Chased by ghosts — Mackenzie Phillips

John and daughter Mackenzie Phillips

John Phillips and daughter Mackenzie

Can Incest Be Consensual?

Mackenzie Phillips Highlights the Impact of Incest

When Mackenzie Phillips dropped her bombshell during an episode of Oprah, revealing that she had had an incestuous relationship with her father, John Phillips, for 10 years, controversy swirled. The revelation came on the heels of the publication of Phillips’ memoir “High on Arrival,” in which she accuses “Papa John” of The Mommas and the Papas of molesting her when she was 18.

Though Phillips says she doesn’t remember if the incident at age 18 was the first time her father acted inappropriately with her, she acknowledges the sexual relationship continued for another decade and eventually became consensual.  . . .

Thomas Nagy, Ph.D. . . . says . . . “When the victim encounters that abuser again in adulthood, in that moment, they’ve dissociated into an adolescent mindset again,” he points out. That’s why it’s so important for victims of abuse to seek and stick with therapy for the long haul. “These victims have to grow boundaries and learn how to find a sense of self again.”

“It’s always traumatic in the long run,” Nagy adds, whether the incest begins when a child is six or 17. “It’s child abuse, and there is no such thing as consensual sex with a child.”

No, incest can never be consensual — even if child is an excited participant.  Incest is the vampire father feeding off the child’s soul by abusing the psychologically normal and healthy “family romance.”

That said, when the child later works through the events, the child, now an adult, must acknowledge the participant aspect.  The situation is not expressed simply by the terms incest victim or survivor, incest participant is the usual reality.  (Incest rape, paradoxically, may be easier for the child to handle psychologically.  The monsterhood of the father would not be hidden in that case.)  The problem is that the child throughout her life is forever caught in the crossfire of love, desire, shame and humiliation — thus many spend their lives chased by psychological ghosts — expressed through drugs, affairs, broken marriages, etc.  Mackenzie Phillips is to be lauded for making her story public.

Failure of the adult incest victim to come to terms with the willing participant aspect will leave her prey to predators.  Sooner or later a sociopathic or other seducer will come along who senses the father’s approach.  The adult child will have no choice but to dance to the music.  In the psychological universe there are few things uglier than an adult incest victim discovering she’s still enslaved by the incest trap, years after thinking she was free.

Phillips says she doesn’t remember if the incident at age 18 was the first time” I believe she’s being untruthful.  One shouldn’t expect incest victims to be straightforward in divulging their stories.  Indeed she would sometimes tell relatives, then later claim she was joking.  Also it seems she is still protecting her father — who she still loves and whose love for her she still believes in.

Bijou was only 13 when her older sister told her the shocking story.   . . .   Her confusion was only compounded when “shortly there after Mackenzie told me it didn’t happen.”


The Mamas and the Papas singer Michelle Phillips, who married John in 1962, claims that Mackenzie revealed the affair in 1997 – but told her stepmom she was joking. “She called me back and said, ‘You know I’m joking,'”

An overview can be found here:

Finally I doubt very much that it is that rare for incest to continue into a woman’s adulthood.  Why should it stop?  We need a closer study of this occurrence.

2 thoughts on “Chased by ghosts — Mackenzie Phillips

  1. I looked at this affair when her tell-all book came out. She was out of money and the book deal saved her financially… which seemed a little too coincidental. I couldn’t tell which one of the two was the genuine psychopath.

    Papa John had some characteristics of a psycho and McKenzie does too. McKenzie, as psychopath, would have no problem inventing a story about her dead father to get herself out of debt. Both of them had that psychopathic Chet Baker regard for substance abuse.

    What if they were both psychopaths? In this case, they had concentual sex but neither really felt violated and McKenzie feigned her revulsion.


    • I am not sure. I am a huge fan of the Msma’s and Papa’s, but also a John Phillips Fan. Personally, I think his musical talent is grossly underrated! I believe, he was a musical genius who wasted his intellect, creativity, and iconic leadership skills by choosing a life of hedonism.
      I would like to stress that he chose this way of life. I am not making excuses for John, however, but, as a mental health therapist who treats trauma victims on a regular basis, it seems that he certainly went through a very traumatic childhood. His behaviors, actions and communications certainly back up how he chose to live his life. After reading his biography, and having no one come forward to refute his claims of abuse, I was convinced he was a victim of early childhood trauma that he never resolved. According to John, he suffered physical, emotional, mental, verbal and psychological abuse. He never claims any sexual abuse, but it is certainly a possibility. I do not say this lightly, but by his actions, and if what McKenzie says is true, it would not be surprising. Many people who are sexually abused, if all conditions are right, go on to abuse others. This is especially true if they do not get or seek help.
      After reading much about John and hearing what others have to say about him who knew him way back in his early years and others who knew him throughout his torturous life, there seems to be a lot of evidence that he was able to show feelings at times, but was completely shut down at other times. This is indicative of trauma. I see a man who got “stuck” early on due the extreme trauma that his parents inflicted upon him. No matter how much he ran from his past, and he literally, appeared to be running physically and emotionally all his life, he never found what he was looking for. I believe, that no matter how much love he was shown by the women in his life, it was never enough. By his actions, it is clear, he never really thought he was worthy of receiving love, and may have felt that these women. would leave him eventually, and so he continued to constantly search for another to replace his loss. It is clear, he suffered from severe abandonment and rejection issues. Also, after reading his book, and learning about his mother and his relationship with her, he also may have have had trust issues with women that he was not even conscious of. Although there was definitely s biological component to his addictions, (alcohol, drugs women, sex, excesses in nearly every walk of life,) it is my belief he used these to numb his unresolved trauma issues that caused him severe emotional pain.
      From the way McKenzies describes him, “wanting her to be his wife, telling her that there were places they could go that this kind of thing would be accepted, he was delusional and also suffered from not only trauma, but other kinds of mental illness. Of course, it is proven that drinking and drugging also causes delusions, hallucinations etc, and after do many years of abuse, kills brain cells. Just like McKenzie and John’s other children, he was at one time, a victim, as well. However, unlike his children (who were very brave), John did nothing to help himself. I feel he didn’t get the right guidance and really never understood why he was like he was. It seems that John never felt comfortable in his own body, heart or soul. I think every minute for him wAs was sheer horrific torcher!! He just keep running from the pain, and unfortunately, took the people closest to him along for the ride.
      Although others were drawn to him because of his charm, intelligence, witt charisma and his ability to lead the pack, his destructive tendencies frequently caused much dissection in his relationships and his associations.
      After close evaluation on my part, I see a man who had many gifts, talents and assets on one hand, but allowed his “Demons” to override the “Greatness” that he possessed!
      Child Abuse continues to run rampant. As parents, educators and as members of the human race, we need to conciously come together to fight this grave issues that is destroying our children/adults. Everyone I every family can learn to break these destructive patterns. We can not afford to stay complacent anymore. We must stand up and be counted. If anyone had any interest in becoming an advocate for the fight against child abuse, please leave message here.


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