This is a very challenging subject matter for a number of reasons, not least because many of us may discover that the knowledge contained in these posts hits very close to home.
It's comforting to think that personality disorders are just a problem for the secular world (click here for an article on the narcissism epidemic), and that the Jewish world is untouched by the issue. But that's simply not the case. And before the problem can be addressed, responded to and resolved, it first needs to identified, defined and understood.
I believe personality disorders are underneath the vast majority of the emotional and family problems currently plaguing all sectors of the Jewish community, without exception.
I believe they're a key reason why so many of our young people are going 'off the derech'; why divorces are going through the roof; and why so many people today are feeling so alienated, alone and depressed - even though materially, they've never had it better.
I've been studying the phenomenon of personality disorders, and specifically how they relate to problems within the Jewish community, for a number of years, now. The information contained in this series of posts is the culmination of those years of research, which I first began in an effort to find some answers to the huge questions my coaching clients were presenting to me, about why their family circumstances were often so illogically distressing and traumatic.
I hope these posts will ignite some much-needed debate about the prevalence of personality disorders in the Jewish community, and put the subject firmly on the front burner. We can't begin to deal with the problem until we define it and try to understand what's causing it, and with God's help, that's what I hope to do, over the coming few weeks.
But let me finish this introduction on a hopeful note: When God's in the picture, personality Disorders can be cured! But in order to properly understand and tackle the huge challenge posed by personality disorders, we have to be willing to go beyond the limitations of 'mental health', and approach the issue holistically, across all three levels of body, mind, and most importantly of all, soul.
So with that introduction, let's learn a little more about what a personality disorder (generally) and narcissistic personality disorder (specifically) actually is:
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM):
"A personality disorder is a pattern of deviant or abnormal behaviour that the person doesn't change even though it causes emotional upsets and trouble with other people at work and in personal relationships."
There are around a dozen personality disorders (although this number, and the specific variations, are constantly being re-evaluated by mental health professionals). The group of personality disorders that we'll be focussing on in this series of posts belong to what's called 'Cluster B', and include:
- Borderline personality disorder
- Anti-social personality disorder and
- Histrionic personality disorder
Every personality disorder deviates from 'the normal' in one or more of the following ways:
1) Cognition - (how people perceive themselves, others and the events that occur in their lives.)
2) Affectivity - (how they respond emotionally)
3) Interpersonal functions - (their relationships)
4) Impulsivity - (they don't think, they react)
There is a great deal in the secular literature about personality disorders, and you'll find my recommendations for general reading at the bottom of this post. But I have to state one big caveat: it makes for very bleak reading, because in the secular world, the solutions for people with personality disorders, and their loved ones, are very few and far between.
But take heart, because in the Jewish spiritual and energetic worlds, there ARE solutions for personality disorders.
In the following posts, I'm going to try to set out what personality disorders actually are, and why they are posing such an enormous problem to Jewish family life, and causing so much difficulty and pain to so many people in our communities. ('Defining the Problem')
In the second series of posts, I'm going to move on to discussing what's actually causing personality disorders (which is still a matter of great mystery, in the secular world); and then in the third and lest series of posts, I'll address what can be done to solve the problem, from the spiritual, energetic and emotional perspectives.
One last note: I very much welcome your feedback, comments and questions as you join me on this odyssey. This is an enormous communal problem that's probably affecting every single one of us in some way, directly or indirectly, and it requires a mature, communal response.
I'm not pretending to have all the answers, or anything like it. But over the last few years, God has given me lots of different pieces of the Jewish Personality Disorder Problem puzzle, and that's what I'm laying out in front of you now. But bits are still missing, and I need a lot of help to piece it all together into a workable, practical whole. And that, dear reader, is where you come in! So, please don't hesitate to get in touch, with your ideas, questions and comments.
Find out more about what the secular world is saying about personality disorders and narcissism:
Joanna Mashmun's very informative site about narcissism and personality disorders (it's old, but very useful)