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Michael Bittle SID 8943314
Pastoral Care with Difficult Persons and Abnormal Behaviour MS 3XG3
Instructor: Dr. Wade Rowatt July 15, 2010
Oates, Wayne E. Behind the Masks: Personality Disorders in Religious Behavior.Louisville, KY: Westminster, 1987. 139 pages. One of the fathers of the psychiatry of religion. An absolute, bustling dynamo of energy. Tireless writer of 57 books. The man who thought up the word µworkaholic¶. He built a bridge between religion and psychiatry.1 These were but some of the accolades used to describe Dr. Wayne E. Oates in his New York Times obituary, who passed away October 21, 1999.Obituaries often carry gratuitous plaudits for a deceased, in order to remember their more positive character traits or treasured accomplishments. Such was not necessary for Dr. Oates. His life was a remarkably true story of a child who overcame great adversity through faith, intelligence, and hard work, and then went on to apply these gifts to the benefit of untold thousands. Later described as a Living Legacy, Dr. Oates was bornJune 24, 1917 into an impoverished South Carolina family and abandoned by his father at birth. To support the family, his mother worked long hours at the local cotton mill and his grandmother and sister assumed the role of primary caregivers. Selected at fourteen years of age to serve as a Page in the United States Congress, this experience was a turning point in Oates' life. He then went on to study at Mars Hill Junior College and Wake Forest University, receiving his Ph.D. in Psychology of Religion from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Oakes subsequently held positions in church, university, and medical school settings. Throughout his prolific and very productive life as a teacher, mentor, and pastoral counselor,Oates wrote and published 57 books and trained thousands of pastors, counselors, psychiatrists, and others in the helping professions.His cross-disciplinary approach fundamentally changed the contemporary practices of counseling, resulting in what is now recognized as the pastoral care movement. Oates is credited with developing the 'trialogue' form of pastoral counseling, recognizing the three-way relationship which exists between a counselor, a counselee, and the Holy Spirit.In 1984, he was honoured with the Oskar Pfister Award by the American Psychiatric Associationfor his contributions to the relationship between psychiatry and religion.2 In 1987, Oakes published Behind the Masks. His choice of a book title was no coincidence: this was the first major contribution to the field of religious psychology since Dr. Hervey Cleckley¶s book, The Mask of Sanity, in 1941. Where the Cleckley focus was on psychopaths, the Oates book looks at the origins and treatment of 8 different personality disorders whose behaviour at times may superficially resemble sanity. Behind the Maskspresents complex psychological concepts in a practical manner which canbe easily grasped by church pastors, lay counselors, teachers, and parents, and which is infused throughout with a loving Christian theology. As a testament toOates¶ legacy, Behind the Masksis still in print 23 years since its first publication, and is still used and studied at the graduate level in Divinity Colleges in Canada and the United States.3 In Behind the Masks, Oates presents these personality disorders in eight separate chapters. He offers an insight into the characteristics, dangers, and methods of dealing with individuals who suffer from these eight distorted ways of life, and he encourages his readers with the offer: ³You and I will be concerned in the following pages with humanely, gently, but
persistently unmasking these ways of life « [to help] the outward person and the inward person be at one´(14). He concludes the book with a discussion of the formation and transformation of Christians. Each chapter is summarized below: 1. The Mask of Dependence ³There is a time to be dependent, and there is a time to be independent´(17). The characteristics of someone living a dependent way of life include being likeable, friendly, obliging, submissive, a poor self-image, lacking initiative and diligence, and unable to provide self-direction. The major hazards for the dependent way of life include separation anxiety and panic attacks (21). Counseling dependent persons involves ³calling out and affirming [their] spiritual gifts and strengths´(27). 2. The Mask of the Packaged Personality ³Histrionic persons «. are aggressive scene stealers who manipulate others for their approval and attention « yet they are nicely packaged people´ (30). The characteristics of histrionics include being lively, dramatic, overly exaggerating, overreacting, craving new stimulations and excitement, living a life without commitment. In their interactions with members of the opposite sex, ³histrionic persons are frequently strikingly charming, tend to dress with a startling showiness, and seductively seek to control the opposite sex´ (32). The major hazards for the histrionic way of life are dissatisfaction with the less exciting aspects of daily life and sexual acting out in churches (34).Counseling a histrionic person involves helping them fill the ³inner emptiness´ of their life by encouraging them to deepen their relationship with God and to ³decide who they really are and what under God is their destiny´ (39). 