Episode 29. Magic Genie Gods and Party-Pooper Gods, August 17, 2020.
Intro: Welcome to the podcast Coronavirus Crisis: Carpe Diem, where you and I rise up and embrace the possibilities and opportunities for spiritual and psychological growth in this time of crisis, all grounded in a Catholic worldview. We are going beyond mere resilience, to rising up to the challenges of this pandemic and becoming even healthier in the natural and the spiritual realms than we were before. I’m clinical psychologist Peter Malinoski your host and guide, with Souls and Hearts at soulsandhearts.com. Thank you for being here with me. This is episode 29, released on August 17, 2020 and the title Magic Genie Gods and Party-Pooper Gods. Hang in there with me today through this episode and at the end, I will be walking you through an exercise to help you identify your God images.
Brief review: let’s go back and review, what are God images again?
My God image how my heart feels God to be in the moment. My God image is who my emotions tell me that God in this present moment. My God image is very subjective, often driven by factors that are outside of my awareness in the moment, it can be miles away from who I know God to be when the sun is shining and the birds are singing and all is well with me and the world. . So it is critical to understand is that your God images are not necessarily who you profess God to be with your intellect and your will. They are the subjective, unfiltered, spontaneous, passion-driven representations of God that can vary wildly, sometimes even from moment to moment.
Similarly, my self-image is who I feel myself to be in the present moment, it is who my passions are telling me that I am right this minute. M self-images are much more driven by emotion, much more intuitive, subjective, and they also vary a lot more from moment to moment. My self image in the moment fits with my God image in the moment. Sometimes the self-image can drive the God-image, and sometimes the God image drives the self-image.
If you want more about God images, check out episodes 22, 23, and 24 of this podcast where I go into the concepts in much more depth.
Jessica from Texas has been intrigued by God images – she’s taking us another step with this question:
How do God images affect our relationships and reactions to others? Repeat. This is a great question.
We’ve discussed God images and self-images and how they differ from our God concept and our self-concepts. Similarly, our God images and self-images impact how we see others in the moment.
Let’s consider an example. If I’m really struggling with an Elitist Aristocrat God image, where my passions are telling me in the moment that God doesn’t need me, he’s too good for me, he has other people that he prefers, others who are much more in his favor, upon whom he bestows his gifts, his graces, and his love, with little for me. If that’s how I’m seeing God in my God image, and my self-image is that I’m left out, excluded, denied, and the private of good things from God, this God image and self-image combination is going to have an impact on how I see others. For example, I might experience jealousy toward my brother Phil whom I consider to be in God’s favor. I may resent Phil, and if I give into this image of him, I will treat Phil out of that jealousy, by holding back good things that I could give him because I feel my brother Phil is already getting so much from God. Why should I give him anything – he already has so much and I get so little from God. I need to keep what I have.
Let’s take another example. With his Elitist Aristocrat God image, 24-year-old Ian might feel inadequate around Tina in their Catholic Young Adult Group. Ian sees God favoring Tina in so many ways. Ian feels unworthy of being around Tina, and therefore he refuses to engage with her, in order to avoid an exacerbation of his sense of shame. So even though Ian is romantically attracted to Tina, he doesn’t ask her out because of the inhibiting effect of his God image and the self-image that goes with that Elitist Aristocrat God image.
God images and their corresponding self-images impact the way we see all aspects of our lives. Our perceptions of reality are profoundly influenced by our God images and are self-images, and this extends not just to how we experience others, but it reaches to the furthest corners of our minds and impacts all our internal impressions, not only of God and self, but of everything. Our God images and are self-images create filters that color our perceptions of everything that has happened, that is happening, and that will happen in our lives. Many of these perceptions and impressions do not enter into our awareness, but they impact us just the same.
In fact, I argue that we build an implicit religion around each of our individual God images. Let’s take this slow and easy, because this has some conceptual depth to it.
The Catholic Dictionary defines religion as the moral virtue by which a person is disposed to render to God the worship and service he deserves. [Repeat]
Each warped God image demands certain things from us and informs us about how he is to be worshipped and served. For example, the Demanding Drill Sergeant God image always wants more and more, he wants me to always strive harder, to exhaust myself in prayer and service to others. So in my religion to that God, I put in long hours of volunteering, I push others to do the same, and I treat both myself and others harshly. The Vain Pharisee God image demands that I grovel before him, and humiliate myself in order to give him constant homage, and credit for all success. Therefore, in my worship and service to the Vain Pharisee God I’m extremely stringent and down on myself, and I degrade myself in my prayer and cut myself down in my Bible study group. The Outtogetcha Police Detective God image insist on perfection, and enjoys catching me in sins of commission. Therefore, part of my religion is to be very conservative, to only take on what I feel I can do without any mistakes, so I avoid the messy business of relating to others in a deep way and stay on the periphery of my parish community.
