Journal of Religion and Health, Vol. 17, No. 3, 1978
The Adam and Eve Syndrome RAY O. SEXTON and RICHARD C. MADDOCK Most people believe themselves to be familiar with the story of Adam and Eve and how they were expelled from the Garden of Eden, thereby bringing curses upon the man, the woman, and the serpent for their act of disobedience. In addition, almost everyone, with some slight variations based upon religious training, believes the original sin to be one of disobedience, for Adam and Eve ate a piece of the forbidden fruit, thereby disobeying a direct command. However, a review of some of the details from this narrative will often clarify a number of psychological and theological dilemmas for patients who appear to suffer from overwhelming guilt and related depression. We shall discuss some of these details.
The original sin After the Lord God gave Adam and Eve jurisdiction over the cattle, beasts, fish, fowl, and other living things, he forbade one specific act--eating the fruit from the tree that was planted in the center of the Garden. The point that is most often overlooked is that this was the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 1:9), and this point is crucial, for herein lies the reason why Adam and Eve could no longer enjoy the paradise in which they had been living. Before they had eaten the fruit, they had simply lived in the Garden and behaved in a fashion that was true to themselves and their instincts and that was right for them. After Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they learned that they were naked. Formerly they had only been nude. However, with this new-found knowledge, the knowledge of good and evil, they learned to label things in such a way as to identify them as being good or bad. "Nude" is good, but "naked" is bad. Therefore, people who run around naked are bad. Hence, they labelled themselves naked, and they also labelled themRay O. Sexton, M.D., is a psychiatrist in private practice in Memphis, Tennessee, m a i n t a i n i n g an active i n p a t i e n t and outpatient practice of psychotherapy. He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee Center for Health Sciences and is a clinical instructor in psychiatry at the Center. He was a Duke University fellow in psychiatry and served with the U.S. Navy as a medical officer from 1969 to 1971. Richard C. Maddock, S.T.M., Ph.D., is a n Episcopal priest and a licensed psychologist in Arkansas and in Tennessee. He h a s published a n u m b e r of scholarly articles in the areas of social a n d clinical psychology and in the psychology of religion. He is a m e m b e r of the A m e r i c a n Psychological Association and various state and regional associations, a t which he h a s presented scientifie papers. With Dr. Sexton, he m a i n t a i n s a private practice in Memphis, Tennessee. 163 0022-4197/78/0700-0163$00.95
Institutes of Religion and Health
Journal of Religion and Health
selves bad; then they ran and hid from the face of God. In other words, they separated themselves from the Lord God. Furthermore, according to the narrative, when the Lord God no longer saw them in the Garden, he called out, asking "Where are you?" and the man answered, "I was afraid, because I was naked and hid myself." (Gen. 3:9,10). Then the Lord God asked Adam how they learned that they were naked, and, of course, after receiving an answer He had no choice but to banish them from the Garden of Eden lest they contaminate everything else in the Garden with their guilt. It is this guilt that causes most of the problems. Patients who have psychiatric problems or illnesses have been taught a whole series of goods and bads that are supposed to change miraculously either when a given age is reached (e.g., "Now you are 18 and can drink," or "Now you are 21 and can make your own decisions") or when a piece of paper or document is obtained from some official (e.g., "Now you are married," or "Now you are divorced"). In the case of marriage and a marriage license, a couple may have already been necking and stopping and necking and stopping; following receipt of that document they are supposed to "go the whole way." But they don't make it and so they get a divorce (another document), which, of course, doesn't help either. Or perhaps an adoption is sought, to help to hold a marriage together or to help a person to feel more like a woman. It doesn't help, simply because the individuals have been conditioned into a particular line of thinking, i.e., labelling. Therefore, when certain instincts begin to assert themselves, the individuals find themselves striving to suppress those feelings that are normally pressing for expression. If they succeed in this suppression, they become irritable, hypochondriacal, or frustrated. Anxiety remains, for fear that at any moment these God-given instincts that somehow lead to bad behavior will break through the individual's defenses. If, however, the individual is unsuccessful in suppressing or sublimating the instinct, whatever it may be, guilt feelings develop. At this point, the person commits the first sin, the original sin, which is to usurp the Lord God's jurisdiction in order to inflict self-punishment. In accordance with the Adam and Eve narrative, this is the original sin, for the Lord God reserves for Himself the right 1) to determine the difference between good and evil and 2) to administer the punishment that follows an infraction. It is this by-product of original sin--the knowledge of good and evil, which results in the labelling of some behavior as good and other behavior as bad--that causes individuals to judge and punish themselves when they have no right to do so simply because they do not have dominion over themselves. The result of this self-judgment and self-punishment is guilt, with the related symptoms of depression and anxiety.
