Episode 25. Drill Sergeant Gods, Statue Gods, and Preoccupied Manager Gods, Oh My…
July 13, 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 25, released on July 20, 2020 and it’s called Drill Sergeant Gods, Statue Gods, and Preoccupied Manager Gods, Oh My…
Self-concept: This what we intellectually believe about ourselves, who we profess ourselves to be, what we understand about ourselves, our mental construct of ourselves. The self-concept of a practicing Catholic, for example, may include being a beloved child of God. There’s a link between God concepts and Self-concepts – they go together, they harmonize. Loving Shepherd, little sheep.
Self-images on the other hand, are much more emotionally driven, much more intuitive, subjective, and they vary a lot more from moment to moment. These go together with God images – they impact each other
My God image is my emotional and subjective experience of God, who I feel God to be in the moment. May or may not correspond to who God really is.
Initially my God images are shaped by the relationship that I have with my parents. This is my experiential sense how my feelings and how my heart interpret God. My God images are heavily influenced by psychological factors, and different God images can be activated at different times, depending on my emotional states and what psychological mode I am in at a given time.
God images are always formed experientially. God images flow from our relational experiences and how we construe and make sense of those images when we are very young.
My God images can be and usually are radically different than my God concept.
My God concept What I profess about God. It is my more intellectual understanding of God, based on what one has been taught, but also based on what I have explored through reading. I decide to believe in my God concept. Reflected in the Creed, expanded in the Catechism, formal teaching.
So in the text exchange with a listener who I will call Beth, because that’s her name, Beth told me that she was having a hard time figuring out her own God images. So I thought I would bring in the best resource
Mistaken Identity William and Kristi Gaultiere 1989 Fleming H. Revell -- 3 decades ago.
14 Unloving God images – drawn from I Corinthians 13, 4-7.
Preoccupied manager director God
Vain Pharisee God
Elitist aristocrat God
Pushy salesman God
Magic Genie God
Demanding drill sergeant God
Outtogetcha Police Detective God
Unjust dictator God
Critical Scrooge God
Preoccupied Managing Director God: God is busy running the world, but God doesn’t take the initiative, time, or energy to really relate with me, to connect with me. God cares about me, but he is overtaxed. He is impatient, it is hard to get His attention. God may want to give more to everyone, but He has limited resources and has to allocate them carefully, to those who most deserve them. Comfort and help might come if I my situation is desperate enough.
Bible verse: Psalm 13 opening: How long, Lord? Will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I carry sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day? How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Self-image: I am not important enough, not worthy enough for God’s attention, for his care, for him to be concerned about me. The problems, cares, and concerns of my life are not significant enough to warrant his attention. God can’t be disturbed with my relatively minor concerns and difficulties. God has little bandwidth for me, doesn’t need to be saddled with my petty wishes and desired. Twisting in the wind. I am an unprofitable servant, so God leaves me to my own devices.
Attachment History – over-parentified children of families with harried, distressed parents, often with financial concerns and time pressure. Children with a Preoccupied Managing Director God image learn that they are rewarded for being “low-maintenance” and not adding to their parents’ troubles by voicing their concerns. Praised for how independent, mature, and responsible they are. Anxious-preoccupied attachment style – they want intimacy, connection with God, but they feel that have to go without it, because they just don’t matter enough. They generally don’t feel seen and known, and they don’t believe that God cherishes them – rather God sees them as a burden.
Coronavirus Crisis: Readily activated now – some are not feel much of God’s presence. Lots more responsibilities, lots of decisions, lots of stress. Others, such as supervisors, superiors have more responsibilities, show less patience, more irritability. Aging parents, more self-absorbed. Loss of connection. Responsibilities piling on – decision fatigue – when to wear masks, what activities can we do, conflicting feedback from politicians, medical experts, government leaders. No help in sight. And you can see how
Vignette: Paula – 17 year old, second oldest child of a family of 6, father was preoccupied with his business, not doing well with the coronavirus, Mom is stressed, working a part-time job and still wanting to homeschool, and her father is self-absorbed with some health issues. Her older brother escaped the household by enlisting in the Navy and the third oldest in the family, a 15 year old son, is rebellious, acting out by not completing his schoolwork, announcing that he is an atheist, and experimenting with alcohol. Paula doesn’t feel like she can burden her mother with any of her issues, lest she become impatient and irritable and act in the role of a martyr. The 3 youngest children are emotionally and relationally draining for her mother who is strenuously trying to hold them to high standards. Paula has barely enough time to complete her studies to her mother’s exacting principles, essentially teaching herself from a boxed curriculum. Paula’s is trying to hold her family together, and feels like she is a fish in a puddle that is evaporating. She tries to rely on herself, but is developing and increasingly intense anger toward God and she is not aware of the anger. Prayer – another responsibility, another thing to check off her list, based off a sense of duty. Very dry, uncomfortable, sense of not mattering, not being cared for. Now she has lost some activities she enjoyed (ballroom dance class) because of the coronavirus, and she longs to escape like her older brother did, but she doesn’t feel safe enough to launch into the world. Resilience
Statue God: God seen as distant, remote, unfeeling, disengaged, leaves me to my own devices, doesn’t help me when I am in need. Millions of miles away, on a distant quasar. Is not moved by my cries and pleas. Stony, cold indifference. Unlike the preoccupied managing director God who has limited resources and is overtaxed, this statue God doesn’t care about me and I won’t get his attention no matter what happens to me and no matter what I do.
Bible Verse: Job 30:20 I cry to you, but you do not answer me; I stand, but you take no notice.
Heresy: Deism is the belief in God’s existence, but sees God only in the role of Creator who does not intervene in the world. Sometimes referred to as a watchmaker God, who set the universe in motion and then lets it run on its own.
