TW/CW: This post could be considered highly blasphemous and it contains quite a bit of profanity, so if either one of those would offend you, please stop reading now. Also, if you’re a huge fan of The Law of Attraction type stuff, this post might not be comfortable for you. I’m not here to offend anyone, but I am going to speak my truth in this moment.
My last post was about sexual shame. It didn’t occur to me until just now how closely connected that is to spiritual shame. They both have at their core, a feeling of not being “good enough” – and/or of being “bad.” They both hold a fear of judgment – both being judged by other people – as well as by God, the Universe, the Angels, Life – whatever you want to call that Higher Power. They are both programmed belief systems that cut off our life force and keep us living small, rather than owning, living, and being all of who we are.
I’ve long resisted sexual shame. I think it’s wrong. I’ve also long seen a connection between sexuality and spirituality. I think that they are closely related – and that sexual connection can be a decidedly spiritual experience.
It’s just coming together in my head right now how similar sexual and spiritual shame are. In both cases, we are taught that there is a “right” way to be – and that anything that deviates from that way is “wrong” and “bad.” Both strike at the core of who we are. Both shame us for having natural, normal, completely understandable feelings. Both are used to control our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. They are both sometimes couched in the attitude of “it’s for your own good” – but why should anyone else tell you what is for your own good? Why wouldn’t you get to decide that for yourself? And why would you accept some arrogant, power-hungry man being a mediary between you and God/Goddess/your own experience of the Infinite?
I’ve already talked about sex – it’s a topic I never get tired of, but right now, I want to talk about spirituality. I want to talk briefly about the abuse of religion and a little more about the damage of spiritual superstitions that I have believed in (at least, how I feel these things have been damaging for me personally – mileage may vary and the experience/s are different for everyone – this is my opinion/experience).
I grew up in a Baptist church that was ALL about shame. I learned that I was a “worthless sinner.” (Talk about psychological/emotional abuse!) From grades 2-8, I went to the school this Baptist church founded and ran. At age 11, I learned at a mandated church/school retreat that all sensual pleasure was bad/wrong. Even kissing was a sin because it led to “other things.” I went home from that retreat and broke up with my boyfriend of one year – because we’d been kissing and a little more. I was so ashamed and mired in this ridiculous quest to be “virtuous.” At age 12, after a revival, at the visiting preacher’s suggestion, I burned all of my John Denver records in the oven – because secular music was a sin. <eye roll>
I don’t remember how old I was, but I remember that jackass pastor talking in a sermon about my dad. He was talking about this wealthy man (and gave more details, so it was clearly about my dad), who was a good person, but who was still going to hell because he hadn’t accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior. When I think back on the cruelty, the smallness, and the hypocrisy in that church – it disgusts me beyond words. Fortunately, it wasn’t long after that bullshit that my dad put his foot down and pulled us kids out of that hellhole school. Unfortunately, a lot of psychological damage had already been done. It took years to pull out of that warped thinking. Sometimes I wonder if it doesn’t remain inside of me as core issues that have contributed relentlessly in my life to over-thinking, over-giving, people-pleasing, and other codependent-type feelings and behaviors.
I happily left religion behind. I was angry about it for many years. I’m still repulsed by a lot of the manipulations and trangressions of religion/s. I mean, many of the worst atrocities on earth have been committed in the name of God (whatever “God” is called) and with the full support of the church/es. Just look nowadays at the number of churches that support the embodied evil that is Trump. How anyone can not see that is beyond me.
I don’t believe in a man-made, vengeful “God” – nor do I believe that the “Holy Bible” is any more inspired by God (whatever your concept of that Be-ing may be) than any other book ever written. The reality is that it was written by men who were trying to secure power. I have no fear of the Universe for saying that – only fear of men who are so transfixed by their beliefs that they value their “religious ideals” (i.e. power) over the sacredness of the human beings right in front of them. Religion is used as a weapon at least equally as it is used as a solace or guide – and there are SO many fake, completely unqualified, hypocritical “men and women of God.” It disgusts me. Most of all, these tele-evangelists – who spew hatred and venom, while raking in the dough, living lives of ostentatious luxury, while allowing children down the street to go hungry. Jesus had feelings about that too, if memory serves.
