Posted by: innerpilgrimage | February 25, 2011

. . . But What Do *I* Think of Me?

      You have power over me. I worry what people think of me more than I worry about what I think of myself. I’d like to be able to say, “No more!” with the vigor of a person who can think without caring what others think. Yet I also understand I’m not in this world alone, and my role here is not to simply give the middle finger (or reversed V, or flick from my chin) to the world. I’m a citizen of the world, but I can choose not to be a slave to it.

      I think this has a lot to do with my perceived sanity. I prefer taking a logical, intellectual view on things. Why does this work? I ask myself. Because it does, is not a sufficient answer. I seek out people I consider authoritative sources on the matter and go from there. And I always, always assume someone’s cheating if it’s too bizarre to believe–even if it’s me.
      Through my Higher Power (I seriously believe this) I was drawn to read Deborah Blum’s Ghost Hunters. I initially thought it was a critical look at ghost hunting and the scams pulled in order to entertain and thrill us. It turned out, it was about the SPR’s (Society for Psychical Research) and William James’s efforts in trying to prove or disprove spirituality using the scientific techniques of the Victorian age. William James, an eminent psychological researcher and philosopher at the birth of the study of the mind (and the death of religion as the only answer), pursued the potential of the mind/soul existing after the body ceased to contain it (at the advent of death). Weaving through the minefield of spiritualism and seance mediums who used illusionist tricks and general charlatanry to make a living, William James attempted to use the scientific method to prove or disprove his theory that something inexplicable yet related to human consciousness is happening out there. He and many others collected stories about strange events and used mediums like Leonora Piper to communicate with disembodied consciousnesses. Not the intense fictionalized encounters even his brother, author Henry James, put out there for entertainment of the reading masses (Henry James wrote “The Turn of the Screw”, which leads the reader to decide if it was a delusional governess or a real haunting which caused the death of Miles, one of her charges), the events collected by the SPR were ambiguous and often led to more questions than answers.
      Through Deborah Blum’s biography of the early decades of the SPR, it appears William James was trying to prove that we are a duality of mind and body instead of a complex machine. Though William James was unsuccessful at proving or disproving his hypothesis in his lifetime, the attempts to observe the inexplicable through the scientific method was not lost.
      A hundred years later, Gary E. Schwartz, Ph.D, has been maintaining the standards of observation of the expansive powers of the mind. I was drawn to one of his books yesterday, The Truth About Medium: Extraordinary Experiments with the real Allison DuBois of NBC’s Medium and other Remarkable Psychics, and I read it. I attribute my Higher Power’s guidance to this, because reading Deborah Blum’s book gave me the foundation to understand the purpose of Dr. Schwartz’s experiments with people who appear to be sensitive to what’s happening behind the scenes. After a hundred years of evolution of the scientific method, he has no answer, but his observations of William James’s white crows (“To upset the conclusion that all crows are black, there is no need to seek demonstration that no crow is black; it is sufficient to produce one white crow; a single one is sufficient.”) of today has left even more wonderful questions to answer.
      Personally? I strongly resist the idea of mediumship as being more than people sensitive to the reactions of the people sitting before them, hoping to hear messages of peace and love from the people whose physical existences on this planet have ended. But . . . life has thrown many inexplicable things in my path, things I cannot even begin to understand. Things which have made me wonder about my own sanity at times. I’ve found that, when I don’t struggle, I experience coincidences which I want to disbelieve. I have seen surprising things I don’t want to have seen. And I ate to hide in the reality I believe, that there is nothing more than being born and dying and I don’t want to die some day if there’s nothing but the void to await me. What’s the point of living at all, right, if there’s no point to growing as a human being? Why would I have experienced these things I innately want to disbelieve?
      Well, Dr. Schwartz has worked hard to try to keep an honest and open view about the potential expression of the energy of the mind as separate from the body. His efforts in creating double- and triple-blind studies to test those sensitive to what’s going on (no seance cabinets and darkened rooms for the modern researchers) beyond what we perceive as real. I hope in the honesty of these people; I fear that they’re cheating. But they seem so intensely honest about it, that even they can’t believe what’s happening and want some independent scientific results to at least show a correlation between what’s happening as they straddle “acceptable” reality and the reality that we excuse away as coincidence and delusion (and even trickery). The results are out there, published. What one believes afterward is one’s choice.
