Book review: If the Foundations Be Destroyed…What Can the Righteous Do?

Sunday I was feeling sick, so I stayed in bed and read or slept most of the day. I finished reading a fascinating book titled If the Foundations Be Destroyed…What Can the Righteous Do? by Joy F. Hart. The book is written in story form, and describes a string of families with children with attachment disorders and delayed brain development.

The cover of the book looks amateurish, but in spite of the looks, it is a good read.  I could not find a copy online in order to show you what it looks like, so I took a picture.

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I found the mix of story-telling and philosophizing compelling, although there were times I wished the story would move faster so I could get to the core of the book. If the Foundations Be Destroyed discusses ways to form attachments, such as brain exercises, schedules, unique approaches to discipline, certain kinds of touch, safe spaces, eye contact in manageable doses; and of all things, sugar! Apparently sugar forms attachments, so the adoptive mom in this story would randomly give her kid a spoonful of ice cream or some milk with sugar in it. The connection makes sense when you think of an infant drinking sweet milk from his mama.

The information about the brain was so interesting to me because I can see some of the same patterns in a child who does not have an attachment disorder, but has some other brain dysfunction. For instance, child training is so different for a child with a malfunctioning brain. If a child is functioning out of the brain stem (survival mode) spanking is useless, or even harmful, because it retains the child in survival mode which is “fight, flight, or freeze.” According to Hart, a parent needs to reinforce the connections to the front brain to be able to change behavior. Only when the child is operating out of frontal and limbic brain systems can they feel, reason, and learn.

Hart talked about an exercise called “strong sitting,” which I would like to try with my son who has autistic tendencies. Several times a day, you have the child sit cross legged in front of a blank wall, with their hands on their knees, their back straight. They are not to move for the designated time (2-3 minutes). This forces their brain to transfer from acting out of the brainstem into using the limbic and frontal brain systems. Over time, this exercise strengthens the underdeveloped pathways to these centers of emotion and reason.

A random fact from the book: sitting still is the highest level of motor function. So it is actually unrealistic to expect a young child to sit still for a long time. (Yes, in church.)

All parents can benefit from learning about attachments. Even children who do not have neurological delays will not attach well if they are treated inflexibly. Rigid parenting, Hart says, produces kids who aren’t in touch with their emotions and are powerless to love well or think for themselves.

I had to think of a birth I helped with recently. The Amish couple was so emotionless over their baby’s birth that it made the midwife and me feel very strange. After reading this book I realized that child will likely grow up depending on himself for survival. Babies need to be touched, fed, talked to, comforted, snuggled. They need to experience a parent’s unrestrained delight. If babies do not have these things, or if they have some kind of medical issue that prevents the normal attachment behaviors from happening, they will grow up incapable of feeling or receiving love. However, with all these children, ground can be gained by some very hard work to create an attachment to a primary caregiver.

“Blocked care” is addressed in the book, referring to parents being unable to show empathy to their needy children due to the extremely high emotional demands that the children place on their parents. As Hart says, the parent needs to be able to work through the pain of her past in order to parent healthily. I found this very relevant even for normal parenting.

Toward the end of her book, Hart addressed the way hurting children are misunderstood by the church. This section especially gripped my heart, because it applies to any of us who belong to Jesus. All Christians have a responsibility to relate redemptively to those who struggle to feel loved. We can’t glibly look the other way and say it isn’t our problem. It is our problem! I know so little about childhood trauma, and this book helped open my eyes. Here are a few excerpts:

Joyanna had not been helped to mourn her losses. There were many losses in her life; not the least was the absence of an innocent childhood. Her counselors continually reminded her to forgive, but they never helped her grieve.

This is typical of our society. We are advised to ignore the painful and the difficult. We want everything “nice.” We silence the griefs of our experiences and dwell on the positives. Whether it is the transition from singlehood to marriage, the move from an inadequate home to a functional one, a change from one occupation to another; we are encouraged to ignore the losses of the experience and focus on the blessings, to be happy and count our blessings, but never to mourn. With little permission to mourn our losses, we deny them and send them into the depth of oblivion, where they will affect us for the rest of our days. (pg. 335)

We as a church do quite well with the inadequate parenting that leaves bumps and scrapes and bruises. We have our ways of helping that are quite effective if the recipient is open to help. But where we tend to miss it is when we…have a home that has left enormous wounds that have become infected and life-threatening–but we turn to the Band-Aids and the Tylenol. (pg. 336)

It seems to be that the age-old reality that the work of building is typically blessed, and the work of rebuilding–of rectifying what has gone wrong–is criticized… Families who have borne children biologically are families in the work of building. Typically it is a work that is blessed. Families who adopt, or who work with children who have been hurt, are families who are rebuilding. It is often rather unpopular and misunderstood. (pg. 358)

And this quote I found extremely sobering, especially considering the poor job many churches do of handling sexual abuse:

We are created in such a way that our brains have the capacity to cope with physical abuse and with losses… Physical pain and loss are a part of life, and there are areas of the brain, if it is healthy, that are able to handle these. If we know what types of abuses a child has suffered, we are able to work on helping those areas of the brain that work with those particular needs to heal. However… there is no area of the brain prepared to handle sexual abuse. It is devastating. It was never meant to be. To find recovery for that is a much more complicated journey. (pg. 388-389)

If the Foundations be Destroyed is worth the time it takes to read, even if you are not a primary caregiver for children with attachment disorders or brain dysfunctions. Gaining knowledge of their unique challenges will help you be a sympathetic supporter in their struggle for healing. Offering love and validation instead of judgment will pave the way to wholeness.

Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me. -Jesus

 


I was unable to find a link by which you can purchase the book online. I do have the email address of the publisher, so if you are interested in buying your own copy, contact me and I will give you the necessary information.

What are your thoughts? Is this a book you would like to read, and why or why not?

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29 thoughts on “Book review: If the Foundations Be Destroyed…What Can the Righteous Do?

  1. Marcia

    Rosina, I’m intrigued. I’d like to order a copy. It is a new thot to me that the brain dictates our ability to be whole. I’m still pondering how all that works in light of Jesus calling us to choose based on denying ourselves. Keeping an open mind here with lots of questions…Thanks for the review!

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    1. Marcia, I have more questions than answers myself. I did think the book downplayed the spiritual aspect, but that may be because it was directed at Amish and Mennonites, many of whom are uncomfortable with facing physical issues when it relates to the mind. I do think we are intricately connected, body soul and spirit, and failure to seek healing in every aspect is a less than complete answer.

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      1. forthischildipray

        I have read so much on the damage that neglect and trauma inflict on the brain. It is fascinating and helpful to learn to better understand a child who has been through trauma. Any child who has experienced trauma, especially a child who has lost everything through adoption, absolutely needs to be parented differently and I am so thankful that we have so much information out there to help us and others walk with our children in their hurt. But, I also want to express caution, different methods of parenting may help but it is not the answer. The Bible contains all the answers and parenting advice we need. This is not put down the value of books but we must go back to God’s word every time. There is good reason to be wary, some of the popular parenting advice for a child with RAD does not line up with what we read in scripture. Yes, read the books and learn but with caution and much prayer. We tried it all and I am a believer in attachment parenting and we saw progress but we still had a very angry, deeply wounded child. Until Jesus. The only true healer is Jesus, everything else is behavior modification and it will work, for a time, anything but Jesus will always fail in the end.
        I cannot type this without tears streaming down my face because after nearly 9 years we see the miracle that is Jesus healing a deeply wounded child. A miracle, as great as the blind man able to see and the lame man taking up his bed and walking. My son commented the other day that he looked at an old picture and thought was that really me? Did all that terrible stuff really happen to me? If I am really re-born why can’t I forget it ever happened? He was flooded with Satan’s lies of who he really was. I struggled with what to say, because yes, that did happen to you and you won’t forget it. I don’t want to invalidate his past experience and pain but I didn’t have a good response. Revelation came later through God’s word and a wise friend. Yes son, that WAS you, that did happen to you and you can’t forget it but it is no longer who you are. The old man has been crucified and you have been made new. Satan will bring up all the old lies and tempt you to fall back into bondage but he has no power over the new man that you are. It is not denial to look at a photo and say that doesn’t even feel like it was me. It’s healing.
        It is always encouraging to see others invested in understanding our families!

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        1. Yes, absolutely, Jesus is the source of healing! I think about this so often…we are doing all we can to help our son, but most of all we (and others) pray and pray and pray for him! He’s had several experiences of Jesus speaking into his heart, and the results were so beautiful to see.

          I feel this book is different from most in that a). it frequently encourages readers to align their methods with God’s word, b). it urges readers to consider advice from the church community, and c). it was written specifically for Amish and Mennonites and reflects those values. Still, I would want anyone who reads this book to stay open to the Holy Spirit for guidance!

          Thank you for sharing your beautiful story, and for your wise words! God bless your family!

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        2. I agree. We have been working for over 10 years to help our son (RAD, ODD, ADD, developmental delays due to neglect and possible abuse), and though the brain therapy has helped, he still is not willing to trust again and really let himself get close to us like the other children. I plan to order the book!

          Not giving up, because of Jesus!

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  2. Ruth Anna

    I read part of this book one Sunday afternoon…..and was totally fascinated. The book wasn’t mine, , so I don’t have my own copy! I really want a copy, too, because I think there is so much I could learn from this book.

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  3. Karen

    Fascinating indeed! I’m interested in buying the book, but am also wondering – what basis is she writing from? Obviously she must have experience working with traumatized children. Does she list resources where she got the information she presents? I’m curious what those resources are. 🙂 Thanks for the book review!

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    1. The back of the book has a list of resources, which includes 24 books! I can email you the list if you want. I would love to know more about the author, but what I’ve gathered is that she is trying to protect her privacy for various reasons. The little reading I’ve done online, as well as my personal experience, would verify some of the things she has written. I definitely want to read and study more!

