By Published On: June 19, 20220 Comments

Those “Two-Faced” People We’ve all seen and experienced them. In our less “professional” moments, perhaps we might have justly or unjustly lashed out at those whom we perceived to be two-faced, hypocritical, skin-deep “wolves in sheep’s clothing” who, we feel, are just Judas’s in disguise putting on a “show” or facade. Whatever we call these types of people, perhaps the greatest thing that characterizes our reaction is, “How can they be so different?” “What made them change?” “What a fickle person!” and/or “I never expected that from them!” We All Are A Jekyl And Hyde Discounting, of course, more serious mental disorders such as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), now more commonly referred to as Disassociative Identity Disorder (DID), virtually all of us have a “Jekyl and Hyde” aspect to our personalities. A number of personality inventories recognize and test for this aspect of our personalities, among them the Personal Personality Profile (from Performax Systems). What these inventories recognize is that we generally have two preferred personality modes, a “non-anxious” and an “anxious mode.” Non-Anxious And Anxious Modes The non-anxious mode refers to our personality characteristics when we are not under stress. It is this mode we use when we are not under pressure. It’s the mode which we use when we’re with others. It’s the mode that we most often use when we’re in the company of others. Above all, the behaviors demonstrated in the non-anxious mode are generally those behaviors which we would like to have others believe characterize us. The anxious mode of behavior, however, refers to those behaviors with which we instinctively use to react to crises or anxiety-provoking events. When it’s “do or die,” these are the behaviors that we prefer to draw on…whether they are healthy and constructive or not. Anxious behaviors tend to be instinctive. Behaviors in this mode may be made without regard to what others think, what they say, what is right, what is wrong, or what consequences may result from anxious reactions or . Stress Shifts Anxious behaviors may be rather frightfully surprising. Indeed, they often can catch us “off guard.” Yet, though their timing and manner of behavior may be unpredictable, the fact that there is a stress shift ought not surprise us. After all, it probably happens to us, too! How many times have we noticed in ourselves that in our non-anxious mode we are happy, jovial and confident until anxiety comes. Then we erupt or internalize our emotions or, perhaps, we become aggressive or passive, controlling or easily led. Under stress, perhaps we may become more vocal or physically reactive. Or, when anxious, perhaps we become more task-orientated or people-oriented than we “normally” are.  We’re All Subject To Stress Shifts These and other behavioral changes are all examples of the “stress shift” or, as we said above, the “Jekyl and Hyde” inside you. All of us are subject to these non-anxious and anxious stress shifts. We, like almost everyone else, may prefer one set of behaviors when not anxious and prefer a totally different set of behaviors when anxious. The stress shift can be observed in individuals to varying degrees. Some individuals may have a radical stress shift while others may have less dramatic stress shifts. In some individuals, the stress shift can be so slight as to be virtually unnoticed.

Examining Our System Roles

Unless we live our lives in total hermetic isolation, our lives are conducted in various groups or sub-groups. Each group, family systems theorists tell us, has certain characteristic roles which can be identified. The main function of these roles is to sustain the equilibrium of each group. At least six system roles have been identified which are generally found in every group, sub-group, or family. These are the Hero, the Enabler, the Spiritual Leader, the Lost Child, the Mascot, and the Scapegoat. Descriptions of each of the six system roles are as follows: 1) The Hero:

The Hero is the member of the family who is the focus of positive energies. This individual “plays” or is “appointed” to be the one everyone admires. His or her achievements are always elevated while their mistakes are played down.

2) The Enabler: The Enabler is the one who is always helping others at great sacrifice to themselves, to keep things settled down. Enablers work to keep the lid on anxieties and to help shield the system from internal breakdown through compromise, repression, etc.3) The Spiritual Leader:

The Spiritual Leader in the family is the one to whom the family turns to for guidance, support, wisdom and insight. Though others may not be “spiritual,” the family’s Spiritual Leader is the one to whom they turn with those items of religion, fate, and determining the will of God.

4) The Lost Child:

The Lost Child is a loner who never finds themselves. Always in the midst of the family and looking for love and acceptance, the Lost Child is accommodated but not loved. The Lost Child is an emotional orphan neglected, uncured for, and left to take care of himself.

