This diagnostic paper is written as a psychology assignment for UMUC and does not show that the author has the experience or education in the real world to complete the psychological diagnosis. The author has studied available information on the individual in order to include a diagnosis of a psychological disorder in preparation for writing this article. Any information alluded to in this text about the mental or psychological state of the individual does not mean that the individual has any of the conditions listed. This paper does not mean that the famous person chosen has the condition or has consented to the care mentioned. Background Information
Born on August 26, 1910, Mother Teresa found her first home in Skopje, Macedonia. She was initially known by the name Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu and born of the Albanian heritage. Agnes was the last born child among the three children born to their parents. Her father, Dranafile Bojaxhiu, was a revered local businessman who traded medicine and other goods and as a construction contractor. Drana raised his children with a lot of love, care, and affection, firmly teaching the in the ways of God. This greatly influenced his daughter’s vocation and character. He died when she was eight years old due to unknown reasons, leaving her mother to raise the children. Her mother, Nikola Bojaxhiu, was a compassionate, devoutly Christian woman (Pettinger, 2016). After her husband died, she opened embroidery and a cloth business so as to support the family. She deeply involved herself in church activities and city politics, actively proposing and fighting for Albanian independence. After the demise of her father, Agnes became so much close to her mother, who instilled in her a deep unwavering commitment to charity work.
Agnes, the future mother Teresa, attended a convent-managed public primary school where she actively led choirs and devoted herself to religious activities. At the age of 12, she first felt a deep inner influence to a religious life. As she approached the age of 18 years, Agnes experienced a calling to be a catholic nun and to help the poor. She left her home for Ireland to join the Institute of Blessed Mary Virgin, also referred to as the Sisters of Loreto. She was named after Saint Therese of Lisieux as Sister Mary Teresa. One year later she left for India, Calcutta, where she worked as a teacher at St. Mary’s Bengali school. (Pettinger, 2016). It is in Calcutta that she received the name Mother Teresa after taking all her Vows and finally being declared a spouse of Jesus for all eternity, according to the catholic religion and vows.
Mother Teresa received her “call within a call” in the year 1946 on an annual retreat from Calcutta to Darjeeling. This was a calling to start a family of brothers, sisters, co-workers, and fathers, which she named the “Missionaries of Charity”. The chief purpose of the Missionaries of Charity was to quench Jesus’ thirst for love and souls on the cross. The Charity organization labored at the salvation and assistance of the poor, termed as the poorest of the poor. Its major objective was to look after poor people who would not be taken care of by anybody else. The organization reached out to many communist countries with its arm extended to the poor, the suffering, and the neglected (Zagano, & Gillespie, 2010).
While at Calcutta, Mother Teresa encountered at least two traumatic periods. The preceding one was during the major famine in Bengali in 1943. The second one was the 1946 Muslim/Hindu chaos. She left the convent and went to live with the poorest people of Calcutta in 1948, where she wore a white, blue-bordered Indian sari out of her respect for the Indian traditional wear. She took care of the dying people and devoted almost all her time to the needy, the lepers, and the poor of Calcutta. Apart from the Missionaries of Charity, she started the first Home of Dying in Calcutta, India, where dying people brought to the home were treated with a lot of love and care and were accorded the chance to die with dignity. She also initiated a home for the lepers, orphans and the homeless people. Mother Teresa founded many charitable institutions and homes for the needy, which attracted partners, recruits, Red Cross volunteers, and financial assistance (Marc Foley, 2008).
Because of her devout love and compassion for the poor, Mother Teresa won several awards, mostly in India, and others internationally. In 1971, she was honored with the first Pope John XXIII Peace Award due to her work of helping the impoverished, peace efforts, and show of Christian charity. In 1979, she received the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in the hustle to fight poverty and distress which are considered a threat to national and international peace (Pettinger, 2006).
Most Indian people and people worldwide noticed and praised her work and she began to be famous among any. Contrary to an array of social critics, Mother Teresa did not see it fit to criticize the political and economic structures and systems that produced the extremely poor people she served. Her rule was that of pure, constant love for all people (Marc Foley, 2008). Her legacy still remains to date and the Missionaries of Charity brothers and sisters are guided by a constitution that was written for them by Mother Teresa. Her story has a long-lasting impact on the missionaries’ generations to come and the world in general.
Mother Teresa started experiencing declining health state in the 1980s. She was first diagnosed with a heart attack in the year 1983 when she went to Rome to visit Pope John Paul II. Subsequent decades saw her face health issues and cardiac problems, which seemed to weigh heavily on her as she found no respite after undergoing a heart surgery(MacIntyre, 2005). Despite increasing health problems, she continued to help the poor and her sisters increased in number. After visiting Pope John Paul II for the second and last instance, Mother Teresa went back to Calcutta where she spent her last weeks of life instructing the sisters and receiving visitors. On September 5th, 1997, she passed away and her death was mourned by the whole world. She received an Indian government state funeral and her body was buried in the Missionaries of Charity Mother House. In 2003, Pope John Paul II beatified her as a saint before undergoing canonization by Pope Francis in September 2016. Throughout her all life, Mother Teresa acted as a witness of the joy of loving, the value of small things done with love and faith, the worth of friendship with God, and the dignity of each and every human kind. She proved to the whole world that when we focus on our dreams and stay focused, all dreams are valid.
