Identity Crisis?

Our pastor, Ray Evans, recently passed on to me some old tapes (remember those?) going back to some teaching ministry done at Spring Harvest in about 1998. The teaching consisted of four talks given by a spanish psychiatrist called Pablo Martinez. He’s written some books you can find on Amazon. His teaching series was examining the whole issue of identity – how it’s formed, what happens when it goes wrong, and how to counsel people struggling with identity issues from the gospel.

Of particular interest for those of us who work with people was his material on how people struggling with identity issues present. Often people struggle with inferiority of insecurity, and mask this with the following behaviours:

  1. Hyper-sensitivity – easily offended. Victim mentality. Very critical of others. Jealousy often a problem. Jealousy almost always related to insecurity. If you can’t trust yourself, you won’t be able to trust others. Problems often stem from an inability to trust parents. Linked with paranoid personality.
  2. Superiority – masking inferiority. Great dictators follow the same pattern – inferiority masked by superiority. Tend to be aggressive. Verbally loud often – feel need to re-enforce words with volume and verbosity.
  3. Narcissistic – constantly praising themselves. Everything and everyone revolves around them. Hysterical personality. Want to be the centre wherever they go.  Often arrive late to meetings – everyone looks at them. They seek protagonism (to be the main part). They love it when people talk about them. If they can’t be at the centre they start quarrels everywhere. Often extremist in opinions, clothing. Often selfish – takers – absorb your energy – drain you.
  4. Compulsive – addictive personalities – cannot do without. Lost control. Seek after success in money, power, titles. Identity crisis upon retirement.
  5. Isolation – problems in relationships; fear of intimacy. Actually a fear of rejection. “Before they reject me, I’ll reject them.” Lonely people. Difficulty expressing emotions. Shyness a symptom.

I’m sure many of us who work with people will immediately be putting names and faces to some of these descriptions. Of course the key is not to be intimidated or antagonistic towards such people (let’s face it – we’re probably not much better ourselves), but rather recognize that such behaviours are often masking real identity problems. At which point we must always point them back to the gospel, and to the God who speaks most powerfully and truly of their identity – they are chosen, special, adopted, a priesthood, family, a body, loved, cherished, destined etc etc. We had an 84 year old lady last night at church share how she was a ‘foundling’ – abandoned by her parents as a baby, and found in a bag on a bus going over Westminster bridge. She described the great comfort and joy of knowing she is chosen and adopted by a heavenly Father who will never leave nor forsake her.

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