Episode 26. Dictator, Pharisee, and Scrooge God Images – July 27, 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 26, released on July 27, 2020 and it’s called Dictator Gods, Pharisee Gods, and Scrooge Gods.
In the last episode, episode 25, we looked at three different negative God images proposed by Christian psychotherapists Bill and Kristi Gaultiere in their book Mistaken Identities, published in 1989. Last week, I decided to reach out to the Gaultieres and let them know that we were discussing their book on this podcast so I emailed them. Sometimes I do that. I just reach out to people. Who knows what will happen?
And Sue, the representative from their ministry, their ministry is called Soul Shepherding – Sue got back to me – Sue got back to me and said “What a blessing to hear from you and to learn of the good work that you are doing for the Kingdom! It was such an encouragement to hear that you are able to use our resources in your ministry.” Isn’t that cool? I think that’s cool.
But wait, there’s more. I made a request of the Gaultieres and their ministry for something I wanted to give to the member of the Resilient Catholics Carpe Diem Community – I wanted their permission to be able to pass on something special to those of you those of you who have joined the RCCD community and they said yes. At the end of this episode, I will tell you what that something special is, so stay with me until the end, OK?. Oooh, very exciting.
In the last episode, I put the question out to you, my audience members – are you interested in this stuff? Do you want me to cover more of these god images? And if so, which ones? I really want this podcast to be interactive, I want to hear from you.
Jane in Indiana emailed in, “I want you to do all the God images. They are fascinating!” Now that is enthusiasm, thank you Jane. I just love it. I really want this podcast to not just be transformative, not just to make a big difference in your life, but to be interesting, no, not just interesting, but fascinating.
Along with Jane in Indiana, I think this God image stuff is fascinating. It’s also vitally important, not only for our spiritual well-being, but also our psychological well-being. You can’t have abiding peace, a deep joy, or a solid sense of well-being if you are dominated by negative God images. It’s just not possible to give in to wretched God images and be happy. This is so vitally important, people, this God image issue, because how we respond to God images is really going to determine our peace and joy and well-being, both in the natural realm and in the supernatural realm. Will we approach God? Will we flee from Him? Will we fight him? Will we refuse to follow Him or even believe in him?
So we have two ways we can overcome this issue. One is to recognize our negative God images and respond to them in a positive way. And in future episodes we will get into how to respond to negative God images. I promise. So the first way to handle negative God images is to recognize them and respond well. The second way is to resolve them. I mean it. To actually resolve them, to heal them. And we will discuss how to do that in future episode as well, and especially in the Resilient Catholics Carpe Diem community that has grown up around this podcast.
In this episode, we’re going to review three more problematic God images described by Bill and Kristi Gaultiere’s book Mistaken Identities
Brief review: let’s just circle back around and review, what are God images again?
My God image is my emotional and subjective experience of God, who I feel God to be in the moment. 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. God concept is what I profess about God, what I choose to believe about God, what I endorse about God. Intellectual understanding.
Self-images are much more driven, much more intuitive, subjective, and they vary a lot more from moment to moment. Who I feel myself to be in a given moment, it is who my passions are telling me who I am. Self-images go together with God images – they impact each other.
If you haven’t already listened to episodes 22, 23, and 24 of this podcast, make sure you check them out, because they have lot more conceptual information and definitions of God images.
So I had a question from a listener Martha in Indiana who wondered if it's usual to say 'yes' to many God images? Martha is essentially asking if we can have more than one God image, can we have different God images at different times?
Now much of the God image literature seems to assume that there is one primary God image. And that makes sense, because often we are in our standard mode of operating. However, there is a greater awareness that, because we have multiple modes of operating, we also may have multiple God images. Sometimes we depart from our standard mode of operating. Clinically, I have no doubt that each of us has several or even many God images. So, my dear Martha, I absolutely believe that we have more than one God images.
Over the past several years, I have identified in myself 11 different modes of operating. I have 11 distinct and identifiable ways of being. I think of models of operating as like parts of me. Kind of like in the Pixar movie Inside Out, where the main character Riley has different parts of her, each part having its primary emotion, like the red character was angry, the blue round character was sad and so on..
Each part of me has a mode of operating each part of me has characteristic feelings, desires, impulses, attitudes, and assumptions about the world. And each of my modes of operating has its own God image and its own self-image. So I have 11 God images and 11 self-images.
So do you see what you opened up with your question, Martha? I wasn’t going to go into all of this yet, I wasn’t going to get into all this self-disclosure in this episode, but your question brought it up.
