Posted by: innerpilgrimage | March 23, 2014

We Belong, We Belong Together

      I have an intense desire to belong to something greater than myself. This isn’t against human nature. I, and every other person out there, evolved to be like this.

      Currently, I’m reading two books: why we believe in god(s) by J. Anderson Thomson, Jr., MD, and Clare Aukofer and Create Your Own Religion by Daniele Bolelli. I appreciate both, and they seem to work in concert, because one explains why I crave to have a religion to turn to and the other asks me (as a reader) to open my mind to what I already know about myself as a human being. Daniele Bolelli’s book is a little more entertaining, though Dr. Thomson’s book is both an approachable read and a deeply educational journey into the neuroscience of humanity’s craving for religious guidance and community.
      I want to reach up and out to an authority figure and be parented by it. I want to have a simple explanation for the purpose of existence. I want to have reassurances about death and about the great mysteries that no amount of book-learning can explain. I want to relax in blind faith instead of have to stand up on my own two feet and use that reasoning human-primate mind that is a result of millions of years of evolution and natural selection. I especially want to understand why I have the kind of mind that would reject all of this–especially since it goes against nature, itself. Kind of like my addiction to sweet-fatty-and-salty food, which I am unsurprised to say has eerie parallels to my hunger for something invisible which has a special purpose for me to make me feel better. (Dr. Thomson’s book addresses the parallels between the neurological evolution of the brain to crave “junk food” and the evolution to crave religion . . . both as means of survival of the species.)
      I am learning to reserve judgment on many things, particularly the supernatural and the paranormal. For a book series, I’ve been watching a TLC show on a particular East coast medium whose ethics do not match mine. The revelations I received today about this person set this person out to be not only a liar but someone who takes advantage of grieving people. I have no problem with people doing “psychic” cold readings for entertainment . . . if they’re not out there to scam those who are in deep suffering. Despite leaning on the skeptic disbeliever side when it comes to psychics, I’ve recently considered (and will, at some point) go in and get a “psychic” tarot reading.
      Why I want to get a “psychic” reading is because I want a cold reading. I want a human being to use whatever intuitive or innate ability to pay attention to my body language to help me reveal to myself what I’m telegraphing to the world. As an addict, I walk around as if I’m a mistress of addict semaphore. I just can’t see the signals I’m sending toward people. Eh, that’s a self-deceiving lie. I expect I am actually in huge denial of the signals I send in my body language, because that would mean I am not making an effort to be present and accountable for my own choices. Not being present and accountable for my own choices is something from personal experience, and I can cite many times in the past when I have done just that. My point (and what I will tell the tarot reader) is that I want to know the truth I’m hiding from myself. I have my own truths; I have just layered so much on top of them that I self-deceive that the signals aren’t getting out. Personal experience has led me to I believe I am simply ignoring them out of some maladaptive kind of self-preservation which harms me deeply despite me telling myself it helps protect me.
      It doesn’t mean this isn’t real in some part. I had a tarot reading years ago, for entertainment purposes, and the reader hit on things that I did not expect to happen yet which did. I have had personal experiences which have had no explanation, which are part of that off-the-map, too-weird-to-be-real-but-were Great Mystery stuff. The kind of stuff which honestly gets a person thinking about the possibility of supernatural forces acting in individuals’ lives. Well, even if they’re beyond my scope of what I consider can be natural, they still would be natural. I believe it has a natural source–be it my own brain misinterpreting sensory input or something else which exists in reality yet appears outside of what I mentally can accept as “normal”. Perhaps, then, I could believe something is paranormal in relation to my personal experience (little-p paranormal instead of Big-P Paranormal). It’s as paranormal to me as fully understanding what it’s like to be a native Samoan or Laotian or Ugandan or Tibetan. That is beyond the parameters of “normal” I learned over my lifetime. That doesn’t make the lifeways of a native Samoan or Laotian or Ugandan or Tibetan person outside of scientific explanation, though their range of normal experiences is far different than my own and are paranormal experiences to me. So, no transcendence, just etymology here when I use the term “paranormal”.
      I don’t believe in the supernatural, because I believe all things of being are in reality and part of nature; I do believe in the paranormal, because I have a limited range of experience which can make something natural appear so alien to me that the comforting and easy explanation would involve supernatural transcendence. This doesn’t excuse people who choose to use “supernatural transcendence” to victimize individuals who are suffering and who seek to be comforted by said supernatural transcendence. Lying to people for outrageous profit, even if it’s meant to comfort them, triggers my self-preserving disgust. That is snake oil salesmanship, the emotional and mental equivalent of price-gouging people who are preparing to ride out a natural disaster. I suppose that’s why I want to do a cold reading in this time of distress. At least I’m not lying to myself about the truth of it. If I can be honest about having a person read my body language based on their questions of me and how they sense my reactions, then I hope the person can help me see what I am choosing to be blind over. And if that person uses actual psychic powers to read my body language more efficiently? More power to them. The Amazing Randi has got a ton of cash if it can be tested and reproduced. Like many other non-theists and non-deists, I’d get behind a deity which showed up and was able to repeat occurrences involving the supernatural, paranormal, and transcendent in front of large audiences . . . including James Randi. Especially James Randi, come to think of it. Well, unless the deity was a jerk. Then, I suppose the responsible thing would be to thank the deity for giving humankind reason and walk away.
