Psychiatrists Frank Minirth and Paul Meier are among the ranks of the most popular psychologizers of Christianity. Minirth and Meier have become widely known in the church through their best-selling books, nationwide radio, television programs, and "Christian" psychiatric clinics.
The Bobgans' book Prophets of PsychoHeresy I, which is now out-of-print, shows how Minirth and Meier psychologized the Bible in their failed attempts to Biblicize psychology. They demeaned the Word of God by twisting the Bible to make it fit their preconceived, unproven psychoanalytic opinions. They confused the issue even more by using the defunct medical model of human behavior and justifying their psychology with "all truth is God's truth." For those individuals who want fellowship with Freud with a Biblical facade, Minirth and Meier would be a good choice.
Minirth and Meier have filled the minds of Christians with many Freudian myths. The following reveals their unbiblical, Freudian view of battered women. In their best-selling book Happiness Is A Choice (over 500,000 copies sold), they say:
"Whenever a battered wife comes seeking advice and consolation because her husband beats her up twice a week, our usual response is, "Oh, really? How do you get him to do that?" In all the scores of cases of this nature that we have analyzed in depth, there was only one case in which the battered wife was not provoking (usually unconsciously) her explosive husband until he reached the boiling point (of course, this does not diminish the husband's responsibility). After a beating, the husband usually feels very guilty and spoils his wife for several weeks. In the meantime, she is getting from people around her the sympathy which she craves, and she is satisfying her unconscious needs to be a masochist" (Happiness Is a Choice, Grand Rapids:Baker Book House, 1978, pp. 96-97). (Emphasis added.)
When Minirth and Meier say that "she is satisfying her unconscious needs to be a masochist," they are demonstrating their attachment to Freudian ideas. Freud coined the term masochism. The Dictionary of Psychology defines masochism as "a sexual disorder in which the individual derives satisfaction from the infliction of pain upon himself."
Placing the blame on a woman for being battered because of "unconscious needs to be a masochist" encourages self-blame for a woman and diminishes full responsibility on the part of the man. It is extremely unfortunate when women who are battered reach out for help and are slapped down again, not with clubs and fists, but with a defunct theory that causes further degradation. It is surprising that women have not risen up in outrage over Minirth and Meier's reference to a battered woman's "unconscious needs to be a masochist."
There is certainly a great incongruity between what Minirth and Meier say about battered women and what researchers have said about this tragedy. After more "than fifteen years of research and study of family violence" authors of the book Intimate Violence say, "Perhaps the cruelest of all the myths surrounding family violence is the one that claims that battered women like being hit." (Emphasis added.) In summarizing the research, they say:
"The research on the factors that determine whether women stay or leave violent relationships effectively explodes the myth that wives who remain with violent men are masochistic. The weight of the collected evidence points more to social factors entrapping women in violent marriages" (Gelles and Straus, p. 146).
Dr. Theodor Reik says in his book Masochism in Modern Man, "A woman does not want to be punished, abused, tormented or flagellated, but wants to be loved" (Reik, p. 203). Women endure suffering because of love, not masochism.
Minirth and Meier's approach to the problem of the battered woman reflects their Freudian bias and their psychoanalytic training. As with most psychotherapeutic theories, Freud's theories about women are merely a matter of his own personal opinion. The real losers in all of this psychology-based-on-mythology are the women who are found guilty of masochism without a jury, a trial, or even a hearing.
Minirth and Meier repeatedly emphasize the importance of early childhood. For example, they say that "the roots of the hysterical personality reach back into childhood" (p. 79). In a special note they say:
"Over one-third of the hysterical females we have treated have had sexual intercourse with their fathers or stepfathers. Usually they claim they were raped by their fathers, denying the obvious fact that they also had a strong hand in the situation by seducing them, either consciously or unconsciously [of course, this in no way diminishes the responsibility of the father or stepfather]" (p. 80; brackets theirs).
Our focus here is Minirth and Meier's statement about the little girls "denying the obvious fact that they also had a strong hand in the situation by seducing them [fathers and stepfathers], either consciously or unconsciously." Because Minirth and Meier use the "hysterical personality" terminology, we consulted the DSM-III-R, which they admit using as their source for personality disorders. The DSM-III-R has a section on the "Histrionic Personality Disorder," which is the equivalent of the "Hysterical Personality." This "personality disorder" is described as "inappropriately sexually seductive in appearance or behavior."
However, nowhere in the DSM-III-R description is there any hint of a little girl seducing her father. It is a cataclysmic leap from describing a woman as being "inappropriately sexually seductive" and saying that women who were sexually abused as young children were seducing their fathers or stepfathers. The source for that repugnant idea is obviously the Freudian Oedipal theory.
One wonders how many women have been betrayed by psychotherapists who have perpetrated this unproven Freudian theory. And then as a result, how many have been submerged in years of analysis to get over the false condemnation of having seductively encouraged the rape?
Freud believed that during what he called the phallic stage of development every boy desires to kill his father and have sexual intercourse with his mother; and every girl desires to kill her mother and have sexual intercourse with her father. Freud attributed those desires to all children between the ages of three and six. Minirth and Meier's version of the Oedipus complex is very interesting. They say:
"During these years most children go through a stage of thinking that somehow they will grow up but the parent of the opposite sex will stay the same age. The idea that they will somehow replace the parent of the same sex by marrying the parent of the opposite sex is known as the Oedipus complex. Although the oedipal stage of development was greatly over-emphasized by Sigmund Freud and others, it has been documented repeatedly as occurring in probably a majority of children" (Minirth, Meier, and Wichern, Introduction to Psychology and Counseling, pp. 110-111).
Minirth and Meier obviously believe in the Oedipus complex, but their version of it, in contrast to Freud's, would be amusing if they had not influenced so many Christians with this myth.
Unfortunately, too many professing Christians have dipped into the broken cisterns of secular psychology, tried to combine those theories with Scripture, and ended up with an ungodly mixture. Rather than turning to the opinions of unsaved individuals to understand human nature and how one is to change and grow, Christians need to turn back to the Lord and His Word. He is the only one who knows the human heart. Why look elsewhere when, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:16,17).
* Excerpted and/or adapted from the July-August 1998, PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter. The pages from Prophets of PsychoHeresy I that cover Minirth and Meier are now posted on the Bobgan's web site.