Friday, February 12, 2010

The Would Be Messiahs

A Note From The Author:

Often times, when there is a tough subject that I am tackling with, I procrastinate in its creation because I am loath to write it. But tough or not, this is an important subject that needs addressing. But please know this is written for informational purposes and self awareness. And it is not meant to judge or point fingers in any way.

This discussion, as quoted in the title, is about Would Be Messiahs. There are a number of different types, but please understand that this is not a discussion about the Anti-Christ or from any particular religious perspective, even though some of it might be included in this discussion.

So lets jump straight into the main point of this discussion with a list of the different types of Would Be Messiahs we will be looking at this blog:

1. The Codependent Messiah
2. The Transitioning Messiah
3. The Full Blown Messiah
4. The Healthy Messiah

Now it is important to note here that some of these different types will often play into other types, like a pattern of behavior that escalates. But this is not always the case, either.

Each type can stand alone or play into a larger escalating behavioral pattern. And we will cover each individually and then discuss how some of them can potentially play into others.

And you might find yourself, or someone you know, in this discussion. And it might be a difficult thing to view or admit about yourself or someone you know. But remember, this is a site for self improvement and understanding about ourselves, despite our own discomfort at having a mirror shown to specific behaviors. And this discussion is not about pointing fingers, blame or judgment, but more about discovering things about ourselves ~ even those things which might make us cringe and turn away.

The Codependent Messiah

There are three types of codependents: the caretaker, the relationship addict, and the messiah. In this particular discussion we are obviously going to focus on the Messiah Complex. Let me show you a list to better explain what each is.

Three Types Of Codependents
1. Caretakers
--relate to others primarily through roles that put them in a position of the giver, helper, supporter, nurturer, etc. “Everyone’s needs are more important than my own.”
2. Romance~relationship addiction
--must be in a “relationship” and be “special” to someone in order to be OK with oneself; may use caretaking and sexuality to gain approval/acceptance; goes from relationship to relationship.
“You’re no one unless someone loves you.”
3. Messiah complex
--savior of the family, church, world; over-responsible, doesn’t ask for help, tries to make self indispensable.
“If I don’t do it. it won’t get done.”
Now a Codependent Messiah is often a 'savior' type for whatever focal point they have chosen be it family, friends, church, or whatever. But beneath the facade of 'over-responsible' leader, there is usually insecurity, low to no self esteem/self worth, and a need to gain validation from others in order to feed and sustain their ego based (illusionary) mask of leadership. Hence the idea of codependence, even when in a position of leadership.

An effective way of putting it is that the Codependent Messiah is a modern day martyr to whatever cause they associate with. And they will give until there is almost nothing left of them because their needs, wants, and dreams are always secondary to anyone and everyone else. And sadly, this type of person will also give beyond that point until they really do give everything that they are to others.

But this is not an altruistic act, though it might seem that way on the surface. It feeds a need in them, often viewed as a dark void within them that they can find no way to fill up. So altruism, leadership, and giving become the means by which they find their value in life and build a fragile identity around.

Lets look at some symptoms of codependency to showcase what this means:

Symptoms Of Codependency
1. External-referenced on other person or people.
2. Tries to control behavior of others through approval-seeking and people-pleasing behavior.
3. Experiences intimacy by discounting own feelings, and empathizing with feelings of others.
4. Loss of healthy boundaries, generally resulting from doing things for others that violate one’s values, and from accepting unacceptable behavior from others.
5. Frozen feelings, numbness with regard to one’s own feelings. Depression may also result from repressed anger.
6. Low self-esteem. Self is valued according to others’ opinions. Uses martyr, victim, and messiah role to bolster self-esteem.
7. Generalized anxiety, related to lack of control of one’s life.
8. Mental preoccupation. Racing thoughts. Inability to enjoy mental silence and serenity.
9. Lack of assertiveness.: inability to ask directly for one’s true needs. Inability to confront unhealthy behavior in others.
10. Narcissism. In the absence of healthy, legitimate boundaries, others are seen as for or against self.
Now that we've gained some perspective on this type of Messiah, let me introduce you to one.

In high school, a young man named Jonas was bullied and made to feel shunned by other people, as though he were absolutely nothing. So he became a solitary observer of the world around him, silently watching other people as they interacted with one another. In fact, he eventually turned this into his identity. And after a time, he began to excel at it, understanding human behavior and how to manipulate it. But at this point, he had no actual means of putting it into practice.

