It’s Halloween! (So Let’s Talk Scary Movies) #2

On Thursday, I rewatched the first horror movie I had ever seen in a theater–actually the first movie I had ever seen in a theater, period. It was probably one of the most intentionally rebellious things I ever did as a teen. Movie theaters were “evil” places in my cult, and I was forbidden from going to them, even to watch a Disney movie.

Horror movies were also considered evil and demonic for the obvious reason that they often deal with dark topics and the cult didn’t know how to recognize a metaphor.

So, what do I do when I decide to sneak out to a theater for the first time? I go watch Silent Hill, of course.

I remember being scared shitless, but I didn’t remember much about the movie itself. Watching it this time was sort of like watching it for the first time all over again. This one quickly took a place amongst my “movies that are metaphors for the importance of darkness.”

Spoilers in case you haven’t actually seen a movie this old yet.

Silent Hill is a moody, thrilling underworld journey about abuse, revenge, and facing your dark side. Whereas IT focused on facing and conquering fears, this movie is about encountering the dark, painful parts of ourselves.

The story opens with Sharon, an adopted little girl, sleepwalking and dreaming about this place called Silent Hill. It’s implied that these types of episodes have been going on for quite some time, with no response to medication or medical attempts to manage the sleep walking. Her mother discovers that it was a town in the state in which she’d been born that had become a ghost town after coal caught fire in the mines and drove people away. Thus, Rose decides that the only answer is to take her daughter back to this burning town to see if they can figure out what is haunting Sharon.

Rose and Sharon end up separated, and the movie follows Rose’s attempts to find her daughter in a land that has become a nightmare. Her searches eventually lead her to discover a bullied little girl who had been burned by religious fanatics for being a witch. Down in the bowels of the hospital where Alessa was put on life support after her burns, Rose encounters a little girl who looks exactly like Sharon…if Sharon were a demon.

Rose learns that Sharon is “what’s left of Alesssa’s goodness.” Her look-alike is Alessa’s revenge. They had sent Sharon to Rose to be cared for, eventually calling both of them back.

Rose also learns that the religious extremists plan a similar fate for her daughter. Although Alessa’s mother, a member of the cult, had abandoned her when the group had chosen to “purify” her, Rose has an opportunity to save her daughter from the religious extremists by taking in the darkness of the other half and carrying it to the church where the extremists hold their meetings.

It’s a powerful movie with so many characters playing off each other that my Jungian heart goes crazy with the possibilities for analysis.

The movie points out that “to a child, mother is god,” highlighting both the incredible power that mothers hold over their children. Most children, even when their mothers are harming them, still see their mothers through rosy glasses, requiring the child to take on the interpretation of “if good mother is doing these things to me, it must be because I am bad.” It’s nearly impossible to consider, as a young child, that mother might not actually be good. In keeping with this theme, Alessa’s mother is never actually touched by Alessa’s revenge. Even though she’s one of the people that Alessa could easily blame, she doesn’t.

In a similar way, cults like these ones often portray God in a similar light. It takes a lot for a member to question whether the group (which represents God) is doing the right thing, whether life circumstances are indeed deserved. Alessa’s mom wasn’t a good mom because she hated her daughter. She failed Alessa because she herself was under the same spell with the group.

Rose is contrasted with Alessa’s failure. Rose is able to save Sharon the way that Alessa’s mother should have saved Alessa. In some ways, I like to think that Rose is the internal mother that can be developed to heal from religious trauma, but I think the literal interpretation of her being an adoptive mother is also legit.

In turn, Alessa is contrasted by the split girls, identical except that one is good and one is…not exactly evil, but definitely dark. The good child, Sharon, is easy to love. The one that carries Alessa’s pain and anger is harder because she’s scary and unpredictable. But Rose can’t save Sharon without accepting Sharon’s other half.

Alessa’s mom is horrified by the shadow side as she watches her take her revenge on the religious fanatics, but there’s an interesting question even in the violence. Who is the true monster? Yes, the fanatics have been hiding from this dark child, but they also were the ones who created her. They burned Alessa, blind to the evil they themselves perpetuated. We also find out that they’re dead too—that they died in the fire they started, but that they are avoiding awareness of how they have destroyed themselves until Rose forces them to confront the shadow they have created.

