Nancy Missler & PsychoHeresy

Part Two: Missler Responds

In response to our article exposing her Freudian roots, Nancy Missler has placed a report titled "Hidden Chambers" on the Koinonia House Web site. She also sent us a packet of materials that contained some of the same ideas. Both on the Web site and in the packet of materials, Missler continues to demonstrate her confusion about the unconscious and her misunderstanding of our criticism of her model of man. Missler says, "Because the writings of Sigmund Freud have had much influence on our daily vocabulary and familiar idioms, many erroneously assume that the subconscious itself is a Freudian concept." (In a note at the end of her report, Missler says, "We use the words 'subconscious,' 'unconscious,' and 'memory' as synonyms." Her use of "hidden chambers" also refers to that same set of synonyms.)

In an attempt to prove her case that the unconscious (or "subconscious") is not solely a Freudian concept, Missler quotes from a few pre-Freudian persons who used the term. The fact that people before Freud referred to the unconscious has nothing to do with our criticisms of Missler's version of the unconscious. We have reported on the history of the use of the term unconscious ourselves. Our objection with Missler's teachings is NOT about the generic use of the terms subconscious and unconscious, or about the use made of the unconscious by those prior to Freud, but rather about Missler's use of the Freudian unconscious. Missler's unconscious little resembles that of the pre-Freudian individuals she lists, but it clearly reflects Freud's.

Freudian Unconscious Continues to be Used

A recent issue of Scientific American tells "Why Freud Isn't Dead" (Dec., 1996). The article demonstrates that specific Freudian ideas, such as the Oedipus Complex, have "fallen out of favor even among psychoanalysts" (p. 74). Morris Eagle, president of the psychoanalysis division of the American Psychological Association and a professor at Adelphi University says, "There are very few analysts who follow all of Freud's formulations" (p. 74). The Scientific American article goes on to state:

Nevertheless, psychotherapists of all stripes still tend to share two of Freud's core beliefs: One is that our behavior, thoughts and emotions stem from unconscious fears and desires, often rooted in childhood experiences. The other is that with the help of a trained therapist, we can understand the source of our troubles and thereby obtain some relief (p. 74).

Like many Freudian psychotherapists, Missler uses the Freudian unconscious without using the sexual ideas of Freud. Also, like those Freudian psychotherapists and based upon the Freudian unconscious, Missler presents her model of man so that with the help of her books and tapes "we can understand the source of our troubles and thereby obtain some relief." Although Missler claims a biblical model and biblical solutions, she nonetheless provides a Freudian-like model and transmogrifies Scripture to make it fit.

Even though Missler has probably never studied Freud and probably has no idea of the Freudian model of the unconscious, she nonetheless has gleaned her version of the unconscious from those integrationists who have worked diligently to make psychological counseling theories sound biblical. She mistakenly thinks she is using a biblical rather than a Freudian model of the unconscious.

Comparing Missler's Model of the Unconscious with Freud's

For Missler, like Freud, the unconscious is a reservoir of dynamic mental activity instead of just a dormant repository of memories below the conscious level.

For Missler, like Freud, repression is the rejection of something in order to keep it outside consciousness.

For Missler, like Freud, what is in the unconscious will come out in one way or another. Freud borrowed heavily from Hermann von Helmholtz's principle of the conservation of energy. Freud believed that there was a finite amount of energy that powers the unconscious conflicts. If the energy is blocked, it will somehow find a release. On the basis of research, Dr. Carol Tavris says, "Today the hydraulic model of energy [used by Freud and others] has been scientifically discredited" (Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982, p. 37).

For Missler, like Freud, what is in the unconscious motivates behavior.

In her talk for Suitable Helpers, Missler says:

The truth is, of course, when we bury-listen to me carefully because this is so important-when we bury our real feelings, we don't get rid of them. We program them in, and they motivate all of our actions.

Whether you know they're there or not, that thing that you buried is going to begin to motivate all your actions.

But so often those buried hurts and resentments, that were justified, would cause me to act just the opposite. . . . I wanted to act one way, but this buried stuff was causing me to act another way.

