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Dysfunctional Needs Aggravate Conflict

Thomas F. Fischer

Number 300

What attitudes aggravate conflict? What personality factors or needs help to perpetuate it?
The anxiety and guilt of individuals, when triggered by forces inside or outside the church, can cause people to react against the self-condemnation by projecting their self-condemnation on the church or it's pastor as a scapegoat. "It's his fault!" is merely a masking of the depths of their own denial, self-condemnation, and refusal to be reconciled.
Low Self-Esteem
The sense that one is not "good enough" may be addressed by personal involvement in volunteer organizations such as churches. In such organizations, qualifications are often simply "being there" and the audience, being Christians, will generally consider it "un-Christian" to deal directly with such individuals who take their incompetencies to the highest levels of congregational ministry.
Unfortunately, those who attempt to deal with these individuals are often caste as uncaring and insensitive and the one with low self-esteem is made a victim. Since everyone loves a victim, and Christians are to care for the underdog, the integrity, actions, and intent of leaders attempt to address this issue are often attacked, criticized or undermined.
Sense of Disorganization/Chaos:
When people perceive that things are disorganized or in chaos in their own lives, they tend to either project and/or generalize the need for control to areas beyond their personal lives. Many times, those who are unable to manage the chaos in their own life find that controlling other perceived disorganized organizations helps distract them from having to deal with the reality of their own out-of-control world.
Control Needs
Those who were raised in chaotic households ravaged by out-of-control parents, siblings, substance abuse, et al, have experienced an inestimable level of fear. They're scared of chaos, disorganization or anything that is out of control. What they've learned is that when the environment is out of control, they, too, may go out of control. This is their greatest fear.
To defend themselves, they respond to their environment by becoming super-responsible (or super-irresponsible) and over-react to anything over which they perceive they have no control.  may manifest itself destructively in a dictatorial, tyrannical perfectionism. This strangling, demonic control seeks to absorb everything about and everything within its surroundings including policies,  procedures, programs, people, relationships and, dare I say, even God...if that were possible.
When everything is safe and secure, their greatest reward is a sense of having gained what to them is the most important type of control, total control of their emotions. A source of pride, when they feel like they are in total control of their own emotions, the most important way they can demonstrate their superior control of themselves is by causing others (especially leaders) to go out of control. 
When such leaders "loose their cool" and go out of control, such "out of control" behaviors are self-confirmation of having attained total control of the environment. Under their "benevolent" control, life will be perfectly in control, predictable, and unthreatening.
Closely related to the need for control is the need for perfection. Whatever is "perfect" is perceived to be under control, stable, secure, and predictable. On the other hand, whatever is imperfect threatens to introduce chaos, instability and loss of control. Thus, individuals with a strong need for perfection are threatened by anything which in their estimation is not perfect.  is not under their control. .
Perfectionism may be masked by the impressive facade of "having it all together" i.e. being under perfect self-control.
Underneath this facade of "having it all together," however, is a very frightened, out-of-control individual. When confronted, this uncontrollable mass of chaotic fear may be displayed in great force and show of power which may annihilate the entire environment. After all, if it's going to be out-of-control, why not go all the way and let the chaos perpetuate to the greatest extent possible. In such state, the super-responsible has shifted to super-irresponsible.
Approval Needs
People whose approval needs are insatiable tend to seek approval and make loyalties to people to whom it is not deserved. In conflict, such people will follow whoever it is who strokes them and tells them what they want to hear...even if it's a lie. They reason that any relationship at any price is better than no relationship at all. Such individuals cling to antagonists, supporting and encouraging them not because of agreement but out of desparate fear of dis-approval and rejection. "I'll do anything...just don't leave me!" is one typical example of their motives.
Bi-Polar Impulsiveness-Rigidity
At the first sign something is wrong, those marked by bi-polar impulsiveness-rigidity, will rush to the rescue to do anything to fix it. When crisis is perceived, they apply the first solution that comes to mind. Unfortunately, whether this solution works or not, becomes rigid fixed in their mind so that when other crises appear, they try to continually use the same approach and solutions.
Crisis Orientation
Some people live for crisis. Everything they do, everything they see, everything they hear of, everything they experience, indeed the whole world is a another crisis waiting to happen. Without it they just "can't get no satisfaction."
Having been raised in a home which was in perpetual crisis and having lied on the emotional edge of sanity, such individuals interpret everything in terms of crisis. Since everything does go wrong, such types rejoice when they find reality or perceptions of reality confirming what they learned in their childhood homes. 
Though crisis may be difficult, such individuals find comfort in crisis because it re-affirms their belief about what the world is, should be, and what is "normal." When there is no crisis, it's difficult for them to function in a world so totally strange and alien to their a world in which they have no meaningful engagement without crisis.
Fear Of Failure, Criticism, and Abandonment
Marked by indecisiveness, individuals who are plagued by a fear of failure may, when given specific instructions, perform in remarkably extraordinary ways. However, all the while, their efforts will be haunted by their persistent watching for the "fatal flaw" that will destroy their efforts. 
At times this fatal flaw becomes evident as they undermine their own success before someone else can undermine it for them.
The reason they would rather undermine their own work rather than having another undermine it is fear of criticism, rejection and or abandonment. Such individuals believe it's less painful to destroy their own efforts and criticize themselves than to risk completing their efforts and have others express disapproval for them. 
It's also less painful to abandon and reject others than to be abandoned and rejected by them. Furthermore, this tendency toward self-sabotage keeps a sense of personal control in an otherwise risky situation in which others' responses can't be controlled. 
In the eyes of the one with dysfunctional needs, it's less fearful to be the one in the driver's seat when things are going out of control than to passively watch as others lead toward successful goals.
Are individuals sabotaging successful efforts in your congregation? Are you trying to figure out why? Perhaps now you know one reason why things appear to be going "out of control."

Perhaps the more important reason things seem to be getting out of control is perhaps because you are out of control. It is very easy for healthy leaders to resonate and reflect the fear, anxiety and dysfunction of the hurting. It's even worse when such leaders absorb it. It can be paralyzing.

What do you do when things seem to get out of control? Do you panic? Do you become reactive...depressed...angry...retaliatory...and upset?

If so, perhaps these are key indicators that the greatest aggravating factor is forgetting God is in control. You can trust all circumstances. As Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 43,

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior." Isaiah 43:1-3 (NIV)

Is there any doubt that, even when dysfunctional needs can overwhelm and overtake the church, leaders and yourself, that God will be with you? 
Not at all! All we need to do is to trust it...and find the joy of knowing that God, despite all appearances, is really, really there...for you!
Thomas F. Fischer
For further reading consider Robert J. Ackerman Perfect Daughters, (Health Publications, 1989)

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This page was revised on: Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:02:12 PM