Twisted religious and spiritual beliefs can have destructive consequences on our lives. Our beliefs, formed in early childhood, are often and can keep us trapped in cycles of victim/persecutor/rescue dynamics. The message of Christian churches is that you are a sinner, which is reinforced by church doctrine and dogma. So you are condemned for being a sinner. Then you confess your sins, a minister grants you redemption, and you are saved from eternal damnation. This kind of twisted belief structure can keep you stuck in victimhood forever and create what I call “premature hardening of the categories.”
The Twisted Beliefs Trap
Surely I’m not the only one who sees the twists in these beliefs. The first twist is that “I must have someone else determine whether or not I am a sinner.” I refuse to give away my power to decide whether or not I have “sinned.” This is a matter between my God and me and it is nobody else’s business. I follow many spiritual laws that I have adopted as my own and do my best to live within them. I expect to be punished if I break these laws. I accept this as part of living under the rule of law. It is an entirely different matter for someone else to label me as a “sinner.” Then after labeling me as such, the church officials tell me that I can be forgiven of my sins only if I confess them to someone else. And if I don’t, I will burn in hell for eternity. Thank goodness I realize that buying into these kinds of twisted beliefs is a trap. Collectively, our twisted religious and spiritual beliefs have caused more violence and unnecessary killing in our long history than any other factor. I believe it is time for us to examine the impact these twisted beliefs have on our lives so that we can decide to change them. My new book series, Twisted Beliefs: Why Smart People Suffer From Premature Hardening of The Categories, describes how our beliefs get twisted and then looks at how to change them. I believe that this is the only way to break free of Victim Consciousness and beliefs that are no longer serving you. These four e-books will be available on Kindle starting in January, 1013.
The Legacy of Violence
We live in one of the most violent cultures in the world and we are largely unaware of this fact. We reacted with horror at the recent shooting of a member of Congress who was speaking at a public gathering in Arizona as something unusual and out of character with what we have chosen to believe about our democracy. Rather than being unseen, violence in American life has become both visible in its pervasiveness and normalized place as a central feature of the dominant and popular culture. We have grown accustomed to luxuriating in a warm bath of cinematic blood, as young people and adults alike are seduced with an endless stream of violence that runs through the endless production of video games, extreme sports and the nonstop production of gory Hollywood blockbusters. The celebration of violence and torture travels all too easily from fiction to real life, with the emergence in the past few years of a proliferation of “bum fight” videos on the Internet, increased acts of bullying in schools and the workplace and young boys investing in a mode of masculinity organized around pummeling each other for sport. The culture of violence mimics cinematic violence as the agents of abuse by indulging in actual forms of violence and then further celebrating the barbarity by posting it on the Web, mimicking the desire for fame and recognition while voyeuristically consuming their own violent cultural productions. In addition, we cannot look at this culture of violence as a recent trend and reflects on the spiritual and religious history of this planet. For thousands of years violence has been used to resolve any conflict, culminating in the darkest spiritual event of the twentieth century: the Holocaust. Any serious Western theological thinker of the broad biblical history of the Judeo-Christian tradition who does not place the Holocaust at the center of any reflection on human and divine nature, is in denial. It is an event whose enormous darkness overshadows any other in challenging our assumptions about what people are like and what motivates them. The Holocaust has shown the moral and spiritual hollowness at the core of Western civilization and for many confirmed their darkest suspicions about human nature. What we see, by taking a longer historical view of human nature, is a human tendency toward unspeakable violence has been there for almost all of our recorded history. It is hard to argue with much moral certainty that our consciousness has evolved very much at all during the time we have been on this planet.
The Effects of Hidden and Unhealed Developmental Traumas
In our books on Conflict Resolution (Conflict Resolution: The Partnership Way, 2009) and Developmental Trauma (Healing Developmental Trauma, 2011), we discuss the effects of hidden and unhealed developmental shock, trauma and stress. After 26 years of research on this topic, we have concluded that these events cause block the evolution of people’s consciousness. We identified developmental shock, trauma and stress to include those subtle disconnects and unintentional acts of neglect that even most therapists likely would not consider as traumatic to children. Our research found the exact opposite. Those events that were traumatic, but did not rise to the level the visible lens of the trauma radar scope lie dormant until they are reenacted in our adult relationships. These events are the more difficult to identify and heal than acts of abuse because nothing seemed to happen. These early childhood events, if not identified and healed, present insurmountable limits to how much we can evolve as humans. We see that these unhealed developmental shocks, traumas or stresses continue to trigger memories back to the earlier unhealed events long after they have been forgotten. They cause present time conflicts to occur over and over in our lives without resolution. We call these intractable conflicts.
