Posted by: Marie | May 29, 2011

(551) The God thing – Part 1 of 5

Post #551
[Private journal entry written on Wednesday, December 15, 2010]

Today was a therapy session day . . .

As is usual, Edward met me in the lobby and walked with me up the stairs. Then, he detoured for a comfort break while I went into his office and got settled on the couch. While waiting for him, I observed two box elder bugs walking towards each other on the ceiling. I wondered if they were going to meet and greet or if they would pass like two ships in the night.

Well, they did the latter. They passed within a finger’s length of each other, neither one acknowledging the other. I found this intriguing – and humorous. So, when Edward walked into the room, I was gazing at the ceiling and giggling. (I’m sure that, for a moment, he wondered if I had finally totally lost it!)

I filled him in on the adventures of the bugs and he exclaimed, “Oh, they must be from Manhattan!” I watched as he reached up and caught the two bugs, opened a window and set them on the exterior window ledge. I thought that was neat – and I mentioned that I do the same thing with bugs because I don’t like to kill them.

He responded that it seems unnecessary to kill them. I like that sentiment.

We then noticed there were four or five more box elder bugs crawling around on the walls, so we both set about catching and releasing bugs out the window. As we were doing this, I told him the story about the one-legged cricket that kept climbing onto my nightstand, then onto my bed. My story caused Edward to laugh aloud.

So, that gave us a lighthearted start to the session . . .


Edward: I read your status report . . . but, I didn’t respond to it like I usually do. I apologize for that . . . I think it is important for me to acknowledge in a timely manner what you send to me.

Me: Well, thank you for being sensitive to that. However, not getting a response from you wasn’t a big deal to me – at least not with this email. I think it would be a bigger deal to me if there had been something in there that involved drama of some kind – for example, if I were feeling upset about something you said or did. But, in this email, I was just passing along an epiphany.

I enjoy receiving your responses because they are warm and comforting. But, not receiving them, in most cases, is not a big deal.

Edward: Thank you for your understanding. I have good reason to believe I’ll be able to be more consistent in my responses going forward from here.

So, in your email, you mentioned that you are feeling less of a need to push me to share my spiritual beliefs with you . . . can you tell me more about that?

Photo by Martin Chen

Me: Sure . . . for most of my adult life – for the last 25 years – I’ve had to duck and weave around the subject of my spiritual beliefs. My extended family and most of my college friends have stuck with the belief structure presented to them by the church in which we grew up. Part of that belief structure is that Christians have a responsibility to aggressively challenge other people about the status of their relationship with God – to challenge them on the state of their salvation. If Christians don’t aggressively evangelize, then that is proof their own salvation is at risk.

Whenever I associate with family or friends I knew from growing up in the church, I know the issue of my salvation is going to come up. Inevitably, it results in awkwardness as either I feebly attempt to sidestep the issue or I halfheartedly tell them I’m not willing to “go there” with them. They don’t take hints – they keep pushing me until I cut the conversation short and walk away.

I want to feel comfortable attending such events with my mom, but that is difficult. I go with her, but I pretty much keep my distance and sit quietly – I keep conversations short and shallow.

So, in therapy, I know spirituality has and will play a key role in my healing journey. I know I have to dive into conversations about my spiritual beliefs with my therapist . . . or, if not with my therapist, at least with a spiritual advisor of some kind. But, I’ve yet to find someone who could be a spiritual advisor for me because everyone I turn to wants to push his or her own beliefs onto me.

When I was working with Mark, I was hoping he could help me on spiritual matters without trying to force me to follow his beliefs. Well, as you know, that was a disaster.

I have come to believe that having to explain and justify – having to fight for my right to believe as I believe – was necessarily part of any conversation about spirituality I might have with a therapist or a spiritual advisor. In order to do that well – in order to protect myself the best I could in the midst of such a conversation – I have always identified the belief structure of the other person so I could use that knowledge in my defense. I might use that knowledge to spin what I believe into language to which the other person could relate. Or, I might dodge a bullet by saying that my beliefs were “similar” to a specific component of his or her belief system, even if it wasn’t very similar – just so he or she would think I had moved into agreement – just so he or she would back off.

I was preparing to defend myself in here by asking for a definition of your beliefs. When you declined to share your beliefs with me, it caused me to panic a bit. But, then, I realized there is not going to be a need for me to defend myself and to justify my beliefs in here. In here, I don’t need to understand my “enemy” in order to survive. There is no threat here.

I am still curious about what you believe. But, it is a passive curiosity, not a strong, fear-based need.

Edward: Good! I believe we can have conversations in here that allow you to explore and define your beliefs, based upon your own experiences of God. I believe we can allow the belief structure that unfolds through that process to be unique and to be authentic to who you really are.

Me: I am in amazement that I’m able to speak to my therapist about the God thing. I’m grateful to you for being sensitive in your handling of the topic. I’m grateful that you are trustworthy and respectful. And, I’m proud of myself for being brave enough to trust again.

Edward: I agree!

There may be times when it seems appropriate to share what I believe as a way to further affirm your conclusions. If and when that happens, I will share my beliefs through your spiritual framework and language.

Me: Okay . . . but, I’m not sure what you mean . . .

Edward: If I give you a label or a parameter for my belief structure, then our conversation becomes about me and my belief structure. It means I would be asking you to understand my world. That’s not why we are here. It’s not your job to understand my world.

Rather, it’s my job to understand your world – to operate within your world, your beliefs, your experiences. It is my job to come to you – I should be doing that work, not you.

If and when I share my beliefs, I will do so within the context of your framework. I will use your language to indicate that I have had a similar experience or that we share a belief. An example of that would be when, in the last session, I told you that I believe in your angels.

Does that make more sense?

Me: Yeah, it does. I really appreciate how careful you are about honoring my experience and my unique conclusions. Thank you.

Edward: You’re very welcome!

[Continued in the next post . . . ]

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