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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

Personality Disorders

 

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The Problem with “Personality” | Personality Disorders | Personality Gifts |
Catholic Treatment Recommendations

 
THE French psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan, taught that all desire is the “desire of the Other.” [1] In plain language, this means that most of our unconscious life is a product of a variety of external social Jacques Lacan influences. The concept of personality, therefore, although a common term in psychology, really doesn’t mean much because any person is really composed of many diverse, fragmentary—and generally illusory—images of “self.” 

Simply consider, for example, that the scientist who works in the lab is a quite different “person” from the parent who plays with the children, who is again a completely different “person” from the intimate husband or wife. Still, this is all one and the same “person.” These normal “parts” of personality are often called ego states, a term derived from the clinical hypnosis work of John & Helen Watkins.[2]

Sometimes, we notice this by saying something like, “I saw so-and-so at the company picnic over the weekend, and when he was playing with the children he showed a child-like side of himself that I had never seen before.” There is nothing abnormal about this except the fact that we don’t notice such things more often.

  

Occasionally you might hear about a person who commits a crime or is implicated in a scandal. Friends and family may rush to the defense, saying “It couldn’t be true! He is so religious and so devoted to his family.” Well, sad to say, it could very well be that a lewd or criminal ego state exists side-by-side with the pillar-of-the-community ego state. Therefore, a person’s behavior in one situation does not “prove” anything about the rest of his or her life.

This all goes to show that unless your values embrace all your ego states you will always be vulnerable to the “snares” of corruption. It takes considerable discipline to communicate with and heal all the aspects of your personality so as to live a truly honest and spiritual life.

  

  
Personality Disorders

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) [3] describes several types of Personality Disorders, which might be organized by “clusters” and diagnosed.

 
Cluster A Personality Disorders

Paranoid Personality Disorder refers to a “pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others such that their motives are interpreted as malevolent.”

Schizoid Personality Disorder refers to a “pervasive pattern of detachment from social relationships and a restricted range of expression of emotions in interpersonal settings.”

Schizotypal Personality Disorder refers to a “pervasive pattern of social and interpersonal deficits marked by acute discomfort with, and reduced capacity for, close relationships as well as by cognitive or perceptual distortions and eccentricities of behavior.”

 
Cluster B Personality Disorders 

Antisocial Personality Disorder refers to a “pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others.” 

Borderline Personality Disorder refers to a “pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity.”

Read a short discussion about treatment for BPD

Histrionic Personality Disorder refers to a “pervasive pattern of excessive emotionality and attention seeking.”

Narcissistic Personality Disorder refers to a “pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy.”

 
Cluster C Personality Disorders

Avoidant Personality Disorder refers to a “pervasive pattern of social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and hypersensitivity to negative evaluation.”

Dependent Personality Disorder refers to a “pervasive and excessive need to be taken care of that leads to submissive and clinging behavior and fears of separation.”

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder refers to a “pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control, at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency.”

  

Passive-Aggressive Personality is a Freudian term. It refers to a person who gives the appearance of being cooperative and yet whose continual procrastination and dawdling are really an unconscious manipulation reflecting hostility. The underlying dynamic here is spite, a desire to retaliate against those who are perceived to be hurtful. In their own eyes these persons may see themselves as victims of circumstances beyond their control, but all their unfortunate failures—which ultimately block the plans of others—are unconsciously contrived.

  

   
Personality Gifts

Contemporary psychological theory tends to hold the belief that personality disorders result from abnormalities in brain chemistry that are “hard wired” in the brain from birth. From a theological perspective, this explanation of personality is a form of scientific fatalism that offers little real hope for psychological change.[4]

Consider a reader’s comments about healing from BPD

Consequently, it would be far more helpful to consider the God-given personality gifts that underlie personality disorders. Because of family dysfunction, these personality gifts—which touch upon deep philosophical truths about the world—can be turned into antisocial defenses that ward off psychological assaults from the world. In other words, instead of using these gifts for the good of others, a personality disorder essentially hoards its gifts to protect the self and push others away.