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  4. Victoria

    Hey Rosina, I’ve got some other resources on the neurobiology of trauma. It’s something we’ve been learning a lot at work. We’re using it in regards to our sexual assault and domestic violence victims, but it could be used for anyone that has gone through trauma. It’s quite crazy and eye opening what trauma does to the brain, and how working with victims in a trauma informed way, makes a huge huge difference. I love this stuff, it’s cutting edge. If you want to watch some presentations, I’ll give you the links.

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  5. Marie

    I haven’t read this book personally but a dear friend of mine has a copy and says too that this is a must read for anyone who is involved in helping hurting people(which should be all of us!).Unfortunately, from what I understand, this book is no longer available for purchase because of too much negative feedback.

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    1. Thank you, Marie! I just bought my book a month ago, but I will contact the publisher and ask if it’s still available. The negative feedback is sad…there’s still so much work to be done to create understanding in the world of mental and emotional health.

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      1. I received this message from Joseph Hursh this morning:

        “We still have a limited number available of the first printing, and we are working on a second printing, I am not sure how soon that will be ready.

        “If anyone is interested in a book and they send their address I will send an invoice, to pay from, and we are asking for payment before we send the book.”

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    1. I’m glad you said something, Marie, because I had heard a similar report from others about the book possibly being out of print. This gave me the push I needed to check it out! 🙂

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  6. Rebekah Fisher

    Thanks for the great review. I have a personal interest in this topic and am always interested in new info. Never heard before that the brain has a process for dealing with pain/other trauma but not sexual abuse. I’m interested to learn more on this in particular..

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  7. Noah

    Interesting to read the comments. I am a close relative of the author and some of your conclusions are correct. She anticipated some blowback and that’s partly why she used a pen name. I could probably help you get any questions to her if you have any. The positive response was more than the negative but the negative response was vicious. The publishing company that helped print it first time later told their employees not to tell callers where they could find book. One man in particular mailed out 10 page critism to number of preachers and bishops to try to shut it down. That’s where the report comes its no longer in print. The criticism delayed the second printing enough that we stopped selling to bookstores because our inventory was so low. The second printing has a preface added to try and tie some of the book closer to how its teaching relates to the Bible for those who struggled to make the connection.

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    1. Wow, I just might email you one of these days! As I said in the review, I think this book is definitely worth reading. I’m sorry for the negative repercussions. I think mental health is poorly understood by many of us from conservative backgrounds, and it’s so good to see progress being made on that front.

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      1. Noah

        I was sorta vague in what the criticism was but mostly it came from people who were not experienced in dealing with childhood trauma. The one who wrote the 10 page critic was an exception to that but oddly enough his only experiment turned into a wanted criminal who now has been killed from his own lifestyle so it surprised me he felt he had the answers. He also actively opposed the institutions that we have to offer emotional support to the ones who struggle that way. In general the conservatives recognize physical problems very readily but some of us think emotional problems can all be cured with spiritual remedies(these were the one mostly that took issue with it) and the Bible does have the answers for our problems. Yet just as we would not try to treat cancer only by reading Psalms 23 to a loved one in most cases so sometimes we need to heal the hurt ones emotionally so they can live stable Christian lives. Rosina thought this book downplays the spiritual side and it may be the author in addressing an audience who she felt often goes to the other extreme and makes it all spiritual she may have went to the other ditch.

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        1. In saying I thought the spiritual side was downplayed in the comment above, I did not mean she went into the other ditch so much as just that the spiritual element was not a major part of the book. But I think it is impossible to always cover all the bases thoroughly, and as you said, when one extreme needs to be addressed, sometimes we have to zero in on that. The lack of knowledge among us relating to emotional health is distressing and dangerous.

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  8. Elisabeth

    I just saw the book in a Mennonite fabric catalog and got interested in finding more out about it. I did a search online and that’s how I found this review. Does it mostly address attachment disorders and delayed brain development and only slightly mention emotional/sexual/physical abuse or does it thoroughly address those issues as well? As someone who knows first hand what it is like to live with and try to work through those things, I’m curious how much it is mentioned in the book? There is a great need for help in this area. I know of several that could benefit from it if those over them will honestly look at it and do what they can to help. I wonder if this book would be beneficial in that taking place. Truly, all healing comes from Christ. That is where I’ve found mine and firmly believe it is where all others will find it as well. But I would say it is almost imperative for other people to be involved for it to take place. Some know how to help, others don’t. One thing to realize is that even after there is healing, and the wound is no longer a open sore, scars will remain. May each one find God’s grace to be sufficient in all things.

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    1. The book addresses a spectrum of issues, though the subject is so broad it cannot possibly all be thoroughly addressed in one book. I think this book is a good starting point. It’s written in story form, so it doesn’t have a textbook feel, which some people who are after bare facts might find frustrating. However, the back of the book contains a comprehensive list of other books that offer more information for those who wish to pursue further studies.

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