5) The Mascot:

In response to the fear of being left out (as the Lost Child) and a dread of a guilt-ridden loneliness (as the Scapegoat), the Mascot is marked by visible behaviors which draw attention to himself. Positive Mascot behavior is marked by the ability to joke around, provide fun, humor and release of tension in the family. At other times they will be the “cute” one or clown that people point to and enjoy. Whether the Mascot’s behavior is constructive or destruction, one thing is sure: the Mascot will be hard to ignore.

6) The Scapegoat:

This family member is the constant recipient of unfair and hostile projections, many of which may be undeserved. As steam needs to be released from a boiling keg to keep it from bursting, so family and relationship systems need a release valve to ease the “pressure” of family. The Scapegoat is that release.

The Primary Objective: Equilibrium

Whether Hero or Scapegoat, Enabler or Spiritual Leader, each of these system roles are shaped, encouraged, modeled, projected and reinforced to maintain the system’s functional (or dysfunctional) level of equilibrium. When equilibrium is established, each non-anxious role is largely in its non-anxious state. When the system is at equilibrium, the Hero can do no wrong, the Scapegoat can do no right, the Enabler will always be there to keep the peace, the Mascot will be acting in an abnormal way, and the Lost Child will be distantly aloof…somewhere. When Equilibrium Is Disrupted When the equilibrium of the system is disrupted by going either from or to a non-anxious to an anxious state, things within the system may suddenly and unexpectedly change. In response, single or multiple individuals within the system undergo a stress shift. Since the stress shift may result in either an intensification or a shift of their system role, the system becomes disrupted. This disruption in equilibrium then initiates a chain reaction which triggers anxiety-driven stress shifts throughout the rest of the system. In a domino-like fashion, others in the system respond with the necessary role transformation. The transformation to anxious state equilibrium is complete when the system attains a level of equilibrium the system considers to be an optimum level. Optimum Equilibrium: The Good News And Bad News This “optimum” state of equilibrium in each system is self-determined. Though designated “optimum,” this state of equilibrium may not necessarily be “optimum” for other groups and systems. This “optimum level” may just as easily create a functional or healthy equilibrium as it can create a dysfunctional equilibrium, or a combination of the two. Thus, systems transformed to their anxious-state optimal equilibrium may use their energies either to “uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant” (Jeremiah 1:10 NIV). When encountering groups in which the anxious-state optimal system equilibrium is destructive, it is imperative to take preventative measures to prevent the chain reaction from occurring. Indeed, this momentum is not only “bad news,” but gives ample opportunity for Satan to wreak havoc, chaos and schism in the Lord’s Church. On the other hand, when the anxious-state optimal system equilibrium is constructive and driven by a positive, energizing sense of immediately achieving God’s vision for the system, the momentum which can result from the chain reaction is nothing less “good news.” Indeed, such momentum may respond to God’s power and be blessed in remarkable and miraculous ways! Examples Of Stress Shift Role Transformations Examples of stress shift role transformations might include scenarios such as these. For example, a person who is a Mascot (the “Joker”) in a non-anxious role may, in stress shift, become more passive, taking on the anxious role of a Lost Child. The one who is the Spiritual Leader in a non-anxious system may, in the anxious state, demonstrate more extraverted, daring characteristics and become a Hero in the anxious system. Of special interest to pastors and congregational leaders is that in the same way, one regarded as a Spiritual Leader in the non-anxious state may, because of his or her own personality tendencies toward introversion and passivity, may become a Scapegoat of an anxious system. Possible Role Shift Combinations What role shifts can you expect? The following table demonstrates all theoretical possible stress shift role transformations.

Table: Combinations of Anxious and
Non-Anxious System Roles

Anxious System
Anxious System Roles
System Roles Hero Enabler Spiritual
Lost Child Mascot Scape-
Hero x x x x x x
Enabler x x x x x x
Spiritual Leader x x x x x x
Lost Child x x x x x x
Mascot x x x x x x
Scapegoat x x x x x x

As this table demonstrates, an individual may be a Mascot in the non-anxious role and a Hero in their anxious role (Mascot-Hero). Or, an individual may be a Hero in their non-anxious role and, in their anxious role, a Scapegoat (Hero-Scapegoat).