Right towards the end, after Rose has managed to cut Sharon down from the stake (technically a ladder more than a stake, but serving the same purpose), she’s holding her and rocking her. Suddenly, the dark duplicate appears and looks into Sharon’s face. The scene cuts away then, and Rose and Sharon wake up later and head home.

It’s unclear from the movie whether the dark one just leaves Sharon alone after she looks at her or if she and Sharon reintegrate with each other in that moment, but my guess is that they integrated because neither were whole on their own. They had been split by the horror of what happened (good metaphor for trauma), and the healing came through Rose offering the corrective experience of a mother who doesn’t abandon her child. Rose needed to love both the shadow and the light in order for the little girl to fully heal.

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It’s Halloween, Bitches! (So Let’s Talk Scary Movies!!)

This is one of my favorite times of the year. The air has turned crisp and cool in prophecy of things to come. The trees have begun to turn inward, their spring and summer growth slowly becoming rattling skeletons that will light up the earth with their oranges and reds before succumbing to the final fade and fall.

While December sees my home looking vaguely like the sugar plum fairy exploded, October turns it equally as dark—skeleton candle holders, tombstones, creepy figurines, and black cloth draping and adorning nearly every surface and altar.

Halloween is as much a time of fun as it is a serious spiritual process for me. The whole world seems poised on the edge of the underworld, and I know that the playfulness of the tricks and treats and the thrills of the season hold a special power that balances out the dark that at other times of the year might feel overwhelming.

This year, I’m attempting to do something that touches on an aspect of the darkness of this season every day of the month. Since horror movies, rife with symbolism and meaning, are one of my favorite ways of encountering the underworld, I thought I might highlight some of the stories that stand out to me as particularly relevant, beginning with what I would call the scariest movie I’ve ever seen—IT (2017).

There may be spoilers in the following paragraphs.

Stephen King is, of course, a master of horror, and the recent film adaptation of his book has made an indelible mark on my psyche, as much because of its themes as because of the jumps and scares that nearly drove me out of the theater when I watched it.

IT is a brilliant exploration of fear and the myriad ways we all attempt to deal with it. Each of the children in the movie is grappling with their own version of fear, often handed down to them from their parents’ own unhealthy ways of coping. The town is riddled with a nameless terror that is destroying lives, yet the adults seem surprisingly unaware.

The adults feel the terror, but they won’t acknowledge it.

Instead, they find their own unique ways of keeping it out of consciousness— we see one using hypochondriasis bordering on Munchausen by proxy syndrome, another religion,  and another isolation. Several turn to the power surge of abusing those weaker and more vulnerable, and still others are absent (either literally gone or absent through emotional distance or substance use).

The children are left on their own to figure out how to handle their growing fears and awareness of the horrors of life…and death. Some of them take on their parents’ method of coping, a la Eddie and his somatic symptoms or Henry Bowers and bullying.

Others repel the coping mechanisms they see before them, as with Stanley Uris who seems to resent his religious indoctrination or Stuttering Bill who refuses to forget his brother the way his parents have.

Still others develop their own unique way of coping—as with Richie’s potty-mouth humor or Ben’s obsession with research and the library.

But one thing they are all aware of is that they are scared, and nobody seems ready to help them. They’re aware that they’re not meant to deal with this stuff at their age. It should be something the adults deal with. But they also know that the adults aren’t dealing; they’re avoiding. The adults are lulled into a stupor, ignoring the “Missing” posters in favor of a creepy, indoctrinating television show that gives Pennywise perfect access to their subconscious.

There are multiple times when the kids have a choice—take the path of their parents, ignore what is happening, and enjoy being a “kid,” all the while fastidiously distracting themselves with their individual brands of avoidance, or face their fears, bring them into the open, and learn how to work together to overcome them.

