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Hello to all my #Exvangelical fam. <3 It has been a long day on twitter with hashtags and all sorts of excitement. I think some new followers jumped on here so welcome. Nice to have you! I considered skipping my Dobson thread tonight but honestly we are SO CLOSE TO DONE.
And I want to finish this book, gdi. Not that it is not a joy interacting with all of you lovely humans (it is literally always) but interacting with Dobson is an exhausting mess in all capacities. After this I'll be moving on to Elisabeth Elliot so... look forward to that?
My usual warning - if you do not feel like you are up to going through James Dobson's bullshit right now (or ever) you do not have to be. Please take care of yourself. You are important. We need you. If you WANT to read them later they'll be there. If not, take care of you.
If you DO want to read through with me, awesome. I love having you. Tonight we are on the penultimate chapter of this complete nonsense. For those of you who haven't been with me so far, you can catch up here if you feel so inclined.

Last but not least, these threads and everything around them actually takes a considerable amount of time and emotional energy. If you feel like buying a broke student lunch, I'd be thrilled.
CashApp - $BethanySparkle
Venmo - Bethany-Sparkle
Okay! We're so close, let's go!
We are on Chapter 5 - A Notion Called Emotion.
I would just like to mention straight off the bat that it is weird (and/or revealing?) that he put emotion at the end of his book. After he talks about love and self-esteem?
It seems like it might have been helpful to talk about emotional changes and such at the beginning of the book and then move into some of that. But Dobson is a rebel, not going to play by those pesky rules, gdi. Or something. The point is that we talk about emotions now!
He's going to help you get a better understanding of the feelings you'll experience at this time of life and you're about to go through many dramatic changes. "Even now you are in the final flickering moments of childhood and, once you leave it, there can be no return."
I know I make fun of what a dramatic motherfucker he is a lot, but also we do not get to have a lot of fun in these, so I feel I'm allowed.
Speaking of not a lot of fun! Dobson goes on to say that maybe the best way to talk about this is to tell a story from his childhood.
No, Dobson. That is almost certainly NOT the best way but I know that nothing will ever stop you from telling a you story so we better settle in.
So this is a story I actually remember pretty well from the first time. It's probably important to remember his love of dogs.
He also treats dogs terribly but he still always seems more fond of them than people. In this story he is in 7th grade and in school at about 11am. His dad shows up and takes him out of school, not saying why. Dobson knows something must be very wrong, his dad is quiet.
His dad then says "Jim, I have some bad news for you and I want you to take it like a man."
I feel it is always important to point out in moments like these how much Dobson idolizes his father in what we have read, how much he tries to emulate him and always has.
So jr high Jim asks if it's his mom. Dad says no. And then he knows it must be his dog. His father "begins to tell him the details." *I* am going to provide a content warning, because it's a fairly awful story. There's no indication his dad did this, or spared any particular.
CW for harm to animals:
Basically mom had been driving home, the little dog came running out to greet her, jumped up on the car as it was pulling in. The dog missed a step, fell under the wheel, mom feels the car run over him. She runs back, his back is broken, he's whimpering.
Mom stays with him until he passes, he is looking at her and wagging his little tail. It's pretty tragic, really. Awful for everyone. Obviously mom didn't mean to do such a thing, horrible thing to accidentally run over your kid's (or any) dog. Just generally very, very sad thing
He then starts the next section with "Now it may not seem so terrible to lose a dog, but Pippy's death was like the end of the world for me."
I... it DOES seem so terrible to lose a dog, Dobson. Especially in such a traumatic way, my god! It is a weird flex to minimize it.
Especially after making it SO graphic? I did not include the bizarre amount of detail he did because I thought it was unnecessary but it seems strange to really hone in on the trauma of something and then shrug and be like yes, this seems silly and yet I was devastated.
He talks about how important Pippy was to him at 13, how he could always talk to him and they played together and he would meet him after school each day wagging his tail "(which no one else ever did for me)." Was Dobson... upset no one else was wagging at him? Odd phrasing.
Anyway. He loved the dog. Which is fine and makes total sense. When his dad told him about Pippy's death he "thought he was going to die. I couldn't swallow and I found it very difficult to breathe. I wanted to run away, to scream, to cry. Instead, I sat quietly in the car...
with a great lump in my throat and a pounding sensation in my head."
1) If someone told me that kind of horrific story about my pet dying at ANY POINT I would be absolutely destroyed.
2) His dad SPECIFICALLY TOLD HIM to "take it like a man" which would shut most kids down?