      Moving on.
      So, my longing for belonging. That’s pretty much the size of it. I think belonging to a 12-Step group worked a lot of issues into the open. I think that I have seen program work for people who both slide into program easily and who have to examine the essence of program and make it a deeply personal journey out of addiction. Recovery options . . . I’ve said over and over again that so many are out there and each and every one works for some people. I mean, in 12-Step alone, food addiction is addressed by Overeaters Anonymous, Food Addicts Anonymous, Food Addicts in Recovery, and even Anorexics and Bulimics Anonymous.
      I’m still on the fence about walking away from 12-Step. It worked when I felt I was part of the community, when I didn’t feel so set apart. This may be a mis-perception, which is why I’m not ready to throw in the towel. However, I am deeply aware that I need to enter into a community which supports my desire to evolve the freethinking recovery which I received in recovery, itself. I will not deny ever that I became a non-theist/non-deist in program. The difficulty I have is shedding the resentment I have toward the Abrahamic religions. I’ve read a lot on why they’re the way they are, on how resource scarcity helped develop these three religions. Just like 12-Step, religions fracture and faction. Christianity, alone, has over 33,000 independent sects. That bears repeating, because it is important: Christianity, alone, has over 33,000 independent sects.
      Now, in my reading of those two books I initially mentioned, I understand how an individual has a natural predisposition to turn toward religion. I understand that I and every other human are neurologically hard-wired to choose religion over atheism. To be honest, being an atheist is difficult work. Atheism is, in essence, accepting that I am hard-wired to pick up a transcendent security blanket but acting one day at a time to reject the comforting idealism and accept reality as it comes. To appreciate the world as it is and that I’m alive–whether or not there’s a greater purpose to my conception, birth, and good fortune to last forty-four years so far. It may not require a purpose, but it certainly is (to borrow a spiritual-religious term) miraculous. That’s something wonderful, that my body has lasted this long. Doubly so that, through OA, I found strength through community to change my mindless and compulsive eating habits which were actively killing me. I may not have much in terms of a spiritual recovery, but I am enjoying physical recovery. I’m finding, even now, that I am leaning hard on the principles of Overeaters Anonymous through a tough time in my life. The modified food plan is working for me, and I take long walks near-daily as an action plan to reduce my anxiety. Turning to sweet-salty-fatty food doesn’t help, and even considering it sends me into a tailspin of despair. Getting my sneaks on and getting a few miles of wear on my soles under a beautiful blue sky and warmed by the early spring sun helps. At worst, I come home tired and a little achy but feeling stronger. Yes, the anorexic within is freaking out when I see myself, but this has everything to do with that truth I uttered when I first walked into the rooms: I want to be healthy.
      I can’t deny it; using the OA tools makes me feel healthier. Sure, I may not be using the God-centric 12-Step literature because it’s currently paranormal to my life as I live it today, but I am reading things which challenge me to hopefully leave off my resentment and fear of the potential violence which can arise from the religion of my youth. The things people do in the name of religion, in the name of “Us or Them: No fence-sitting,” is terrifying to consider. Using religion to become savage in the name of a god, to excuse as moral such deeply disturbing violence is terrifying. Those individuals who find a sense of inner peace and love are naturally peaceful and loving people. I worry, however, that they’re in denial of people who worship in the same building who would act violently toward anyone not of their sect.
      I’m not saying that religion is the sole source of this kind of excused violence in the name of exclusivity. This happens when the mob mentality takes over and is guided under a person who has been given authority by the individuals which make up the mob. A person can be a religious freethinker, I believe, guided by the more spiritual and transcendent precepts of a religion. Unfortunately, to reject dogma is to be considered a heretic . . . and history shows that individuals can be separated from the crowd, labeled as heretics, and eliminated in such terrifying ways as to discourage independent thinking through, well, fear. This doesn’t require a deity, as proved by the existence of secular dictators of the twentieth century. Authority granted to an esteemed individual, who offers a message which initially resonates, leads to the harvest of the power inherent in having authority granted by the masses either through fanaticism or apathy. Through history, the heretics end up making as much of a splash as the people who were granted authority by individuals over themselves–though their stories change to suit the new power structures and new people in charge.
      Well, in my opinion from what I’ve learned. It, like transcendent and supernatural psychic powers, may or may not be real. It is, however, how I’ve experienced things so far. To be honest, it also is the reason I fear the God-fearing.