The problem of jurisdiction Self-judgment, then, represents a repetition of the original sin. Self-judgment also represents a particular type of theological problem, a problem of jurisdiction, where the individual assumes jurisdiction over himself and over his own form of punishment, thereby short-circuiting or circumventing divine punish-
The Adam and Eve Syndrome
merit, which in most cases the individual believes would be much more severe. The following excerpt from a case history will illustrate this problem in jurisdiction and an attempt on the part of one patient to escape divine punishment: A twenty-nine-year-old married woman had been hospitalized with a diagnosis of depressive neurosis, presenting symptoms of withdrawal, lethargy, lack of appetite, agitation, and uncontrolled tearfulness and crying. She was completely disinterested in sex and was hospitalized because of serious suicidal intent. Her history indicated that her mother had died of cancer when the patient was thirteen years old. Approximately two years prior to her mother's death, the patient, at the age of eleven, had become involved in an altercation with her mother in which the patient secretly wished that her mother was dead. Her mother then became sick and died, and she accepted full responsibility for her mother's death. Shortly after her mother's death, she rejected God, feeling that the punishment that God would deliver for her responsibility in her mother's death would be much too severe. As a result, she took over this function of punishment herself, depriving herself of any and all activities that her mother would not have approved of, including dating and sex. Although she did marry, she could not accept or carry out even the simplest of responsibilities required of her as a mother and a wife. This inability to accept or carry out responsibility confounded and added to her depression. This case is presented in order to illustrate a particular type of theological or spiritual conflict, one with j u r i s d i c t i o n a l features. We have, in our practice, defined six subclassifications of theological conflicts: one of these is the problem of jurisdiction, in which the individual attempts to circumvent or shortcircuit the punishment that might be anticipated from God and administers his or her own punishment in an a t t e m p t to reduce or escape from the suffering. There are, however, a number of problems t h a t follow when one assumes jurisdiction and control over his own behavior and attempts to administer his own punishment. They relate to the intensity of such punishment, to a focus upon behavior and/or intent r a t h e r t h a n upon composition and to the repetition of the original sin of disobedience. First, when an individual attempts to administer his own punishment, it is always more intense in terms of both severity and duration. Overwhelming guilt results in severe depression, forming a cycle t h a t is impossible to break without outside intervention. When the individual attempts to break this cycle himself, the result is usually withdrawal, drug or alcohol dependence, or strong suicidal ideation. The duration of self-administered punishment is usually interminable, since very few individuals, even the h e a l t h y and normal, have a broad-based concept of forgiveness. Another case history m a y serve to illustrate how limited the concept of forgiveness is to humans, as compared with the concept of forgiveness described in the New Testament. The New Testament concept of forgiveness is, for the most part, incomprehensible to most believers, let alone the marginal or uncommitted: A thirty-four-year-old woman who was in therapy admitted to two extramarital affairs, confessing overwhelming guilt because of her inability to uphold the Mosaic law and specifically the Seventh Commandment. When she was able to understand that she was
Journal of Religion and Health
not under the Mosaic law but rather under the new contract or covenant expressed in John 3:16, she was able to experience some relief. However, when she finally came to accept the concept of God's forgiveness, she still had to admit that her husband would not be nearly so forgiving and understanding. In her mind she was able to understand and comprehend the difference between the far-reaching, all-encompassing power of divine forgiveness, which led to considerable relief, and the limitations and restrictions that are characteristic of human forgiveness. Secondly, another implication of self-punishment is a focus upon behavior and/or intent rather t h a n upon composition. In accordance with criminal law, a criminal, in order to be found guilty, must evidence 1) the intent to commit the crime; 2) the behavior, or the actual commitment of