Mother Teresa is the most famous and as well controversial Catholic nun. However, there was another side of Mother Teresa that was hidden from all eyes, from her closest people, and was only revealed after she died. This was a deep, inner experience of darkness characterized by an inner painful feeling of separation from God. She felt that God had rejected her and her unquenchable desire for God’s love was increasing with each passing day. Despite being a devoted Christian, Mother Teresa constantly questioned her belief in God (Pettinger, 2016). This is quite confusing for any people especially the Christians who follow her deeds and honor her legacy.
If at all she had ceased to believe in God, her situation could be said to be a state of confused clinical depression. She might as well have been suffering from inner depression that is as a result of a genuine dark night. It was argued that she suffered moments of discouragement and uncertainty which were characterized by a dark night that is given by God to people who are chosen so as to keep them forging on their road to holiness (MacIntyre, 2005). Clinical depression can be said to be as a result of her social and personal history. Most of her published writings bemoan Mother Teresa’s dryness, darkness, torture, and loneliness that she underwent in her life. In her writings, she compared the painful experiences to hell, which led her to believe that her suffering made her doubt God’s existence and the existence of heaven. Previous research indicates that Mother Teresa’s writings showed that she had some symptoms of clinical depression, though not all of them. She experienced feelings of inappropriate guilt and worthlessness. She also felt a decreasing ability to concentrate or think which was tied to her personal relationship with God through prayer (Zagano, & Gillespie, 2010).
Other writings by Mother Teresa indicated that she faced psychological feelings of resilience, religious coping, and spiritual struggle. She experienced intrapersonal struggles that were caused by uncertainty and doubt regarding spiritual matters whereby she began to question the value of her religious beliefs and traditions (Pettinger, 2016). Consequently, Mother Teresa encountered pain and suffering by the people whom she ministered to throughout her life. This caused her divine struggles whereby she doubted God’s existence which created tension within her. These suffering and spiritual struggles drew her out of the convent school and landed her in the poverty-stricken environments that she lived in with the poor people.
Psychoanalytic literature analyzes mother Teresa’s early childhood life so as to understand the weight of her inner feelings of exclusion and separation from God as unearthed by her writings. When she was born in 1910, Skopje and Albania were a section of the Ottoman Empire. Political upheavals erupted shortly after she was born and Serbia massively murdered Albanian nationals, mostly being predominantly Catholics (MacIntyre, 2005). The Albanian Catholic families were attacked by the Muslims and most of the women were raped and killed. During those times of political unrest and religious violence, deep fear engulfed the Bojaxhiu family. The 1914 World War I, including the sudden death of her father, also greatly affected Mother Teresa in a negative way. These tragedies and events may have negatively influenced Mother Teresa’s life and spiritual identity through trauma (Zagano, & Gillespie, 2010).
Humanism is one of the psychological theories and is based on an individual’s inner value and personal worth. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs studies the human being’s ideally healthy life which is important for all human kind. Maslow aimed at turning a person’s mentally unhealthy life into a mentally healthy life. Mother Teresa’s feeling of being called is seen in this psychological theory as an internal push towards self-actualization. Her whole life was based on the desire for spiritual growth and reaching unto the lives of other people especially the poor people in the society. Her purposeful desire to inherently seek divine guidance led her to spiritual fulfillment (MacIntyre, 2005). The humanistic approach views self-actualized persons as having a real knowledge of themselves and accept themselves for who they are, are independent and are highly ethical. This theory in one way or another proves relevant as applied to the life of Mother Teresa.
According to Pettinger (2016), the beatification of Mother Teresa into a saint implies an abject surrender of the Roman Catholic Church to superstition, showbiz, and populism. Hitchens names her as a fanatic and fraudulent woman who uses Christianity and the poor people as a fuel to expand her fundamentalist beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church. She has also been criticized by much as controversial due to her vocal endorsement of controversial doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. An example is an opposition to abortion and contraception. She was truly pro-life and by no chance pro-choice.
Summary and Conclusions
One could say that Mother Teresa went through a lot of suffering due to much sadness throughout her life. However, the research does not clearly provide evidence that she was diagnosed with clinical depression despite the fact that she portrayed many symptoms of clinical depression especially at the course of her life due to the dark night. She faced the dark night of the senses and the spirit. It is also clear that her experience of the tragic death of her father at an early age immensely contributed to her development of resilience that in a way shaped her incredible ministry and prayer life.
MacIntyre, D. (2005). The squalid truth behind the legacy of Mother Teresa. New Statesman, 134(4754), 24-25.
Marc Foley, O. C. D. (2008). The Context of Holiness: Psychological and Spiritual Reflections on the Life of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. ICS Publications.
Pettinger, T. (September 2016). “Biography of Mother Teresa“, Oxford, Retrieved from www.biographyonline.net
Zagano, P., & Gillespie, C. K. (2010). Embracing darkness: A theological and psychological case study of Mother Teresa. Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality, 10(1), 52-75.