Developmental Systems Theory
Our meta-theory, Developmental Systems Theory, says that any essential developmental process that is not completed will stall evolution in all human systems. The main reason these essential developmental processes, like secure bonding, do not get completed is the presence of hidden and unhealed developmental shocks, trauma or stresses. All human systems have constructed barriers to prevent the awareness of these unseen forces. In individuals, the major barrier is their fear of having to again feel the scary feelings they felt in the original unhealed shock, trauma or stress. They attempt to avoid situations where they might have to feel these unpleasant feelings again by medicating themselves though some addiction. This includes alcohol, drugs, smoking, eating, having sex, exercising, shopping, working long hours or any other way they can distract themselves. The actual definition of an addiction is a behavior designed to avoid some perceived bad or unwanted feeling. These desperate attempts to avoid any situation that might cause a reenactment of some dreaded feelings stemming from a past event leave us with unhealed symptoms of developmental shock, trauma or stress. Generally, when we resort to addictive behaviors to avoid feeling these feelings, it takes more of the addictive behavior to ward off the feelings over time. Thus the addictive behaviors and the attempts to cover them up to make them seem normal eventually take over people’s lives. Thus these actions are also responsible for the greed and drive for power that grips so many people. We are frantically trying to fill some empty and anxious place within ourselves by accumulating possessions, often many more than we could ever use. All we care about is not feeling the unpleasant feelings we felt when these earlier events took place, whatever it takes to make that happen. As you can see, we have lots of addictive ways to protect ourselves from these feelings. We also attempt to push away these feelings by blaming others for our problems and projecting the effects of our unseen traumas and conflicts onto others (You caused me to be upset, it is your fault that I did what I did. I was only trying to protect myself.) Distorted Belief Systems In addition to the fears and hypervigilance people struggle with almost constantly, they generally have serious distortions in their belief system and are easily influenced by mass consciousness beliefs and the latest trends. A good way to tell when you are interacting with someone who is being affected by unseen and unhealed developmental shocks, traumas or stresses is that you cannot use logic to discuss your differences in values or beliefs. In reality, these people have trouble thinking for themselves and can be easily influenced by manipulative spokespersons of whatever they are selling or by attempts to win them over with their fear-based rhetoric. This causes them to resort to speaking in ‘sound bites that they have heard others say. These people generally do not examine the twists in their beliefs connected with these ideas. In some cases, these people are cut off from any feelings of empathy or compassion toward others. Added to this is a situation is that many of our mainstream institutions that operate on these twisted beliefs are breaking down. For example, the financial world almost totally collapsed as a result of a twisted belief that the banks and other financial institutions were too big to fail. In addition, there was a collective belief that banks will police themselves and dont need any reasonable government regulation that could limit their excesses. Our whole capitalistic economic system is based on the false belief that economic growth is essential to our economic survival, even though at some level we must recognize that excessive consumption is not good for our environment. The Christian church, particularly the Roman Catholic Church, has been rocked by scandals involving pedophilia and a massive cover-up by church officials designed to support the twisted belief that the priests must be celibate. The Protestant Church has reverted to radical fundamentalism based on a false belief that the Bible is the direct word of God and must be followed to the letter.