      Fear and love can’t coexist in a situation at the same moment. Fear and love are mutually exclusive. I believe that. How can a God of love demand fear from its followers? I just, my brain cannot reconcile that, because I grew up in a dysfunctional household where fear ruled the day and love . . . well, I identify with four different 12-Step groups. That didn’t come from nowhere. If there was a purpose to the suffering I endured as an innocent and pretty nice and obedient child, then I can believe in a deity of fear but not love. I can believe in a deity which smote willy-nilly and said, “I did it out of love.” As a child of dysfunction, being scared into blind obedience while being told that it was all done out of love, generated my inability to function as a budding reasoning adult at eighteen. I am still an adult child learning how to grow into a reasoning adult. I’m forty-four, half of my life gone, and I still have the mentality of a minor child still suffering an abuse situation–though I’m both the abusive parents and the abused child, now. That’s what it is to be a child kept obedient through fear and physical pain . . . and to be told it is done from love.
      That very personal and painful experience is, to me, not love expressed by a parent to a child. The parenting classes I’ve taken over the years encouraged us parents to raise our children into independent and reasoning adults who trust themselves. Because of the parenting classes, I see my adult kid and near-adult kid make choices and learn from those choices. I sometimes want to cry over it, that my kids didn’t end up messed up like my siblings and me, like my parents, like their parents . . . on and on up the abuse chains, I expect. My personal experience has shown that (as a parent) I have today a better relationship with my freethinking children–one of whom has chosen a spiritual journey through religion and the other through agnosticism. As a result of adhering to the parenting class principles over what I was taught from religious texts about parenting, I see the love expressed by my kids to me-as-parent. That . . . I thought I was owed that, but since I don’t particularly like my parents enough to love them or have a meaningful adult parent-child relationship with them, I think that life experience has shown that love is a gift to embrace when given. It’s certainly not a prize for terrorizing a child into obeisance throughout his or her lifetime. It especially isn’t going to show up when said child finds the book which blames the child for failure to launch and uses yet more abusive tactics to get the traumatized adult child out of the house.
      Hunh. Looks like I was in denial of that resentment until just now, because I confronted them on the book at the time, when I read it as the failure-to-thrive adult child. I resent myself for the years I assigned blame instead of accepting the reality that I had to change my own damned life if I wanted my life to change. They owed me nothing. They still owe me nothing, despite the little kid in me pouting and saying to myself, “They’d better give me a good inheritance when they die, because they freaking owe me for the physical, mental, emotional, and probably spiritual abuse.”
      They owe me nothing, and our relationship reflects it. I admit I do have amends to make, once I have someone’s ESH and HOW guidance on how to do an amends which doesn’t sould like a laundry list of how I’m so sorry they were really bad parents who led me to act out at them. That’s part of the reason I haven’t really gotten far in the steps. I really feel raw when I have to go through that, and I worry I would end up blaming them for my compulsive and resentment-laden behavior toward them. Oh, who knows! The one thing I do know is that I want guidance which respects my secular journey. As bad as my resentment toward my parents is? My resentment toward the Abrahamic religions is much, much worse.
      I guess I am changing in some ways, because I am (slowly!) learning to let personal experience guide my opinions. Yes, it means that I am hurt and want to hide alone, like I did as a little girl. I want to hold my knees up to my chest in an attempt to self-comfort. I want to weep, brokenhearted, that I was gullible yet again. I am beginning to understand gullibility. When I get too attached to the idea that others will reciprocate if I am nice to them, I am refusing reality and am choosing Utopian thinking. The lesson isn’t in trying to figure out who will be nice if I allow myself to become vulnerable; I see now that the lesson (one that’s been part of the twelve-step journey since I started it) is giving of myself without need for reciprocation. In other words, being nice to other people is about how good I feel when I choose that for myself. If I feel good about my action, then I have acted in accordance with my personal ethics.
      In all honesty, I like being nice. I just apparently learned that if I’m nice, then I am owed a reciprocal niceness. That need for reciprocity is maladaptive; it’s led to self-loathing, resentment, anger, and quite a few rage-filled tantrums. To actually consciously choose to be kind and compassionate toward others because it gives me a sense of serenity and satiety is the only payoff I really can have. Happily, I get that when I’m nice to people and forget about my need for reciprocity or choose not to worry about reciprocity. It’s not easy, though, but it’s important. This is an important change, to trust myself to enjoy the world as it is. That said . . . I’m still anxious that my self-expression might get me in trouble. After all, happiness and satiety and serenity in this culture of not-enoughness is, well, heretical.
     
      Oh well. At this point, I’m not sure which way to go. So, I guess I will just let this day be. For today, I belong (according to Tradition Three) to OA, CoDA, SLAA, and even ACA. I could probably toss FAA, FA (or FAR?), and ABA into that pile, too. So, I belong. I belong because I qualify for membership in all of those twelve-step programs, even if I don’t agree with how some of them define the proper practice of “sobriety” or “abstinence”.
      It doesn’t mean that those groups won’t help some people. They will help people. I guess that’s part of the experience of being in a twelve-step. Belonging allows for strength in numbers as fellowships build on the experiences of individuals in program to help each other. To experience that strength, to know that I’m not alone in my compulsive behaviors, generates such hope. There’s nothing like knowing that I’m not alone in this stupid power struggle against food or against people, or against my sexuality, or even against acknowledging then grieving my childhood. I am not alone.
     
      I belong.
      We belong.
      Together.
      And together, we get better.

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