the crime; and 3) the composition, which simply refers to the fact t h a t 1) and 2) above are contiguous. It is because of this composition t h a t the interrogator or prosecuting attorney will go to great lengths to prove the co-occurrence and contiguity of both the behavior and the intent to commit a crime. Otherwise, there can be no guilt. Consider the following sets of facts: Set One: John Smith has a valid h u n t i n g license. He goes deer hunting, sees a large buck, points his rifle, and shoots at the buck. However, when he takes a closer look, he finds t h a t he actually shot John Jones, who was carrying the buck on his shoulder. This is obviously an accident, as there is no criminal intent. It is ruled homicide, but not murder. Set Two: John Smith really hates John Jones and would love to kill him, but today he is going to forget it and go hunting. So he goes deer hunting, sees a deer, and shoots at it but, as outlined above, he finds t h a t he has shot John Jones. John Smith is overwhelmed with satisfaction, for he was able to kill John Jones and it.was strictly an accident. In this case, although the criminal intent is there, it is nevertheless a case of homicide, not murder, since the intent and the behavior did not occur contiguously. The intent to kill John Jones was not specifically present at the time John Smith pulled the trigger; he was shooting at the deer, not a man. The ruling is again homicide, not murder. Patients who are involved in self-punishment usually focus exclusively upon the intent or the behavior rather t h a n upon the composition. This is particularly true when a patient confesses to a rape, abortion, or some other sexual act---he or she focuses very narrowly upon the behavior CI killed my baby") r a t h e r t h a n the intent, which is often more relevant and noteworthy, as in the case of the teenager who has an abortion because she wishes to obey her parents, who insist upon it, or the single female who has an abortion because she is in a desperate financial situation. It is our understanding t h a t if we can judge ourselves in terms of the criminal law in accordance with composition r a t h e r t h a n behavior or intent, God's j u d g m e n t is at least t h a t compassionate, if not more so. It should be obvious, then, t h a t self-judgment results in punishment t h a t is far more severe and destructive t h a n what one could expect from God. Thirdly, a final implication of self-judgment and self-punishment concerns the repetition of the original sin of disobedience, or the Adam and Eve syndrome. Although a patient m a y feel guilty over breaking some aspect of the
The Adam and Eve Syndrome
Mosaic law and m a y choose to punish himself, by far the greater sin in this case is the assumption of God's function, which he reserves for Himself the function of j u d g m e n t and punishment. According to Genesis, we have dominion over the cattle, birds, and fish, but not over ourselves. Nevertheless, we continue to see patients daily who usurp God's jurisdiction in order to inflict self-punishment, simply because of this knowledge of good and evil, the knowledge t h a t certain behavior is good and other behavior is bad. These three implications of self-punishment and self-judgment help to explain the intensity and the duration of guilt t h a t is often seen in the severely neurotic patient who presents a theological problem with jurisdictional features. Often, when patients can come to understand the theological n a t u r e of their problem, solutions become viable. Otherwise, a constant cycle of selfj u d g m e n t and punishment will follow, one t h a t is virtually impossible to break. Intervention consists of 1) helping the patient to understand t h a t he or she is not under the Mosaic law, but r a t h e r under the new covenant or new contract as expressed in John 3:16; 2) helping the patient to understand the nature of original sin and jurisdiction; and 3) removing symptoms relating to guilt and replacing t h e m with suggestions related to forgiveness. The following case history should serve to illustrate such a procedure: A twenty-eight-year-old woman presented symptoms of compulsive hand washing and cleaning along with phobias related to dirt and germs, which she believed to be ubiquitous and therefore inescapable. Her obsession related to an incestuous event in which she had been involved with two of her cousins at the age of five and again at the age of twelve. She finally came to understand that such events were not unusual, but her compulsions continued with no marked decrease in intensity. Eventually, she was age-regressed under hypnosis to two years of age, at which time she had been temporarily trapped in a house fire; she had