Obviously, some choose the former—most notably the bullies. But the Loser’s Club manages to discover, despite the horrific examples they have before them, that the only way they have hope of defeating this nameless horror is to face their own fears with the strength of friends. They learn that fear is strongest when left in secret and that a good portion of its power comes from the internal paralysis of one’s own mind.

As each of the children confronts the real-life horrors in their own lives, they develop the strength to confront the mythical horror that is terrorizing their town. Together, they become a force to be reckoned with.

Whereas It had seemed all-powerful in the beginning (when they each faced It alone), at the end, It is a powerless, confused mess of constant transformation as It scrambles to find the mental foothold that gave It Its true power.

As Stephen King is wont to do, he juxtaposes real horrors with supernatural ones—the horror of abuse, coming of age, and bullying with the horror of some inexplicable but very hungry monster. I love how scary the movie was for me, but more than that, I love how IT isn’t just an exploration of fear but a treatise on the power of connection to heal and overcome.

 

Reclaiming the Private Life in a Technological Age

Earlier this week, I was on an adventure with my partner that took us into this gorgeous hideout along a river’s edge. The water was so clear and deep that I could watch fish swimming just below me.

Delighted as I always am with anything animal, I whipped out my phone and tried to capture a picture. The sounds and smells around me receded as my eye took over my sensory processing, but I was frustrated to realize that my phone couldn’t capture what my eyes could.

At one point, I looked up and the fullness of the scene came rushing back into my awareness. I realized the experience was so much more intense when I wasn’t living it through a shrunken version on a screen.

Then and there, I pocketed my phone, deciding that I actually didn’t want to share what I was doing and seeing. No one would grasp what this place felt like through what little I could show in a picture, and trying so hard to share the experience with others was actually diminishing it for myself.

It felt like an epiphany.

Everything seems to be publicized these days.

We can read the break ups of complete strangers, find out the juicy details of how someone discovered their partner was cheating on them, or witness people proposing to their significant other, coming out to their parents, or giving birth to their firstborn child.

Increasingly, we’ve been able to watch people have emotional breakdowns, commit crimes, or defend against sexual/physical assault all through the spread of recorded interactions and “live” features of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and good ol’ security cameras.

In many ways, life has become a performative art. Moments become about one’s followers and “friends” (loosely applied regardless of whether you ever hang out or converse), not about…well, the moment.

There’s nothing wrong with taking a picture to show friends or posting to social media about stuff going on in your life. It’s an important form of sharing that I don’t intend to give up.

But having the option to share any moment at any time can become a compulsion to share every moment all the time.

Sometimes, it’s good to step back and revel in the privacy of the moment—to let it be sacred, special, secret, or solo.

When was the last time you did something for yourself, just yourself, and didn’t publicize it? (Other than mundane shit like brushing your teeth and stuff.) If you find yourself struggling with coming up with an answer, maybe it’s time to stop curating Instagram and start curating your privacy.

Take a conversation off the screen and make it face-to-face. Pick something not to share on snap-chat and explore how it feels compared to the times you do share. Maybe even cultivate something in your life that never gets shared on social media—it’s entirely private, deliciously secret from the Internet (though maybe not secret from people connected to you in person).

While the Internet does a lot to expand the world for us, sometimes it also ends up disconnecting us from our inner world or from the tangible world around us. When we choose to disconnect from the screen, we reject the idea that posting a moment makes it “real.” #NoPicsBecauseIWasTooBusyLivingIt

 

Let Go and Let Goddess

There was this trite phrase that I used to hear in the cult: “Let go and let God.”

It was used to encourage surrender and submission to “God’s will” (which always turned out to conveniently be what the authorities wanted you to do) and to remind people that they didn’t need to understand what was happening. Questioning God was just rebellion. Rather, a good cultie—er, Christian—would recognize that all they needed to do was follow God’s lead and take joy in whatever trials were sent their way.

Gag!

But in a weird way, this phrase has sort of been coming back to me, with a slightly new twist.

I’m taking the biggest risk of my life. Okay…maybe not the biggest. I did decide that going to hell was a worthwhile risk when I left the cult, so eternal damnation might be a slightly riskier move than opening my own practice.

But it feels that big!