Sometimes we can infer our God image from the religion we seem to be practicing. For example, if I notice I am not praying, what might that say about my recently activated God images?
So Jessica, thank you for this question of How do God images affect our relationships and reactions to others? How we react to our God images and how we react to our self-images in the moment colors are perceptions of everything.
In the previous four episodes of the Coronavirus Crisis: Carpe Diem! Podcast, we have covered twelve God images from Bill and Kristi Gaultiere’s 1989 book Mistaken Identities. I’m adding much more color and background to these God imagers, to make them come even more alive for us Catholics in our present day with the challenges of the coronavirus. With a little imagination, you can see how these God images impact everything if we let them, if we give into them. There’s no corner of our lives no detail of our lives that will escape being affected when we default to our problematic God images.
So the final two God images will cover in this sequence are the Magic Genie God image and the Party-Pooper God image. Let’s go ahead and get into those God images now.
Magic Genie God Image: The Magic Genie God image is really an interesting one. In this God image, God gives me what I if I do what he what he wants me to do. God and I make deals with each other. If I follow the right steps, the right formula, I get what I from God. God is like a divine vending machine. I provide the right inputs, I insert my spiritual quarters, and I get the spiritual and material merchandise that I desire. The implicit religion with the magic Genie God is very transactional. I do what God wants me to do, and he bestows the blessings I want upon me. I scratch his back, he scratches my back. The implicit religion with the magic Genie God is reflected in the Protestant prosperity gospel movement, also known as the health and wealth gospel. The prosperity gospel message is that financial blessings and physical health are the will of God for its followers, and that greater faith, upbeat speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one’s material wealth. In the prosperity gospel, Holy Scripture is seen primarily as a contract between God and man. If I deepen my faith in God, he will deliver security and prosperity. See you can see how an implicit religion such as the prosperity gospel derives from the magic Genie God image.
Bible verse: the Bible verse the Gaultieres chose was Job 4:6 when Eliphaz the Temanite, when he speaks to Job. Eliphaz is chiding Job, and promoting a very transactional understanding of God. Eliphaz follows what Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitsch call a “traditional doctrine of retribution, which holds that a man reaps from God whatever he sows by his actions – sin brings him suffering; righteousness brings him rewards. In chapters 4 and 5, Eliphaz is telling Job that he must have sinned, he must have offended God because of all the misfortunes Job has suffered.
Job 4:6 Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?
5:8 as for me, I would seek God, and to God what I commit my cause here Eliphaz is implying that Job has not been seeking God or committing his cause to God because of the misfortunes.
5:11 he sets on high those who were lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety
Self-image: For people with a Magic Genie God image, there is a strong sense of needing to be in control in the relationship with God. If I have this God image, I feel that I’m not worth being loved by God just for me. I have to do certain things, I have to perform in a certain way in order to get God to love and help me. However, there is also a curious sense of entitlement. If I do what I believe God wants me to do, then I am entitled to the blessings that I desire. I have a right to claim those blessings because he has promised them to me in our transactional relationship. . If things seem to be going my way, I can inflate with a sense of self-satisfaction and mastery.
If I experience challenges and difficulties in life, I will look to see if I failed in any of my contractual obligations with God, following Eliphaz’s recommendations. Suffering has little redemptive value to me, and in fact, I may have a deep assumption that it could be avoided altogether if I merely do the right things in the right way at the right time. After all, my magic Genie God wouldn’t want me to suffer.
Attachment history: What does the relational history of those with a Magic Genie God often look like? Not surprisingly, children who grew up with a very transactional relationship with their parents frequently develop such assumptions about God. Some parents are very adept at quid pro quo relationships with their children. These parents know how to give desirable things to their children, but generally see frustrating their children as undesirable and negative. Parents who overemphasize the importance of material possessions or who are preoccupied with health concerns at the expense of other existential concerns can give rise to the formation of Magic Genie God images and their children. Also, children and adults who have experienced success in transactional relationships, who have thrived in a worldly sense in their environments can bring this into their spiritual lives as well, hoping in some way that God will engage with them in similar ways, ways that they have found gratifying and profitable.
Coronavirus crisis: How might the coronavirus crisis impact Magic Genie God images? First, preoccupations with health and material possessions are running much higher these days, as both can be threatened due to the coronavirus and its effects. This can cause those who have Magic Genie God images to believe that they are failing in their end of the transaction. This can lead to resentment, and it can exacerbate questions and concerns about being loved by God. Our present coronavirus moment as an opportunity to break free of Magic Genie God images. People may also have their magic Genie God images activated when the criticize others who have suffered misfortunes that they have not suffered. They may assume that those who have had health compromises or who have lost jobs, income or standards of living have violated their contractual agreements with God. These critics, like Eliphaz, may also be openly critical of those like Job who have suffered. And these critics do so without understanding the actual spiritual realities, of God’s mysterious ways.
