Notes on Meeting No.5 of Safeguard Group
Notes on Meeting No.5: 4th February 1969.
Discussion on "The Manipulator and the Church" by Dunnan,
Herbertson and Shostrom. Abingdon Press 1968 $3.50.
Mr. Dunnon and Dr. Herbertson are Methodist Ministers and Dr. Shostrom is Director of the Institute of Therapeutic Psychology, Santa Ana, California.
A manipulator is "one who exploits, uses and/or controls himself and and others as things or objects". He has an "I - it" relationship with others, which eventually transfers to an "it - it" relationship. Primary characteristics are deception, unawareness, control and cynicism.
An actualisor is "an individual who appreciates himself and others as persons of unique worth and potential. He has an "I - thou" relationship which transfers to "thou-thou?". Primary characteristics are honesty, awareness, freedom, trust.
Army commander, doctor etc., issuing orders not necessarily a manipulator. He is constrained by the system, the need to win battles etc., to behave as if his subordinates were "its", but his personal feelings towards them may be those of an actualisor.
Adapting to a group i.e. a committee by exertion, tact or "wrapping up" the point is not manipulation even though we are not being our true selves. By adapting we are treating other members of the group as "thous" and not "its". Why does openness produce hostility in groups? A failure of church committees is that speaking in love is not always the same as speaking in truth. Beneficial feedback by telling people "in the Lord's name".
Is the use of persuasive powers manipulation? Was Wesley a manipulator in this sense? He was a man out of the ordinary -quiet, diminutive etc., yet who had great power over all kinds of men. He surely did not regard them as "its".
Why does the deviant or fanatic achieve so much?
Bunyan and Wilberforce were responsible for great changes for the better. The good often comes out of evil. How does one deal with anarchists or those who are "not even respectable Marxists"?
If a Christian knows that a manipulator is using his very Christianity as a means of obtaining power or influence over him, how should he react? Pray for the manipulator and adjust to his ways? Politics serving the ends of religion or religion serving the ends of politics.
Open persuasion is not manipulation, but hidden persuasion is. Interrogation by the trick or disturbing question is manipulation in the sense that the person being interrogated is being regarded as an "it". A certain threshold of privacy must not be crossed. Hypnotism and music can be used for manipulation.
Styles of Life By identifying with the outlook of a particular group we can put ourselves in a manipulative position since we are not "ourselves" but "its". We take a particular stance which is only one aspect of life. The Christian actualising style is not, however, manipulative.
Manipulation in the Church There is manipulation of ministers by members of the congregation, and manipulation of the congregation by the ministers. The Christian aim should be to turn manipulators to actualisors.
There are three levels of awareness:
self and self (interpersonal),
self and others (interpersonal) and
self and God (ultrapersonal). Jesus is a model.
The Christian Actualisation Group.
The Early Church was a small group movement. Personal confession and honest encounter were primary parts of the community life. The koinonia way of life. Regain small-group structure by C.A.G's.
Members of the congregation form a small group with the minister and a therapeutist (therapist). The therapist is trained to observe and describe the various patterns of manipulation or neurotic interaction that takes place between the members of the group. The minister acts as a catalyst for confession and expression on the part of group members and also provides a value frame of reference. Both minister and psychologist must be willing to disclose themselves as persons and not professionals detached from the group. By this means manipulators may be turned into actualisors.
Similar to Clinical Theology group, but in C.A.G. the minister is not acting also in the role of psychologist. Experience with C.T. groups indicates excessive stress. Skilled supervision essential, especially as members of clinical theology groups meet each other in in the parish.
Those present: Mr. Harold Beck, Mrs. Ann Cammack,
Dr. Ian Morton, The Revd. Gordon Wakefield.