received only minor injuries, but her older brother had burned to death. She stated that she believed quite strongly in a literal hell, which consisted of fire. Although the house-fire incident was completely repressed, the belief that she would be made to suffer in a similar manner was found to be related to the overwhelming fear and trauma that were encountered at that time. Therefore, at the age of fourteen, she decided to become a missionary in order to repay God for her sexual misconduct and disobedience, thereby avoiding the fires of hell. However, these plans to become a missionary had to be given up when she married; and, in an attempt to escape God's wrath, she punished herself daily with her compulsion, which she maintained at all expense, even refusing medication (Haldol) prescribed to reduce the negative effects of the compulsions. This patient, although age-regressed to the sexual incidents several times, showed only very minimal improvement. It was only after she was taken through the fire and the fear was removed (i.e., it was suggested to her under hypnosis that she did survive the fire) that she could begin to show some improvement. However, it was also necessary to point out to this patient, who had a strong theological orientation, her repetition of the original sin and then to convince her of God's mercy and the possibility of divine forgiveness. Many patients, like the one in this case history, are convinced of the justice of God r a t h e r t h a n His mercy. When asked "What is God like?" patients will
Journal of Religion and Health
usually respond that He is just, meaning that he rewards good behavior and punishes evil, a concept that is rooted in Old Testament theology and discussed in the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament. This conceptualization may be explained as one in which God is perceived as an extension of a parent or parents, who in most cases carry out justice in terms of rewards and punishments. Therefore, treatment will often require that the patient come to understand the benevolent and merciful nature of God, especially in a case such as the first one presented, in which the individual was overwhelmed with fear of possible divine repercussions and anger, to the extent that she completely rejected God and assumed His jurisdiction in the function of punishment. At the point where the patient can accept the merciful aspect of God's judgment, he or she should then be able to transfer the function of punishment back to God, thereby respecting the original divine covenant that was issued in the Garden of Eden and terminating the constant repetition of the original sin, that is, labelling followed by self-condemnation. This whole process of theological reorientation is usually preceded by an age-regression to the original source of guilt or fear, with the objective of providing reinterpretation and relief. For example, in the first case above, there was an age-regression to the patient's death wish toward her mother and her mother's subsequent death and, in the last case, an age-regression to the fire. In both cases, the patients were presented with alternative interpretations, ones that removed the responsibility or the fear involved and suggested a different approach.
Conclusion The concept of divine forgiveness is incomprehensible to most, since it involves principles that defy rational interpretation on the level of human cognition. As a result, individuals, and especially those who present themselves for treatment, find themselves caught up in a repetition of self-judgment and selfpunishment, which is a reenactment of the original sin and the disobedience encountered in the Garden of Eden. It can be pointed out to patients that this continuous, repetitious acting out of the functions of self-judgment and selfpunishment represents the worst sin of all--the original sin in which the power and authority of God are usurped and assumed, resulting eventually in a denial of GOd along with symptoms that are often incapacitating. When these functions are returned to GOd, punishment can be expected to be much less severe and intense, because of the nature and characteristics of divine forgiveness.
In contrast to Great Apes, who have 48 chromosomes, modern humans and likely Neandertals and Denisovans have and had, respectively, 46 chromosomes. The reduction in chromosome number was caused by the head-to-head fusion of two ancestral chromosomes
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In South Africa, at a time when National Health Insurance should be generously funded (7 years after its approval as public policy by the ruling party), state fiscal austerity appears certain to nip the initiative in the bud. The World Bank and the I