So that’s important to know in and but I’m bringing that up now, because I really do want you to pay attention to God images that may not immediately resonate with you. In this moment, you might not resonate with particular God image, but when you are in one particular dark place, perhaps a kind of dark place that you don’t go very often, but you do go to once in a while, you may find a negative God image that exists in you, but just isn’t activated very often.
All right, so I tallied up all the responses that you listeners texted me or emailed me about which of the remaining 11 negative God images that Bill and Kristi Gaultiere describe in their book you wanted me to cover, and three particular one stood out. These were the unjust dictator God. The Vain Pharisee God and the Critical Scrooge God. So we’re going to dive into those today.
Just a quick comment before we do, and that is that these particular God images, like the unjust dictator God image. These are just templates. Everybody’s got images can be a little different. So were discussing three boilerplate templates of common God images, but there’s nothing that says you have to have this particular God image or not have this particular God image. For example, my 11 God images do not map exactly on to the 14 that Bill and Kristi propose. And when I worked clinically, I am trying to understand what the person’s God image is, not really diagnose them with one of these 14 God images. So I just want to make sure that we are all clear about that.
Unjust Dictator God. In this God image, God is a very powerful, but he is unjust, he is unfair. He seems arbitrary in the way that he blesses and punishes. Good people suffer misfortunes, the innocent are burdened with many problems, trials, traumas and others who seem to make no effort to love God, or follow his will profit. Sometimes, he even seems to shower good things on those who acted badly. He doesn’t seem to punish those who hurt me, those who persecute me.
Bible verse: Psalm 119:81-86 My soul longs for your salvation; I put my hope in your word. My eyes long to see your promise. When will you comfort me? I am like a wineskin shriveled by smoke, but I have not forgotten your statutes. How long can your servant survive? When will your judgment doom my foes? The arrogant have dug pits for me; defying your law... Help me! I am pursued without cause.
Self-image: it feels like I always get a raw deal from God, no matter how hard I try to love and obey him. It must be that I deserve to be punished by God. Maybe I don’t deserve God’s care and protection. I must’ve done something wrong or bad that I don’t know about to justify the maltreatment I’ve had at the hands of others. He loves others, why does he not love me? What is so bad about me?
Attachment History: This unjust dictator God image can emerge when a person has experienced others in authority as capricious, arbitrary, or random in the way he or she was rewarded or punished. This often is expressed in feeling like I was not the favorite child, no matter what I did, my parents preferred my sister or my brother. Some of us are old enough to remember the Smothers Brothers routines, in which Tom Smothers always felt that their Mother always loved his brother Dick Smothers best. They did this as a comedy routine, this “Mom always loved you best” but I always found it a little sad, because I suspect there was a kernel of truth in it somewhere in the Smothers’ family life.
Coronavirus Crisis: the way the virus strikes can seem arbitrary, capricious, and random. Why do some people get to keep their jobs, their incomes, their health, and I suffer consequences. Why are some people careful with masks, social distancing, and other precautions, and they catch the virus, and others seem to be totally immune, no matter what stupid things they do? Where is the justice in that?
Vignette: Brenda is the 32 year old middle child of three sisters. She always saw herself as the “not-pretty one” and the “not smart one” of the family. She always had a sense of not fitting in. Her older sister Victoria’s personality was more like her mom’s and her younger sister Claudia’s personality was more like her dad’s, and she felt like the odd one out, misunderstood. She tried to be as pretty as her older sister and as smart as her younger sister, but neither of her parents seem to understand her. Her achievements always seem to second-best, garnering little praise from her parents. If she couldn’t be pretty and she couldn’t be smart, at least she could be good. She worked hard on growing in virtue, but that didn’t seem to work either. But she has continued to try and hope. Her theme song sometimes feels like Boney Fingers by Hoyt Axton, especially the line – work your fingers to the bone, what do you get? Boney Fingers. Boney Fingers.
Brenda sees how her older sister Victoria has a handsome husband and two of the cutest kids on the planet, the whole family looks like models. She married that handsome, stable guy after 10 years of promiscuity with no apparent consequences, and Victoria still looks like a model. Brenda feels that Victoria has always looked down on her for being ugly.
Brenda’s younger sister Claudia has a great academic position and has already published two books and many professional articles, and even Claudia has a bookish boyfriend who dotes on her.
Brenda sees her sisters is getting all the good things from the family. Victoria was able to travel to beauty pageants and have most of mom’s attention. Claudia was valedictorian and even though she was younger than Brenda, Brenda knew that by the time she was 12 and Claudia was 10, Claudia was smarter than she was and there was no looking back. By age 30, was highly respected in her field.
