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Leaving Repressive Religion and Toxic Beliefs Behind: Part 5

By Brien Pittman

Read part four

Living Life Now: Confronting Dissatisfaction Part 2

To a recent ex-fundamentalist, or to anyone who has departed on their great quest for wholeness, frustration and dissatisfaction with their present state and the longing for an easy way out can be an enormous temptation. However, the fact remains that when we succumb to great temptation and stray from our adventure with the soul, it brings only a diminished being, which accounts for much dissatisfaction in so many people’s lives.

We all hunger for significance, for signs that our personal existence is of special meaning in the universe. I call this “manifest pretension,” and it can become a lure to relinquish the responsibility to discover and build a balanced, purposeful life of satisfaction. This seductive lure causes many of us to embrace one of the many organizations or activities that offer us substitutes for individuation, mature spirituality, and wholeness—the elements of soul that we refuse to evoke out of our individual resources.

For instance, faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves. The burning conviction that we have a holy duty toward others is often a way of attaching our drowning selves to a passing raft. What looks like giving a hand often results in holding on for dear life. Take away our holy duties and you leave our lives puny and meaningless.

In our modern society, people can live without hope only when kept dazed and out of breathe by incessant distractions and hurried hustling. Many times, the temporary despair brought by our hero’s or heroine’s journey comes not only from the threat of emotional and mental turmoil, but also from the sudden view of a vast nothingness ahead. During these most trying times we are more likely to follow the false peddlers of hope than to patiently wait with faith (the assured expectations of realities not yet beheld) in ourselves and in life. Yet, if we only manage to stay with our soul’s adventure and not turn to substitutes, we will experience relief and authentic wholeness.

As humans, when our individual interests and prospects do not seem like much worth living for, we are in desperate need of something apart from us to live for. At these vulnerable times, all forms of dedication, devotion, loyalty and self-surrender are in essence a desperate clinging to something which might give worth and meaning to our seemingly futile, damaged lives. Hence the embracing of a substitute will be unbalanced, passionate and extreme; the faith we have in our nation, religion, race, holy cause or great love of our life has to be extravagant and uncompromising. Any substitute embraced in moderation will not supplant and erase the self we want to forget. Psychologically, we will not be sure that we have something worth living for unless we are ready to defend it till death or figuratively die for it.

This readiness to die is evidence to ourselves and others that what we chose was not a substitute for authentic wholeness and enlarged being, but instead the best choice there ever was, and so we convince ourselves of as much, only to eventually live unfulfilled and disappointed lives. This helps explain the extreme positions of a religious fundamentalist. The key takeaway point is this: You have left the hollow substitutes for wholeness and enlarged being once already, maybe several times. You don’t want to go through that all over again, so together let’s continue our souls’ calling of our hero’s or heroine’s journeys by confronting dissatisfaction and accepting the responsibility to discover and build a balanced, purposeful life of satisfaction.

Final Thoughts:

Many  conservative, orthodox and fundamentalist religions and other mass movements are notorious for doping their followers with hope of the future while cheating them of the enjoyment of the present.

Hope Doping.

To the frustrated and dissatisfied, the present seems irremediably spoiled. No real content or comfort can ever arise in his or her mind but from hope. If one comes from this frame of mind and perception and feels disappointed, they are more likely to panic about having a bad life instead of a bad day! For example, if your loved one is insensitive, you might despair of anyone ever loving you the way you need to be loved.

Thus, even though everyone should come to terms with an imperfect world, as a former religious idealist, you are not starting at the same point as others. Other people can wish for something, feel let down, and more easily say, “It’s okay, and I can deal with it.” For many, including the former fundamentalist, it is first necessary to let go of thinking you idealistically need so much. Actually, this is tremendously liberating because you can then fully enjoy everything you do have and look at life—the whole picture—through a new frame of mind.

In the next post we will consider how right now, no matter what your present emotional, mental or spiritual condition might be, you are being invited to become possibly more than you have ever imagined. There is no need to settle for substitutes. You just have to remain courageously fearful, true to the process of your journey and life’s adventure.

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