Discovering the Biological Cause for Collusion with Abuse

Any community mental health nurse worth her salt knows that each of the problems of human behavior--every mental health diagnosis included-- can be traced back to problems with one or more of the five components of health. Often all five in one diagnosis. When it comes to prevention or intervention—treatment, that is—those same components come into play.

There’s the emotional, the social, the cognitive or intellectual, the spiritual values which seldom boils down merely to religion, and almost always physical and biological manifestations. When the patient is an individual, it’s fair game to think about addressing each one of these types of health.

Anti-intellectuals, on the contrary, usually speak only of the physical when a person’s health is being evaluated. That’s why we do not give credence to untrained individuals to do a good assessment. The vast majority of Americans, most certainly, will leave out 80% of the factors that determine an individual’s health.

Same goes for systemic issues. Except that traditionally mental health professionals have been most neglectful of considering that the likelihood of a systemic issue having a biological cause. Until the past few years, that is.

So, What’s This Got to Do with Collusion with Abuse?

Very good question! The very question I’ve been asking for decades, since I first took an interest in neuropsychology. It’s always seemed to me that the craziness I’ve seen and the world is most definitely seeing now full-scale with naysayers colluding with men who have been literally caught with their pants down many times….well, this behavior is just bizarre!  Who defends and can possibly believe that such men just have women ganging up on them, out to get them, causing trouble for the fun of it and making up all the trauma they are reporting?

Only someone who is brain-damaged, I’ve said for years—#longB4MeToo. To prove this line of reasoning or even get people to consider this suggestion of mine has been next to impossible until the past couple of years. Now, thanks to conferring with experts in the field, people who understand how the amygdala works and how to treat a damaged or under-developed amygdala, turns out, I’m onto something.

The amygdala, as you may know, get damaged from childhood trauma that is prolonged and severe. The CDC has a ton of material on this. Just try researching #ACES and you’ll be off and running.
So, unless you care to discount their massive studies, you’re going to need to agree with scientists that a good percentage of people lining the pews of churches are brain-damaged—in other words they each have an under-developed or damaged amygdala related to past trauma. Not that this isn’t treatable. It certainly is, Chris Moran, a Lawrence, KS MSW assured me recently, and he’s seen the results of long-term treatment that retrains the brain of highly-anxious, brain-damaged kids so that they learn to self-soothe and can be returned to a regular classroom with their teachers’ mouths wide open!

How does this work with adults, I asked? They can be treated too, of course. This I knew, but I also know it takes a lot longer to work with someone whose brain has been mis-firing for many years. The prognosis just isn’t as good for obvious reasons. It’s hard to teach new tricks to an old dog. What’s more anxiety is contagious to an extent. Irrational beliefs that lead to anti-intellectual thinking and bad decisions spread like wildfire in a frantic crowd filled with brain-damaged amygdalae.

To take it one step further, some studies have shown over the years that the helping professions tend to attract adults who were severely traumatized for long periods of time as kids.

Which may explain why the helping professions are filled with persons who have very poor boundaries and are prone to abusing congregants or patients or students, sexually or otherwise.
Hang on because I’m taking you straight to how this contributes to collusion now. Yes, you guessed it, according to Chris there is a physical component that has to do with one of the strongest manifestations of damaged amygdalae. People suffering from this condition cannot tolerate ambiguity. This has also is clearly explained by David DiSalvo, author of “What Makes your Brain happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite."

Believing irrationally to the point of thinking that women are only making up stories about a sexual predator or one who commits repeated acts of domestic abuse or child abuse—that’s a manifestation of the amygdala. People who need to be certain about things, even if they are wrong, are those who cannot tolerate ambiguity or uncertainty.

This explains what Carolyn Heggen declared long ago about the increased likelihood of abuse in theologically conservative circles. Roman Catholics and conservative evangelicals have this in common:  increased likelihood of abuse and also of collusion, it’s obvious and illustrated no better than what the Boston Globe story Spotlight shows us.

People who cannot live with ambiguity have a biological problem that’s no excuse, but it certainly helps explain why we have standing ovations for perpetrators and refusals to acknowledge that victims, regardless of gender, are telling the truth.

What’s the Solution?

This condition again is treatable, though I’m not holding my breath waiting to see a lot of results. That’s because Catholics and conservative evangelicals both are absolutely certain they have the One Way of believing. It’s not okay to question “the authority of the scriptures.” Though nobody is saying which scriptures. Proof-texting is common, and there’s no arguments allowed in these groups. Just ask them.

Forget the fact that nobody has the original text or can prove what “God was thinking” when Paul wrote down what he believed God was thinking. Forget the translation errors. None of that matters. Just ask any evangelical: whatever applies to sin against a brother is fair game. Innocent until proven guilty, regardless of the preponderance of evidence. Sisters better forgive!
God said it. I believe it. That settles it!

That’s the reasoning that comes right out of damaged and untreated amygdalae. I’m afraid, however, that the prognosis is dim since it involves being willing to tolerate and practice sitting with ambiguity until the person is “transformed by the renewing of the mind.” Romans 12:2

Now that, folks, will preach!


Miller's website has been a source of enlightenment for survivors and advocates since 1997. Author of six books, three specifically on the topic of collusion with abuse in the faith community, include her 2017 release, Enlarging Boston's Spotlight: A Call for Courage, Integrity, and Institutional Transformation (available also in Kindle form). 


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