Which brings me to spirituality. I do believe there is some sort of Higher Power or organizing principle to the Universe. I do believe in guidance from Angels and Spirit Guides and other non-physical beings that help us along our paths. There are endless things I don’t know, but I find it interesting to explore and discover. I feel like I’ve fallen into some spiritual traps that have caused me to live with some superstitions and a great deal of fear – which I’m finally resisting. I mean, I wrote years ago about some of the problems I saw in works such as The Secret and The Law of Attraction – however, I kept being influenced (and honestly, still am) by some of the superstitions engendered in these sort of writings/philosophies.
For example, for many years, I have been quite afraid to have a negative thought – and, God forbid, say a negative thing – because our thoughts and words have power. Not only that, but our feelings have even more power! According to many of the tropes I’ve read and videos I’ve watched, if you combine the thoughts with a strong rush of sustained good feelings, you will absolutely manifest anything. If that were the actual case, I’d be happily married, a best-selling author, living in a secluded, beautiful cabin in the woods in the mountains by a lake, making love with my husband every day. I have visualized and held my visions, hopes, and dreams with all of the excitement, joy, and gratitude that I could possibly muster – for years – and you know what? It is all bullshit. I’m not even dating, much less happily married. I’ve sold a grand total of 13 books. I’ve been living the past few years in small rented rooms of friends’ homes, and the only sex I have is with myself. I think I’ll indulge myself at this point in a few negative thoughts.
Not that I haven’t had wonderful blessings and many happy moments in my life. Not that I’m not grateful for my life. I am. But this manifestation bullshit – and all of the superstition around it – has seriously caused me more stress and done me more harm than good. Of course, proponents of these thought systems will say that I was just doing it wrong. How convenient for them – to sell everyone on crap – and when it clearly doesn’t work, just say they’re not doing it right! It would be funny if it weren’t so damaging. And so many people can clearly see it isn’t working, but hold onto the hope that it’s about to work. It’s very similar to dieting, isn’t it? Where it clearly fails 98% of the time, but the diet industry has everyone so fucking brainwashed that people believe they can lose weight and keep it off and be “healthy.” (That body-hating insanity is a whole other post). In this case, people keep obsessively thinking positively, and following these spiritual principles in the hope that they will one day hit the winning lottery ticket of actually manifesting their dreams. They continue to struggle, and blame themselves for not doing it right. Honey, maybe it’s just that like diets, all of this positive-thinking/spiritually manifesting stuff doesn’t actually work?
Now, I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing to stay positive. Nor to visualize what you want to create in your life. Those are fine things if you want to do that. What I object to is the mandate that you must do those things and produce results – or you are judged as failing at spirituality, failing at living a “good” life, failing to be an inspiration to others. One, you can’t fail at spirituality. You have your own relationship with your Self and Spirit – and that’s your business. Two, the definition of “good” is so varied that nobody gets to define that for you – and besides, life isn’t always good. It doesn’t mean you don’t value life anyway – even when it totally sucks. We should be able to say when life sucks or is painful without fear that because of our speaking what is true for us in the moment, we will be sucked into a downward spiral of more pain and suckiness – or that we’ll be judged for being “negative.” NO! Third, it is not our job to be an inspiration to others. I mean, we may have moments where that happens, but that should just come as a result of our living in integrity with our Selves and our own needs – not as a premeditated mandate of how we talk, look, and act. If we are inspiring others by wearing a false mask, then our inspiration is false. I’d rather be inspired to be authentic.
Look, as I’ve said before, I am a fan of “love and light.” I’m also a fan of, “you can fuck all the way off.” I get to hold both within me. I get to hold anything I want within me. I get to accept ALL of me – the good, the bad, and the ugly – without being punished or penalized for it. I’ve been a “good girl.” I’ve been “positive.” I’ve done the “right” things – and it’s gotten me fucking nowhere. Now, the superstition kicks in and says, “you know, it could have been much worse – at least your positivity kept it from being worse” – and also, “you should be grateful – if you aren’t appropriately grateful, things could get much worse for you.” You know what? (Sorry for the coming profanity, but) Fuck. That. Shit.