      So, I roll back to my strong beliefs. Reality isn’t limited to my perception of it. That’s part of my self-involved grandiosity, if I believe what I experience is the only experience. My self-involved inferiority insists that the inexplicable experiences I’ve had were delusions from an unclear mind. But whenever I had those moments, I was awake and I was not impaired by alcohol or chemicals or anything. I felt saner during those times than other times when I was curled up with the food trying to hide from the world. Yes, there was a hearty helping of, “What the fluffybunnies . . . ?” but I was there. And I just have no answer as to what I experienced.
      Well, except that I must be a sanitorium candidate.
      So, here I sit between Scylla and Charybdis, knowing I’m crazy for using food as an addict substance as I live in that nutshell yet fearing the sanity that reveals to me the wonder of reality and the inexplicable events that seem to be drawn to me when I give my life over to reality and my Higher Power. Do I return to the self-medicated and blind state that food allows me? Or do I open myself to the potential that, as Hamlet tells Horatio, there is more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in my own philosophy.
      Relapse, then, is a very real possibility because I am afraid of what I will experience in sanity. The reality is that I am hypersensitive to people around me. It’s been observed by many people; I’ve been told not to be so hypersensitive through my childhood and early adulthood . . . until I finally dived into morbid obesity through my addiction to food because I couldn’t handle it any more. People telegraph their intent all the time. It could be body language; it could be more. I have an eerie ability to hear lies and half-truths–I catch people in them all the time. Well, when I’m not in the food. When I am in the food, I am deaf, dumb, and blind to the world around me. I suffer the physical pain of an overfull stomach; I suffer what I am pretty sure are low-grade sugar-induced dazes (not comas, but I might as well be . . . I am left in a foggy reality through which my own thoughts barely get through).
      Which is sane, then? Which is insane? Well, at this point I can only turn toward my version of agnostic belief–I don’t know the unknowable. Could mediums be real? Well, the mediums which Dr. Schwartz experience the inexplicable and do their best to relate what they’re experiencing. After reading Dr. Schwartz’s book, I find an empathy with those people . . . who seem to want to have some sort of verifiable facts which make them feel less insane, less freakish. Are they frauds? Some may be. For example, until I read the book, I vacillated over the last decade as to whether John Edward is a fraud or not. Well, Dr. Schwartz not only writes that he’s the real deal, he once asked the famous medium if he would rather be considered a freak or a fraud. Well, I believe in the inherent honesty of Dr. Schwartz, in his efforts to try to collect impartial data for future generations of scientists to answer the question of after-death consciousness–and, hopefully, pre-life consciousness, if the science shows there is a law of the constancy of mental energy. We are still living in William James’s time, in a way, unable to answer the question of mind over matter–or at least the separation of our minds from our matter.
      So, here I am, straddling addiction and recovery. Addiction has a safety in it; when I ate, the regular dreams-that-became-deja-vus disappeared for the most part. I’d have one or two every few years. I had one three days ago, and it was as disorienting as ever. And I’ve had at least one other one since I started abstinence.
      So, what happens when I hit a deja vu state? Well, I feel separated from the world, a little murky as the ten to thirty seconds of the event proceeds with me as an observer. I feel out-of-time yet in the event at that time. Like in two places at once as I am both experiencing the event and feeling like I’m in the dream-state. I repeat the actions from the dream state (for example, when I say something in the deja vu state, my voice seems distant, like I felt when I had that sugar crash at the Ren Faire last Sunday). And I’ve actually snapped out of it right after and said that I just had a deja vu, that I did it before, dreamed it, experienced it. I also have broken the event as it happens if it’s a long event, changing its outcome. I’ve learned, however, that observing my feelings and the physical sensations while I’m in that state interests me more.
      So, I feel like a freak and I wonder if I’m insane. I know I’m not a fraud because I would not choose to experience this. Hell, I lived as a self-isolating food addict for decades to numb myself from the over-stimulation of being around people. I built a wall of food between the people whose opinions I value over my own. And now that I am struggling to put on that overcoat of food again to hide from the real emotions normal people experience (because they seem too intense), now that I am wondering if eating myself to death is preferable to being open to people around me . . . I don’t know.
