Wolves and Lions on the Prowl
Paul’s warnings to the church leaders in Ephesus resound to us through these many centuries. Watch out for there are wolves stalking about seeking for prey to pounce upon (Acts 20:29-31, “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard!”). Peter cautions the same warning, only describing the predator as a lion (1 Peter 5:8, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”). Why such dire warnings? Can’t people just get along?
In their primitive categories, Paul and Peter are describing Sociopaths, as those very human predators stalking with their inner species rage.
Not everyone will appreciate your ideas.
“And one should bear in mind that there is nothing more difficult to execute, nor more dubious of success, nor more dangerous to administer than to introduce a new order to things; for he who introduces it has all those who profit from the old order as his enemies; and he has only lukewarm allies in all those who might profit from the new. This lukewarmness partly stems from fear of their adversaries, who have the law on their side, and partly from the skepticism of men, who do not truly believe in new things unless they have personal experience in them.”
… Machiavelli, “The Prince”
As Linus from Peanuts states, “I love humanity. It’s the people I can’t stand.” He was undoubtedly reflecting the dilemma of Personality Disorders (AKA Character disorders). Morgan Scott Peck (“Road Less Traveled”) stated it so simply and yet precise that the world is divided into two groups, on one are the Neurotics and on the other Personality Disorders. Neurotics believe everything is their fault, while the personality disorders believe everything is definitely your fault. When it comes right down to it, give me a church full of neurotics any day over one of personality disorders. In truth, it only takes a handful of those with personality disorders to upset the entire organization, especially when they are given positions of authority.
A horrible truth is that neurotics may wear you down, but when personality disorders are given free reign they will actively ruin you. It was probably this very dilemma Paul the Apostle had in warning the Ephesian Elders to beware of the “savage wolves” (Acts 20:29). Perhaps it was this very issue he refers to in 1 Corinthians 15:32, “If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus . . .”
A wise minister must eventually discard idealistic notions (AKA naiveté) about the church and gain discernment. This does not mean to systematically purge the church of all personality disordered people for we would be left without many members. Truth be told, perhaps 40% – 50% of our population is inflicted with some such tendencies. The rest are subject to neurotic tendencies. Spoiler alert: Any not fitting into these two groups are in denial. BTW, you might just recognize some of your own tendencies in the lists.
It’s part of fallen, fallible human nature. We need to reach out to all groups, but we do not need to leave ourselves open to abuse. Just keep a guard up around harmful people. As President Ronald Reagan was fond of stating in all the SALT talks with Russian Premiere Mikhail Gorbashev, Доверяй, но проверяй (doveryai, no proveryai), “Trust, but Verify.”
Following are basic summaries of the ten personality disorders recognized by the American Psychiatric Association (especially detailed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). One need not be an authority on such matter to understand their leadership duties of guarding their “flock.” But an awareness will take you a long way in effective service.
These summaries are based on research of the Mayo Clinic, with added notes by the author. For a full explanation of these behaviors, see Theodore Millon who pioneered much research for DSM III and DSM IV. His book, “Personality Disorders in Modern Life” (John Wiley & Sons, 2nd edition, 2004) is foundational (and at quite the investment of time and money). Although he turns 85 years of age in August 2013, he is still producing significant resources for the understanding of what he refers to as “Personology.” His Web Site contains excellent explanations for a fuller understanding, www.millon.net/taxonomy/summary.htm. He will unpack the full situation far beyond the following summaries. If you find one of these summaries applying to your current challenge that Web Site is your next step.
- Frequent mood swings
- Stormy relationships
- Social isolation
- Angry outbursts
- Suspicion and mistrust of others
- Difficulty making friends
- A need for instant gratification
- Poor impulse control
- Alcohol or substance abuse
The specific types of personality disorders are grouped into three clusters based on similar characteristics and symptoms. Note the descriptions will overlap. One with a particular disorder is not likely to be perfectly fit every point. The new DSM 5 strives to acknowledge this point by diagnosing issues by degree, rather than stringent and limiting categories.
