Faith or Indoctrination?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my faith beliefs and I’ve been wondering if some of these beliefs are really serving me. I’ve been in Unity for twenty years now and despite the fact that it doesn’t really have “doctrine” in the traditional sense of the word, I’m wondering if after all this time I haven’t been indoctrinated.

One of the principle teachings in Unity is, “We create our life experiences through our way of thinking.” Or, more simply, What we think about, we bring about. Perhaps not surprisingly, I generally  agree with this statement. If our thoughts are inherently negative, then we are going to have a more negative experience of life, then if our thoughts are inherently positive. But growing up with this principle, I came to learn that this made each of us responsible for every negative thing in our life. And so, I grew up believing that my mental illness was my fault or more importantly, that I was essentially responsible for my continuing experience of mental illness.

I absolutely believe that the brain is incredibly powerful, that it can do amazing things – calm us down, lower blood pressure, increase blood flow, and a whole host of other things that are otherwise unexplainable. I believe that people can and have affected the course of illness in their bodies. I do, ultimately, believe that can affect the course of mental illness in my body. However.

I have wondered for years whether it is truly appropriate for me to feel guilty about or responsible for my mental illness. In fact, the distress that this guilt and responsibility has caused me over the last ten years has no doubt deepened my depression. So I have to ask myself if continuing to believe that I have brought about my own illness from the time I was a very young child really serves my best interests. And I am led to conclude that it in fact, does not.

And so, then, what am I left with? Rather than clarifying my beliefs, this only serves to make them even more blurry. How can I believe that we can use our brains to affect the health of our body, but not believe that I am responsible for my mental illness? I don’t think I can answer that question. I do believe that my mental illness is inherently biological, though I know not everyone’s is. I also believe that how I deal with my mental illness is my responsibility and absolutely has an effect on the course of my mental illness. But I don’t believe that I can simply choose to banish mental illness from my life. And the idea that I could, if my faith or conviction was strong enough, is only serving to make me feel worse.

So, for now, at least I’ve cleared that up.

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3 thoughts on “Faith or Indoctrination?

  1. Terryn,
    This is a tough doctrine (and it IS a doctrine) that I have struggled with many times. I have come to take it with a grain of salt. I agree that my life is the result of my thinking, choices, beliefs, attitudes, etc. I attract certain things in my life. And yet….I also believe that if a meteor hurtling towards earth suddenly takes a zig instead of a zag and lands up on my roof, I did not ATTRACT that meteor. I did not make a contract that at some point in my life a meteor would hit my house. Sometimes shit happens. It can be biochemical brain shit or it can be out of the blue crazy driver hitting your car shit, etc.
    Any “rule” that is rigidly followed has its problems. Believing EVERYTHING is within your power and is your responsibility is as damaging as believing that NOTHING is, and that you are at the mercy of a capricious God. Guilt over not “getting better” and having it be “your responsibility” is some of the most damaging juju around. And yet, it is useful to examine choices and thinking patterns and see if there ARE any ways you may be feeding the problem (any problem, not limited to a mental illness problem).
    This is where I have trouble with the “I am God” belief that runs through Unity. I believe God expresses THROUGH me and that I have access to God within. But I cannot make a tree. I cannot make a cat. I cannot make a blade of grass (or maybe I can. If I was in constant meditation for years and focused ALL my energy on making a blade of grass pop into existence, it might happen!). There are ways of being and showing up that God is that I am not. I am a creator of art, cookies, writing, a comfortable home, etc., but not of MATTER. That’s the purview of God with a Big G.
    This also runs counter to the “I am powerless” belief that runs through 12-step — I am powerless to affect anything outside my own boundaries. I don’t fully believe that either since I believe prayer and energy work is a way of extending energy beyond my boundaries for the good of others — even if I can’t make an addict stop using whatever substances he or she is addicted to. So again, I take the middle, grain-of-salt way. I have power – and as much as I like to think I am unlimited, I think in this incarnation, there IS a limit to what I can do — though that limit is probably way less than I have believed it to be when it comes to my own capabilities. When it comes to getting someone else to do something I think would be good for them to do, I can undoubtedly tell you that I am extremely limited!
    So, let me just suggest you let yourself off the hook for being responsible for your mental illness. Sometimes we are dealt a hand of cards, and we play that hand to its best effect. There are things you can do that improve, heal and alleviate the course of your illness, and things that make it worse, and you are discovering them on your journey. You have power to implement or to ignore them. That is where your responsibility lies, not in the way the chemicals have combined in your brain to set things awry.
    Life is – it is said – a mystery.

  2. I have done other spiritual teachings that also stated we create our illnesses (I’m just being introduced to Unity) initially when I learned we create our illnesses, I concluded that IF I created this mental illness, then it was done on another level of some sorts that I have yet to have knowledge about. with the other teachings and another experience, I came to realize that we are on a journey here to learn about God, God being everything and everyone and the life experiences here however they look like, diseases among them. this helped me to accept my fate with this illness more and it’s part of the journey of knowing God and myself. I look at my mental illness as a gift, there have been quite a few gifts that have come out of it for me and I’m more compassionate with others because of it too. I do feel we have the power to heal/cure ourselves, I just don’t feel at this time I have enough knowledge to know how to do that. I feel it’s more than just ‘believing’ it into happening. one thing I’d like to recommend is to get out of thinking life in “positive-negative” assessments. I don’t look at my illness as ‘negative’ or ‘wrong’. I understand that we have learned to look at life in these perspectives, it’s in our race consciousness, but in greater Truth, all life experiences are learning experiences to know self and God. I learned this from the other spiritual teachings I began 20+yrs ago. it’s taken time to embrace and understand it, but it has been most helpful. I still have to work on purging the judgments and dark thoughts race consciousness has put on mental illness and other life, but it’s worth it. again we are on a journey here to know Life. it’s really difficult at times to remember this when experience severe depression, but when things are better for a moment, I come back to be grateful for the experience. this takes continual practice and gratitude. I hope I have shared something here that is helpful for your continued journey. there’s more to say, but not enough space here to say it….Blessings…karen

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