      I experience weird things. In recovery, I’ve found myself oddly lucky when I let my “will” and my life slide into reality. But reality? It’s not the simple place I had hoped to arrive at when I left the food. The wonder is beautiful and terrifying–just like nature is.
      So, I’m reading what my Higher Power guides me to, even as I am embarrassed for picking up books with titles that make me look like a New Age kook to lots of people. Yeah, I’m a skeptic by nature. I want to disbelieve the things I cannot explain, that people with more education than I have can explain for me. Yet I look at things like superstring theory and multiple universe theory and I wonder . . . why are the people coming up with these ideas considered eminent thinkers and I feel nuts? They’re doing experiments on the edge of reality, yet they don’t believe in the potential of mediums? The disconnect is just . . . it’s beyond me.
      Yet I’ve been able to let the food go. I have shed over a hundred pounds and kept it off for months; I know with calm certainty that, through the OA program, that is what will be my life if I choose to live in recovery instead of treat food abstinence as a diet and get resentful of the limitations. I want to run toward my comforts, to hide from the hypersensitivity which led me to professionals who I talked to and hoped could cure it. I did the medication route and ended up actually delusional. Seriously. On one anti-depressant medication I was taking, where I felt numbed yet normal, I felt my grasp on that calm blind-deaf-and-dumb reality through the medication slipping away. At the end of my use of the medication, I actually experienced a delusional event–I thought I had physically harmed a person who said I didn’t touch them. I still remember that harm as “reality”. That is the memory of the event that is in my mind, despite the other person involved saying clearly that what I believe happened did not happen at all. That person still says it didn’t happen, to this day. Considering that I was the person on the brain-chemical-altering medication at the time and the other person is not insane or any kind of addict (though this person is extremely strong-willed and has been since I’ve known him–leading to the conflict that built a false memory in my head), I consider that my memory is the erroneous one.
      So, why is this important? Because I am trying to learn more of what is in heaven and earth. I am trying to adjust my philosophy to a simpler one: The unknowable is simply unknowable–it doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
      So, I have to be open to mediumship until it’s soundly disproven through the means I consider acceptable–the scientific method. Well, what I’ve read has shown that among the liars and cheats and illusionists who don’t tell you they are illusionists (I admire magician David Copperfield for saying he is a talented illusionist instead of trying to use it to scam people into thinking he’s the next incarnation of whatever-deity-one-believes-in), some very honest people have weird talents they can’t explain. The talents are what they are; these people can choose to ignore them or they can choose to be as honest as possible with them.
      Do I believe John Edward is a scam artist or a person who straddles the veil between life and death? I have no idea. He could be capable of doing both. Then I must question . . . how does giving relief to people who are in pain by listening and giving them hope (like a psychiatric or psychological therapist does) harm? No one knows for sure what happens after death–even the people who experience these things. They don’t know why they get these images or messages; their reality is that they just do. And sometimes they don’t, but they’re under pressure to perform . . . to bring results. Like the mediums of William James’s time, it is possible it’s a mix of illusion and reality. But I cannot deny that strange things happen in reality, inexplicable things.
      I guess that’s when we have to take the leap of faith, to accept that even if we can’t explain the miracles, they do occur. As for me? I got a miracle. After praying to lose weight, I walked into OA, found a Higher Power in reality as it is (not as I want to understand it), and I lost over 100 lbs.–something I never imagined could happen to me. But it did.
      Now, as I prepare to clear the battlefield of my past, I am left wondering if, once it is cleared, I will be open to things I don’t want to experience because I fear that I will slide into insanity. I’ve reached for organized religion and found no comfort in it; I’ve wanted to hide in a socially acceptable manner of faith. What was left is faith in science, in disbelieving that which does not support (yet has been proven in research studies) skeptical, limited reality. And I have found the religion of science doesn’t serve me, either. But the principles of the scientific method do. Others and I have observed some bizarre things. Inexplicable things. Things that I cannot disprove, so I choose to disbelieve them. But I can’t entirely disbelieve them and stay true to myself, even if others are assured that those things don’t exist.
      I do not know. Maybe some day I can. But, at this point, I simply do not know. The vast possibilities scare me because enough people who dismiss these things are capable of judging me as mad as a hatter.
