I built a huge wall. It was built out of brick. It was menacing, looming. I built it to prevent bad people form coming over. When ever they were near me, close to me, they would hurt me. So I kicked them out and built a wall.
Unfortunately, it kept out everyone. It was a really good wall. “Good,” as in it was serving its purpose perfectly. Eventually, I was left with very few people on my side of the wall. It got lonely. So I considered what would happen if I tore the wall down.
I am actively trying to develop new habits, but they are in direct contrast to the way I was raised as a child and young adult.
I was raised with a strict religious upbringing, which taught me that most things (if not everything) are black and white. But everything that I’m trying to practice now requires a flexibility that my whole body rejects. And just learning or understanding it on an intellectual level does not translate into my emotions or behavior. In fact, it makes it worse. I judge myself because I know better now, but I’m still unable to control myself. Every once in a while, I can beat my old mentality, but the second I let my guard down, it comes rushing in and filling my whole being.
One of the many things I’m working on is developing better eating habits. I was raised in an environment where I kept the laws of eating Kosher, which means simply, “here are the foods you are allowed to eat, and don’t even think about going anywhere near those other foods. Seriously, don’t even walk into an establishment that sells those things.”
Now that I’m no longer following the rules of my past, I’m kind of getting lost in the freedom. I have no one telling me what to eat and what not to eat. And its not that I don’t know the difference between healthy foods and unhealthy foods, its just that I’ve never really been taught how to use my own will power in this arena. I’ve always had someone (or something) else controlling my eating habits.
Its also not as if I’ve never had periods of healthy eating, but I tend to swing like a pendulum (I told you, “black and white”). I don’t know how to be comfortable eating one unhealthy item. I judge myself terribly, and then assume I’ve gone “off the path.” This then allows me to eat all the worst kinds of things, thinking, “Well, I’ve already proven that I am not eating perfectly healthy, so I might as well enjoy all of the [insert junk food choice].”
I know that this all stems from this idea of perfectionism and black and white thinking, but I just don’t know how to unlearn it all.
And eating is just one example.
In recent months, probably the last year, I have discovered much that I am ashamed of. My religious background, my sexual past, my education, my current lifestyle, and more. Some of those I have begun to work on, and while extremely difficult, I persist.
I’m finding that every time I open up the door to work on my shame, I find more things I’m ashamed of. I’m now at the point that I’m hoping beyond belief that there is a finite number of things of which I am ashamed, and that eventually I’ll have addressed everything by a certain time. Right now, I’m aiming for by the time I have children and need to raise them.
The other part of me believes that this is false hope. That shame is something that continually develops and requires constant effort.
The past week, I’ve been frustrated with my progress in therapy. I’m still fairly new to the whole idea of therapy (I’ve seen my current therapist 4 times so far), and I don’t know if I’m “doing it right.” I know it’s a bizarre thing to think, but I’m wondering if I’m trying too hard or not trying hard enough. My therapist is trying to figure me out, but she barely knows me. She’s trying to make sure she doesn’t push me too hard (one of the first things we had discovered together in our first session together was that I tend to push myself too hard), and I’m trying to take advantage of our time together. It’s an interesting tango, to say the least. But it constantly leaves me wondering if I could be pushing myself more, thereby growing faster, healing faster, learning more, etc. This “slowing down” idea and not pushing myself too far goes against everything for which my body has been conditioned. But my brain knows that whatever my tendency to push things too far, slowing down will teach me many lessons.
After I was done blaming my therapist for not pushing me enough, I tried figuring out what was really motivating me to have these feelings. I came up with 2 theories:
I just had a revelation. While I have your average run-of-the-mill fear of failure, I also just realized I have an intense fear of success. Everything I’ve ever done in my life, I’ve done as well as I could without being “too good.” Even in things for which I’ve been passionate. I’ve ALWAYS stopped just short of achievement. Because of fear. Frantic fear.
Until now, this has been entirely subconscious.
Here’s an email I just sent my dad. He had expressed to me he thinks he’s a failure because of the way my brother and I have rejected his religious values. He often wonders where he “went wrong.” I’m posting this because we all sometimes think we’re failures, especially after we make a big mistake. We also all have a natural power within ourselves to get out from under that wet blanket.
I just watched a disturbing documentary on Netflix. It’s called “Jesus Camp,” and I had some rough reactions to it. I’m kind of late to the party;, apparently it was all the rage when it was released in 2006, and it even got an Oscar nod for best documentary.
Anyway, it basically showed how Evangelical children are
indoctrinated brainwashed taught ideas about how the world is basically pure evil, including other psychologically dysfunctional fundamentalist concepts. It’s nothing I haven’t read or learned about before, but seeing it was just disturbing. The scene that sucker-punched me in the kidneys was when this blond-hair 10 year old boy started crying because he knew he was a bad child for doubting God’s existence. For struggling with really difficult things.
I’ve never lost anyone particularly close to me. So when I read that people who leave their religion often go through the stages of grief, I thought it was interesting, but it wasn’t like I could relate. I don’t even think I know what grief is.
A couple Google search attempts (I definitely do this too much) led me to an article by Matt Oxley about the stages of grief, as applied to a loss of religion. It was the first time I realized I had already gone through some of the stages, and I was currently struggling with the rest. It felt wonderful to have someone almost perfectly describe some of the difficulties I’ve had in my recent life.
For those of you who are reading this thinking that it was fairly easy for you to accept that you no longer believe in the religion you grew up with, I ask that you understand that I wasn’t just a regular Jew who went to services on High Holidays or every once in a while on Saturday.
I’m on a quest to improve myself.
For about 6 months now, I’ve been struggling with my connection to my past. I was dating a girl, whom I am no longer seeing, and the nature of our relationship was forcing me to address many things about my religion that I’ve sealed off in a box in the corner of my mind. There were some painful memories hidden in that box for obvious reason, but plenty of happy ones were stored there as well.
Skip to the present, and I’m finding it much harder to deal with the issues of my past than I had expected. I’ve found that in the last 5 years or so, I’ve begun to disassociate from my religious upbringing, and for the longest time, I just assumed it was a phase. Now I’m beginning to understand that I no longer wish to live the life I was taught to live. This has brought me to try to understand my life, and I’ve found some marvelous tools to help me with this.