He had trouble getting dates, because he wasn't particularly the most handsome of young men. And when he did, they often seemed disinterested in continuing their relationships with him. And this pattern continued into his early 20s where he met a woman who seemed to love him for who he was. So she became, in his mind, the love of his life and the woman he would gauge all other women against later in life. Eventually though, she broke his heart by falling in love with someone else and cheating on him.

Feeling betrayed, judged by the world around him, and not understood by anyone, he sought his comfort online where he found a place he was accepted and validated. All those skills he had acquired in his life, of learning to understand behaviorism and how to manipulate people came easily to him once more. And he began to craft an online persona to fit what he believed was the 'real him' which was always so misunderstood or ignored by other people in the real world.

From this point we come to this man in the present. Jonas, as an adult, was a man who saw himself as someone who gave to people, even to the point of sacrificing himself. He knew how to make people laugh. He knew the right things to say and do to make people look to him as a friend and a leader. He seemed insightful, intelligent, knowledgeable and extremely altruistic in the way he gave selflessly to others, without a thought to his own hopes and needs.

But eventually jealousy got the better of him, when people seemed to turn to others instead of him or when they spoke highly of others. He would compare himself with these other people and after a while of brooding in this state, he would verbally attack them to place them beneath him. He would denigrate them with subtle manipulation when people spoke highly about them, leaving doubt in the speaker's head about the value of these other people.

And as the illusionary persona he wore began to crumble around him, as people spoke about how he behaved behind his back and they slowly stopped coming to him with their issues, he fell into a deep depression. And after a while, he disappeared from the place where he had once felt so validated.
Did you find any of the traits of codependency in that case study? His focal point was a place online, but it could equally have been any other place like amongst family and/or friends, church, or something of equal importance where he found validation and understanding.

The Transitioning Messiah

The Transitioning Messiah generally occurs when one is first spiritually awakened and has had one or several epiphanies in their lives. What this means, is that they have gained a new broadened perspective of the world around them. The Messiah issue arises when this person believes that they have discovered 'the answers' or 'the way' and they stop their spiritual development in order to attempt to teach people this 'way' or give people this 'answer'.

Now you need to understand here, that these epiphanies do not specifically have to be based in any religion. When we speak about spiritual development, it can encompass any belief system or even a person who does not follow any particular religious path at all. It can also exist in the realms of 'self help' and/or 'new age'.

This type of person, who is at this stage in their development, runs the risk of getting hung up on the message and becoming its icon rather than a simple conduit of information. The potential to believe 'I Am The One Who Will Change The World' instead of the belief that you are simply one of many who will share information with the world is quite high.

There is a saying, that goes much like this: To Know, To Will, To Dare and To Keep Silent. This type of person has yet to truly understand the meaning of the last part of that statement; To Keep Silent. What this means is that they have yet to achieve a state of respectful humility that is associated with the type of information that are attempting to share with others. And run the risk of believing themselves above the message they wish to share.

Let's look at one who is at this stage:

Bob was a man who had suffered much in his life: abuse when he was young, drug addiction as a teenager, a failed marriage, and the lose of his job in his early twenties. One night, in a deep bout of depression he attempted to take his own life. And he had a moment of revelation where in his mind was open to a new way of thinking. Soon after this his life began to change, getting better with a new determination and a new job.

He also began to study about spiritual paths, in his spare time. And as his perception broadened to encompass new ideas in new ways, he began to believe he had found the answers to the meaning of life, its purpose, and how to reach a higher state of being where happiness was assured.

He was so excited about this new way of looking at things he rushed to tell others about it. And he more he spoke about it, the more he felt assured and confident about what he was doing. Soon, though he began to find himself pushing himself forward as an authority on the subject instead of simply sharing the information he had attained.

He did not realize that in the process of sharing this information, and putting himself forward as an authority on the subject, he had effectively stunted his own spiritual growth by assuming that there was nothing else to learn. This is because he saw himself effectively on the mountain top instead of still climbing and striving to reach the top.

With time and experience, though, he came to learn the error of his ways and see that there was always more to learn. A quote from the book Illusions: The Adventures Of The Reluctant Messiah, by Richard Bach says it perfectly:

Here is
a test to find
whether your mission on earth
is finished:
If you're alive,
it isn't.

