Imagine a person who withdraws from the world and unrealistically wants things “just so” — to be perfect. This person cannot accept reality and demands to live in their own view of paradise, seeing the real world as hostile to their fantasy of the ideal. This person will go to strident lengths to oppose anything that comes between them and their ideal existence. This person will pronounce doom and hate on the real world, certainly withdraw from it, and openly criticize and condemn it. Sometimes this person will cruelly hurt others in doing this, without any real empathy for the feelings of others. This person will justify all this stance by seeing itself as part of a truly blessed or chosen few who truly understands a higher or deeper wisdom, even believing they have been chosen by that wisdom or higher destiny to be one of the elect few who truly understands the world and how things should be and could be.
The person views itself as a light or potential enlightener in a dark place where all others are ignorant and fundamentally hostile to their truth. In this person’s superior wisdom and election, this person will often demonstrate their uniqueness by withdrawing from many of the normal habits and customs and language that bind their former associates and friends and family. There is only one truth and this person is “in it”, its true representative. All but a handful of others are hostile and ignorant, potentially threatening and destructive, and thus enemies, potential persecutors. Truth is absolute and there can be no compromise.
This person sees in their body the potential to be destructive, evil, promiscuous and violent. This person thus sees their own body as in some way related to evil and shame, with the need therefore to exercise extreme controls over their every thought and impulse. This person sees themselves as creatures of shame and loathing, only finding good in their ideal, which they need to fully embrace or absorb to partly quench their base natures. For men, women can be a particular problem. Objects of desire and temptation, but also of one their most fundamental needs, special attention needs to be devoted to keeping this gender in a special place of subjection — both with internal mental battles as well as with expecting rules of dress and behaviour on women themselves. And those women who don’t comply are viewed as particularly base or lost in some way.
The mental controls to keep this person’s body under subjection to its ideal world may come through many hours of being busy doing higher works or responsibilities, or simply in prayer and meditation, or other disciplines. The moment this person relaxes these controls there is fear this person will itself become a devil incarnate, since this person sees itself as shamefully filled with devilish potentials waiting to unleash itself if it ever departs from its focus on its perfect ideal.
And all others who do not share this person’s vision of omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent ideals (the three characteristics of god, incidentally) are themselves living lives governed by unbridled or degenerate evil and passions. They must all come to see the world the way of this person does or die. If they do not listen and subject themselves to this person’s message they will remain in outer darkness. The whole world must one day either submit to the visions of this person, and eventually come to acknowledge the superior place of this person, or pass into oblivion. Hence the world is to be hated, except for those in it who come to acknowledge the superior calling and wisdom of this person and subject themselves to this person’s ideal world of behaviour and vision. Peace of mind will only come to this person when the whole world does things this person’s way, or acts laws that reflect this person’s ideals.
This person is so entrenched in this mentality that not even death will sway them — even the death of their own child, or scores of others, for whatever reason, if such can be seen as the will of the ideal in this world.
This person even craves the destruction of the world — and everybody in it — who does not meet their vision of perfection or their ideal. Though they may mask this craving beneath a more “loving” one of longing that all those people, instead of dying, come to submit to themselves to living in a way that will meet the standards of this person’s ideal world!
Is such a person mentally ill? In need of considerable counselling to assist them to better function in a more productive and positive way in the world, to establish normal wholesome relations with others, to regain a more wholesome positive self esteem as well, to repair damage done to their view and trust of others?
Yet if this is the sort of person who dominates much of the fundamentalist world of religion, viewing fundamentalism this way (as opposed to the superficials of specific dogmas) may point to what is needed to produce a healthier society that will itself be better able to handle the current social, racial, environmental and international crises.
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6 thoughts on “Is this a mentally ill person?”
This is a truly great post. I’m sure you’re aware I disagree with most of it but I recognise quality when I see it (sometimes).
“This person is so entrenched in this mentality that not even death will sway them — even the death of their own child, or scores of others, for whatever reason, if such can be seen as the will of the ideal in this world.”
And yet we feel and perhaps believe that the world should not be like this. We avoid death at all costs and feel terrible pain at the loss of life. We know that there must be a better way, the must be some solution to evil we see in the world. Some evil might rightly be blamed on religion but at it is ultimately some evil in ourselves (humanity) that causes war, poverty, racism, abuse, genocide and other horrors. We all at times act against a conscience and regret it later. Where does this come from? There is evil in the world. We might define things differently but we all draw lines somewhere.
I believe Man is essentially good but he also has a problem.
“Yet if this is the sort of person who dominates much of the fundamentalist world of religion, viewing fundamentalism this way (as opposed to the superficials of specific dogmas) may point to what is needed to produce a healthier society that will itself be better able to handle the current social, racial, environmental and international crises.”
You say these people are evil/bad and their beliefs are superficial. I disagree. These people are indeed evil/bad/wrong but their beliefs are the core of who they are. No-one wants to be a suicide bomber from birth. They learn the ‘reasons’, ‘theology’, prejudice, ‘superficial beliefs’ about life, the world, other people and act on them.
I spoke of evil and of superficial dogmas, but not that the people were “evil” or their beliefs “superficial”. There is an important difference.
Many people believe that abortion is murder but not all kill doctors responsible for abortions because of those beliefs. There is clearly something else at work apart from those beliefs to explain the actions of those who do murder those doctors.
But my point is that certain beliefs either speak to or help augment certain mental conditions that are themselves the problem.
It would be good to compare the psychological makeups of those who respond to and embrace certain beliefs with the makeups of those who do not. How many embrace certain beliefs because they feel they feel those beliefs meet a psychological need? This is not a new question. Interesting books of psychology have been written about it.
Good point. I don’t think that it all comes down to mental conditions though. In Scotland when we talk about football hooliganism we usually say: These people aren’t fans of football just fans of fighting. People think they believe certain things but when you show them the inconsistency they can hopefully see it. They might say they care about unborn children but they really aren’t doing anything to help. If someone is truly against abortion then they need to be willing to adopt these children. Otherwise they are just satisfying their need to feel better about themselves by condemning others. These people claim to be bible-believing-Christians but obviously don’t believe God when he says ‘vengeance is mine’. People intellectually assent to a lot of things but they don’t actually believe them (have faith or trust your weight to the chair).