While my partner has decided to go back to school, I’ve taken up the role of breadwinner for the household…by going into business for myself, spending thousands on getting set up, and crossing my fingers that I can make a living doing what I love.

Part of what makes success seem like a possibility is that I am an extremely hard, self-directed worker. I’m thorough in planning and tirelessly detail-oriented.

But there’s a point at which I realize that I can only do so much, and then it’s out of my hands.

That’s when this phrase returns to mind. There is never a reason for me to abdicate my right to question or to sacrifice myself in surrender to some sadistic divine will, but there is a point at which I need to…have faith, I guess.

I find myself asking, Is it faith in myself? Or is it a faith in something larger than myself?

Perhaps it’s a bit of both. As someone who has a healthy skepticism about the existence of a divinity and definitely doesn’t believe in an omnipotent god, it feels infinitely strange to find myself sending out a kind of prayer.

“Dear Goddess, it’s me—er, well, you know who—I’ve done my part; if you could see fit to send people my way, that would be great.”

I mean, I know there are other ways of looking at it. One of the people who has been instrumental in helping me get set up has resorted to the Field of Dreams mantra, “If you build it, they will come,” which is helpful in a different way in reminding me to chill the fuck out.

But I can’t help but be amused by the irony in the fact that I can’t control everything, regardless of which quote, phrase, or cliché I use to remind myself of that. At some point, I have to let go….At least, I can choose to give it over to a Goddess this time. Bitches get shit done!

 

Creating My Own Meditation/Oracle Deck

A while ago, I took on a project of painting a 3×3 watercolor every new moon, pairing it with a quote or phrase that felt significant to my life at that point in time. I wrote about the process in the beginning, and about my hope that I would eventually have enough cards to be able to shuffle and select one to focus on. Well, months later (and several repaints down the road), I have a nice little deck that holds incredible meaning for me.

My artistic skill isn’t perfect, but I feel proud of my deck and want to show it off.

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Related quote: “The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.” –Longfellow

The original card for this Longfellow quote (this picture is a repaint) was painted during a period of intense grief over the loss of someone very close to me. It helped me remember that I needed to allow myself to cry as needed. Even now, it reminds me that sometimes emotions just need to be. They cannot move out if they aren’t allowed to move through. I’m a big believer in having days where “moping” is the only thing on the to-do list.

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Related quote: “You’re a divine animal and you’re beautiful; the divine is not separate from the beast.” –Lenore Kandel

This one is also an early card that was repainted because the image didn’t…well, it didn’t look like a person. Most people thought the original was a dog’s face. 😛 But this is a message that has been recurring for me to love myself as an embodied creature.

I’ve worked so hard to work through some of the baggage that comes from being raised in a puritanical, sex- and body-shaming environment along with the baggage that comes from sexual abuse itself. But I realize it’s never a “won” battle. Shame can come creeping back in even years after I thought I had cast it off. I need recurrent reminders that it’s okay to be embodied, to be sexual (or to not want sex), or to be imperfect.

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Related quote: “I wanna think that you’ll be different. Smoke and mirrors are so clever clever.” –Kelly Clarkson in “Let Me Down”

This mirror (which will probably be repainted because it doesn’t exactly scream “mirror”) grew from my need to remember that people who have been toxic in the past may know all the right things to say–and I may be tempted to believe them–but it doesn’t necessarily signify that things will actually change.

I’m coming up on a year of official cut-off from my parents. Inevitably, I find myself wrestling with questions. “What if they’ve changed?” “What if they can be better?” “What if I can make them love me?” Sometimes the most treacherous smoke-and-mirror trick is the one I can play on myself in thinking that I can somehow change the past by being “good enough.”

Deep down, I know that’s not true, but the lies that are the most tempting to believe are the ones we want to be true.

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Related quote: “But the monsters turned out to be just trees.” –Taylor Swift in “Out of the Woods”

I love this one as a trigger grounder. I have come to truly admire the way that my system can recognize red flags, but I also realize that sometimes it’s reacting to something that is not currently actually a threat. This card reminds me to take a step back and think about whether my brain is reacting to shadows.