Original Sin: A Twisted Belief
The whole premise of the original sin is a twisted belief that makes people feel they need and depend on an off-planet God to forgive them and grant them redemption. Islam and Judaism are no better and have been taken over by radical fundamental false beliefs that seem ludicrous to most clear thinking adults. How can they justify to Muslims that committing suicide and murder because will yield the reward of being serviced by 70 virgins in the next life Give me a break. Even the belief in being God’s chosen people has to be questioned by serious thinking Jews. Our schools are failing because of twisted beliefs about how children learn. The institution of marriage is falling apart and affecting the children because of the false belief that parents should know how to parent even though they do not have to have any training to be effective. In addition, there is a common belief that they do not have to identify or heal their childhood traumas in order to avoid not passing them on to their children. Domestic violence is at an all time high as is child abuse, again because of the belief that we dont have to look at our concealed and unhealed trauma. All these signs of breakdown cause the addicted mind supported by these institutions to try harder to maintain their twisted and largely unconscious beliefs, becoming even more desperate. What happens when the addicted mind starts see its familiar supportive institutions fail, is that it redoubles its efforts to hold on to its artificial props. We are hearing more and more references to restoring the American dream or returning to #1. This creates a culture of narcissism where these mistaken beliefs continue to be supported as the right way forward. In addition, we are seeing what happens when the facts do not support their beliefs: people make up things that do to support their beliefs. The number of false statements by our elected leaders to support their twisted beliefs has increased tremendously over the past several years. For example, 41% of Republican voters who were pooled said they believe that president Obama was born outside of the country and an other 34% said were not sure. For the past two years Republican leaders have encouraged the spread of this kind of false belief in order to support their hold on power and greed. The Big Lie is back and going strong. As a result of the twisted beliefs people rely on, ultimately many people experience repeated failures and disappointments in their lives and relationships without understanding why these things are happening to them. They tend to blame what is happening to them on others or situations without looking within for the causes of their misfortune. However, sometimes after repeated failures they do seek help in turning their life around or are forced to examine why these repeated failures are occurring. How To Identify Your Unhealed Developmental Shocks, Traumas & Stresses If you believe you have unseen and unhealed developmental shocks, traumas or stresses and are interested in identifying and healing your developmental traumas or conflicts, we have found it is necessary for you to do the following: 1. Read one of our books to help you identify the unseen and unhealed developmental shocks, traumas or stresses that are still influencing your life. There are lots of self-inventories in these books to help you identify these unhealed events. 2. Learn to utilize some kind of trauma reduction technique that eventually changes the neural pathways in your brain and body that created sensory distortions as a result of an early shock, trauma or stressor. You will need to create new neural pathways to replace the ones created as a result of early shocks, traumas or stresses. In our Healing Developmental Trauma book, we describe several techniques that have proved suc cessful to heal these traumas. 3. In addition, these tools have to help you clear your mindbody of the memories connected with the early shocks, traumas or stresses. Again, in all the books we mentioned above we describe several tools that have proven successful in clearing these early memories. 4. You will need to change some of your mistaken thoughts and beliefs connected to your early experiences of developmental shock, trauma, and stress. Again, our books describe tools to help you do this. 5.You will need to learn how to re-regulate your emotional responses connected with early developmental shock, trauma or stress. Again, we have created tools to help you learn how to do this. 6.The experience of early developmental shock, trauma or stress can cause you to dissociate and experience an inner split between or among the various inner parts of yourself. We have developed a number of effective tools to help you reconnect any internal splits that are described in our books. 7. The last and perhaps the most important step is to change any of your distorted perceptions of self-other relationship dynamics caused by early developmental shock, trauma or stress. The early shocks, trauma or stresses occur in relationships with the most important people in your life. It is only natural that when your adult relationships get close enough these distorted perceptions will appear. We have created tools that committed couples can use to heal these distortions. Our books describe how a couple might use these tools to help each other heal the effects of early shock, trauma or stress. How to Shift Your Consciousness We desperately need to shift our collective consciousness, if we are going to survive. We have found that it is possible to utilize your present relationship conflicts as tools for shifting your individual and collective consciousness. I recommend that you consider the following principles: 1. All unresolved conflicts you presently have are reminders that your conflict resolution strategies are incomplete. They are an opportunity to test the effectiveness of your strategies and make them more effective and complete, not a reason to attack others for their ineffectiveness. Through open dialogue or self-reflection it is often possible to discover how to improve your conflict resolution strategies. 2. Those with whom you have conflicts are not going away. You have unconsciously drawn them into your life to help you transform some aspect of yourself and possibly to help you identify and heal your developmental traumas.Welcome them as your teachers not as your enemies. The key here is to be able to look for the gift they are bringing you. 3. Value and utilize your relationships with those you have conflicts with to help you become more whole and integrated by recovering aspects of yourself that you have disowned. Only in genuine, trusting relationships can we hope to recover that which we have disowned. 4. Accept the plurality of the world and accept the fact that every form of life is permitted and has a purpose. Acceptance of differences and a willing ness to engage those who differ from us in some way is an important strategy for breaking down the tendency of premature hardening of the categories between different peoples, races and cultures. 5. Recognize that your intractable conflicts are doorways to change and transformation. They are an indication that you have undiscovered and unhealed developmental shocks, traumas or stresses. They contain keys to things that are blocking your healing and evolution. Only with a receptive heart and mind can you hope to find the keys in unblock your evolution.