I hate feeling sorry for Dobson, most of you know this. He is one of my most hated people. But I have had a few moments from his childhood that make me feel deeply sad because I care about kiddos, and no one deserves this kind of treatment. I wish he'd been able to see that.
He spent the afternoon grieving, he cried most of the day. He wrote a poem, that he includes the last 4 lines of. It is pretty basic. I do find it charming against my will a bit that his response to this was to write a poem. I am positive there was another path for him somewhere.
That afternoon they had a funeral service. Just before they buried him, he put a penny from his pocket onto Pippy. He doesn't know why, just seemed the thing to do. Erik pointed out he reverted to money and that IS on brand but I also just think we look for ways to make meaning.
Also his father sobbed the whole time, which he tells as if it is supposed to be funny but actually just makes me more angry at him. Dobson says this was the saddest day of his childhood, which totally makes sense to me. What a sad and devastating day in so many ways.
But then he quantifies it because... of course. He points out that obviously there were more significant and meaningful days and losses in his life, but that is still one of the saddest days of his life and why? Because being 13 made it all SEEM so much worse.
So then he goes into how young people feel everything more strongly and how you probably remember experiences from when you were young with so much more clarity than some of your older experiences. Your mileage may vary on this, as a pretty dissociative kid... not the case for me
But also I hate that this is used as a way to discount experiences. He spends a weird amount of time talking about his first chocolate covered cherry and how he loved it so much he considered splitting his lip open so he could go back to the doctor and get another (intense!).
He basically just talks about how all good and bad experiences are more intense when you're young. And to some extent that is true and there are biological reasons for that. But they are still REAL experiences, experiences that deserve to be honored and taken seriously.
He also says that part of what this will mean for you is that you'll find that these emotions are "why teens are so often explosive, why they sometimes do things without thinking and then regret their behavior later." That is... that's not really true. I mean, that's not why.
If you don't know about the brain development of teenagers, I super recommend looking into it. I think it's helpful for almost everyone to know, even if it's just to understand yourself when you were younger a little better. But in the MOST basic and broken down of terms...
Your brain is developing a lot through adolescence and up through your mid-20's. It's pruning connections and making new ones like crazy. The first place that develops fully is the amygdala, which is responsible for our immediate reactions, including things like fear/aggression.
The LAST place to fully develop is our the frontal cortex, which is responsible for stuff like reasoning or THINKING BEFORE WE ACT. So when you have a completely developed reactive brain and a partially developed reasoning brain, can you imagine what might happen?
This is before even taking into account things like trauma, which have a profound impact on your brain and can really alter the process in a lot of ways, particularly impacting things like your immediate responses and your ability to process stress.
So yes, kids DO often act without thinking, it's hard for them not to. But it's not because they're "emotional." It's because their brain literally isn't yet to a point where that makes sense to them. They CAN work with this but it takes practice and patience and they'll mess up.
I actually don't know when we figured some of this out. Brain science has come a tremendously long way in my lifetime. But I think in the late 90's, SOME of this should have been known. He just doesn't care. As usual, he is shockingly willing to ignore science.
So he wants to talk about 6 different characteristics of emotions during adolescence because the motherfucker loves his lists. His first is cyclical emotions. I agree with SOME of this. Basically he is saying that feelings go up and down, hang in there, be aware.
That can be helpful. Certainly if you feel sad it is good to remember it probably won't last forever. But if you're dealing with real depression or mental health problems, you will need more than that. You know what he never talks about here? Going to a doctor to see about that.
He also talks about just in general emotions being unreliable and ends this section with this - "To tell the truth, the world is not the way it looks to you or me; our emotions distort or change the true picture somewhat. Now isn't that a heavy thought?"
Aside from his super nerdy phrasing, I hate this because I feel like it is a way of writing off your perception. Like yes, you may feel a certain way but you just can't trust that. You can't trust what you feel or experience at all. You can only trust god. Gaslighting bullshit.
His second thing is "unreliable impressions." This one is even more confusing. Basically he wants you to be careful not to think that every feeling you get come from god. He gives an example of a young man who thought god told him while driving he was about to die.
He was terrified and almost drove into a telephone pole, but nothing happened, it was just a passing thought. Which is fairly intense, I would be a little concerned about other things if those kinds of passing thoughts happen often but sure, whatever. We get weird thoughts.
But as far as knowing god's will he says to remember that "god rarely makes demands that require instant change." Which... has Dobson ever read the Bible? When did god approach someone and be like 'hey, so I've got this cool idea, if you just want to take a few weeks to think...'
In the Bible god is ALWAYS demanding instant change. Very frequently with dire consequences if not! The idea that you should be taking days or weeks to review important decisions is not bad advice but has nothing to do with the Bible as I read it ever.
