A few months ago I picked up the book Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People who Drain You Dry by Albert Bernstein as an introduction to learnin about personality disorders. The book is is well written and entertaining and I am now searching for some more scholarly sources on various types of personality disorders because I have this thought that people in our churches–especially “problem people”–are not only drawn to certain beliefs, but create certain beliefs based on personality.
For example, one of the “emotional vampires” discussed in the book is the Obsessive Compulsive Personality. The author suggests that these people have an acute sense of their tendency towards violence, sex, selfishness etc [feelings we all have] . They feel chaotic inside and so they compensate by having rigid rules to keep themselves in order. These people feel a constant frustration because almost nobody keeps the rules as well as they do. The author says these people “sigh and shake their head a lot”. Bernstein also points out an interesting paradox that they “keep themselves from sin so they can cast the first stone” meaning they get to indulge that negative behavior they work so hard to repress guised under righteous indignation. They tend to overcorrect people and seem harsh as a result. There is much more but this was enough to send my mind whirling as well as conjuring up people I have met and know in church.
And I wonder if theologies that are very concerned with perfectionism draw these kinds of people? I also wonder if one of the reasons we see such extreme pendulum swings in conversion experiences of truly “worldly people” who then become the most conservative of Christians. They have experienced and know their temptations all too well and need those rigid structures to keep them from losing control. They don’t do well in setting where people have difefrent styles of worship, viewpoints, and don’t tolerate ambuguity very well. They are overwhelmed by details and so they tend to have a very “black and white” world view and detest gray areas.
Another kind of personality discussed was the paranoid vampire. If the OCD is overwhelmed by details, then the paranoid “organizes them into one big picture”. These “vampires” also do not tolerate ambiguity, and are very sensitive to small details and gestures. They need answers where their are none, they constantly “conect the dots” and then take things personally or transform them into “conspiracy theories”. Conspiracies are a great past time for Adventists, particularly when they involve the Catholic Church, Jesuits, and Freemasonry. Adventists are distant cousins of Dan Brown…or not so distant. Whether its the conference out to get the small churches, new age worship styles constantly “creeping” [there are a lot of things that creep in the church–including these sneaky people who hand out “testimonies” in church lobbies] into the church. They are suspicious by nature.
There are a great deal more personality types, and countless illustrations I could provide for the above two types–but for now I want to know if there is any sort of connection between personality disorders and what I call “theological disorders” –namely theologies that are extensions of personality rather than study of scripture.
Then there is the flipside. I think under the right circumstances and the right topic any on of us can be paranoid, OCD, narcissisitc, etc. The letter called Hebrews in the Bible tells people not to “forsake the assembling together as some are in the habit of doing” and I have begun to wonder if one of the key reasons for this is to keep our personalities in check. Proverbs says the interaction of people is like “iron sharpening iron” [27:17]. While people are certainly irritating at times, we all have the potential to be irritating as well if we are left in isolation for too long.
At Golden Hills a couple members came up with the phrase “lazy makes crazy”. This little proverb came out of a discussion of what happens to people when they are not gainfully employed or have meaningful relationships for an extended amount of time. There is no one to temper their thoughts or extremes and they begin to formulate strange ideas…Youtube is littered with them.
Anyways, these are ramblings, and Im curious to hear what you think….