Vignette: Vivian was raised by very successful, career-oriented parents. Her father was an lawyers, one of the best patent-law attorneys in Missouri, highly accomplished. Her mother rose to be the charge nurse at the ICU at the Missouri Baptist Medical Center in St. Louis. Success seemed to come easily to both of them, and they both wanted their children to be successful in the same ways as they were, achieving status and influence both in their professional communities and in the St. Louis Catholic community. There active in the pro-life movement, and were major donors to various Catholic causes.
When Vivian wanted things from her parents, she now to get them. The terms of the transactional way that her parents worked were not hard to discern. Because she was talented, she was willing to be molded into her parents image, more so than most children. She readily accepted the perks that her parents’ status could grant her. Her parents were well-connected at St. Louis University and it was decided she would go there. Vivian attributed much of her worldly success to her prayer life and her connection with God, neglecting to see how privileged her upbringing had been, how many natural gifts had been bestowed on her. She believed that she could make good happen out of just about every situation, by her own efforts and in her relationship with God.
When she met Paul, who is studying at a local culinary Institute, she was intrigued. He was handsome, tall, physically strong. She liked the fact that he grew up on the quote wrong side of the tracks” and seemed a little rebellious. Vivian wasn’t fully conscious of how she saw him as a challenge, a man to be reformed, to be made over in her own image, to be rescued from his own darkness. And when she married him at age 24, against her parents’ wishes and the recommendations of some of her closest friends, she really didn’t know what she was getting into. She wasn’t prepared for the rough ride that marriage would be, the ups and downs, and how focused her husband was on his career. She railed at God from a position of entitlement demanding how he could’ve let her marry Paul and chafing under the responsibilities of married life and motherhood. She racked her brain to try to figure out what she had done wrong. She doubled her prayer time and it seemed like nothing was working.
Vivian knew that her parents were disappointed in her choice of spouse, but was still surprised when they cut off financial support, expecting the young couple to make it on their own. Now, due to her husband’s financial decisions, they were in a lot of debt, relying on her income to float them through the era of the coronavirus. Vivian was angry at God, feeling like he had defaulted on his end of their arrangement, and she was becoming more and more rebellious, which further alienated her from her parents. Her parents, for their part, suggested in a variety of ways that had she listened to them about Paul, she would be having none of these difficulties, and that her life would have been wonderful, like their lives.
Party-Pooper God Image: The Party-Pooper God is really a downer. He is depressing, downbeat, he is pessimistic, disapproving, and unhelpful. He keeps giving me the message that my efforts won’t work, that I won’t succeed, that I won’t make it, no matter how hard I try. This God tells me that my hopes and dreams are foolish, that I am dust and ashes, but I want to mount to anything. God seems unconcerned about the effects of these messages on me.
Bible verse: Psalm 39: I said, “I will guard my ways that I may not sin with the tongue; I will bridle my mouth, so long as the wicked are in my presence.” I was dumb and silent, I held my peace to no avail; my distress grew worse, my hurt became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; and I spoke with my tongue: “Lord, let me know my end, what and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is! Behold, thou hast made my days a few hand breaths, and my lifetime is as nothing in thy sight. Surely every man stands as a mere breath! Surely every man goes about as a shadow! Surely for not are they in turmoil; man heaps up, and knows not who will gather!
Deliver me from all my transgressions. Make me not the scorn of fools! I am dumb, I do not open my mouth; for it is thou who hast done it. Remove thy stroke from me; I am spent by the blows of thy hand. When thou dost chasten man with rebukes for sin, thou dost consume like a moth what is dear to him; surely every man is a mere breath!
Self-image: the self-image of those that have a Party-Pooper God image is characterized by hopelessness. I don’t feel worthy of having a God-given purpose in life, of not having a special plan. I don’t understand why God wants to shut down good things when they seem to start happening for me and why life has to be so hard for me. I can feel singled out for being dumped on. I feel very disconnected from God, like he doesn’t really see how his negativity affects me. I have low motivation and low levels of hope. I also am afraid to hope, for fear of being disappointed yet again. Nothing works out the way I wanted to.
Attachment history: So what does the attachment history of those with a Party-Pooper God image often look like? It’s not uncommon for this God image to develop when there is significant depression in the family of origin, either in the parents, or in the child himself or herself. Those with a melancholic temperament are more prone to develop this kind of God image. It is also not uncommon when children have struggled at different points of separation and individuation, such as at six years old in making the adjustment to the demands of school. Retreat into this kind of God image can help them make sense of their experience of failure -- I failed, not because I didn’t give it my all, but because God didn’t want me to succeed. Those who have had difficult adjustments can externalize responsibility by blaming their Party-Pooper God image for the troubles.
