One thing my former faith taught me quite well was the art of punishing myself for my failings. Early on, I was taught that this was a normal process the Christian deity used to get good people back on the path to righteousness. Because of how my mind doesn’t work, it took these teachings and welcomed them completely, carving out a hole in my psyche for it to take root. Nowadays, I’m trying to cope with inordinate levels of self-doubt and self-loathing, and I can’t tell what the source is.
All of this is the product of faith done correctly.
Faith isn’t supposed to be easy to get rid of, and mine was no exception. It took accepting the divine consequences of contemplating suicide to just crack the surface of it. In other words, I had to go to inordinate and unhealthy extremes just to get a glimpse of an accurate perspective. If I’d not been pushed that far by my mental infirmities and circumstances in life, I’d still be oblivious.
What this also means is that I can’t get rid of my old beliefs in one swoop. That’s frustrating to admit because now I know enough to realize there are parts still hiding in the dark corners of my mind, lurking about for the chance to prey upon my thinking. Although I don’t believe in the divine anymore, the conditioning still remains entrenched.
I feel like I’m being left on the defensive.
Since I’ve rid myself of the obvious false beliefs, the ones that are left are the hardest ones to grapple with. If I knew that a particular bout of self-hatred was an echo of Christianity, it would be easy to dismiss as such. However, if it’s part of my depressive condition, no amount of positive thinking will stop it from happening. Knowing this, I feel like I have to constantly react to things instead of being able to seek out a solution.
The worst thing is that I have this unshakable feeling that this might just be a permanent consequence of my old faith, like how someone who overdosed on LSD might permanently see vapor trails. Despite wanting it gone, I’m left with the urge to see myself in as negative a light as possible, all for reasons that I don’t believe in anymore.
Another concern I have is that my fears might just be playing with my perception, creating things that aren’t necessarily there. This is more of a problem with mental illness than with anything else, because it can be the result of something as simple as a change in dose (which I just underwent). What if all of this is just an extended depressive episode, and my thoughts just mimic my old religious self-punishment?
Being robbed of reality is a terrible thing.
There’s this hole in my thinking, something that invariably leads me to despair. Wanting it gone will not make it go away. I have to do something, but I don’t always know what that is.
So I just get to sit there next to an abyss, wearily staring into it.
11 thoughts on “Fixing A God Shaped Hole”
You wrote this, SB. That’s not sitting staring at the abyss. Sounds like therapy to me.
And hey, you’ve got a cheering section.
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It’s hard to separate what’s what. I can relate to that problem very well. Is it my depression or Christianity’s harmful beliefs? They work together so nicely, don’t they?
“So I just get to sit there next to an abyss, wearily staring into it.” What a visual! I can feel the despair. ((HUG))
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“It took accepting the divine consequences of contemplating suicide to just crack the surface of it.”
WOW. You’ve been there. You get it. I’m not alone.
Thank you so much for sharing, SB.
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“That’s frustrating to admit because now I know enough to realize there are parts still hiding in the dark corners of my mind, lurking about for the chance to prey upon my thinking.
SB, I remember a life-changing experience I had in 2005, which I think I shared a little with you before. I had been experiencing chronic stress, even toxic, because for several years, previously, pastors, elders, and evangelicals in general, whom I had gone to (because I had serious questions about the contents of the Bible), were trying to convince me that I just didn’t get it, a woman (the gender easily deceived), and/or that I wasn’t being vigilant enough, therefore my doubts stemmed from Satan, who was like a roaring lion seeking his next prey. I had heard it all.
I was also given pat answers (scriptures), like god’s thoughts are not ours—his ways are higher, and that I shouldn’t lean on my own understanding. I also heard the tripe that if I was a “True Christian”, baptized in the holy spirit, I wouldn’t be confused, because god is not the author of confusion, and that the holy spirit is the teacher and would “enlighten” me. Well, none of that was a “revelation”. I had read and studied the bible for close to two decades. You know the spill.You’ve read and heard the rhetoric before.
In 2005, I took a month off, and spent nearly every waking hour praying and looking for answers. Not that I hadn’t done that before, a lot, but I was at my wits end. At around 28 days into this sabbatical, my mind went completely silent once I realized I had every reason to be skeptical. Then, not long after that I started hearing my internal dialogs. I had never heard them like that before, simply because I had so much mind chatter, but it was more like static.There were two dialogs looping. I was stunned. Stunned because they were negative, very, very negative self-talk.
I’m not sharing this next part to suggest that this is what you should do. I’m just saying that I did it, and it helped in rewiring, though I agree with you that I’m not sure we ever fully recover from the psychological and physiological ramifications from being framed and shamed for a murder we never committed. The trauma of realizing that I was directly and indirectly responsible for Jesus’ suffering, crippled my psychology, though I wasn’t fully aware just how traumatized and crippled I was until after I deconverted.
Anyway, every time I became aware of negative self talk, I would immediately think something positive about myself. Now I’m not pushing the power of positive thinking psychology. I’m just saying that I had to counter those thoughts with something I knew about myself and that others knew about me. It took a lot of mental exercise, and it was exhausting because now I was acutely aware of the looping internal dialogs.
It’s possible that the new dose of meds have abated the static, and you’re becoming more aware of your internal dialog(s).
People who believe Christianity is wholesome, really haven’t grasped its core message, which is unethical and cruel.
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My therapist has tried getting me to do as you’ve suggested, but I don’t have many positive thoughts about myself to do this with. Part of the problem is that I don’t remember compliments, so finding a relevant one takes a lot of time and effort. Basically the process is going exceptionally slow for me, and I’m frustrated with it. I’m used to being able to pick up new things with ease and speed.
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Here’s the list of attributes, SB (yours)
– uber-diplomatic (I wish I could pick it up vicariously)
– able to get to the heart of a topic and then present it meaningfully and succinctly
– awesome analytical skills (no doubt because of chosen career, but I’m willing to bet you had an early aptitude for it)
– able to connect with others and genuinely empathize
I have never met you in person, but I’d also guess you have great interpersonal skills, are very polite and engaging, and have a kick-ass smile. How’m I doin’? 😉
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Boom! Well said, Carmen.
I can see where you’re coming from. When we had a lifetime or years of being reminded that there is ‘no good thing in us, that our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked’ and any ethical/moral behavior—any compassion, empathy, integrity or talents we had, were directly attributed to Jesus, it becomes very hard to atrophy the neural circuitry because they’ve become neural networks from years of reinforcement. You, I’m sure, know this already. It just takes time.
Some of my “techniques” in deprogramming may seem a bit over the top, but my self-esteem was pretty low after years, decades, of biblical programming. It wasn’t something I admitted to anyone, even myself for a log time, because it meant that I was a failure as a Christian. Anyway, I made myself stand in the mirror and say “I love you, Victoria.” I wrote posted notes with self-affirmation, and stuck them in various places.
However, what worked for me, may not work for you. I do know that the deprogramming took years. It’s been 11 years since I deconverted from god belief, and 16 years since I left Christianity. Still, every so often I will have a minor setback, although they’ve become fewer and far between.
And god is a pretty big hole…
I think that hole is only “god shaped” because churches and preachers kept working so hard to pound a god-shaped peg into it. As you get rid of the last of the programming, I think that hole will be less and less god-shaped, and just be a hole waiting to be filled up by you, and by what you choose to fill it with.
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