Image of Self: I won’t be helped. God doesn’t help me and doesn’t want to help me. I have to manage on my own, my wants and needs are not important to him. He just doesn’t care about me, he’s not engaged. I’m not going to try to engage emotionally with God, because that would be fruitless. That would be pointless.
Attachment History –children of parents who are so self-absorbed and wrapped up in their own concerns that they consistently offer little to their sons and daughters. Young children with a Statue God image know that they need their parents, but also know at some level that they will not have their needs met by their parents. As they grow older, they may reject their parents emotionally, and distance from them. They often have a dismissive-avoidant attachment style – desiring not to have to depend on anyone, and not have anyone depend on them either. They don’t feel seen and known.
Coronavirus Crisis: God is distant from all of us, and people need to pull together to create a good society. People with Statue God images are particularly concerned about societal norms breaking down. Seeing presumably holy people start to become unglued.
Vignette: 45 year old Daryl – Paula’s Father of six kids, ruggedly independent, priding himself on his individualism, his self-sufficiency. Wife is finding him more and more unavailable, and he is generally intolerant of the natural needs of his children, because those normal needs activate his own unmet needs for safety, security and dependency. Being a beloved child of God is an alien concept for Daryl. He is a man’s man, and his particular creed is that God helps those who help themselves. By which he really means you have to be your own God and help yourself. He engages in very little meditative or personal prayer because what is the point? God is so distant, and he doesn’t expect there to be much relations or emotional engagement with a Statue God. He prays the family Rosary daily and goes to Sunday Mass because he believes it is a good example for his children, and that they need strong moral education to become good citizens in the world. He secretly believes those that claim deep, emotional connection with God are deceiving themselves, and he is particularly contemptuous of Charismatic Catholics. Health issues now Crohn’s disease, really dragging him down – physical limitations, worrying him and puncturing his self-sufficient image and now his business isn’t making enough to support the family. If he stays on this unbending course, he will break. You can see how this Statue God image doesn’t allow for resilience.
Demanding Drill Sergeant God: the demanding drill sergeant God image always wants more and more from me. I never give him enough, and he is never satisfied with me. If I don’t meet his expectations, he becomes frustrated and punitive. He has no tolerance for errors, weakness, or failures. He lacks mercy, gentleness, understanding, compassion. High standards.
Heresy: Pelagianism Belief that our will can overcome the effects of original sin and still choose good without God’s help. I can earn the love of God. I can perfect myself, I can make myself worthy of the love of God, I can earn my salvation, if I just try hard enough.
Bible verse: Psalm 77 Will the Lord spurn for ever, and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love for ever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?”
And I say, “It is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed.”
Self-image: always a sense of inadequacy, shame, a sense of being defective and unable to earn God’s love and respect. I must achieve, I must always be at my best, I can’t make mistakes, if I take a break, a fall behind, I have to volunteer, I have to die to myself
Attachment History – Parents who were attentive to the child, noticed the child, observe the child closely, and were invested in the child. These parents had very high standards for children’s behavior. They were exacting with discipline, usually well-intentioned. The children saw such parents as right, and tried hard to please them, believing it to be the right thing to do. Child’s attachment style was generally anxious-avoidant – working really hard to please the parent. Sometime the parents could be pleased, but there was a sense that this was temporary. There was little sense of being loved or valued simply because one was the parent’s son or daughter. Sometimes, the parents unreasonably high expectations and standards are driven by the parents’ own insecurities and sense of inadequacy.
Coronavirus Crisis: people with this kind of God image particularly struggle when situational stresses rise. They already had a sense of struggling in failing when times were not as difficult. Their self-imposed standards don’t readily yield, even when external factors make their achievement goals much more difficult, or even impossible to achieve. Thus, there likely to experience a greater sense of failure, and even despair at not measuring up to what they believe the expectations of God are. They also may look down on others who they don’t believe are struggling as hard as they are to achieve.
Vignette: Paula’s 42 year old mother, Virginia.
Left an accounting firm after marriage
to be a model wife and mother, had six children,
because she was open to life, that’s what God wanted, as many children as she could have, homeschooling, volunteering because that’s what God wants,
if someone in the parish asks her to do something, that’s God asking her to do it,
can’t say no, difficult with limits and boundaries,
God is unreasonably demanding.
And now her husband is not feeling well, she knows it, even though he’s trying to hide it. He is so irritable and unpleasant. And she is so tired. Now considering part time work.
She has to do it, she has to earn the love of God. Focused parents, driven for her to succeed.
Exercise: Think of someone close to you – spouse, child, sibling, friend, coworker. Someone important to you. Think of that loved one in a dark place – when that person goes to his or her dark place. Consider – what God image is activated for your loved one then, in that dark place. What self-image is activated in that dark place.
Put this possible God image for your loved one into words. Put the self – image of your loved one into words. Write it down, speak it aloud. Work with it. So when your loved one is in that dark place you can be an example that doesn’t reinforce the negative God or self images, but rather gently challenges those heretical images. You can better be light and salt for your loved ones, if you can enter into their inner worlds and understand how they see God and see themselves when they are in their dark places. This is great practice for loving.
Question for you – do you want more of these God images. Which ones?
Vain Pharisee God
Elitist aristocrat God
Pushy salesman God
Magic Genie God
Outtogetcha Police Detective God
Unjust dictator God
Critical Scrooge God
Big news: Open Zoom meeting Wednesday, July 22 at 8:15 PM Eastern time – Wednesday Evening. Community Members. A second one on Monday, July 27 9:30 AM – in the morning – Eastern time. Open forum, we can discuss anything related to psychology and Catholicism. Bring your questions. Email me questions if you can’t make it. Time to hang out together and be in community.
Patron and Patronness.