 

PERSONALITY
DISORDER

PERSONALITY GIFT
The recognition that . . .

Rx

   Paranoid

   ... 

other persons are usually up to no good.

   

   Schizoid

   ... 

emotions are mysterious and hold dark and often frightening truths.

   

   Schizotypal

   ... 

the world is crazy.

   

   Antisocial

   ... 

the world is a fraud.

   

   Borderline

   ... 

there is more to the world than you see.

   

   Histrionic

   ... 

you can t have everything you see.

   

   Narcissistic

   ... 

everyone is always missing the point.

   

   Avoidant

   ... 

other persons do not care about your best interests.

   

   Dependent

   ... 

the world is a dangerous place.

   

   Obsessive-Compulsive

   ... 

the world has a fundamental orderly logic to it.

   

   Passive-Aggressive

   ... 

other persons will get upset if you express your true feelings.

   

 
Catholic Treatment Recommendations

True and lasting healing for personality disorders can be achieved simply by recognizing the personality gift and then applying it in a charitable, rather than self-defensive, manner.

Notice, however, that the process, even though it may be simple, requires hard work and intense discipline. Through sacrifice, obedience, and prayer you must train yourself to act in a completely new way than you have been living up until now. In essence, you must die to yourself mystically and start living—spiritually and socially—for Christ.

I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.

—Galatians 2:19b-20a

So here’s how to do it.

 
PARANOID PERSONALITY DISORDER

A core knowledge of Paranoid Personality Disorder is that “other persons are usually up to no good.” And so it is, for, because of Original Sin, all of us, deep in our hearts, seek our own self-interests and often do bad and evil things. To live in Christ, though, it is important to not fear those who do evil; instead, it is important to love our enemies and pray for them. So, to achieve true spiritual healing, it will be important that a person with Paranoid Personality Disorder traits learn to set aside suspiciousness and accusations for the sake of true Christian love.

  

Take the knowledge that other persons are usually up to no good and show them, through your own faith, what a holy life of charity and goodness is all about.

 
SCHIZOID PERSONALITY DISORDER

A core knowledge of Schizoid Personality Disorder is that “emotions are mysterious and hold dark and often frightening truths.” Human life is characterized by unconscious conflicts, fear, and anger. But, instead of hiding from life, we are called to trust in God. “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). So, to achieve true spiritual healing, it will be important that a person with Schizoid Personality Disorder traits learn to set aside fear of social relationships and learn how to approach others with emotional honesty through total trust in Christ.

  

Take the knowledge that emotions are mysterious and hold dark and often frightening truths and show others, through your own faith, that there is nothing to fear when living in Christ.

 
SCHIZOTYPAL PERSONALITY DISORDER

A core knowledge of Schizotypal Personality Disorder is that “the world is crazy.” And that is true because, apart from Christ, the world is crazy and lost to sin. So, to achieve true spiritual healing, it will be important that a person with Schizotypal Personality Disorder traits stop acting like he’s crazy when others act with crazy-making behavior; instead it will be important that he learn to be sane in Christ in the midst of a crazy world.

  

Take the knowledge that  the world is crazy and show others, through your own faith, that the only sanity to be found in this world is a life given over to total trust in Christ.

 
ANTISOCIAL PERSONALITY DISORDER

A core knowledge of Antisocial Personality Disorder is that “the world is a fraud.” And that is true because, apart from Christ, the social world is a fraud and has no authority except that given to it by God. So, to achieve true spiritual healing, it will be important that a person with Antisocial Personality Disorder traits stop treating others with disdain because he was treated with disdain and emotionally wounded as a child; instead it will be important that he learn to be kind and respectful in Christ in the midst of a cruel and fraudulent world.

  

Take the knowledge that  the world is a fraud and show others, through your own faith, that the only truth to be found in this world is in Christ, and that all social respect must derive from respect for Christ’s commandment to love others as I have loved you.