No, seriously. I’m so at the end of my rope with thinking that I have to be careful about what I think and feel and say and do. I’m tired of trying to tow the line of being a “good,” compliant, conforming person in order to get the rewards that never, in actuality, come. Fuck. That. Shit. I’ll be a good person on my own terms – what I decide is good based not on superstitions or groveling for rewards, but on what is authentic in my heart and soul and life. I know the compassion and the kindness and the love that come out of me authentically and naturally. I know the goodness in me that isn’t relying on any fear of “God” or dancing around for the Universe’s perverse and whimsical pleasure. I refuse to live in fear of accidentally creating something I didn’t want. I refuse to keep spiritually bypassing the reality of my existence.
It’s a weird place for me to be in right now, because I’ve spent decades trying to feel some level of control over my life by referring to things like Louise Hay’s spiritual explanations for the things that go wrong in our bodies and lives – and the affirmations that can heal them. Saying affirmations gave me great comfort when I had cancer – they gave me hope. As did prayers – to whatever benevolent Force/s may be out there. Maybe hope helped to heal me – but maybe it was just the doctor cutting out the cancer. Maybe the outcome would have been just the same whether I’d faithfully repeated affirmations and tried so hard to have a “positive, healing vibe” or not. Maybe I, in fact, have zero control over my life – other than the decisions I make in each moment – and my life is going to turn out how it’s going to turn out, regardless of what I say, think, or feel. I’m sitting with that possibility. I’ll be honest – I’m not loving the lack of control that leaves me feeling, but any sense of control I ever felt was always an illusion anyway, wasn’t it?
I’ve generously attributed all of the horrible things that have happened in my life to being “lessons that I was meant to learn” so that I could become the person that I am. Maybe that’s true, but maybe having my first baby be born early and only live 10 hours was just a cruel twist of fate. Maybe the fact that the very next year, doctors developed technologies that saved tiny babies like mine, was just twisting the knife. Maybe all of the other shit that’s happened since is just shit that happens because life isn’t fair. Life is capricious. It’s beautiful and horrible and … everything. We tend to have this expectation that life should be all good – and I’m still super pissed that life isn’t remotely fair! – but these expectations, perhaps, don’t serve us. I’ve been so afraid of something bad happening if I ever stopped being vigilant about my attitude and my homages to the gods (in various forms) that I’ve been living in a cage of fear and anxiety. I. Can’t. Do. That. Anymore.
I reserve the right to have a fucking bad attitude and to stomp around like an angry toddler when I feel like it – without having the Universe come and thump me for it. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the Universe hasn’t even been paying any attention at all to any of my thoughts or feelings, “good” or “bad.” I’m starting to think that the Universe is mostly indifferent to my thoughts and feelings. Definitely indifferent to the plans I have for my life. This is ancient wisdom: “You make plans, God laughs.” It’s kind of cruel, in my opinion – but then again, at times, so is life.
I think that a lot of times, people use some forms of spirituality/spiritual beliefs, in order to not take responsibility for what’s happening on the planet. Like, justifying horrible things happening to people by believing that they must have somehow agreed to those conditions or that “this is what they signed on for in this life.” The Secret and The Law of Attraction are notorious for this kind of thinking. I call bullshit. Nobody signed up to be victims of war or famine or violence. We don’t get to comfort ourselves by thinking it couldn’t happen to us because we are thinking/feeling correctly – nor that we have no obligation to try to stop these atrocities. Where is our moral courage? We’ve been taught hate in too many of our churches and complacency in too many of our spiritual practices.
Yeah, there is not much/nothing I can personally do to stop the violence around this world, to stop abuses of power, to stop hunger, etc. But I can at least offer the courtesy of having compassion and empathy rather than dismissing it with a pat, “they must have attracted that or agreed to that in their lives,” thus absolving myself of my own humanity. Maybe we could see violence against anyone as the horror that it is. Maybe we could stop allowing abuses of power – and loudly and angrily call them out – and imprison some of these traitorous and corrupt motherfuckers. Maybe we could stop accepting a system where 1% of the people control so much money and resources while millions struggle and go hungry. Maybe we could acknowledge the violence in that. Maybe we could work toward a justice system that actually reflects justice and honorable values, rather than accepting the farce we have now. Maybe we could stop being such fucking sheeple, living in fear of both God and man – and of our own thoughts and feelings.
