Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Sybil Syndrome-Picking the Right One

The ‘Sybil Syndrome’. Years ago a watershed study was done on multiple personality disorder and the person who was at the nexus of that was a young woman under the non de plume of Sybil. Due to her environment being so chaotic and abusive, Sybil actually split off what came to be 16 different personalities. When the Therapist would talk to her, she gained experience on ‘who’ was talking to her at that moment. There were many names and even faces that would ‘possess’ Sybil and her whole demeanor, voice inflection and reaction to outside stimulus would be completely different than one of the other personalities. Some would suggest here that these ‘personalities’ were demonic in nature...and certainly that is a possibility... but I would beg to differ due to the fact that Sybil was brought out of that through intensive and prolonged therapy.

So How Does this Apply?

Well, if you have any personal exposure to a dysfunctional religious group, more than likely, there were at least three ‘personalities’ in play in your life: There is the Real, the Ideal and the Impostor.

The Real: this is who you truly are with all the bumps and pimples. This is the one side of the individual that usually is not presented to anyone else but is often manifested to close friends and family and over time to any one who is in their ‘circle’ of relationships (aka the dysfunctional religious group itself). How does the real usually manifest itself? Through our flaws. These are the parts of us that spill out when we least want them to. The profanity we say when we are pressed; the emotional outburst that reveals our weaknesses. We often look at who we are in a bad light because we want to be different – somehow stronger, wiser and having it all together.

The Ideal: When ‘the Real’ above enters into a DRG, they know all too well that changes are needed and they are deeply desired. Especially if that person has a relationship with Christ that has never gone to the place that perhaps others have told them it could go or worse yet should go. The DRG promises to re-make the individual. To give them tools that if used precisely as they will be taught to use them will yield the pathway from what they are to what they want to be. ‘The Real’ begins to set up on a pedestal ‘the Ideal’ and look with only disgust at what they are. They are usually taught that with much effort and the ‘disciplining’ of their flesh or perhaps a particular act (e.g. Water baptism – the ‘correct’ way) will provide the ground work for a path to the person they want to be.

The Impostor: This is where ‘the Real’ meets ‘the Ideal’. This mongrel is a very confused individual yet within the dysfunctional religious group it is what everyone sees. This is the one who has learned how to say the right things and on the surface has conformed to whatever environmental requirements the DRG has set as criteria. The impoater is the one who true to his name, he is totally an outward shell and it is this personality that is the facade under pressure from the other two.

The member is the person who has to deal with at the very least three general categories of existence. Here is the reality: Each one literally hates the other. There is no alliance and there is no peace. There is only temporal dominance of one over the others. When the person is alone, there is ‘The Real’, at social functions of the group ‘The Impostor’ and in only the reveries in their minds they are ‘the Ideal’

Whether one ‘goes’ or ‘stays’ within the group, the result is the same: frankly one doesn’t know who one is anymore. This is most clear when a person is ripped away from the cottony pink yet barbed cradle of the DRG. If one stays within the group, ‘the Real’ puts on ‘the Impostor’ to look like ‘the Ideal’…. makes you twitch doesn’t it?.... Well this type of living with so much effort to produce the expected person causes a generation of self-loathing and self hate that reaches critical mass. This is not just from those who leave the group but also those stay for the duration. Secret Alcoholism, Aberrant lifestyles unacceptable to the group and even drug abuse in the form of prescription drugs medicate the Real to a point of coping with the internal struggles. It is quite possible that perhaps the people who actually run the show are heavily medicated using all sorts of anti-exilic drugs to cope with their lives – yet ironically claiming they have found the secret to spiritual success.

Perhaps it is the leaders who hate themselves above anyone else. They are caught in the inertia of a religious machine that they themselves have created and cannot escape. The result? Bad health, chronic illness and even in some cases early death; one cannot live under such pressure without effect. It is ironic that the fruit being produced in this toxic lifestyle is not ever evaluated objectively. No, ‘the Ideal’ blames ‘the Real’ and edicts ‘the Impostor’ to repair the breach.


Is or is this not the circumstance Paul described about himself? Friends, he faced the same as well but somehow found a way out. What was his way and so our way out?

Rom 7:24-25 -Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

What is the reality? The only freedom from sin is in Christ alone. Does this mean 'no rules apply?' Please be serious; of course not but there is one rule above all others - The Holy Spirit must be given pre-eminence in our lives. This is evident in the following chapter of Romans:

Rom 8:12-13 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

This is a simple way to live and it is with admission of imperfection. The roles of The Real, The Ideal and the Imposter are delivered from their function within the DRG. How so?

The 'Real' Real - The genuine and scriptural 'Real' has the honest nature to admit faults as they identify the need for someone to save them in the first place. From who? Themselves. There is no pressure to hide -- only honesty. When one hides so others cannot see it is invariably linked to a twisted self pride in the form of embarrassment. Friends let's come clean - no one is exempt from their Adamic nature. We are all fallen, we are all hopeless. There is much relief in admitting we are sinners -- by the way that is a pre-emptor to true repentance and change and always is noticed by our Lord.

The 'Real' Ideal - Let's save time here. There is only and has only ever been one 'Ideal'. He alone stands as an obelisk towering above the fray of those hell-bent on self improvement. What does the DRG do? It proposes that with enough of the right teaching and implementation of it, we can experience change - it replaces the Christ with the Law. This is the true root of the DRG - they are nothing more than a group of teen-age pharisees. Who are their fodder? Anyone that has conviction and wants to be more like Christ. Instead of the true way that change comes through a relationship with Christ, the DRG inserts and additional lethal step - they say before the relationship with Christ can be fully realized, there are practices and disciplines that must be implemented before that relationship can have any footing; one must be baptized, one must practice a litany of disciplines and the like. These in their own right have a lot of merit but when they impede one from embracing the Christ, they have been degraded to chains and bondage.

The 'Real' Imposter - In reality there is no impostor at all. A good indication that you might be or have been in a DRG is that when I listed what an Impostor was in the previous section, you perhaps identified with him - something in you resonated with him.Yet the impostor only has tangible form within the DRG. They are there because they are a by-product of the hellish union of flesh and spirit. We all know from our Bible that these are constantly at war with one another - Rom 8:7. Common sense and reason will tell you that they do not mix yet we want to keep putting lipstick on the pig.


In the end, Sybil left the world of her fantasies with their imposters and became one voice. This is our charge as well. We have one voice and one life. We cannot allow others to speak for us and most importantly for our Savior. If the landscape of your current environment is fraught with chaos and you wonder if anyone is real, perhaps it is time to stop being the Impostor, be Real and find the exit door - you will find the Ideal has been waiting on you all along.