He has a few pieces of advice, talk to someone else about the decision, read the Bible because god will never tell you to do anything against his word (...complicated), and watch to see which doors open or close. "You won't have to 'hammer down' obstacles if god is involved."
Which is a CRAZY privileged piece of advice. Like yeah, I guess if you're a white dude with a lot of money that probably makes sense but if you are not those things, I'm not sure this actually tracks as advice... or does this just mean god only likes those people? Hmmm.
Also take time to make the decision and pray for god to lead you, which of course if you think you're hearing a message from god might have mixed results.
Impulses are part of being a teenager or w/e. "Don't let them lead you into anything that will damage the rest of your life."
No pressure though! Just the rest of your life! I hate this shit. Obviously kids CAN make a decision that will impact their lives. But that is not most of their decisions or mistakes. The concept of eternal consequences is a goddamn cancer that leaves no room for reason.
The next thing he wants to talk about is the "declaration of independence." This is functionally the idea that teens want more independence during their adolescence. He talks about how there will be conflict between you and your parents over the next few years.
He explains this is because you started out completely dependent on them but over time you've been able to do more and more things. "With each step in the growth process you became more independent of your parents and they gained new freedom from their task of serving you."
Think that was weird phrasing? Me too. Oh, there's more. "In a few years that process will be completed. You will be totally independent of your mom and dad, and they will be totally free of their obligation to serve you."
So not to repeat myself but WHY DOES DOBSON HATE KIDS?
It is so weird because he always presents children in his parenting books as these like monsters who are constantly at war with you as their parents. So I guess this is the other side, telling kids that their parents are just slowly working their way free of their obligation.
But what a bizarre relational foundation he is building here. It's obviously not kind - nothing he writes ever is - but it is also just not that practical. Just feels like everyone will resent everyone, and probably like they should? I mean, if this is the model.
He tells kids that they better get ready, because soon they're going to have to figure out all their own stuff. Among other things "you'll decide whether you're going to worship god or ignore him." You will have to figure out a lot of important stuff and that's scary.
ALSO your relationship with your parents will become more like a friendship probably, which is a hell of a feat considering the other dynamics that he has set up, no? Like you're going to resent each other for years and then be bff because magic jesus (I assume)!
He explains that the conflict comes from when a kiddo is still too young to have complete freedom and gets resentful about their parents still trying to "lead" and starts pushing back. I mean, I think this is relatively true. It's just delivered disdainfully as usual.
Like the general concept that a kiddo still wants to be taken care of, not pay bills, etc, while having all the freedom they want and that is often a source of conflict is absolutely a thing in families, all the time.
Even part of his solution isn't terrible, he recommends you talk to your parents calmly, express you think that you should be getting more freedom and are willing to take more responsibility with it. Sure. Theoretically. But of course there are concerns/complications.
He advises you to always submit to your parents leadership, after all. Says that "they do, after all, have your best interest at heart." Which is nice in theory but not necessarily in actual practice. Also he is CREATING FAMILIES WHERE THIS APPROACH WILL NOT WORK. Small thing.
He concludes this point by including a letter he wrote to his own kids, because of course he does. I know his inclusion of his own stuff is supposed to make him charming, and I know that as someone who CONSTANTLY tells stories using biography I probably have no room to talk...
but his biography always feels so completely paper thin and written for show! And he just always seems so self-obsessed and never interested in other people. Whatever. The letter is basically telling the kids that they'll probably fight in the coming years but he loves them.
He promises to compromise as much as he is able to and he wants to make them happy if he can but also he may have to say no. I hate the line "when it happens I want you to remember that I love you and you love me, and we're going to remain friends through these difficult times."
You cannot TELL me we are going to remain friends. That is not a one-sided decision you get to make. That's not how this works. Also he's convinced that they'll look back & appreciate his wisdom in giving them freedom gradually. He had a lot of confidence in his future parenting.
The 4th thing he talks about is how kids often don't want to be seen with their parents at this age. I actually don't relate to this at all, I have no memory of this being a thing for me, or for... anyone I knew? Maybe it was a thing that I was unaware of?
Like I was super aware of it being a trope in movies and television and stuff but I didn't actually know anyone who felt humiliated to be seen with their parents, at least not that anyone ever talked about in my earshot.
Talk with me friends! Was this a thing for you?
I will say this is a weird line for him to walk because he tells kids not to worry about this feeling, it's normal, you're just worried about peer pressure. But you ARE supposed to worry about peer pressure, he told us this in detail a few chapters ago. So the message feels mixed
He then tells a story he's already told in other books before and I'm not going through it again. One time he was being a shithead in school and his mom threatened to follow him around all day if he didn't stop and so he stopped - the end. It's one of his only mom stories.
