When I write I see my father in me, especially when I feel angry about an injustice. He used to write letters to people with whom he was angry — and he made me type them all for him. I became all too familiar with all of his seething rage — and I was terrified of my father. So afraid I ran away from home when I was sixteen, after he predicted my death. Well, I outlived my father. He died in 1993 and that is when I began therapy. My father could no longer hurt me, I reasoned.
Except that I had internalized his horrific teachings. Almost twenty years later I look back to see how being a terrorized child had produced a terrorized adult.
Deconstructing Beliefs of the Family Religion
My father’s religion was the key to unravel the terror. According to him, everything in the Bible was true and would have a literal application. According to him. And ever since I was little, Armageddon was on its way — any day. God was watching me and I could never be perfectly obedient, after all, I was an imperfect human. Surely I was one who would be destroyed at Armageddon by such a punishing god. He was at least as fearful as my father, but way more powerful. After all, he was god.
Losing My Religion
I left the family religion in the year 2000 and have been slowly dismantling the belief system ever since. Religious beliefs are among the most dangerous beliefs because I felt powerless against such religiously-induced terrors.
I needed a plan. Move far away and get a data entry or some other computing, or administrative job there in my new location. Then get involved in something I loved. For me, it was dancing.
My first breakthrough occurred when I moved out of the province and away from the prying eyes of the religious community I left. Three provinces away were about right.
But how functional could I be, having been raised a terrorized child with a god who watched my every move, waiting for me to slip up so he could punish me?
I had been set up to fail, I realized. This is the point where many ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses self-destruct. Some have nowhere to turn, so they commit suicide. I however, was determined to overcome any obstacles I encountered during my escape to freedom.
My Task of Deconstructing Beliefs
The task ahead was to deconstruct my belief system, one terror at a time, until I could function as a normal human being. No therapist could help me because most of them did not understand the concept of how religions operate — in the name of god — leaving their flock full of disempowered victims in the wake of their fear-based beliefs. Sadly, many therapists are in awe of religion. Even worse, many therapists are terrorized by religion, just like me. Even governments seem to hold religion as a sacred cow.
I met a wise woman of First Nations descent, and have been spending time with her. Her courage in the face of religion has emboldened me to stand up. “Stand in your power,” she kindly told me many times. What does that mean, exactly? What works for me these days? She speaks what I call “simple truths” which are indisputable. I just know in my heart and soul the truth of her words.
“We are all human.” Who can dispute that? We are all equal as humans. Yes, even the JW elders in suits who judged my faith as defective were humans. Humans do not have a right to treat one another disrespectfully, even when believing they are superior — or pretending they possess special knowledge to which others don’t have access.
Healing Humanity’s Divided Condition
I figure the world is divided along religious lines, with each religion thinking it is the only “true” religion. With a belief system like that, it keeps the world divided. Perhaps the powers-that-be prefer all of us to be in a divided condition. It prevents ones from standing up for the self or for a cause. The “Occupy” movement is one such example, where the authoritarian government could just move in with an army and shut the movement down. People are conditioned to “obey authority”. People gave the government their power, after all. Until that occurred, we were free self-sovereign beings. Think about that.
So, here I am writing down my thoughts, gaining clarity, and healing my religious wounds inflicted in childhood.
New Beliefs — In My Self
“Create a ‘sacred ceremony’ that has personal meaning,” the First Nations woman said. “It provides connection to your sense of the Divine.” So, I selected a low wooden table that I could sit at and meditate. I light a candle, rub a stone, listen to some music, or bang on a drum — and all kinds of great ideas come to me — ideas that break down the religious childhood fears and help me to live as a grown-up, to face my daily challenges, and let go of all the fears. Interesting to note, I even discovered an article that described health benefits of drumming which validated what I was learning from the wise woman in my life. I was on the right track!
“Love yourself, be gentle with yourself — the lesson of the deer,” is another beneficial teaching I have learned that helps in the deconstructing of belies. I read Ted Andrews books and felt connected to the earth and my surroundings. Learning of my connection to earth and the wonders of nature helps to heal the isolation I felt after being judged harshly, subsequently disfellowshipped, and rejected by a religious community — supposedly being “thrown out into the darkness”, discarded like so much garbage. Religious instruction is all about “doing more” and “giving till it hurts.” That is not how I choose to live. I like the concept of being gentle. Staying in bed on Saturday morning feels positively luxurious after the years I spent as an unpaid marketing agent, door-knocking, looking for converts for the Jehovah’s Witnesses publishing corporation.
Deconstructing my belief system, proving to myself there is a better way to live, has given me the courage to pursue healthy new avenues. Activities that provide pleasure, rather than produce pain, are preferable every time!
Deconstructing Beliefs Makes Room for the New
I believe it is safe to deconstruct the beliefs in which we were raised. My father’s religious rules are nothing close to the laws of nature. I feel safe now to thank my father for the harsh lessons he taught. He helped me to see the need for self-love and being gentle, which are the exact opposite of his teachings. I continue to replace all discarded beliefs with better ones as part of deconstructing old beliefs. I will take what serves my highest interest and I will leave the fear behind.
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