a heavy duty steroid to end the inflammation in the areas surrounding my lungs so I could heal.     What I remember most from that ER visit was the fact that after the MRI I got into a pain cycle that was so severe and unrelenting that I started thrashing around on the gurney and lost the ability to control my breathing at all which meant I was alternately hyperventilating and gasping.   Thankfully, the nurses watching my vital signs recognized that I needed help and the room filled with people.    The nurses needed to get me on nasal oxygen and give me some pain medications in my IV - and that's the only time I remember being so out-of-it that I kept throwing my arms in front of me to keep the nurses away from my face.  I was very apologetic once my oxygen levels stabilized - and my nurse told me that I had nothing to apologize for; my body was obeying a very primitive set of commands to protect myself rather than any rational thought.

Let's discuss the hell of allergic reactions.   A good, solid allergic reaction for me makes me want to remove my own skin using my fingernails or some other sharp object.    I don't generally give in to that temptation because I do not want a raging staph infection - but if I have an allergic reaction, assume that most of my mental energy is going to preventing me from scratching the area raw.   The worst bit for me is that the itching is so obnoxious that I prefer the pain of raw skin to itching - so I'm literally having to remind myself that the relief I get from creating a wound on my skin is not a good life choice.

Honestly, if I had all three of these things going down, I'd be on my way to either urgent care or a doctor's office.   

Terri Maxwell, on the other hand, gets a lecture from her husband about how she said something with 'attitude' towards him.    He's quite a catch, isn't he?

My husband would be driving me to the doctor - and he says he likes my attitude, thank you very much.

Instead, Terri makes a list of how having a very natural cry on a day where she's quite ill and Steven is a dick makes life hard for everyone else:
Here is the outcome of my good cry.
  • Red, puffy eyes
  • A terrible headache
  • A runny nose even after I stopped crying
  • A perpetuation of my self-pity
  • A bleak countenance
  • A concern in the family manifested by them asking me if I was okay
  • An insecurity in one family member indicated by her thinking she was the cause of my crying
  • A sadness that pervaded our home that evening.
As I evaluated that period of crying, I couldn’t figure out one positive benefit that had come from it. All the outcomes were negative.
Looking like crap after crying is pretty normal.   My eyes puff up when I cry; it's annoying - but it does pass in a few hours.  My nose also gets runny, but nothing compared to what I deal with during allergy season.   The headache will go away if Terri drinks a good amount of water and takes an NSAID of her choosing.   

Does she get blotchy?  I get blotchy - and my son is as blotchy as I when he cries.   The last time he got upset about something while overtired I realized that he gets blotchy all over his scalp as well.

In terms of self-pity, well, no one else seemed particularly concerned about Terri - so she deserved to do some self-care if nothing else.

Now, when she describes that her family members were asking if something was wrong and that one of the daughters was upset that she might have caused Terri's sad mood, I assumed the Maxwell offspring were young during this interlude.   Everything is more complicated when you have a house filled with small children and there was a time in the late 1990's when Steven, Nathan and Christopher were working outside of the house leaving Sarah and Terri to deal with five kids under 10.  I could see easily how if Terri was sick, the small kids could very easily blame themselves for their mom being sad and sick.

Turns out the post was written in 2012; Nathan was married with children, Sarah was 30 and Mary was 15.   There's literally no reason Terri needed to be out of bed that day since she had at least Sarah, Joseph, John, and Anna as adults living at home who could hold down the fort.  Crap, Jesse and Mary were certainly old enough to feed themselves and do their classwork for a day.  

In that case, the amount of emotional enmeshment in the family is weird.   In every family, there are days where one or more member of the family is having a rough day.  Most families make a game attempt to help the other person feel better - but most also have emotional boundaries to continue having a nice day in spite of someone else having a bad day.

The lack of emotional boundaries is part of what CP/QF families try to instill in their children.  They don't do this because it is healthy; they do it because it primes the entire family to hustle rapidly to fix any issues that bother the male leader of the family.   The downside is that the rest of the family can end up sad and isolated when one of the non-leader members is upset but the leader doesn't care.

The Maxwells present a carefully curated set of vignettes to pass themselves off as an ideal family - but the reality is pretty brutal when you see the amount of distortion of family members required to keep up the illusion.


  1. CP/QF for men reminds me of the line from 1984, about how "if you follow the small rules, you can break the big ones".

    In 1984, the context was Julia talking about how she made sure to be super strict about following the tiny rules to hide her affair with Winston & other large transgressions.

    I think CP/QF can be that way for men, too. Which is why we see all sorts of behavior ranging from the merely hypocritical (Jerry Falwell Jr) to the horrifying (Gothard, Josh Duggar etc). As long as you are keeping up appearances, the rest of your community can assume you are doing everything else right, too.

    This might also explain some of the weird obsession with middle class American values/dress/cleanliness.

    1. That's dead-on. For me, CP/QF land - and a lot of conservative Christians in general - really believe you can judge a book by its cover. Usually, that means they denigrate anyone who doesn't fit their preferred method of dress - but it also means you can pass as a good person as long as you wear a slightly frumpy skirt, a nice shirt and do your hair.

  2. Excellent analysis. Man, Steven Maxwell could not handle five minutes of me in a bad day.

    On the topic of QF men, though, it looks like Benjamin Botkin just officially dropped one of their biggest tenets. His comments above the link to a gross article on John Piper's site are revelatory:

    1. That is pretty mind-blowing. He's admitting publicly that Christians are called to be people rather than demi-gods. Also, he admitted he plays video games.

    2. Ha, yes. Greatly refreshing to see.

    3. haha yes -- I actually think Steven Maxwell couldn't handle 5 minutes of me on a GOOD day.

  3. My gosh, that utter tool (just finished the entire post, I fell behind). I can't believe what Terry has to live with, and he has the GALL to talk about attitude?? I just recovered from a horrible combination of rash and fever blisters on four or five different body parts, which got so bad that around dawn last week (Monday before last), which was my usual bed time for a couple days in a row, I told a family member dully that I had to go to a walk in clinic before I could even think about sleeping. And yeah, raw skin was preferable to me as well. If Steve or any QF tool had dared talk to me about attitude, they would have gotten a string of dialogue they probably like to pretend that women don't know. Thank God for PA's and modern medicine. Prayers that Terry gets more help and care than she is already!

    1. Oh, Jenny, that sounds miserable! I'm glad you're feeling better - but yuck!

    2. Thank you! Yeah, I was amazed when the PA told me how easy it really is to aggravate skin some times, so from now on I'm being extra careful. I was right to go exactly when I did, and the meds helped so much.

  4. Yeah -- if I had any illusions at all about how idyllic their family was (I didn't) -- this clears that up.

    She admits with no hesitation that having grown ups concerned about her well-being is bad; and takes responsibility for other grown-up people's emotions... again, all the while speaking as if this is virtuous and not massively eff'd up.... sounds like hell to live there.