Other possible combinations include, for example, Enabler-Mascot, Scapegoat-Hero, et al. As the table indicates, individuals may have identical non-anxious and anxious roles, e.g. Enabler-Enabler, Mascot-Mascot, Spiritual Leader-Spiritual Leader, et al.

Some Applications

  1. Since stress shifts are so common, Pastors and church leaders ought to expect that the behaviors and system roles of every individual–including themselves–will change in an anxious environment. For the same reason, Pastors and church leaders ought to expect corresponding stress shifts in the respective groups to which they belong.
  2. Each individual and system has different anxiety tolerances and sensitivities. Thus, what causes anxiety in one individual or group may not affect another individual or group.
  3. You can’t treat everyone and every group alike. Nor should you. They all have different needs, different anxiety triggers, differing levels of sensitivity, different system roles, and different needs for equilibrium.
  4. Those whom individuals and groups you can trust in non-anxious states may or may not be trusted in their anxious states.
  5. Since anxious states can be elicited by a virtually limitless number of possible stimuli, the only way to really know the anxious response is to experience the anxious state. This is where pastoral ministry must be exercised with great patience and care.
  6. Pastoral ministering to congregations can be greatly disrupted by pastors and leaders who do not understand their stress shifts and are not willing or able to adjust them, when necessary, to address system anxieties in an appropriate manner.
  7. Ministering to people in their anxious role can be rather unpredictable and unsettling. Often, ministry to such individuals in their stress shift may demand enormous amounts of energy and exact a great price.
  8. The greater the number and influence of functional sub-group and group systems existing in a congregation, especially in anxious modes, the greater the likelihood that anxiety, conflict and challenges will invigorate the congregation toward God’s vision of growth for that congregation.
  9. The more a congregation is dominated by dysfunctional sub-group and group systems, especially in anxious modes, the greater the likelihood that these dysfunctional dynamics will, by definition, favor those things which characterize a dysfunctional church. (Cf. Ministry Health Article  “Characteristics Of A Dysfunctional Church”).
  10. Pastors and church leaders must be sensitive to manage stress factors within the context of systems so as to prevent unwanted chain reactions of dysfunctional systems in stress shift and to encourage desirable ministry support by eliciting positive chain reactions in functional congregational systems.
  11. Management of stress and anxiety factors is not simply the use of appropriate administrative strategies and tools such as mediation techniques, building of community, enhanced communication, charismatic persuasion, etc. Though these may be helpful and instrumental, the most important tool is use and proclaim the Word of God in such a way to communicate the message of Law and Gospel, contrition and repentance, trust and faith, to give all individuals and systems the essential fundamental base necessary for a proper response to God in all times–anxious and non-anxious.
  12. Congregational systems which tend, especially in their stress shift, to place the pastor in a Scapegoat role, will tend to persist in this behavior. Over time, some of these systems may become quite good at it and permeate their influence into other systems. Thus, some congregational systems whose equilibrium requires the pastor to be Scapegoat will persist in this equilibrium until acted upon from forces–within or without–that can change them.
  13. Though there are many possibilities for transforming and healing dysfunctional systems, often the way God brings real change to these systems is through the pain of recognition of their sinful dysfunction or the pain of conflict. In the past, God used drastic pain application to the Northern and Southern Kingdoms when they persisted in their hardness of heart. God can also work in His Church in the same way today. Indeed, He does!
  14. Ultimately, the only power pastors and church leaders have to develop healthy individuals and congregational systems, is the Word of God. It is the most powerful “double-edged” sword. it is the “dynamite” of God. Whatever the apparent results of this working during our ministry, God’s Word always has the promise: it will not return void without accomplishing what God intended. In God’s time, His will shall prevail.

Some Additional Observations The overall cumulative effect of stress shifts within systems can go a long way to explain a number of congregational dynamics, especially in conflict. Relative to congregations this may explain some other congregational phenomena such as…

1) Why members may suddenly display inexplicable “Jekyl and Hyde” behaviors;

2) Why seemingly peaceful and pleasant churches can, in an anxious state, become quite unstable and destructive;

3) Why pastors may act “out of character” from their normal “non-anxious” role in conflict;

4) Why congregational leaders and pastors, who undergo their own stress shifts, may not be able to handle crisis in a congregation which is also in stress shift;

5) Why pastors suddenly find themselves “betrayed” or alone without the expected and experienced support in relatively non-anxious system conditions;

6) Why some members, in conflict, will become unusually vocal while others will escape (e.g. Lost Child) and leave the church without saying a word to anyone;No doubt, stress shifts and the cumulative “chain reaction” type effect of stress shift  may help explain a number of other things you may have experienced in your congregation, too..What Can A Pastor Or Leader Do? What are some ways a pastor can address anxiety to reduce, if possible, the potential for stress shift manifestations in the church?