Cluster “A” personality disorders
These are personality disorders characterized by odd, eccentric thinking or behavior and include:
Paranoid personality disorder
- Distrust of others, always doubting their motives
- Believing that others are trying to harm you
- Emotional detachment
- Intimacy illusive is not nearly impossible
- Suspicious of harmless comments
Schizoid personality disorder
- Lack of interest in social relationships
- Limited range of emotional expression
- Inability to pick up normal social cues
- Appearing dull or indifferent to others
- Immune to how they are perceived
- Think Sheldon Cooper (Big Bang Theory)
Schizotypal personality disorder
- Peculiar dress, thinking, beliefs or behavior
- Perceptual alterations, such as those affecting touch
- Discomfort in close relationships
- Flat emotions or inappropriate emotional responses
- Indifference to others
- “Magical thinking” — believing you can influence people and events with your thoughts
- Believing that messages are hidden for you in public speeches or displays
- Fascination with telepathy, clairvoyance and ESP
Cluster “B” personality disorders
These are personality disorders characterized by dramatic, overly emotional thinking or behavior and include:
Antisocial (also known as sociopathic) personality disorder
- Disregard for others
- Persistent lying or stealing
- Recurring difficulties with the law
- Repeatedly violating the rights of others
- Impulsive fits of rage
- Aggressive, often violent behavior
- Resentment of authority
- Disregard for the safety of self or others
Borderline personality disorder
- Impulsive and risky behavior
- Volatile relationships, waffling between intimacy and resentment
- Relationships extremely unpredictable
- Unstable mood
- Suicidal behavior
- Phobic pondering of being alone
- Excessive fear of abandonment
- Highly erratic sense of how they feel about themselves
- Subject to self-mutilating behavior, such as cutting and bulimia
Histrionic personality disorder
- Constantly seeking attention
- Excessively emotional
- Never ending cycle of melodrama episodes; like a hidden camera is always recording their every move
- Extreme sensitivity to others’ approval
- Unstable mood
- Excessive concern with physical appearance
- Overestimates personal relationships
Narcissistic personality disorder
- Believing they’re better than others
- Pure grandiosity
- Fantasizing about power, success and attractiveness
- Exaggerating your achievements or talents
- Expecting constant praise and admiration, like medieval royalty
- Failing to recognize other people’s emotions and feelings
- Exploitative behavior for attention
Cluster “C” personality disorders
These are personality disorders characterized by anxious, fearful thinking or behavior and include:
Avoidant personality disorder
- Hypersensitivity to criticism or rejection
- Feeling inadequate, severe low self-esteem
- Social isolation
- Extreme shyness in social situations
- Avoids any risk-taking for fear of failure and humiliation
Dependent personality disorder
- Excessive dependence on others
- Submissiveness toward others
- A desire to be taken care of
- Incessant need for reassurance
- Fear of abandonment
- Tolerance of poor or abusive treatment
- Urgent need to start a new relationship when one has ended
Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
- Preoccupation with orderliness and rules
- Extreme perfectionism
- Desire to be in control of situations
- Inability to discard broken or worthless objects
- Inflexibility with their ideas and opinions
- Uncooperative, unless their way is recognized as supreme
Can a Personality Disorder be cured?
This question is often debated with mixed resolution. It basically involves the issue that has haunted behaviorist psychologists and philosophers alike; are we programmed by our basic inner nature (DNA) or is it our nurture conditioned by our environment? My Hegelian bent urges a consideration of both sides bearing merit to the debate. One may have such internal programming, but our social surroundings play a strong influence.
This writer believes that short of a miracle, the toxic disorder will not go away by ignoring it, and will only become stronger in proportion to the attention given to appease its harmful underlying intentions.
Theodore Millon poses the observation that however the debate may be answered, one must admit that our western culture is very accommodating of the problem. Japanese culture’s higher value on family and community trust and cooperation has yielded significantly fewer cases of sociopathy, perhaps as small as 1%. Whereas the freer and independent western culture has spawned estimates approaching 4% and perhaps even higher.
Some points conducive to the growing prevalence of personality disorders may be seen in the following,
1) Over abundance of information. One can find too much instruction encouraging virtually anything, especially lifestyle options.
2) Liberal ideology allowing and even encouraging the freedom to be “whatever” one might have a notion to be.
3) Post-Modern philosophy validating personal opinions just as meaningful as traditional truth and values. The quest to “find oneself” propels one to live out their inner drives. However, what happens when what they find is not a good thing to be released upon society?
4) Media highlighting and even idolizing unique, yet eccentric lifestyles. More permission for personality disorders to flourish. Facebook and Twitter encourage their users to live like movie stars, as though anyone would be that interested in following their daily routine.
5) Glamorizing exploitative capitalism’s lessons of getting ahead no matter what the cost. Speculation has been published that a high percentage (10%+) of business CEO’s are sociopathic, as seen in the Recession of 2008 that they would demand millions of dollars — pure fantasy wealth — in bonuses while untold masses lose pensions, homes, savings and all hope of a secure life (The Huffington Post, May 19, 2012).
The ancient Athenian proverb of “nothing to excess” probably holds our best light. Personality disorders are a part of our society, but we need not give it free license to inflict harm. The key is to establish clear “boundaries” — not by placing focus upon the categories of right or wrong (which will garner overreaction and debate), — but by the categories of what is acceptable behavior and what is not (which must be clarified and upheld by the united community). A given community, whether a church or any social group, must have leaders with enough backbone to hold the line against unacceptable, destructive behavior and that community must support their stand. A united stand may be the only effective defense against such predatory behavior.
The Possibility of Evil
by Morgan Scott Peck
M. Scott Peck raises fascinating, yet disturbing insights and cases about modern human evil. He poses four points in characterizing evil behavior, admitting his desire for continued discussion and refinement. From a psychiatric viewpoint, ambulatory schizophrenia might suffice for the diagnosis to clarify who are evil people.
“In addition to the abrogation of responsibility that characterizes all personality disorders, this one would specifically be distinguished by:
a) consistent destructive, scapegoating behavior, which may often be quite subtle.
b) excessive, albeit usually covert, intolerance to criticism and other forms of narcissistic injury.
c) pronounced concern with a public image and self-image of respectability, contributing to a stability of life-style but also to pretentiousness and denial of hateful feelings or vengeful motives.
d) intellectual deviousness, with an increased likelihood of a mild schizophreniclike disturbance of thinking at times of stress.” (p. 129)
People of the Lie; The Hope for Healing Human Evil (Simon & Schuster, 1983)
“The Encounter with Evil in Everyday Life”
Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an unuprooted small corner of evil.
Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person.”
Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956