Thursday, August 2, 2012

Facing Our Angels & Our Demons

On this blog I talk a lot about my experience with fundamentalist evangelical Christianity, and this post will be no exception.

I found that when I was a Christian that oftentimes other people - and myself - thought that they were supposed to be happy all of the time. If you were wrestling with "negative" emotions such as anger or lust or bitterness, or if you were depressed, then that either meant that a) Satan was attacking you, b) You had to pray harder, or c) You hadn't been a good enough Christian. It often left me, and I'm sure others, feeling like they had done something wrong and perhaps were being punished.

There wasn't a place for "the dark side."

In this short clip, U2 frontman Bono discusses this fear of duality within Christianity:

Yesterday I got a short piece of writing in my in-box from the American Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön. She, and many Buddhists, advocate a completely different approach:

The Practice Of Compassionate Abiding
"A question that has intrigued me for years is this: how can we start exactly where we are, with all our entanglements, and still develop unconditional acceptance of ourselves instead of guilt and depression? One of the most helpful methods I’ve found is the practice of compassionate abiding. The next time you realize that you’re hooked, you could experiment with this approach.
Contacting the experience of being hooked, you breathe in, allowing the feeling completely and opening to it. The in-breath can be deep and relaxed—anything that helps you to let the feeling be there, anything that helps you not push it away. Then, still abiding with the urge and edginess of the feeling, as you breathe out you relax and give the feeling space. The out-breath is not a way of sending the discomfort away but of ventilating it, of loosening the tension around it, of becoming aware of the space in which the discomfort is occurring."
What? Actually allowing ourselves to feel our "entanglements," or our negative feelings?  Yes, surely this is a much healthier practice than constantly trying to push these feelings away or feeling guilty about them.  I think sometimes we're afraid that if we "let the demons roam" that they'll take us over. This isn't the case. As we let our anger, lust, jealousy have some room to breathe, they gradually dissipate. They do. Sometimes we need a good therapist to help us work through this process, but it is much healthier than feeling guilty or suppressing our feelings.

Johnny Cash - "I See A Darkness"
American III: Solitary Man (2000)