John Shore Christian Blog and Commentary

Women in Abusive Relationships: The Good Daughter Syndrome

(This post is part of my series 7 Reasons Women Stay in Bad Relationships.)

Over lunch I once told a pastor of mine that I had started seeing a psychotherapist.

Pastor Mike stopped his tuna sandwich halfway in the air toward his mouth.

“A what?” he said.

“A psychotherapist.” He looked at me as if I'd said "Psycho the rapist."

“You know,” I said. “A shrink. Asks about your mom. Shows you inkblots. Surreptitiously checks out your fingernails to see if you’ve been gnawing them like a neurotic chipmunk. Like Frasier, on TV. But less funny.”

Mike slowly lowered his sandwich to his plate.

“You’re seeing a therapist?” he asked. “A psychotherapist?” He said it like he was asking, “Your brother died? Your brother, Robert?", or, “You have cancer? Cancer of the brain?"

“Well, yeah,” I said, smiling uneasily. “Why? Is that bad? Is there some sort of national strike against shrinks happening that I missed hearing about?”

Ah, those were the days, when I was so blessedly ignorant about all the things to which I have since learned so many Christians take so much offense.

Now I know better, of course. (Still learning every day, though!)

Anyway, I know a lot of Christians think psychology and psychotherapy and all that sort of thing runs contrary to a proper relationship with Jesus. As Pastor Mike put it to me during our lunch, "Don’t you think the Bible is all the therapy you need? Don’t you think Jesus is the best psychotherapist there is?”

I do think that. To my mind, trying to heal spiritually and psychologically without God is like trying to build a house without a foundation. You can do it, and it can look perfectly fine, and you can even live in it for awhile---but sooner or later the edifice will collapse.

For enduring peace, (most) humans need an intellectual and spiritual context. God (hallelujah!) is that context.

But that doesn't change the fact that no one can know Jesus any more than they know themselves. What you close off to yourself about yourself you close off to the power of God's healing. Jesus can't get to what we blockade him from accessing---or certainly isn't likely to, since doing so threatens to compromise the free-will with which he blessed us all.

What stands between us and our psychological health, in other words, also stands between us and the healing power of God.

We must do everything we can to render ourselves psychologically fit, so that we're as prepared as possible to accommodate as much God as possible.

And what is by far the largest determiner of our psychological health?

You got it: Good ol' Mom y Dad.

If you're a woman in an abusive relationship, know this: you're guilty of nothing more than being loyal to the values taught you by your parents.

All you're doing is being a good daughter. You're being exactly the daughter that, one way or another, you were raised to be.

And all it's costing you is your life.

More next time.

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