Coronavirus crisis: so how does the coronavirus impact the Party-Pooper God image? For those who felt like they were struggling and who were downcast and felt downtrodden prior to the coronavirus and its effects, the coronavirus can make things so much worse. They can have a sense like in the lyrics from Roy Clark and Buck Owens that “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.” In the present era, bitterness and resentment can rise up as those with Party-God images feel like God continues to strip away the remaining good things in their lives, almost in a nonchalant way, regardless of their cries and pleas.
Vignette: Paul had always considered himself a survivor. He grew up in a home with a very depressed mother and a father who was almost never around and who spent his income profligately on himself, leaving Paul and his siblings in second-hand clothes. Paul always felt like he had to work three times harder for one third of the benefits that others got by not even trying, he made it through he graduated from high school, and then paid his way through his training at the Culinary Institute of St. Louis, with the dream of one day owning a restaurant. He went through life with a chip on his shoulder, leading him into unnecessary conflict with chefs and restaurant managers, which got him fired, sometimes unfairly, sometimes not. Paul felt that he never got his big break.
He prayed to God with dogged persistence, though, for his dream of owning restaurant. In January 2020, at the age of 32, married to Vivian for the past 8 years, and with two young children, he believed that God was finally smiling on him. By using all his savings, cashing out his wife’s 401K, and taking on a considerable debt, he bought a little restaurant on the outskirts of Jefferson City, Missouri that he intended to change from a small town, local diner to something much more upscale. Just as he was about to open in April after extensive renovations, Missouri was locked down due to the coronavirus. His restaurant was shut down, no revenue, no established reputation and his cuisine was not amenable to take-out orders. Paul was devastated. He felt that things had finally come together, and God popped the balloons, pulled the plug on the music and shut the lights off on his party.
As Paul became more desperate and preoccupied about his restaurant and his financial situation, he had more and more difficulty seeing the beautiful things that he did have in his relationship with his wife and in his children. His spiritual field of vision narrowed to the failure of his restaurant. He felt beaten and battered by God’s careless disregard for his situation and he blamed God.
So there is the Party-Pooper God image.
Create a space and time for this – quiet not likely to be disturbed, for at least 10 minutes. Shut your phone off, close out email, have a pen and paper or a recording device handy. No pressing engagements, no hurry. This is not therapy, but it is an experiential exercise to help you learn about yourself.
Big open heart toward yourself. Willingness to really know yourself, the secrets of your own heart. Willingness to accept whatever you find in your heart, in your soul, in your mind, in your body. To hear what you might not have been willing or able to hear before. A willingness to be surprised.
I’m going to ask you two simple questions and I want you to write down the first things that comes to mind, unfiltered, uncensored. Stop the podcast after each one to write your responses down, as fast as they come to mind, your responses. Or, if you prefer, record your responses as you say them out loud. The important thing is to put your initial, uncensored, unfiltered responses into words so you can be able to work with them in an entirely different way. You can stop at any time if this seems too uncomfortable.
Who is God?
Who am I?
Note the parts of your responses that stand out to you. Reasons for each of the responses. Some of this may really be obvious.
Action item: Reach out to someone about what you wrote down. Share it, discuss it in relationship with someone else in the mystical body of Christ, your confessor, spiritual direction, a friend, your spouse, somebody. Share it with me if you want to – email@example.com
317.567.9594 or if you are in the Resilient Catholics Carpe Diem community, the RCCD community, you can private message me or you can include your responses, your reactions on our discussion of this podcast episode, episode 29. But continue to work with your responses to the questions: Who is God? Who am I?
The RCCD community brings together people like you, people that are really interested in growing more and more resilient, both in the natural realm and in the psychological realm, and who are seizing this day, this moment as an opportunity for great spiritual and psychological growth. We are adding features to the RCCD community. Today we are launching our first polls to be able to connect better with our RCCD members. Membership in the RCCD community is free for the first 30 days, $25 per month after that, and there is a whole host of resources available to you there, including the God Image Questionnaire, which you can take to help you sort out which of the 14 God images we have just reviewed in the last five episodes are most relevant to you. The God image questionnaire is up there. Go to soulsandhearts.com, click on the tab that says all courses and shows and register for the Resilient Catholics Carpe Diem Community.
So here’s a sneak peek into next week’s episode.
Ryan from Texas asked “how do we connect with Mary. Why so some Catholics seem to have a really strong connection to Our Lady and others don't? Is it related to biologic differences between men and women or is it more experiential and related to relationships with our earthly mothers? What other psychological factors impact that relationship?"
I really like this question.
In the next episode, we will be address Mary images – how our internal representations of our spiritual mother are initially formed and what psychological factors influence change in our images of Mary over time. You’ll want to be there for that, don’t miss it.
Patroness and Patron