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Related quote: “And so here we go bluebird, back to the sky on your own.” –Sara Bareilles in “Bluebird”

I’ve written before about the sense of permanent displacement, the sadness of always “moving on.” This card is a poignant expression of that–as much a reminder to think about when I need to take flight as it is a form of mourning that sometimes I cannot permanently belong, no matter how much I want to.

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Related quote: “What do stars do? Shine.” –Neil Gaiman from “Stardust”

A lovely but simple quote from Stardust that can encourage me to let my talents do their thing. I have magic and power within. I have skills that I have honed. Sometimes, all I need to do is let them be visible.

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Related quote: “Change your perspective, and you change your world.” –a spirit guide

I’ve seen somewhat similar phrases since I had this one come to me, but I can’t rightfully attribute it as a quote to someone since it was a phrase that came to me during an active imagination/vision quest in which I was conversing with a fairy queen who was my guide in that moment. It’s been an important concept for me for years at this point, so it seemed only right to put it into a card. It reminds me that there are always multiple ways of looking at something.

This is not one of those bullshit positivity mantras that all problems will go away if I stop thinking about them as problems. Rather, it’s encouragement to look at the ways that I can address the problem that may not be readily apparent. Sometimes that looks like “letting go.” Other times, it looks for ways in which I may not be recognizing my own power or using all the tools available to me. When I’m feeling stuck, sometimes what I need is a different view of the problem.

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Related quote: “I’ll be an army, no you’re not gonna stop me getting through. I’ll sing a marching song and stomp through the halls louder than you. I could surrender, but I’d just be pretending. No, I’d rather be dead than live a lie. Burn the white flag!” –Joseph in “White Flag”

This flag card is, hands down, one of my favorites–both as a quote and as a picture. It’s such a powerful card for me and probably one of the most recurrent themes I face in my life–the choice of whether to surrender or “fight against all odds.” This is my Frodo heading into Mordor card, my Aragorn at Helm’s Deep card, my Joan of Arc card, my Braveheart “FREEDOM!” card, my Thelma and Louise card.

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Related quote: “If you wanna break these walls down, you’re gonna get bruised.” –Halsey in “Castle”

Probably somewhat similar to the flag card, this card is also about fighting…but more about fighting the established systems and recognizing that there isn’t a way to break down some of the toxic structures of life without it hurting a little. I felt this card a lot during the election season, the realization that we were at a painful juncture as a nation that offered little hope of positive outcome. This is the card that reminds me that sometimes in order to address the root of something, it might seem like things have to get worse before they can get better.

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Related quote: “You can’t push the river.” –Unknown quote found in “Waking the Tiger” by Peter Levine

I think this might be a proverb or something. I have no idea where it came from. I read it in Peter Levine’s Waking the Tiger. It’s a lovely image though about the importance of letting a process happen at its own pace.

I need to remember this for my own healing. “It takes the time that it takes,” as a dear friend put it once. Like the Longfellow quote, this one helps me remember to allow myself to be in the muck, but also reminds me that the much doesn’t last forever–it’s just part of the flow.

I also need to remember this when it comes to others too though. As a counselor, as an activist, as a friend, as a lover–I find myself in various positions of supporting or encouraging growth and change in others. It’s easy to get frustrated if things don’t progress as fast as I want them to or in the way that I want them to, but I cannot hasten someone’s process. I can’t do the changing for them. The more I try to influence the flow of the process, the more I’m probably going to actually face resistance.

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Related quote: “I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart: I am, I am, I am.” –Sylvia Plath

This heart is another that is a particular favorite of mine. I adore the colors in the heart! I don’t think I could recreate this if my life depended on it, but I’m thrilled that it turned out this well when I first painted it.

This was the card I painted following the Pulse massacre. It was the cry of my heart at realizing that people not only hate me for being queer but that some would even want to kill me.