And Brenda herself, well Brenda is single with no romantic prospects, in a dead-end retail job in a department store that is probably going bankrupt because the virus is forcing closures and she sees herself as an old hag, even aging out of the youth group at her parish. She still goes to church, but with bitterness in her heart. She feels she can’t give up being good, because then what would she have left? Why, why O Lord did you leave so little for me? If I had what my sisters had, I would be happy. She feels her prayers are ignored. My virtues are ignored. I am still a virgin, and what has that gotten me? Nothing. No husband, not even a boyfriend. God is powerful, but he is not just, let along merciful or kind.
Vain Pharisee God: God is absorbed in his own might and power, his own goodness and beauty, his own knowledge and strength. He expects me to grovel in front of him, giving him constant praise. He takes the credit for everything. Only goodness comes from him. Only badness comes from me.
Bible verse: Job 10:14-17. If I should sin, you would keep a watch on me, and from my guilt, you would not absolve me. If I should be wicked, alas for me! Even if righteous, I dare not hold up my head, sated with shame, drenched in affliction! Should it lift up, you hunt me like a lion: repeatedly you show your wondrous power against me, you renew your attack upon me, and multiply your harassment of me; in waves your troops come against me.
Self-image: I am expected to humiliate myself before God, in order that his glory be magnified. I’m not worth any esteem from God, he would not praise me. I don’t have any merit or any credit in the eyes of God, I am just dust and ashes, worthless. He’s not that invested in me as a person. I am important to him in how I can give him glory and honor. My function is to praise Him, that’s what he expects from me. But, in relating with God, I always get the short end of the stick. He is always right, I am always wrong. He must always increase, I must always decrease until I perfectly serve him in his needs.
Attachment History: This god image readily forms when the parent uses the child to bolster the parent’s own fragile self esteem, without consideration of the child’s experience. Some parents really look to their children for affirmation, admiration, support, and validation. When the parent has a strong narcissistic streak, it increases the likelihood of a Vain Pharisee God image. The child is constantly trying to meet the unreasonable demands of the parent in the vain hope that child can please the parent. The child doesn’t frequently feel loved or accepted just as he or she is.
Coronavirus Crisis: in this crisis, it’s easy to feel powerless and helpless in the face of the virus and its effects. I might have prayed and prayed and those prayers may seem to be falling on deaf ears and I am deeply troubled by the problems I face because of the virus. I may be trying and trying to admire, praise, and honor God, but He seems to just be letting me twist in the wind as my situation deteriorates with my income reduced, my anxieties unsoothed, my social connections compromised, and now I have to wear a mask everywhere, like I’m not even seen as a person, but just as a potential disease vector. This can activate the Vain Pharisee God image.
Vignette: the story is the 34-year-old oldest sister, and everyone said when she was growing up that she looked like her mom and she acted like her mom. That she was just a chip off of moms block. Her mother was highly respected lady with an aristocratic air, highly self-absorbed. From a young age, Victoria was entered in child beauty pageants, winning some of them, for which her mother took the credit. Her mother saw her as a narcissistic extension of herself, and took it personally if Victoria faltered during the pageants, berating her for minor flaws and imperfections. Victoria, in an attempt to connect with her mother, berated herself in the same way.
When others attributed Victoria’s beauty and success to her mother, her mother seemed to glow. But Victoria felt a great emptiness in the attention her mother showed her, the beautiful clothes that she bought for her, and the trips that they made together, just the two of them, for competitions – the flights, hotels, and perks all seemed empty.
Victoria has little interest in God at this time, seeing him as mighty, powerful, and heavily self-absorbed. She had made a number of men into idols in her 20s – and sacrificed herself to them in the hope of being loved by them in return. She married the least worst of them and is now in a loveless marriage. She feels trapped at home with her cold, arrogant Ken-Doll husband who can’t go in to the office because of the lockdown. She hates always feeling like she is in the wrong, and feels that God wants her to grovel and humiliate herself, which makes it hard for her to repent from real sins and come back to him. She doesn’t pray, sensing that there is no point in it, that God would gloat over her admission of wrongdoing, and she feels that honoring or worshipping God would violate her sense of dignity and integrity. Her children are not baptized.
Critical Scrooge God: this God doesn’t extend himself to help me. Instead, this God is highly critical, and he cuts me down with disparaging remarks, and a condescending tone. He tells me that I won’t make it, I won’t succeed, I just won’t be able to rise to the challenge or even be minimally acceptable to him. God is constantly dissatisfied with me. God never praises me or looks for the good in me. He is cold, and stingy with his graces and his help
Bible verse: Job 19 2-11 How long will you afflict my spirit, grind me down with words? These ten times you have humiliated me, have assailed me without shame! Even if it were true that I am at fault, my fault would remain with me; If truly you exalt yourselves at my expense, and use my shame as an argument against me, Know then that it is God who has dealt unfairly with me, and compassed me round with his net. If I cry out “Violence!” I am not answered. I shout for help, but there is no justice. He has barred my way and I cannot pass; veiled my path in darkness; He has stripped me of my glory, taken the diadem from my brow. He breaks me down on every side, and I am gone; he has uprooted my hope like a tree: He has kindled his wrath against me; he counts me one of his enemies.