I’m saying this now because I am at the end of my rope. I am feeling angry and disillusioned. I’m also feeling free – and I like this sense of freedom and defiance. I’m also tired of living in fear. I’m planning to do like I’ve always done – to make the best choices possible for my life in each moment. I’m also embracing my “dark side” like I’ve never done before. I’m letting it all flow – my anger, my joy, my rage, my peace, my pleasure, my bitterness, my wild love, my despair. All of it. Everything. No more blocking feelings. No more moderating my responses with the deadly masks of politeness and civility – and the insidious social mandate of being positive. In this moment, I just need to be fucking real. A human being. A spiritual being, yes – but thick in this human experience. My Spirit is calling (has been calling) for me to be more authentic and less afraid.
Just like I needed to delete many of the teachings of the church I grew up in, I need to delete and detox from many of the “spiritual” belief systems that I turned to in order to make sense of life. They are just as harmful and false as the religion I long ago rejected. I don’t know what’s next on my spiritual journey, but it starts here with letting go of shame and superstitions.
The shame I’m referring to stems from not living up to what I have long considered to be the mandate of being a spiritual example – loving, positive, upbeat, uplifting, inspiring, nurturing. All of this fucking positive thinking training has left me feeling like a failure, both as a human and as a spiritual being, if I’m not constantly reflecting those higher values that have been labeled good/worthy. It’s very similar to how I felt as a child when the Baptist school told us that everything we did in our lives was a reflection on the school, and on God/Jesus – so don’t ever do anything that would reflect poorly. There was a whole list of ridiculous rules to follow in order to live in accordance with “God’s will.” Many of them reflected an appalling level of “moral” judgment and pettiness and hate.
I rejected the church, and I reject the mandate of always being positive and inspiring. I want to be whole. As Carl Jung said, “I’d rather be whole than good.” I also reject the concept that deep down inside, everyone is love. That’s simply, demonstrably, not true. There are clearly evil people in the world. We are all one? Maybe in the great, cosmic ocean of reality, yeah … but we are not all even remotely the same. Are we all connected? Who knows? We all share the same planet, but we do not all share the same experiences. We share some similar experiences and many vastly different experiences. We are all unique … and many of us go through very common stages, emotions, etc. Life is truly a mystery. I’m tired of trying to control it – or even understand it. I’m entering a new stage of surrender and seeing what unfolds. Of course, I hope it’s good – and I have no expectations – because I know damn well that Life doesn’t care about my expectations.
Growing up, the Tasmanian Devil was always my favorite. That’s how I feel now. That’s how I see myself in my mind – sort of this whirling dervish, spinning furiously around, creating space. I just need some space – away from thoughts and feelings and expectations of who I should be and how I should think, talk, feel, and act. I want to stomp around a bit. I want to stand strong in all of who I am. I want some silence in my mind. There’s a whole lot of things that I want in my life. I’m no longer relying on positive thinking, attracting, manifesting, or “allowing” – coupled with my hard work – to get them. They’ll happen or they won’t – but it won’t be because I was or wasn’t good enough or worthy enough or spiritual enough. It will be because that’s life. And shit happens. And good happens. And life happens.
For many of us, religion and/or spirituality help us to navigate this life. They help us to hang on, to have hope, to keep going. For many of us, alcohol or drugs or food or sex is what helps us make it to the next day. Sometimes I rely heavily on escaping into romance novels or adventurous movies. I’m not trying to take away anything that helps anyone. Whatever gets you through, hang onto that. Sometimes what gets us through changes over time. Right now, some of what gets me through is shifting under my feet and I feel a sense of groundlessness. Paradoxically, I also feel more grounded in my life than I ever have. I wish you health/healing, prosperity, peace, love, and every happiness. That isn’t a magic wand and it isn’t a guarantee. It’s just a wish, from my very human heart to yours. Peace be with you.