3. The Mask of Self-Assurance ³Self-absorbed persons wish little or nothing from others, except that which gratifies their appetite for adulation and confirmation of their superiority´ (43).The characteristics of the selfassured include hubris, narcissism, inflated self-esteem, ³lack of empathy and exploitation of others´ (45), grandiosity, aloofness, and ³a deficient social conscience´ (46). The major hazards arising from this way of life include inappropriate sexual liaisons, a corruption of prayer to coerce individuals, the pursuit of self-gratification in the name of Jesus, heretical interpretation of the nature of Christ, and even death of their followers as in the Jim Jones case. Oates¶ comment that ³suicide becomes a way of salvation´ rings true when we consider 9/11. Counseling a narcissistic person may involve finding out what in their past made them develop this way, and to ³enter into their world with empathy´ (54) to affirm their feelings lovingly. 4. The Mask of Hostility and Aggression ³The antisocial, hostile-aggressive way of life seems most in demand´ (56) in both the business world and church. The characteristics of the hostile-aggressive way of life include a seemingly fearless ability to plunge into new situations, they are ³tough, thick-skinned, and powerful´ (58), combative and belligerent, vindictive, cynical of others, amorally ruthless in the acquisition of power (60), and very conscious of their social status. The major hazards arising from this way of life include havoc created by their anger,vandalism, theft and the abuse of drugs and alcohol; within a church setting, they ³may use their powers of debate, exclusion and inclusion, and theological name-calling´(59). Counseling an aggressive-hostile person can begin once they have suffered a major incident of ego deflation, either emotional or physical, and they become willing to accept help from another and begin to focus less on themselves and controlling others, they may humbly ask God to enter into their lives. From that moment of surrender, they become teachable in a new way of living.
5. The Mask of Passive Aggression ³Whereas hostile-aggressive persons are obsessed with capturing power and authority, passive-aggressive persons are « beset with the temptation to resist authority´ (70). The characteristics of the passive-aggressive person include perfectionism which is acted out as procrastination and indecisiveness, sloppy decision-making, passive resistance to authority, ³dawdling, stubbornness, intentional inefficiency, and forgetfulness´ (71). Oates adds two more diagnostic criteria to this list: (1) foggy time awareness with an immature focus on the ³now´ at the expense of planning; and, (2) eschewing the effort and diligence involved to prepare oneself for success in employment. The major hazards arising from this way of life include ³chronic and long-term ineffectiveness in job and marital and family responsibilities´ (72).Counseling a passive-aggressive person involves a ³focus on the vocational heart of the person¶s being, develop a program of close supervision over a period of time, rebuild their confidence in the works of their hands, and help them develop the positive identity they need so badly´ (80-81). 6. The Mask of Too Many Scruples Perfectionism ³is the flying colors and main publicity logo of the overscrupulous person´, the classic Type A personality (82). The characteristics of the overscrupulous person include trivialization, stinginess, controlling behaviours, work addiction, obstinacy, and being overly concern about status. The major hazards arising from this way of life tend to play out on the individuals themselves, as they try to impose their small-mindedness in their lives, their homes, their workplaces, the church, and on their God, whom they remake in their own image. Counseling an overscrupulous person involves entering into their lives empathetically through a shared stressand helping them to learn relaxation and stress management techniques culminating in a day-by-day attentiveness to enlarging their perception of and relationship to God. 7. The Mask of Detachment from Life ³Some people live a way of life detached from other people « in a passive way [or] « are actively detached´ (95). The characteristics of the passively detached person include ³poverty of feelings and thought´, shyness, and withdrawn isolation from others. The actively detached person is an avoidant personality, prone to anxiety disorder, phobias, obsessivecompulsive behaviours, bodily illnesses, chronic depression, and schizoid tendencies when their avoidant coping techniques fail them (102).The major hazard for both is that it becomes difficult for them to relate to other people, and for other people to relate to them, which serves to reinforce the detachment. Counseling the passively detached person begins with interpreting correctly their non-verbal messages, and with the actively detached person to become aware of and intervene in any situation where they are being demeaned to offer them appreciation and trust (103). 8. Persons on the Edge of Chaos In this chapter, Oates considers three different kinds of ³severe´ personality orders: the borderline (stably unstable) personality, the paranoid (suspicious) personality, and the schizotypal (eccentric) personality (109). Common problems among all three types include ³developmental immaturity or social invalidism, cognitive disorganization or a deep thought disorder, and feelings of estrangement or alienation´ (115). Oates adds to this that ³they share a common high and persistent level of µnuisance¶ to those with whom they live and work´ (115). Such people are in particular need of Christian love, understanding, patience and tolerance, and