It was a cry of grief as well as defiance. “I am here! You can kill me, but you can’t kill my pride!” Perhaps that is why they colors turned out so vibrant…

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Related quote: “Once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out.” –John Green from “Paper Towns”

There is a particular passage towards the end of John Green’s Paper Towns that I have earmarked and read over and over. It’s a passage talking about the importance of metaphors and how they shape how we approach different things. It’s also a passage that talks about the ways that life buffets you. This is the passage the reminds me of how our wounds are what helps us connect and empathize. They can become our superpowers, so to speak, like Harry seeing the thestrals.

The thing about this meditation deck is that it’s literally tailored to my life. As an oracle, it might have some meaning for others as a side effect, but it isn’t designed for the sake of universality. Rather, it is a reflection of the specific themes and patterns of my life, something that makes it particularly powerful for me. It’s far from finished, but it’s full enough now to be useful.

Feel free to share the mantras that have helped guide your life in the comments!

 

How Faitheist is Restoring my Faith in Atheist Writers

Atheism is one of those mindsets that I have had a hard time reading, despite my intention of opening myself up to multiple viewpoints on spirituality and religion. Even more surprising, it’s in spite of my lack of investment in the belief of a deity. I have come to think of myself as largely agnostic, believing in some things because I want to, not because I think they are definitely right, so atheism never struck me as a perspective that would bother me.

Atheists as people are fine for me. I have enjoyed getting to know many and have rarely encountered any whose atheism seemed problematic. They all have, mostly, been along the lines of Chris Stedman. And maybe I’ve just been lucky, but I choose to believe rather that there are more of him than not out there.

But atheist writers…damn if they don’t tend towards the same trends they claim to loathe. I’ve tried reading Richard Dawkins and stopped because I was just too revolted by his prejudice and too thrown off by the logical fallacies he commits in his quest to demonize all things religious.

I’ve made it through other books, like The Atheist’s Way, which were more tolerable and had some great moments, but I was still uncomfortable with how much the slippery slopes, broad generalizations, unbacked assumptions, and disdain for “other” resembled the fundamentalism which I left.

It’s actually kind of…funny, I guess, that the two camps would look at each other as the worst while being so damn similar, but I digress.

More recently, I decided to give it another go. I wanted to have at least one book by an atheist author that I didn’t want to burn along with my theology books from the IFB.

Enter Faitheist.

It’s more of a memoir than anything, and much of it covers the coming out journey of the author. (And full disclosure, I haven’t finished it yet. I have maybe a fourth left to read).

But it’s a beautiful book—perhaps not in spite of being a coming out memoir, but because of it.

Stedman values story-telling and didn’t set out to write a philosophy book, though there’s plenty of philosophy peppered throughout his story. He carefully details his own conversion and deconversion process and the struggles of realizing he’s gay while being part of a tradition that taught that gay is a hell-bent identity.

His loss of faith is poignant, something I can deeply relate to. His search for a reason to keep believing equally so. His subsequent disillusionment and anger towards Christianity is, well, pretty damn familiar.

But what makes this book stand out to me is that he doesn’t stay in that place. He realizes that his hatred of Christianity (and religion, in general) is reliant on stereotypes and caricatures of the worst sides of religion, missing the incredible complexity of belief and meaning-making that exists within any given path. He also recognizes the way that certain sections of the atheist community resemble the close-mindedness of religious zealots.

In other words, he is able to look at what he dislikes about the other and recognize its presence within himself.

His story of atheism is a personal one. He recognizes that it’s right for him right now but that it isn’t necessarily right for others. He recognizes that people who aren’t atheist are able to be good, even intelligent people and that they can have common goals towards which to work.

His goal isn’t to eradicate religion, as Dawkins and that ilk would want, but to work towards eradicating injustice and building bridges of commonality.

Some of the criticism of the book has expressed doubts about whether he’s a “true” atheist and suspicions that he will become religious or spiritual again. Ultimately, I don’t think it matters what he believes down the road. There’s always a chance that each of us will change our minds/beliefs for any number of reasons. But throughout the book, I can see his atheism grow into the atheism of someone who doesn’t need to believe in a God and, thus, doesn’t need to debunk other’s beliefs, which makes me suspect that his atheism has a better chance of being lifelong and genuine if he’s not holding to it in opposition, anger, and fear of religion.