 
BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER

A core knowledge of Borderline Personality Disorder is that “there is more to the world than you see.” Why? Well, physically, sexually, or emotionally abused as a child, this person has experienced first hand that game-playing behaviors lie behind the surface appearances of the family. So, to achieve true spiritual healing, it will be important that a person with Borderline Personality Disorder traits stop flying into a rage because she doesn’t get the recognition she wants from others and instead learn to give to others the love that they need.

  

Take the knowledge that  there is more to the world than you see and show others, through your own faith in the unseen mysteries of Christ, that you can love and pray for those who try to manipulate and deceive you.

 
HISTRIONIC PERSONALITY DISORDER

A core knowledge of Histrionic Personality Disorder is that “you can’t have everything you see.” She will act out this truth by doing everything she can to draw attention to herself—to be seen by others—only to make herself emotionally unavailable to others when they are attracted to her. To find healing for this unfulfilling dynamic, it will be important that a person with Histrionic Personality Disorder traits stop trying to be seen in herself and instead learn to show others that in Christ she is so filled with the fullness of God that external validation is vain and meaningless.

  

Take the knowledge that  you can’t have everything you see and show others, through your own faith, that all social life is just empty show and that no emotional fulfillment can be had except in Christ.

 
NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER

A core knowledge of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is that “everyone is always missing the point.” And so it is that almost everyone does miss the point, when the true point of life is Christ. So, to achieve true spiritual healing, it will be important that a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder traits stop using intellectual arrogance to punish others for their ignorance and instead learn to help others get to the point of genuine Christian love.

  

Take the knowledge that everyone is always missing the point and show others, through your own faith, that the only point of life is life in Christ.

 
AVOIDANT PERSONALITY DISORDER

A core knowledge of Avoidant Personality Disorder is that “other persons do not care about your best interests.” And so it is in reality that no one but God—and those who keep God’s commandments—cares about your best interests. So, to achieve true spiritual healing, it will be important that a person with Avoidant Personality Disorder traits stop hiding from life because of a fear of getting hurt and instead learn to give love to others in spite of knowing that he will likely receive nothing in return but scorn.

  

Take the knowledge that other persons do not care about your best interests and show others, through your own faith, that you can love others as Christ loves us all, in spite of the world’s indifference, ingratitude, and contempt.

 
DEPENDENT PERSONALITY DISORDER

A core knowledge of Dependent Personality Disorder is that “the world is a dangerous place.” And so it is, when everyone lost in sin cares for nothing but self-indulgence and will step all over you to get what they want. So, to achieve true spiritual healing, it will be important that a person with Dependent Personality Disorder traits stop clinging to a protective illusion and instead learn to cling only to Christ’s real presence. In the Eucharist is your power; it will defend you.

  

Take the knowledge that  the world is a dangerous place and show others, through your own faith, that you have found your protection in Christ and Christ alone.

 
OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE PERSONALITY DISORDER

A core knowledge of Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder is that “the world has a fundamental orderly logic to it.” And so it does, because God created it all. So, to achieve true spiritual healing, it will be important that a person with Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder traits stop trying to be perfect and instead learn to accept his own brokenness and live from the heart—Christ’s broken heart—the perfection of God’s love for the world.

  

Take the knowledge that  the world has a fundamental orderly logic to it and show others, through your own living faith, not dead rigidity, that this orderliness points to only one thing: God’s love for the world in calling it out of death into life.

 
PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE PERSONALITY DISORDER

A core knowledge of Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder is that “other persons will get upset if you express your true feelings.” And so they will, for, in a world lost in sin, other persons care only about their own desires, not about your feelings. So, to achieve true spiritual healing, it will be important that a person with Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder traits stop hiding his feelings and learn to express them with true humility.

  

Take the knowledge that other persons will get upset if you express your true feelings and show others, through your own faith and through your absolute confidence in God’s protection, that you can speak the truth in all things, honestly and openly.

 

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Psychological healing
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True Christian
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How to turn the emotional wounds
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The psychological and
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The psychological
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Collected texts about the spiritual depth of clinical psychology

 
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