Religion works on the emotions and heightens them. It makes people feel good temporarily and therefore amenable to what messages religion is sending their way. But, if emotions are being heightened while a message is being sent, then the message is being received subconsciously, but not actually rationally being thought about. This process sounds like the method by which propaganda is disseminated. I only heard the words of the messages in church. I didn’t get the emotional effect. So, I sat and logically analyzed the message I was getting. The message was always incongruous with what I was told to believe. The message of religion seems to instill a belief that you are unworthy, unlovable and generally insignificant. So, after spending years examining my belief structure as it related to Christianity, I decided to dump it all in favor of an agnostic stance.
How does improving my ‘spiritual’ life actually benefit me, a person who has little understanding of emotions, and why couldn’t religion work for me? A spiritual life is the internal life you live that is in relation to yourself. In other words, it is the relationship you have with yourself. If you have a bad relationship with yourself, then things don’t work out very well for you just like if you had a bad relationship with your spouse, friend or significant other. I needed something concrete, something methodical, something practical (a step by step guide), because the Bible is not practical to me. I needed something that I could use to improve my ‘inside’ life. If what I thought about myself made the difference in how my life worked, then the message that I was a sinner and unworthy of God made me think I was unworthy. If I was unworthy of God, and God was the source of love and happiness, then my life was only going to work if I figured out God. That wasn’t going to happen because I couldn’t talk to him nor hear him, So, my happiness had to come from somewhere else.
July 9, 2008. Michelle came home and told me that she had turned on the TV and watched an episode of Oprah. She said that Oprah interviewed a woman named Louise Hay. Louise Hay talked about healing your whole life by changing the way you think about yourself. Michelle explained it all while I listened a little skeptically. I thought it sounded like a good idea. Earlier in my life I had had a little counseling and had learned that how you think of yourself is important to self-esteem. I didn’t understand what self-esteem was, then or in 2008, but I understood that having a good view of yourself was important to it. So, I watched Michelle ‘practice what she preached’ and I saw all of her physical pain go away. So, I thought, okay, let me try it. I wasn’t as disciplined as Michelle but my own attempts paid off a little. My self-esteem improved. I realized that I had a view of my self that was incongruous with liking me. This view consisted of beliefs that we all, Aspies and NTs alike, pick up as kids without examining further.
Now, I don’t remember any religious experience or service or counseling helping me improve my view of who I am. I specifically remember all the talk about sin and the need to be made right (because I was wrong?!) to have God interested in me. The talk about being separated from God because of inherent sin made it sound as if all people were born with a genetic birth defect that had no known cure. All the rules and regulations you had to follow just to have God love you seemed to say that God is conditional. I also understood that his love is based on doing his will. So, if I’m not doing his will, then I’m not worthy of his love? That’s what it sounded like to me. If I have no way of communicating with God, then how can I know his will? So, if I don’t know his will because I can’t communicate with him, then whose fault is that? Not mine. It really seems that I’m supposed to be there for God. I never got the idea that he was there for me.
Louise Hay, however, said that we are all important beings that are here to live a unique life of learning and success. As eternal souls, each life we live is an education. We have lessons to learn. She also said that if there are problems in our lives, they are there because of how we think about that aspect of our lives. She said that we all have beliefs that we live by. She said that some of the beliefs we hold are good for us and help us in our lives. Some of the other beliefs, however, are negative beliefs that limit us, contribute to our feeling bad about ourselves and otherwise are blocks to our successes in life. She emphasized that we are not victims because we don’t think very well about ourselves. We just picked up bad habits from our parents, peers and others that do not serve us well. Those habits don’t make us bad, just ineffective for ourselves. This philosophy was the most uplifting message I had experienced. I don’t remember anything this positive about my religious experiences. Religion seemed to locate the blame for my life’s inadequacies squarely on my shoulders and it didn’t seem to show any way out. Louise Hay’s philosophy had clear methods for healing. So, I ’empathized’ with her views.
Working with her methods, I quickly cleared up a lot of old beliefs that weren’t helpful. Why would I want to do this? Because I realized that I wanted to be productive for me. I wanted my life to ‘work’ on my own terms. I wanted to work towards doing the things that I loved but I realized that if I didn’t ‘love’ myself then there wasn’t any reason to ‘love’ something that I wanted to do. Louise Hay says that we make our own happiness. That happiness is a choice made me realize that I could make my own happiness. I had to learn to think about my life and myself in a way that made me happy. By using Ms. Hay’s methods, I was able to change my thought patterns into something that I liked and that helped me ‘feel’ better about my life. In other words I became happier. And happiness is an emotion, right?