Missler uses Romans 7:15 ("For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.") in her attempt to support these notions. However, Paul is talking about behavior resulting from sin that dwells in him, not about a reservoir of buried feelings that "motivate all of our actions." These feelings that she says cause behavior include "buried hurts and resentments, that were justified." While she says people must get rid of these buried (repressed) feelings, she softens the sharp edge of sin by referring to resentments as being "justified." But, resentment is sin and the Bible does not justify sin.

Also in this same talk, her teaching about people burying their hurts and those buried things motivating all one's actions is a common representation of Freud's theory of repression and his theory of a powerful unconscious that motivates a person's actions outside his awareness. Perhaps people feel better about themselves when they believe in an unconscious, filled with hurts, fears, and insecurities, that causes their behavior, instead of sin resident within them. Sin must be dealt with, but not through using a Freudian type of unconscious.

Paul cries out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" And, he answers, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin." Throughout this section of Scripture Paul describes the conflict between the flesh and the spirit, not the existence of an unconscious that causes behavior.

As we pointed out in Part One of this series, Missler clearly mixes Freudian psychology with the Bible in her book Be Ye Transformed. She says:

Things in our life that are "not of faith" and that we don't immediately "deal with" and give over to God, automatically get pushed down into our hidden chambers (our subconscious) and eventually become the hidden motivation for all our actions. All our fears, insecurities, memories, etc., that we bury thinking "no one will see and no one will know" ultimately will end up controlling and directing our lives and forcing us to live a lie.

As God begins to teach us how to "take every thought captive," we'll see that we can get free of, not only our conscious negative thoughts and emotions, but also all the unconscious doubts, fears and insecurities that we have buried deep within our souls and that have motivated us for most of our lives (p. 12, italics in original; bold added).

In her attempt to support her model of the unconscious, Missler says, "The insight that our memory works below the level of consciousness pre-dates Freud by over 1500 years." But, none of those to whom Missler refers used a Freudian type of model. That kind of unconscious was Freud's invention. Those who spoke of the unconscious before Freud did not use the unconscious in the same manner Freud did, and they did not use it in the way Missler does! The Freudians of today would most clearly see the Missler-Freud connection! Freudian therapists familiar with her model of the unconscious would certainly see Missler as a fellow Freudian traveler.

Missler's Use of the Unconscious Not Supported by Scripture

Missler does not see this insidious connection and continues to contend that her model is biblical. She says, "Many Christians, driven by their concern about the preoccupation of psychologists with the subconscious, mistakenly ignore its Biblical basis." She further says: "The Bible alludes many times to parts of our memory and experience that are not accessible to our conscious mind" ("Hidden Chambers"). Her first so-called evidence is Psalms 19:12-13:

Who understandeth his errors? Purify me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be perfect, and I shall be innocent from great transgression.

Missler assumes that these "secret faults" are hidden from the person himself. Moreover, this verse says nothing about anything that is hidden in a powerful, motivating subconscious, "not accessible to our conscious mind." While some "secret [sinful, since David is asking to be purified from them] faults" could be temporarily outside current conscious awareness, there is nothing here that would support the idea that a person's secret sins "are not accessible to the conscious mind" or that there is a powerful unconscious part of the mind that has dominion over a person. Missler goes beyond the generic use of the word unconscious. She empowers it in the same way Freud did, making it a forceful, motivating entity that dominates a person's actions from a realm not only outside his awareness, but "not accessible to our conscious mind."

In an attempt to support her theory of this kind of unconscious, Missler uses ellipses and quotes Psalms 19:12-13 this way:

Who can understand his errors? Cleanse Thou me from secret (covered up, closed up, hidden) faults. . . let them not have dominion over me. . . .