medical referrals when necessary. 9. After the Masks Are Gone The closing chapter of Behind the Masksoutlines ways for the church to teach, nurture and discern love to create prevent, affect, and addresses personality disorders.4 If we set aside the many - what were then contemporary and are now outdated referencesto the Vietnam War and the eras known as the 60¶s and 70¶s, then the core value of this book remains as vibrant and useful to the pastoral care student today as it was over twenty years ago. For each of the 8 ³masks´, Oates draws from realistic situations and from biblical characters to illustrate the nature of the personality disorders and the care given to them. He notes that ³the Wisdom literature of the scriptures and the writings of persons such as John Bunyan and William Shakespeare have been primary sources, and the teachings of Jesus and of Paul have been searchlights of understanding and empathy´ (9). Oates clearly articulates three major concerns in the book. The first is thatindividuals with personality disorders have often overlaid a mask of Christian faithfulness, a veneer of Christian faith, on their disorder which has allowed them to assume positions of influence and authority in our church organizations, in both ordained and lay leadership positions. The second is that churches are generally ignorant of, or purposefully ignoring, individuals in their congregations who are suffering from these masks of personality disorder, which has invariably led to confusion and consternation in parish activities. The third is that the impact of these disorders flows well beyond the church into the homes and work places of these people, and into the lives of the families, friends, and victims. ³Oates makes a striking comment on why parishioners and clergy with personality disorders are not deeply changed via participation in corporate worship or revival services. These large meetings lack the power of personal confrontation found in small groups or one on one.´5 Two main themes emerge from the book. The first is that ³masked individuals´ can be found throughout all church communities. It is incumbent on clergy and church leaders to remain alert andidentify their presence, to minimize the potential impact they can have on the church community, and to help them be restored into a more loving fellowship with Christ and their church community. The second is that individuals suffering from personality disorders are generally incapable of identifying the disorder at work in their own lives. This, says Oates, is where the church has a major role to perform in helping the individual confront and remove the mask to find healing in the love of Christ and through fellowship with other believers. The concerns expressed by Oates 23 years ago are just as relevant for the church today, particularly in the main stream liturgical churches suffering from significantly reduced income due to the economic recession and declining membership. As church staff sizes are being decreased, more influence and authority is being exercised by fewer clergy and by more lay leaders. The opportunities for distorted personalities to take advantage of greater authority, coupled with reduced supervision, are increased, along with the potential dangers this carries. Throughout the book, Oates masterfully interweaves Old Testament references and New Testament passages to create a Christ-centered model for the counselor. Yet he also draws from and refers to the main psychological theorists and practitioners, and this provides a strong balance to the book and makes it a very useful quick reference tool. Even if it were only for this reason alone, I would strongly recommend this book as a supplemental source for the religious and secular counselor, care giver, student, or church leader. But even more than that, I would recommend this book because it was written by a man
whose intellect was thankfully as large as his heart, and because his message of Christ-centered love and inclusivity in the fellowship that the church has to offer needs to be heard and embraced by a new generation of pastoral counselors. Finally, I would like to conclude with a comment made by the Rev. Stephen E. Yon: this book ³will serve as resource for understanding disorderly behavior of those served in the church. But perhaps more importantly, the book may serve as the beginning of a self-examination process for the reader as well.´6
---------------------------------Douglas Martin, New York Times, October 26, 1999. Online at http://www.nytimes.com/1999/10/26/us/wayne-e-oates-82-is-dead-coined-the-term-workaholic.html 2 Much of this material is drawn from Living Legacy, Oates Institute. 3 I conducted a Google search on the book title and it came up with a number of Divinity Schools at universities in Canada and the US that are still using the book. 4 Review by the Rev. John M. Crowe, Pastor at Bethel UMC, Goldsboro, NC. Online at http://www.amazon.com/review/R22UI3CAMC4G89 5 Ibid 6 Rev. Stephen E. Yon, Administrator of theBedminster Institute for Congregational Care (BICC), in The Reformed Review, vol 45 (2) p. 153. 1991.
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