      I guess all I can do is observe and not worry about what I believe or don’t believe. Sometimes the simplest explanation is that I don’t know and cannot know. And, as Occam’s razor succinctly states: “Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity.” That doesn’t mean I dismiss anything that doesn’t fit in my life. It means, to me, that I simply sometimes have to accept that I just do not know. If my mind is clear (and it is because I am fueling my body properly and my mind is clear most of the time–the only time it isn’t is when I am obsessing over food or controlling the uncontrollable in order to feel sane) and these things still happen, then I just have to accept that there is a simple explanation that’s not mine to understand.
      I am taking a leap of faith, that I don’t know everything and that it’s okay. That weird things do happen around me, but it doesn’t answer cosmic Truths I feel intensely driven to disseminate to a dismissive world. I guess I just observe and be as honest as possible and hope that I grow as a human being because of it. And right now? I am accepting that I cannot begin to see the edges of reality, that someone took the time to prove something I can’t by taking people who experience something inexplicable and showing that something statistically significant is happening.
      I’m no savior, nor do I want to be. But I do appreciate having been given the opportunity to help people by standing up and being counted as a person who has found relief from food addiction through a 12-Step program. It is simple. I can explain it in terms of removing the physical addict action by putting real meaning into my life (Steps One, Two, and Three), cleaning up the reasons I do it (Step Four) and letting someone know with full honesty what I did (Step Five). Then I see the patterns of self-destructive behavior and turn toward that same source of willpower to evolve into the decent and humane and compassionate person I want to be (Steps Six and Seven). I need to finally look at how I harmed people in my life now that I’m willing to walk the world as an honest and compassionate person (Step Eight) then go to those people and acknowledge what I did then take action to show that I am not going to live like that by choice any more (Step Nine). Then I just maintain it and evolve as a honest and compassionate human being by practicing these self-responsible behaviors on a daily basis (Steps Ten, Eleven, and Twelve). This works because it does. Yes, the words within the twelve steps are simpler in order to appeal to a greater audience, but the foundation of the program works so well that people use this foundation to break addictions–claiming they’re not really doing it through the “cultish” 12-Step program.
      I dunno. Well, I do know something. I have to believe that something about it is working. Something about it resonates with me when nothing else did before it. Does it matter that many others don’t find staggering weight loss and a strong sense of sanity through OA? Nope. Does it matter if they attribute it to my willpower when I attribute it to my journey with Higher Power (aka reality as it is, not how I want to perceive it)? Nope. Does it even matter that the struggle I have between recovery and addiction is completely misunderstood by people who aren’t in a 12-Step program (and some who do show up to meetings)? Nope. I don’t know why it works. I can break down the theory that clearing out my past (the reasons I eat), relieving the guilt by making amends (more reasons I eat), and living a life as a reliable and decent human being (reasons I don’t eat) is why I succeeded. But I don’t know why it works. Or why, having been stopped by my fear of exposing and understanding my resentments and bad behavior, I struggle harder with the temptation to return to my comfort food. I mean, I do have problems with “Only Conference-Approved Literature!” rules some set down. That’s like being told only to read the Bible. And I am being drawn to these books by something beyond curiosity. I have seen a lot of books I have wanted to read but am unwilling to pick up off the shelf because others will see. Because I fear others will judge me as soft-minded and a gudgeon. And there was a path to the last two books I read–one created a foundation and the other offered me the kind of research I accept, even if no spiritual truths were proved or disproved. All that’s proved is that my philosophy is still too limited by my perception of the perception of others about me.
      And when I can stand apart yet equal within the crowd? Then I think that perhaps these struggles with returning to the food addiction or living in recovery won’t be so painful.
      My name is Jess, and I am a compulsive eater and compulsive approval-addict. I find I know less every time I turn around. I hope I’m just supposed to be observing and helping however I can. I already feel like a freak because I couldn’t put down the food until one day I walked into an OA room and two weeks later I could. I feel like a freak because I see that 300-lb. woman in the mirror and disbelieve my scale (I thought I had to be 170 to 180 lbs. today . . . nope, 162 lbs., still within the 5 lbs. up or down of 160 lbs.). I have my before picture clothes, and I look at them and am sure they’ll fit tight like they did in July of 2009. But if I put them on? The pants can’t stay up and I can curl up my whole body into a ball inside the shirt.
      My philosophy needs to be challenged, and to do that? I need to take an unwelcome leap of faith.


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