Before continuing You might want to read part 1 here
In chapter 8 of her book Toxic Parents, Susan Forward addressed some of the systemic problems of toxic families. The comparison to a toxic religion is quite interesting. Again my comments will be in italics and blue. Not a lot of them in here
BELIEFS: There is only one truth
Reasonably mature and caring parents will have beliefs that take into consideration the feelings and needs of all family members. They will provide a solid base for a child?s development and subsequent independence. Such beliefs might be: "children are entitled to disagree"; "it?s wrong to deliberately hurt your child"; or, "children should feel free to make mistakes."
A toxic parent?s beliefs about children, on the other hand, are almost always self-centered and self-serving. They believe things like, "children should respect their parents no matter what"; "there are only two ways to do things, my way and the wrong way"; or, "children should be seen and not heard." These types of beliefs form the soil from which toxic parental behavior grows.
Toxic parents resist external reality that challenges their beliefs. Rather than change, they develop a distorted view of reality to support the beliefs they already have. Unfortunately, children lack the sophistication to discriminate between true reality and distorted reality. ?
There are two types of beliefs: spoken and unspoken. Spoken beliefs are expressed or communicated directly?. Spoken beliefs are often disguised as words of advice, expressed in terms of "shoulds," "oughts," and "supposed to?s."
These overtly expressed beliefs have the advantage of giving us something tangible to wrestle with as we become adults. Although these beliefs may have become a part of us, the fact that they are stated makes them easy to examine, and perhaps discard in favor of beliefs that are more relevant to our lives.?
It?s not as easy to reject a belief that you don?t even know exists. Unspoken beliefs can dictate many basic assumptions about life. They exist below the level of awareness. These are the beliefs that were implied by the way your father treated your mother, or by the way either of them treated you. They are an important part of what we learn from our parents? behavior.
It is a very rare family that will sit down to dinner to discuss beliefs such as: "women are second-class citizens"; "children should sacrifice themselves for their parents"; "children are bad by nature"; or, "children should stay inadequate so their parents can stay needed." Even if a family knew they held these beliefs, few would admit them. Yet these unspoken beliefs dominate many families with toxic parents, disastrously affecting their children?s lives.
SPOKEN AND UNSPOKEN RULES
From Parental beliefs come parental rules. ? Rules are the manifestations of beliefs. They are the enforcers, the simple "do?s and don?ts." ?
As with beliefs, there are spoken rules and unspoken rules. Spoken rules may be arbitrary, but they tend to be clear: "Spend every Christmas at home," or, "don?t talk back to your parents." Because they are out in the open, we can, as adults challenge them.
But unspoken rules are like phantom puppeteers, pulling invisible strings and demanding blind obedience. They are unseen, covert rules that exist below the level of awareness ? rules such as: "don?t be more successful than your father"; "don?t be happier than your mother"; "don?t lead your own life"; "don?t ever stop needing me"; or, "don?t abandon me." ?
Unspoken rules have a tenacious hold on our lives. To change them, we must first understand them.
OBEDIENCE NO MATTER WHAT
If beliefs are the bones and rules are the flesh of the family system, then "blind obedience" is the muscle that propels that body.
We blindly obey family rules because to disobey is to be a traitor to one? family. ? We all have these loyalties. They bind us to the family system, to our parents, and to their beliefs. They drive us to obey the family rules. If the rules are reasonable, they can provide some ethical and moral structure for a child?s development.
But in families with toxic parents, the rules are based on family role distortions and bizarre perceptions of reality. Blind obedience to these rules leads to destructive, self-defeating behavior.
THE OBEDIENCE TRAP
The kind of obedience I?m talking about is not a matter of free choice; it is rarely the result of a conscious decision. ?
Blind obedience forges our behavior patterns early in life and prevents us from escaping those patterns. There is often a huge gap between our parents? expectations and demands and what we really want for ourselves. Unfortunately, our unconscious pressure to obey almost always overshadows out conscious needs and desires. We can discard destructive rules only by turning a light on the unconscious and bringing those rules to the surface. Only when we can see the rules clearly can we exercise free choice.
I DON?T KNOW WHERE YOU END AND I BEGIN
The single most dramatic difference between healthy and toxic family systems is the amount of freedom that exists for family members to express themselves as individuals. Healthy families encourage individuality, personal responsibility, and independence. They encourage the development of their children?s sense of adequacy and self-respect.
Unhealthy families discourage individual expression. Everyone must conform to the thoughts and actions of the toxic parents. ? On an unconscious level, it is hard for family members to know where one ends and another begins. In their efforts to be close, they often suffocate one another?s individuality. ?
Every decision you make becomes intricately interwoven with the rest of the family. Your feelings, behaviors, and decisions are no longer your own. You are not yourself, you are an appendage of your family system.
TO BE DIFFERENT IS TO BE BAD
In [toxic families] much of a child?s identity and his illusions of safety depend on feeling enmeshed. He develops a need to be a part of other people and to have them be a part of him. He can?t stand the thought of being cast out. The need for enmeshment carries right through into adult relationships. ?
Enmeshment creates an almost total dependence on approval and validation from outside yourself.
Can you see the similarities to the WTS? Questions?