As for how this is designed to undermine self-esteem its a well known procedure in what is called de-motivational management. Humans are social and they respond to other people’s assessments of them. By creating a culture where others freely criticize a person and at the same time the recipient is supposed to be responding positively to those critiques virtually any decision they make in life will end up being attacked. That is if I make a choice someone is going to think I made the wrong choice quite frequently tell me so “as they were led by the spirit” and force me to doubt my own decision making ability.
The place you see this used most harshly (i.e. an extreme example) is in prisons with new prisoners. Guards will frequently force prisoners to do things that are ambiguous and then attack them verbally for whatever action they take.
Guard: 257319 Move to the right!In psychological terms the purpose to this method is to induce a state called "learned helplessness". This is a mild depression caused by creating situations which are negative and cannot be changed via. actions. Demotivation causes the person to believe that they are unable to rectify the negative situation not because it is inherently out of their control but rather because they are incompetent. The specific part of demotivational management is called deconfirmation. A member of Sovereign Grace did an excellent job describing how this process worked:
If prisoner moves to his right:
Guard: My right dummy. Pay attention.
If prisoner moves to his left:
Guard: Can’t you tell your left from your right!
If prisoner doesn’t move:
Guard: Are you deaf! (shoves prisoner)
Other aspects is depersonalization actions are not taken by individuls but rather by SG or "leadership" or.... Classically this is done in a corporate setting, “You can substitute ‘I think this is a good idea’ with ‘the idea appears to be good’. Instead of ‘Let me welcome you to the company,’ use ‘The company welcomes you’.” however the same thing can be done in a church and is done by Sovereign Grace. This technique is used to create anxiety and increase emotional distance between leadership and membership. ( see article in The Time of London for a longer discussion of demotivation in a corporate setting).
Sorry to say this Jen, but the men are only “allowed” to be little gods (The marriage support group used the term “King”) in their homes, because the whole SGM church/culture experience is sooo emasculating. In general, I would agree with the previously cited hypotheses of De-Motivational Management and the Need for Affirmation being applied in a systematic manner against the participants. In our little “speck on the mold spore called SGM” (new term) people’s behaviors and contributions were acknowledged in two manners: some were honored on stage with some sort of dialogue and applause, and some were corrected for being prideful in attempting to contribute to the process/effort. The combination was brutal.
I’ll generically describe a repeated situation in our relationship with SGM. Assume for a moment that we really are indwelt with the Holy Spirit and He is omnipotent and fully capable of motivating us to pursue God’s will and expectations for us. ( I personally do believe that the Holy Spirit is active in our lives.) In that capacity, you are motivated to reach out and “care” for a struggling single mom, friend, or couple. It may be that you are pursuing God’s desire for compassion for that situation and that natural sense of peace moves you forward to provide that care or need, but in the eyes of a “competing leader or member”, who risks not receiving recognition for this same act of service, you are now treading on their turf. While the person that you helped is grateful, and the Holy Spirit gives you a sense of peace, your colleague corrects you for your pride and need to intrude in others’ lives. It is a huge emotional conundrum that gradually builds until you find yourself struggling with seemingly obvious decisions on caring and responding to the needs of others.
This situation repeated itself in dialogues with Pastors on caring for non-believers, responding to a phone call in the middle of the night, helping single mothers in difficult times, organizing a service project, and even assembling maps for a field trip. You want to get behind what God is doing to care for the hurting, but the cost of caring for them will often be hostility, correction for your compassion, and increased accountability for your pride and self centered behaviors. I even saw this occur when a general question was asked at a men’s meeting about the definition of the Gospel. A colleague (care group leader) responded by citing a common definition consistent with one of John’s epistles (perhaps even John 3:16) , but the Pastor wanted the definition “the Story of Christ” and he publically rebuked the man for not knowing the definion of the Gospel. The man was right, but now he was publically proclaimed in front of his peers to be the “village idiot”. (No good deed goes unpunished.)
The emotional consequences of these repeated confrontations build until you find yourself unable to make seemingly simple decisions regarding both moral and practical issues without the intrusion of other leaders into your life/family. Is a need to tighten the family budget a natural response to the rising cost of gasoline or a reprimand of your wife’s home economic skills or a condemnation of your capability as A MAN to provide for your family ? All three, if you’re lucky! Plus it comes with the added bonus of more time spent with your friends examining your latte budget and inadequate contributions to the building fund. but I digress… (link to original post)
SG Uncensored has moved to SGMsurvivors.com. I'd urge people breaking away to look there for support.