By removing the antecedent ("presumptuous sins") from the pronoun ("them") through an ellipsis ("...."), Missler makes it seem as though David is asking God to prevent his "secret faults" from having "dominion over" him. However, the plain and proper way to read the text is to see that David is asking the Lord to prevent his presumptuous sins from having dominion over him. The Hebrew adjective translated "presumptuous" is generally translated "proud" or "arrogant." Indeed, pride does motivate a good deal of sin and can have dominion over a person. But, Missler changes the text to make it sound as though the "secret faults" are what "have dominion" over a person.

The "secret faults" refer to sin, rather than the results of what has been done to a person (hurts, etc.). Their existence does not justify Missler's use of hidden chambers or the subconscious. The kind of subconscious (hidden chambers) she is trying to establish is one filled with things that have been done to a person and the resulting hurts, fears, etc. that she claims "are not accessible to our conscious mind" and that have dominion. Psalms 19:12-13 fails to provide biblical evidence for the kind of subconscious proposed by Missler.

Missler constricts the Bible and all mankind to her model of man. There are both theological and psychological problems with her model, but our primary concern is her insistence upon a Freudian type of unconscious that is more than the general use of the word. She uses it in a psychoanalytic manner, as if it is a powerful entity that drives behavior outside awareness and that is inaccessible to the conscious mind until someone reveals what is inside. To construct a place for all the hurts, resulting from what has been done to a person and that have been "repressed" because they are just too painful to deal with, is to follow the teachings of Freud, not the Bible.

Missler also cites Psalm 139:23-24, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me," and Psalm 51:6, "Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward parts; and in the hidden part Thou shalt make me know wisdom." While these verses do support the fact that mankind has an inner man, they do not support Missler's Freudian-type of unconscious. These verses reveal the complexity of humankind and the fact that God knows the inner workings of each individual person beyond human understanding. We agree that the Bible teaches that there is an inner man, hidden from the world, but these verses do NOT support the kind of unconscious that Missler teaches.

Missler also refers to the "strong holds" in 2 Corinthians 10:4 in her attempt to make the Bible support her type of unconscious. Once again the verse fails to support her Freudian-like descriptions of the unconscious, even if such "strong holds" may include what is presently outside conscious awareness. The same can be said for all the other verses that she uses in her attempts to "prove" that her particular type of unconscious came from Scripture.

Missler repeats her arguments having to do with the Hebrew word, written as heder or cheder, which may be translated "hidden chambers." (Missler uses cheder in "Hidden Chambers" on the Koinonia House Web site and heder in her book Be Ye Transformed.) We analyzed her arguments in Part One of "Nancy Missler & PsychoHeresy" and showed that her arguments constitute eisegesis rather than exegesis. (See PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, Vol. 5, No. 1).

Psychological Speculation

The following is a definition of the word unconscious as it is used in reference to psychoanalysis:

the unconscious Psychoanalysis the sum of all thoughts, memories, impulses, desires, feelings, etc. of which the individual is not conscious but which influence his emotions and behavior; that part of one's psyche which comprises repressed material of this nature (Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition, 1984, p. 1545).

This psychoanalytic (i.e., Freudian) definition describes what Missler teaches regarding the hidden chambers, the unconscious, and the subconscious. Although Missler does not teach the totality of Freud's theory, her teachings about the hidden chambers, unconscious, and subconscious are Freudian.

Missler may be committed to her understanding of the nature of man, because she connects it with the transformation of her own marriage. However, in discussing the so-called "discoveries" she made in searching out certain words in the Bible, her husband, Chuck Missler, gives a startling revelation. He says:

And these discoveries have changed our lives. In fact, it's really the other way around. God had changed our lives and she was trying to find out how and what was behind it. And, that's when she undertook these studies ("Architecture of Man" audio tape).

Thus, it was after their lives had changed that Nancy set out to discover why.

The Lord works in mysterious ways, often beyond human understanding. When people try to figure out how God works in the inner man and transforms a person, they can easily fall into psychological speculation. The Lord truly transforms people, but he does it through His Word, His Spirit, and His Body. When it comes to understanding human nature and how people change, why not trust in the Lord and His Word alone and lean not unto psychological speculation?

(To be continued)

Nancy Missler & PsychoHeresy - Part Three


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