I would love for others to read this book. His journey is one that we can all learn from, regardless of what path we ultimately choose to walk.

 

The Mind and Heart Should Get Married (Not Divorced)

The Western world has an unfortunate habit of splitting things into opposing dichotomies: the mind/body, masculine/feminine, rational/emotional, etc.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the source of wisdom and a similarly ineffective dichotomy between whether people believe that external education or intuition reigns.

In general, I tend to find the favor towards external information residing in the rational camp. Atheists, scientists, and people who value masculine-ish traits often express a value for that which comes from outside oneself. Decisions are made from logical criteria. Knowledge consists of what is testable and provable.

On the other hand, the emotional camp tends to value intuition. This is where I tend to find the spiritual, some types of philosophical/psychological thinkers, and those who value feminine-ish traits expressing appreciation for knowledge coming from within. Decisions are made based on gut instincts. Knowledge consists of introspection and is often individual and ambiguous.

As a typical Gemini, I find myself gravitating to a certain extent to both sides but chafing at the idea of having to choose one. I have come to trust my intuition. I’ve made some of my most important life decisions based on intuitive knowledge. Yet, I see the importance of gathering information, weighing the pros and cons, and seeking evidence.

I don’t necessarily think being a Gemini makes me unique in using both my intuition and my intellect as a source of wisdom. I just think perhaps I’m more likely to recognize that I use both and value both.

In fact, they have to work together to be strongest.

Babette Rothschild was the first person who planted this seed in my head with her book The Body Remembers. At one point, she mentioned that there is evidence to suggest that people can’t think rationally without emotions. The thought struck a deep chord within me.

Fred Kofman writes a fairly simple explanation of how this works over here, explaining that without the emotional undertones, people have a hard time developing enough of a preference or emotional charge to actually make their choices. Looking at the pros and cons, even as a “rational” model of decision-making, is endless and worthless without emotional input.

On a similar level, I would suggest that if a person divorces their own emotions and intuition from the decision-making process, they have no internal compass. Part of the ways that I’ve come to understand how cults work—how they can convince people to do unhealthy, bizarre, or illegal things—comes from the way they divorce the individual from what Robert Lifton deems their “reality testing” abilities through methods such as confusion, emotional manipulation, loading the language, etc (check out his book Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism for more information about this).

On the emotional/intuitive end, a similar thing is true. As Kofman points out in the article linked above, strong emotions can overwhelm to the point of losing reason. We’re all probably familiar with a person who has made a horrible decision because of their emotions clouding out their ability to think.

But on a deeper level, it’s important to recognize that intuition is as much experience-based as it is biological or subconscious. Without input from the outside world, the inner world is devoid. An intuitive choice is heavily influenced by experience from the past, knowledge acquired previously, and current input that one may not be entirely conscious of at the moment.

In other words, intuition is only as strong as the experiences and knowledge that have built it up. I can trust my intuition about whether I would be happy and successful in a job (even though the pros/cons list might seem in favor of a different choice) because I’ve had enough previous experience to know what a bad fit feels like and have gathered enough conscious and subconscious information about the current option.

I’ve also taken the time to get to know my intuition and what my pitfalls might be. I know that I’m more likely to trust people I shouldn’t trust if I make a connection with them when I’m tipsy. I know that even well-intentioned people can set off my internal alarm if they touch my arm without permission.

But my intuition is still growing. It grows the more that I exercise it. It grows when I make a mistake and learn through failure. It grows when I gather new intellectual information and practice allowing it to work with my left brain.

I have come to believe that the true key to wisdom is recognizing that both emotions and logic have an important role to play—that gathering external information and testing hypotheses is just as important as listening to your own internal guidance and learning from introspection.

Too much rationality, and you get someone devoid of making a healthy decision because they either can’t gauge their own relationship with the choice or can’t understand the impact it might have on others. The loss of empathy is often also a loss of connection to one’s own emotions.

Too much emotionality, on the other hand, and you get a person buffeted about by whims and impulses of the moment, unable to think long-term, or overwhelmed beyond reason.

It is in the balance of the two that you find wisdom and true knowledge.