The point here is to realize that just because one goes through a phase like this in their life, and most people do whether they realize it or not, it has the potential to go in several directions based on the person and their choices. It does not have to be a negative experience or one to be ashamed of. It can be, quite literally, just one phase within the journey of your life to learn and grow from.

The Full Blown Messiah

The Full Blown Messiah is one who has lost themselves in the control they can exert over others by being seen as a 'leader' amongst say a religious organization. They, much like the Codependent Messiah, identify with the power and prestige associated with a particular position of leadership which they have attained.

The difference between the Codependent Messiah and the Full Blown Messiah, is the potential danger that is inherent in the Full Blown Messiah. This type can come to believe that they are quite literally the 'Savior' of the world. And they can begin to identify themselves with other iconic messianic people like Jesus Christ.

This type of person bears the potential of starting Cult religions which revolve around themselves as Saviors, whether it is based on any particular religion or a new way of believing. To better understand this type I will introduce you several of them: David Koresh of the Branch Davidians, Jim Jones of People's Temple and Jonestown, and Marshall Applewhite of Heaven's Gate.

Often times this type of Messianic Complex is accompanied by delusions of persecution, where in some believe they are to be sacrificed in a manner resembling the crucifixion of Jesus.

Lets look at this type of person's development:
JoAnn, was a woman who had suffered all her life. As a child she was sexually abused. As a teen she was repeatedly abused by the men she dated. And when she grew into an adult, she had several failed marriages, which resulted in her almost dying.

She was the type who clung deeply to her religious faith throughout it all. It was her strength to keep going and her life line to other people, when she felt most alone in her life. And her pastor often acted as her counselor.

One day, though, she found herself feeling betrayed by her church. And because she felt disgruntled with the religion itself, she decided to leave. As she began to search for a new belief system, she heard about Goddess religions which tended to elevate women above men.

So she began to study about the Goddess and the paths associated with it. She began to find others around her that tended to believe as she did. And she started her own Coven.

At first she set herself up as the High Priestess of this Coven, changing her name to Demetria Ravenheart. But as her congregation grew, it began to feed her sense of ego driven self importance. And one day in her hours of prayer and ritual, she had an epiphany she believed was sent from the Goddess herself. She then began to raise herself above the level of a High Priestess, depicting herself as the Prophet of the Goddess, who was here to save the chosen few who followed her from the harrowing fate which awaited the rest of the world.

Slowly, she and her followers began to have less and less contact with the outside world, which they believed was doomed. Until finally they moved themselves into a communal home where everything was shared and everyone lived together.

As they grew closer in their communal home, JoAnn's delusions of persecution began to grow. And she began to push her irrational fears on her followers, causing them to share in them. Until one day, a day which JoAnn was fixated on when the 'others' were going to come for her and her followers, she and her followers mad the ultimate sacrifice....ending their lives.

The Healthy Messiah

The Healthy Messiah, as opposed to the Full Blown Messiah, is one who has come out of the transitioning phase of their development to discover humility, respect and a true desire to be of service to others. They have information to share with people, but are humble enough to respect the integrity the individual beliefs of other people and their right to have them.

Identity has become of less importance than sharing what they have learned and helping other people grow, heal and develop in their respective ways. And they do not seek to be recognized for what they do, despite what accolades of praise and thanks are sent their way.

As well, this is not their only purpose in life. They lead regular and productive lives in society with friends and family around them.

This sounds idealistic, and truly it is. Each person's experience at this point will be different depending on their individual paths. But they will also share many of the traits listed above in common.

This is because they are not codependent and ego driven to assert their place in this world with a statement of 'I Am Here' or 'I Am The Way To Salvation'. There is no need to be propelled and uplifted by a codependent need for praise and thanks for what they do or a driving need to be needed in some way.

Two books that might interest you are these:

Jonathan Livingston Seagull, By Richard Bach

Illusions: The Adventures Of The Reluctant Messiah
, By Richard Bach

The Patterns

Did you spot the patterns of connecting and potentially escalating behavior, when it came to the Codependent Messiah, the Transitioning Messiah, the Full Blown Messiah, and the Healthy Messiah? Each one bears the possibility of developing into another. Codependent into Full Blown, Transitioning into Full Blown, Transitioning into Healthy.

These patterns are only potentials outcomes, though. And there are always other ones that do not follow these patterns of behavior and are not covered here.

The Other Stuff

This is offered up for informational purposes only. It should not be taken as a psychological assessment of any kind. It is also not offered up to point fingers at people or to cast judgment on others.

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