1) Recognize that often, when people express their anxious reactions in the church, the presented issue is probably not the issue (cf. Ministry Health Article, “The Issue Is Not The Issue”)

2) Especially in anxious times, adopt a strategy for pastoral care including a personal visit to the homes of the anxious on an individual basis to discuss and, if possible, soothe their anxiety. When on their own home territory, individuals will likely feel “safer” to share their anxieties. Sometimes during such visits, keen observers will note certain clues to the cause(s) of the anxiety in their home, work, family, etc.

3) When individuals take on additional responsibilities and circumstances (e.g. become single parents, take care of elderly parent in the home, lose a job, take on a second job, dealing with adolescent rebellion, face retirement, etc), take special notice of the potential for stress shifts. often used in marketing and evangelistic literature to measure “receptivity,” the Holmes-Rahe Stress indicator may be especially helpful to identify various individual stressors.

4) When stress occurs, expect behavioral changes in such individuals and respond appropriately. Offer an appropriate degree of quality, empathetic pastoral support as early as possible so that they understand that you recognize their situation. Give assurances of your concern and be prayerfully supportive and pastorally available as they have need. This is especially important in your ministry to those high-anxiety individuals who, in their anxious stress shifts, take on antagonistic system roles.

5) When anxiety regarding church issues is expressed, provide an appropriate forum for the anxiety to be voiced and expressed. Listen to their concerns and help them look for opportunities to address their issues and concerns. Nothing soothes like a genuinely listening ear.

6) Listening and empathy, however, do not preclude that the ministry of the congregation must stop in its tracks.

6) Help foster a congregational environment which does not inhibit an ongoing appropriate sharing of personal anxieties. Prayer partners, varieties of small fellowship groups (e.g. sharing, recovery, etc, and after worship altar counselors, etc.) can go a long way to build such an environment. After all, isn’t anxiety reduction through trusting God and His leading in our lives what prayer, worship, and Bible Study are really all about?

7) Have periodic sermon series or Bible Classes on various Biblically-based, anxiety-related relationship issues (e.g. divorce, marriage enrichment, how to take care of the elderly, boundaries, adult child issues, substance abuse, how to deal with suffering, development of Christian coping mechanisms, etc.)

8) Have leaders list the anxieties which they feel are in the congregation and brainstorm ways that they and the congregation can  positively and effectively addressed these anxiety needs.

9) Make a study of Edwin Friedman’s landmark book, From Generation to Generation, especially as it relates to your situation. Chapters 8 and 9 of Friedman’s book are especially insightful.

10) Consider leading a workshop or seminar on congregational anxiety. One possible workshop might be “Reasons For Congregational Conflict” in the Ministry Health Web Site Resource Archives. Of course, consider other Ministry Health articles which may be helpful resources for you or your leaders.

11) Never scapegoat those in their anxious stress shifts. Deal with them with the most prudent pastoral care possible. The most highly sensitive and anxious often have a history of distrust, especially of leaders (e.g. pastors). Go easy and try to understand them (cf. Ministry Health’s “Thirteen Ways To Recognize The Adult Child…” and other related Ministry Health Articles).

12) Finally, when anxiety and conflict start to build, do not hesitate to contact your judicatory or denominational executives. Those who are skilled with conflict situations may be quite willing to give their support. Do not consider it a weakness to seek their counsel and support. A timely intervention by an outsider can literally save congregations and pastors untold measures of grief, anger and frustration.

The Most Important ThingOf course, the most important thing when dealing with the Jekyl-Hyde’s in your church, is to continually seek and patiently (read “painstakingly”) follow God’s guidance. Whether a non-anxious “Jekyl” or an anxious “Hyde”, His promises to us and to those whom we ministry are always the same. Cast all your burdens and anxieties on Him and let Him be faithful to lead, guide and protect His church as He so determines. Thomas F. Fischer

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