The 5th thing is "the age of confusion." This is specifically about how you will "experience a time of confusion over what you believe." I mean, really it's just about normal questioning and he does try to normalize it but also... it's hard when you can only expect one answer.
Like he tries to tell kiddos that if they are expecting it and not scared, this can actually be great and they can have their own relationship with god or whatever that will be even stronger. Cool, but what if that's not where your questioning leads? What then exactly?
He can't talk about that, of course. He just says that "if you can keep searching for answers to the major questions of life, you'll eventually get satisfactory answers and solutions." Which is a hell of a promise. Also he thinks you'll figure out your folks were right all along.
His last thing is "the search for identity" which is obviously a HUGE thing for teens, kind of their whole job in a lot of ways, at least as far as development goes. But he can't talk about THAT either. And it's a weird space for him to be in for several reasons.
He talks about a kid he makes up named Marvin who is a middle child and he didn't learn to ride a bike well or learn to read and his teachers don't like him much and when he gets to jr high he has no idea who he is. He doesn't play instruments or sports or draw or anything.
He uses this as an example of someone having no sense of identity. He suggests that if this even sounds somewhat familiar you can try doing various things like sports or instruments or whatever, or go to the counseling office and take tests, or join the Scouts.
He encourages kids to explore and on the one hand that's kind of nice, I GUESS but also the reality is that he is defining identity entirely on what they do. And he has to, right? He can't talk about how identity is also things like the clothes you wear or the music you listen to
or how you do your hair or any number of aesthetic choices. He can't do that because he has already identified those as peer pressure and as BAD things. You can't explore with THOSE because those are things that take you away from god. Which leads us to a weird schism place.
You can and should explore your identity when it comes to doing things but you absolutely should not explore it in other areas, and what are the good areas and the bad areas are a little confusing, and we'll just ignore that they might be connected or you might be a whole person.
It's honestly baffling. I can't imagine talking to kids this way. I know I say that a lot but I MEAN IT A LOT, dammit. Kids finding their identities is so exciting. I am still working on MINE and I'm almost 35. But kids are fireworks and they're amazing. Idk why he hates them.
Finally, last section. He would like to talk about becoming men and women. Because of course he would. This is the other important thing of course. In the search for identity. This has to do "with finding the proper masculine or feminine role." Which is such interesting phrasing.
I mean, it implies there are a number of masculine or feminine roles, right? That some of them might be IMproper? I'm just saying. It makes it seem like you're aiming for a particular mark and there might be all sorts of space around it for other possibilities.
"Girls will begin taking on the behavior that is appropriate for women, and boys will adopt the very different style of men." His words are so weird. "But before these changes occur, you have to know what is masculine and what is feminine. Those differences are not...
as clear today as they were when your parents were children, and many young people have a very hazy sexual identity."
The hilarious thing about this is that his concept of this is SO TAME compared to now. As an enby queer kid, I love to imagine his look of horror at my existence
His example though is a "story he heard the other day" (he did not, this is definitely a lie) about a little girl and a little boy who just met and are trying to decide what to do. The little boy suggests that maybe they could play baseball together. As a little boy would do.
The little girl says "oh no, I wouldn't want to do that; baseball is a boy's game. It's not feminine to run around on a dusty lot. No, I wouldn't want to play baseball." This is how little girls talk, right? Haven't you met very many kids who talk like this?
The boy suggests football and that's even worse. He thinks very hard and finally suggests that they play house and she says, "Good! I'll be the daddy!" This is clearly supposed to be hilarious. Dobson thinks she will have "some important questions to answer in the years ahead!"
But his point is that if YOU have questions about "how to learn to play the role of your particular sex" find an adult you respect and watch them, try to imitate them. Observe them very closely and you''ll find you start imitating them. It's an important part of growing up.
Again, INTERESTING PHRASING, right? Learning how to play the role. That is kind of how it feels, no? But if gender is so goddamn innate, why do we have to work this hard to learn it? It does not seem intuitive. Again, seems like there shouldn't be quite THIS much room for error.
Finally he says that this whole book has been about identity and he hopes you can use it as a springboard to get to know yourself better. "After you get to know yourself, you might discover that you are a rather nice person after all."
Ever the fucking charmer, Dobson.
I love all of you so much. Thanks for bearing with me. Final chapter next week, POSSIBLY we will split it up as it's a bit long? Idk. Anyway. Next chapter is a "conversation between teens" so that's fun.
Please feel free to like, share, comment, DM. I love hearing from you. <3
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