CAN YOU OVERDOSE ON A BELIEF SYSTEM
I spent about 40 years of my life as a Christian fundamentalist. I believed the Bible to be absolutely true, literal, and historical. When verses seemed confusing or contradictory or just plain impossible (eg: Talking snake, talking donkey, floating axe head, sun standing still, virgin birth, etc., etc.), my go-to explanation was that all such events were miracles. Who could question that? The God-of-the-Gaps was good enough for me. I was a True Believer, unphased by such things as science and archaeology. As a 2nd-generation Christian, my identity and ideology were utterly fused, and I saw no problem with it. All of my energy was consumed with preserving my world view (to protect my identity), which relied on my belief that the Bible was literal and inerrant.
Until one day, a seed of doubt was planted in the dark recesses of my brain, where it had time to germinate and grow. Eventually that doubt grew too large to be contained, and its tendrils spilled out, squeezing my former beliefs to dust. There was no controlling it now, terrifying as it was.
As I didn't know anyone else who had such a dramatic deconversion, I felt isolated in my disorientation, and utterly vulnerable. I felt compelled to frantically research my own denomination, my entire religion, and then all religions I had ever heard of. When that endeavor became too time-consuming, I decided on another tactic: I would study cults. While I did not view my former religion as a cult, per se, I could definitely see parallels - and I was TERRIFIED of ever falling victim to another such "scam" again.
I was so used to spending time and energy on evangelism that I knew exactly what to do: Study and show myself approved! My first stop was New Age mysticism and Eastern-style philosophies. These still scratched my spiritual itch, but without the dogma - at first. It wasn't enough for me to simply read about or slowly explore these things, I had to take every course and attend every lecture and workshop IMMEDIATELY. In fact, I became an ordained "Metaphysical Minister," and went on to attain my "Masters of Metaphysical Science" through an online diploma mill. I could realign your chakras in a heartbeat and advise you of which crystals and gemstones you might want to keep close.
All was great in my new-found belief system - until fellow New Age believers tried to convince me that "channeling" of ancient beings through contemporary (very) earthen vessels was real. Suddenly it all felt too familiar. When they demanded to know why I didn't believe in Abraham-Hicks ("a group consciousness from the nonphysical dimension," from https://www.abraham-hicks.com/), I realized that these good people were just as duped as I had been about my former religion.
With a sickening feeling and sadness that I was once again going to lose my community, I walked away from another belief system.
WHAT HAVE I LEARNED?
It is possible for us to burn out after we #DivorceReligion by applying our former zeal to a new belief system. Using the old "evangelism" energy to research & promote newly embraced beliefs can be exhausting - and sometimes obnoxious to those around us. We must give ourselves permission to SLOW DOWN.
It may well be that we are simply experiencing and expressing autonomy for the very first time, which can feel pretty heady. If you are in this space, I encourage you to view your new experiences and beliefs as a sort of buffet. You can take a bite of every single item, free to taste more or spit it out as you please. Too much at once might make you sick.
Recovery from Religious Trauma Syndrome is not a race.
If we spent years in a cult/religion/high demand group (or relationship), it may take years to fully recover. If born into it, the recovery process may be life-long. There is no time table and no guaranteed approach to healing.
Things that may help include:
Seeing a trauma-informed #RTS recovery counsellor, consultant, or coach
Journaling your insights, questions, & discoveries
Educating yourself about how beliefs are formed and how high-demand groups & leaders operate
Engaging in creative pursuits
Familiarizing yourself with your body and how it feels. Fear hijacks our sympathetic nervous system, and we must learn to re-establish parasympathetic dominance.
Your body is capable of learning and healing, including your mind. You can continue to grow at your own pace. It's okay that you've been misled before; you will likely make some more mistakes in the future, too. Give yourself the gift of slowing down, treating your explorations more like a leisurely stroll than a full-on sprint.
If you are looking for support as you navigate changing beliefs, reach out to me for a free 20-minute consultation. I offer 1:1 sessions as a religious recovery consultant, and I also run the online small group Divorcing Religion Workshop.
Additionally, April 29-May 1, 2022, I am hosting the online Conference on Religious Trauma. This is a fantastic learning opportunity (complete with CEUs available) for both therapists and those recovering from Religious Trauma Syndrome. Please visit www.religioustraumaconference.org for information and tickets to this helpful event.