As a pastor who has made a living observing human nature and behavior the past 30+ years, I have seen people who are unconsciously driven by forces of negative human behavior that lead them to self-destruct. Among such behavior is emotional deprivation disorder, a term used by noted psychologist Conrad Baars in his important book Feeling & Healing Your Emotions. This is one of the most common negative human behaviors that I have seen.
(Some of the ideas I am presenting in this article have come from this book, which I recommend all to read!)
A person suffering from this emotional disorder was unaffirmed while growing up, or deprived of feeling his or her own uniqueness or goodness while growing up. Some have been partially unaffirmed and some almost totally unaffirmed. This has resulted in various symptoms.
Many become driven self-affirming people who accomplish much in life and, as a result, have much respect and acceptance in society. In spite of this acceptance, self-affirming people are just as sick as those suffering from a more severe case of emotional deprivation; even though they act more “normal,” their behavior and feelings can be very harmful to themselves and to others. They are harmful to others because they treat other people as objects to get ahead in life. This is because they are driven to succeed, to satiate the intense need they have to feel important. As a result they are quite incapable of genuinely affirming other people, and often they steamroll over others to attain their own ends. These people are generally accepted and admired because in American culture getting ahead and being successful at any cost is celebrated.
Self-affirming people do damage to themselves. They eventually find out, after years of striving, that no matter how much fame, fortune, and success they have in business and relationships they still feel very empty, lonely and unfulfilled. This is because they are not getting at the root of the issue; they are just merely trying to heal their hearts with outward success without experiencing inward healing regarding their self-esteem and human worth. A sense of human worth and value can only come from God, not His creation.
On the other side of the coin are those who suffer from a more obvious case of emotional deprivation disorder. These people suffer with anxiety, loneliness, fear of others, and basically have never fully grown up emotionally. They are still little children locked inside an adult’s body, striving for and yearning for love and affirmation from others. This person attempts to please everyone and be nice to everyone. But they never stand up for anything, never attempt to accomplish anything of purpose, a person without enemies but also without close relationships. No matter what this person does, they suffer from feelings of uncertainty and insecurity, and develop an inferiority complex because of their constant failure in developing meaningful relationships. This person may even feel ugly, incompetent and physically undeveloped, in spite of the fact they may be very smart, capable and physically beautiful! Worst case scenario: they might also have feelings of suicide and depression resulting in guilt over being self-focused and being unable to fully love others.
I have found that people like this are extremely hard to satisfy. No matter how much attention we in the church give them it is never enough and never fully appreciated! While self-affirming people are always jockeying for a position or title in the church, the emotionally deprived individuals always want someone to minister to them and heal the something only God can fully do.
In closing, if you are a self-affirming person you can only be healed if you are honest with yourself that you are driven and not being led by God; you are trying to make things happen instead of allowing God to open up doors, and you are always intense, a workaholic, posturing, and always push an agenda to promote yourself because you are trying to fill a vast hole inside your soul, instead of surrendering this emptiness to God and allowing Him to be your portion and identity, not the things you are accomplishing.
If you suffer from emotional deprivation disorder you need to speak to a mature, seasoned Christian psychologist who will lead you and guide you to connect with God’s healing touch who alone can make you feel important, take away your fears, and let you feel His love that surpasses understanding. Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted and give you an abundant life (Luke 4:18, John 10:10).
Most of us are suffering to one degree or another from various facets of these two ailments. The older I get in the Lord the more I realize that the greatest treasure I will ever have in my life is already in my possession: it is my position as a redeemed child of God that enables me to come to the throne of God the Father as one of His very own sons, accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6). Growing in the knowledge of God’s love and immersing my identity in Him rather than in my personal accomplishments are the most important things I can do to find balance in my life so I can rest in Him and cease from my own labors (Hebrews 4:7-9, Matthew 11:28-30), instead of always striving to manufacture something that only gives me temporary happiness but never gives me permanent satisfaction.
If you fit into either of these two categories perhaps you should speak to a biblically based psychologist and also find a mature Christian leader you can pray with who will point you to Jesus as well as give you loving affirmation and godly counsel. Remember, only in Christ are we complete and find our fullness (Colossians 2:9-10).
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