Self-image: I am never good enough for God, I never satisfy him. I feel like I’m no good. I struggle with shame, feeling so inadequate. I feel like God sits on my shoulder, and sometimes whispers his criticisms in my ear. Sometimes he yells them. God gives me the minimal amount of help so that if I did things just right, I might succeed, but I’m never able to, my efforts are never enough. It feels like he tolerates me and he’s invested in me doing better, but I’m just an unprofitable servant and he never lets me forget that.
Attachment History: Critical parents can foster a Critical Scrooge God image. So can having hands-off parents, leaving the child to come up with his or her own standards, which may be unreasonable, not tempered by maturity and wisdom.
Coronavirus Crisis: The coronavirus crisis is forcing us to have to make difficult decisions with limited , and changing information. Much is in flux, and he can feel very easy to make incorrect decisions, even when we try hard. Stakes also are high, with potential lethal consequences. People can also be more irritable with each other and more critical with each other. When supervisors or other authorities are critical of me, it may activate a Critical Scrooge god image, exacerbating feelings of not being good enough, not being able to satisfy others, including God.
Vignette: Claudia is 30, and extremely self-critical. Academics was the one area in which she felt she might excel, at least where she could get close to excelling. In grade school, she berated herself for anything less than a perfect score on tests. She harbors a deep assumptions that she has to prove God wrong, that she can succeed in spite of his distance and lack of help. Her unconscious anger about this has undermined her relationships with teachers in the past, who experienced her as perfectionistic but also critical of them, and even condescending. Because of her impressive academic successes, and her publishing record, she is one of the youngest assistant professors at her liberal arts college, but she derives little satisfaction from that and the college is now in a precarious financial condition because of the virus. Because she never feels good enough for God, she never feels good enough for herself, and she also feels that others are not good enough for her. When she conveys that others are not good enough for her, this imposes a huge burden for her co-dependent boyfriend Fred, who is trying to do everything he can to please her and she is minimally gratifying in return, just enough to keep him engaged. He’s the one that has the greatest tolerance for the chip on her shoulder, so she keeps him around, but is unlikely to marry him because of the subtle contempt she feels for him.
Claudia is tired of God. She doesn’t pray much either.
So there are the three god images.
One of our RCCD members, Jonathan, seized the day and grabbed the initiative to begin a chart that lays out all of the different God images, their corresponding self-images, the Bible verses, the attachment histories, and the impact that the coronavirus crisis could be having with that particular God image, he took all of this and laid it out in a chart and emailed it to me. I think this is great. And Jonathan and I agreed to work on this chart together, to continue to develop that, adding the different God images as we roll them out over the course of these episodes, collaborating together. Jonathan is taking the information from the podcasts, filling in each of the sections on the chart, and I am checking them over and making minor alterations. That chart is available for our RCCD members, it is now up in the RCCD Exclusive Content Section, and six of the 14 problematic God images are all filled in. As we continue through the rest of the God images, we will continue to fill in the chart. I really appreciate Jonathan’s work on this, it’s a gift to me and to the RCCD members and it’s a great example of how we work together in the RCCD community.
The Zoom meetings from July 22 and July 27 are either up by now, or soon will be and these were the open forums, 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.
Big news: I mentioned at the top of the podcast about big news from Bill and Kristi Gaultiere and their Shepherding Souls ministry. Bill Gaultiere created an instrument, called the God Image Questionnaire that is 28 items long, and helps you determine which of their 14 negative God images may burden you. I have used this in the past and found it helpful. Shepherding Souls has the God Image Questionnaire on their website, but they have agreed to allow me to make it available to members of our RCCD community at Souls and Hearts. We’ve formatted it into an easily printable pdf. The scoring instructions are also up on our website. So look for that in the RCCD Exclusive Content. Take the God Image Questionnaire and let me know what you think! And after we finish all 14 God images in the next three episodes, we will have discussions about them in the RCCD community.
One more things for the community: Non-recorded meeting. Free in the moment. I’m still working on scheduling that. As a way to his result actually result, you’ll discuss the future of his well and we’re going to get into that, especially as
Patron and Patronness.