Christian Testimony - Part 3
Last Updated: 11 March 2021
I had been unable to connect with certain sides of my psyche, especially the more emotional sides previously, except when I stopped smoking cannabis for any duration of time, and becoming a Christian was a way to reconnect with that side and to have the necessary leverage to stop drinking and smoking cannabis. In hindsight I think it was a step sideways, reconnecting with some parts of oneself but suppressing others, but a welcome change nonetheless as I lacked the tools to change from where I was.
I look back at my conversion to Christianity as a metaphoric experience rather than a literal one. Exactly why I experienced all those hallucingenic symptoms is hard to say. Perhaps my brain somehow producing an effect (a type of involuntary invocation) to encourage me to find a path of least resistance out of it. Or perhaps I was predisposed to psychosis after having started using cannabis and the woman's conversation and my low key interest in Christianity were a trigger and context for a brief 15 minute delusional episode. One group of associates suggested that she was putting some 'spell' on me, which could be probably considered true only in the sense that preaching to someone is a form of suggestion. I would tend to interpret it one of the above manners than as a literal spiritual experience as I like to see a large amount of evidence before I believe wholeheartedly in anything. Until then an idea is merely plausible or somewhat likely.
As a Christian, I felt the need to change and control the world around me and took it personally when the world around me did not adopt my same values. This is not that different to how I was before, but just manifested in a different way. I felt judgemental and narcissistic, although I tried to hide my judgement from work colleagues, particularly those who took drugs which was the biggest trigger for me. I cannot really say that I felt truly happy as a Christian as it caused as many problems as it solved, and it didn't really address some of my underlying personality flaws, such as narcissism, OCD, gullibility and paranoia. In a sense it buried them further or even gave them spiritual and righteous justification. I never really got to grips with my OCD or depression with or without religion. I tended to use religion as a way of escaping personal responsibility and manning up about difficult situations, and took things too personally as if the universe revolved around me and too often brought up Satan as being to blame if I did not get my way as if he was singling me out personally, which was very narcissistic and egocentric.
Christians often talk about an emptiness or an inner void in non-believers and that faith in God is the only thing that can fill this void or fill the cup. However, I disagree, it might seem like it up to a point, but I personally never felt this 'void' disappear. In some respects it was gone but in other respects it still felt like it was there or worse. Becoming socially isolated and unable to relate to other Christians did not help, but it was the same desperate emotional need for something that was going unfulfilled. On reflection I believe it is partly related to narcissism although I think it is more psychologically complex than that. In any case, those Christians who believe their void is filled are compelled to keep 'topping themselves up' at Church and through daily prayer, to condition themselves to not notice such a longing or void, so it is not a one off decision to merely accept Jesus but is a continual process of conditioning that must be kept up or it disappears. This is not how I now view healthy mental health balance.
To wholeheartedly throw oneself into a belief system because of emotional need based on a small amount of subjective suggestive evidence and a feeling that it is right is not something I would do now, and such a way of being renders one more susceptible to psychosis. That's not to say that such a belief system isn't true necessariy but it's just an unknown. I tend not to subscribe to simplistic unifying theories of the universe (or even world politics) where everyone and everything revolves around oneself any longer.
I believe that if I had had help in tackling my self esteem issues directly, and perhaps had some CBT sessions on narcissism, assertiveness, stress and OCD, it would have likely lead me more directly to where I wanted to be, without sacrificing any of myself, but then again, it has been interesting to understand how I experienced Christianity and has helped to understand others, and I would not have stopped smoking cannabis as quickly if I hadn't undergone such a conversion. Evidently one of the key points was to change my social circles to ones that did not entirely revolve around drugs and music with no other positive interests, and I achieved that almost immediately when becoming a Christian.
Having ceased being a Christian since 2012, I can look back on it more objectively now, having had more time to function without those religious thought processes and conditioning. The concept of being a Christian now is something even more alien than before. I can still temporarily superficially put myself into the mindset of a Christian when relating to Christian friends, whilst interacting about non-religious things, it is just something I am so familiar with, it is almost like a switch I can flick in my mind voluntarily, but beyond this it holds no attraction particularly the psychology of the belief system and the requirement for literal belief, which is why I would not want to remain that way. I am of course free to change my mind in the future.
I don't generally discuss my change of religious heart with any of my Christian friends or family, unless they directly asked me, with a few exceptions when I have softly suggested that I am no longer so interested, as making such hard announcements goes down very badly with the less tolerant end of the religious spectrum, as I have experienced. I don't regard this as dishonest, I'm just not looking for arguments. Some of my Christian friends or family generally assume I am still a Christian unless I tell them otherwise, or at least that is how it appears, and who knows how their religiosity has changed over time either.
I can see the attraction for some people, but to me it is not really mental progress but more a lateral shift at best. That is not to say it is without any benefits psychologically speaking, it seems that you gain in some areas but lose in others, rather than being a win-win situation.
I still believe if one is to be a Christian that it is important to understand the distinctions between what is actually stated in the Bible and what has become part of contemporary Christian culture but which has no or questionable Biblical basis. I also think it is important to understand early Christian history to understand the context in which the versions of books selected for use in the OT and NT came about and how they have been translated, and without the above, I think a person's faith is extremely superficial and likely misguided otherwise, largely guided by non-Biblically based Christian cultural attitudes. I discuss some of the areas that I started to question towards the end of my Christian faith on the Christian Concepts of the Devil and Hell, Interpretation of Christian Concepts & Biblical References and Different Perceptions of God.
It seems to be quite common for the themes and notions of psychotics to mirror their recent experiences, pre-existing belief system, understanding of symbolism and ideology, and culture that they are familiar with. This was certainly true for my delusional disorder. Those people who believe they are possessed by a demon and who benefit from a Catholic style exorcism seem to be those that are familiar with Catholicism and who act out the exorcism through suggestion and through notions of what they feel they need to do to be free of it. Looking at some of the experiences I had converting to Christianity and also whilst a Christian, I can see similiarities in certain respects to the delusional disorder. In hindsight I believe the predisposing factors for the delusional disorder included cannabis psychosis from my mid teens as well as historical gullibility and narcissism.
Looking back, I can see parallels between some of the experiences I had as a Christian, for instance my conversion, and the experience I had at The Cure concert, to the delusional disorder itself. I can also see direct similarities to the way I had imagined energy healing happening in my mind through delusion and belief to the way I had believed I had an energy treatment when none had been given some years before. I believe that this likely would not have happened if I had not had a scheduled treatment close to that date, i.e. by relying on convincing myself I was receiving a treatment without any arrangement with another practitioner having been in place. There are other new age explanations for this too if you are prepared to entertain such ideas. My point is that it is easy through conditioning and the power of belief to experience unusual phenonema. This arguably how invocation or prayer likely works also.
I always had a propensity to look for opinions and facts that backed up what I wanted to believe, i.e. confirmation bias, in the name of research, and taking people's word for things without fact checking myself, but my conspiracy theorist phase took this to new narcissistic heights. I was never very happy as a Christian conspiracy theorist and found it hard to relate to others in that online community and found many to have various personality disorders, suffering from generalised anxiety disorder at the very least. Becoming addicted to reading about it made my OCD worse, and focussing on these subjects all the time made me feel stressed and pessimistic, disempowered and depressed, and made me flirt with simple minded political extremism. I have no desire any longer to discuss theese subjects with people who are emotionally invested in them as it becomes non-rational and find those who are fixated on the subject and unable to talk about anything else are simply ruled by OCD and without much personality and display a character flaw whereby they too easy to settle for easy answers to complicated issues.