The Personalist Project

We have friends visiting for a few days and lots to do to get ready before we fly to Europe for our sabbatical next week, so I don't have much leisure for writing posts. But I had to share this. It's an interview with a Protestant psychologist who specializes in therapy for victims of sexual abuse. A friend and PP member, who admired its deep personalist wisdom, forwarded it to me. I find it amazing. Tell me what you think.

Comments (11)

Marie Meaney

#1, Aug 22, 2013 12:40pm

I only saw about half of it, but it is very interesting. Ironically I saw it only now, after having posted my blog on the spirit of poverty in which I say something similar to what Allender says in the beginning of the clip: to be able to help people in their brokenness you have to acknowledge your own. A therapist in particular has to be able to do this, even if the area of brokenness in his patient is not necessarily the same as his own.


#2, Aug 22, 2013 4:14pm

WOW! Wow, I signed up just so I could comment on this video. Wow, profound and beautiful. So much to absorb.

What I most personally responded to was that of female sexuality and how it has been dictated by men and the male view of sexuality. I can't even begin to tell you how glad I was to hear him say that. Things like "modesty" in the Catholic church are seen as a women's problem. If only women would dress better, I wouldn't sin. Modesty is a man and women's issues to deal with. The words he said were powerful. I have never heard someone discuss it so wonderfully and plainly. I don't think we can separate ourselves from those who are more overly abused because our gender is so deep to who we are that any demeaning of who we are as men or women is abuse. Thank you for posting. I hope more comments come. Important topic.

Katie van Schaijik

#3, Aug 23, 2013 9:12am

JenB, Aug. 22 at 4:14pm

What I most personally responded to was that of female sexuality and how it has been dictated by men and the male view of sexuality. I can't even begin to tell you how glad I was to hear him say that. 

I liked that too.  It reminded me of Pope Francis saying, just recently, that we need to develop a theology of femininity.  John Paul II laid the framework. Now we need to develop it more fully. I was amazed at how much he sees an element of male resentment against woman's intimacy with God as major factor in rape and prostitution.

For me, the thing that especially stood out was the way he so clearly understands sexual abuse in terms of the master/slave dynamic of the fall. It is the opposite of the love and service we are called to. 


#4, Aug 23, 2013 2:13pm

Yes, me too. I mean, that has really sunk into me since I watched the video yesterday. For instance-and there are many from many women-I was told my cleavage was a problem for "someone". I know what I look like. It has been a life long struggle with the "girls". I work very hard to be modest. I've been in Church ministry for 20 years. I get it. But at some point, I am not responsible for a man's lust. I am responsible to not be a stumbling block, but his thoughtlife is not my responsibility anymore. How we dress ourselves, how we look at ourselves-how I am at work, I have noticed is all about how a man has set up the workplace. Project oriented. Results oriented. Even in Church ministry. A need? Yes. But what about people oriented? What about person centered and nurturing?

I will be fascinated to see and hope more work will be done in this area. I see wonderful "new Feminist" trend and with TOB and PFrancis I have great hope.

Jules van Schaijik

#5, Aug 27, 2013 2:29pm

I only just now took time to watch this video. It is truly remarkable. So much insight. "So much to absorb", as JenB said.

There is one thing, however, I find difficult to understand, and that is the "womb-envy" he speaks about. Or as Katie puts it, the "male resentment against woman's intimacy with God as a major factor in rape and prostitution". I can understand this as a theoretical hypothesis confirmed by certain statistics (such as that a pregnant woman is 4 times more likely to be abused!). But imaginatively speaking, I am at a loss. I wish I had a better Sachkontakt with or feel for this underlying motive. I wish I could see where and how it manifests itself.

Marie Meaney

#6, Aug 30, 2013 9:10am

I'm with you on this, Jules. Though it makes sense what he says, I can't see this "womb-envy" from the inside. However, have you ever read Jean-Luc Marion's essay "Evil in Person" (in his book Prolegomena to Charity) - and which I find quite Weilian -and which sheds some further light on this, though in general terms? When hurt, we want to hurt back, and the temptation is the greatest to go after the one who is the most innocent and holy - ultimately God Himself - or anyone who resembles God most. Women in their capacity to conceive and carry life have a similarity to God which men don't in this specific way. Anyway, I feel that I am stating the obvious and simplifying Marion (he doesn't go into sexual difference and womb-envy).

Jules van Schaijik

#7, Aug 30, 2013 11:23am

Thanks Marie.  I have only read one thing by Marion: The Erotic Phenomenon. Just finished it in fact, and I'm glad I can put it back on the shelf so friends don't raise their eyebrows when they see it lying around on the table. :)  He is very rewarding but difficult to read. Conceptual clarity is not his thing.

Like you, I also noticed that he does not deal with sexual difference. Very surprising in a book on the erotic phenomenon.

As to your suggestion: I get the desire to hurt back, but isn't that normally directed at the one who hurts me?

Kevin Schemenauer

#8, Aug 31, 2013 11:26pm

Jules, I am not sure I understand womb-envy, but I do understand the tendency for power dynamics to work their way down the power chain. To your last question, I thought immediately of my five year-old son. When I discipline him, he often takes his frustration out on his younger brother. Consciouly or unconsciously, I am more insensitive to my children when I want and lose control of the world around me. A third anecdote speaking to the tendency to injure innocence: I re-call in High School that many people in my small class would try to scandalize or make fun of a girl who lived out her faith in joy, humility, and confidence. She seemed to be a target simply because her life was a challenge to others.

Marie Meaney

#9, Sep 2, 2013 2:21am

Jules, I posted an answer to your comment a few days ago, but realized only now that it didn't show (second time this is happening to me - very strange).

Anyway, yes, I agree with Kevin and had answered along the same lines that this has to do with power-dynamics. As Marion - and Weil - say: if I am hurt, I want to hurt back, except if something supernatural comes in (says Weil) which makes me capable to bear my hurt and not vent it on anybody else. Only a pure being, a redeemer can do this, whom I can only follow on this path through grace.

The victim, if weaker, won't turn against the person who hurt him  - see Scheler's analysis of resentment in Nietzsche. As Marion shows, a certain self-righteousnes then enters the picture which cloudes one's mind to the fact that one has entered the dynamic of evil oneself; that yes, evil has been done to oneself but that now one is responding in kind and no better than one's aggressor against an innocent. The more innocent and vulnerable, the more in a sense one can unleash one's rage without danger of immediate repercussions.

Marie Meaney

#10, Sep 2, 2013 2:24am

God is therefore the perfect victim (say Marion and Weil), and anybody who is most like Him - children, the disabled, suffering, the saints, and as Allender says, women in their life-giving capacity.

By the way, though Marion is normally not easy too read, "The Prolegomena to Charity" is much more accessible. I gave the chapter "Evil in Person" to freshmen a number of times to read in class, and they were able to get the jist of it.

Jules van Schaijik

#11, Sep 2, 2013 4:27pm

Thanks Kevin and Marie. I understand it a bit better now. It still seems though as if our primary desire is to hurt the one who hurt us, and that we take it out on a weaker person only because that's easier.

Marie, you have mentioned Marion and Weil. I suppose Rene Girard has things to say about this too? Let's talk it over over a glass of wine when we are in Rome (last 2 weeks of October) shall we?

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