Friday, June 8, 2018

Selfhood

As I write I am reminded how, when I left the family religion, I recognized the urgency of purging the old beliefs, lest I self-destruct. “You can’t survive if you leave” was a big part of the lifetime of conditioning I received since birth.

“No, don’t believe that, sweet one. You can survive and in fact thrive upon leaving — by reprogramming your belief system,” counters my inner being.

My inner being was right. I am learning that leaving the religion is like cleaning out viruses on my computer. Remove the dysfunctional programming and get back a smooth-running computer. More like when it was new. Or I might even have to buy a whole new computer system, depending on the damage or dysfunction. Unless I’m a technician in this field, I may opt to hire a professional to have a look.

So yes, I was deeply conditioned to look outward to attune to my surroundings. As a frightened young girl, I had to constantly study my father and out-think him for my own safety. I ran away from home at the age of sixteen and learned to survive in the city after knowing only farm life. When I got married I attuned myself to my husband and later two children who came along. As a Jehovah’s Witness, I constantly had to attune myself to the religious rules of the day and was compelled to keep up with all the “new light” of their shifting rules, regulations, and standards of righteousness. And no, I could never measure up to the perfection demanded of me.

During my lifetime, I broke down on three separate occasions: once after my father died, once when I discovered my husband’s (at the time) infidelity, and more recently, when pushing myself to stay in a job which I had long since outgrown. I found myself suffering with extreme adrenal fatigue and my doctor suggested I take some time off work. After a year of sick leave, I decided it was best to retire. It’s been two years and I’m still recuperating.

Yes, I did self-criticize. Yes I did put myself down — perhaps to beat others to the punch. It’s that lack of fitting in that “did me in.” I couldn’t even eat with that bunch at work. The last time I ate with them I got food poisoning. I always look for a metaphysical meaning behind illnesses — and that incident told me I worked in a toxic environment. When I started working with those people ten years earlier, I vibrated similarly. Perhaps. Later, my perceptions were confirmed by three separate therapists.

Since leaving the job, I’m meditating and having deep realizations about what’s been happening to me. Simply put, my repeated illnesses were symptomatic of what happens when I’m too hard on myself. My body was on overload, trying to protect me from perceived harms. It’s all related to the conditioning I received as a child who received very little love or support from my parents in a dangerous world in unpredictable times.

Now, I can thank my Self for bringing me this awareness about my behavior. Now I know I’m on the right track. It’s like the dream I had the other night about the car driving itself down the highway all by itself and taking a wrong turn into the mud. I got behind the wheel to get back onto the highway. In effect, I was taking charge of my life right then, in that moment. Time for self-care.

I’m grateful for my downtime, so I might take care of my Self instead of the demands and whims of everyone else. I am reminded of when I board a plane and hear the spiel about when the oxygen mask falls, to put it on yourself first, before taking care of another. Makes perfect sense — now.
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Related reading in which the concept of “being set up to fail” is considered:
Deconstructing Religion
Kindness of a Stranger
Initiation Into a Cult
Pick Up Your Cot and Walk