Thursday, 22 December 2011

Worldview, self view and automatic thoughts

One model of therapy I found helpful vis CS conditioning describes three areas of thinking. One’s worldview’ which informs our basic underlying assumptions about what our environment is like, how it operates, how safe or dangerous; just or unjust is it. This worldview is predominantly unconscious, it’s not something we think about much, it just is, and it evolves and changes on its own unless we make a conscious effort to reshape it.

In my experience, Christian Science has left me with a fundamentally toxic worldview. Nothing is safe, fair or predictable. There are no meaningful value judgements in Christian Science or any anchor point of self; nothing tangible, in the end, actually exists for Mary Baker Eddy. Tumours can appear and vanish again in ourselves and our loved ones, depending on the clear-sightedness or corruption of our divine understanding.

Social systems and relationships are rendered meaningless and unfulfilling as there are no individuals to enact them. The quintessence of this philosophy is a nihilistic solipsism. What is the point of struggling to see God when the only person that will benefit is me?

Our self view is more tangible and immediate and shapes how we operate in our environment and what our reactions are to a stimulus, “I can’t do that… I don’t deserve the other” kinds of thinking.

My CS selfview is enduringly negative. Funded by a series of failed healings of myself and others, failure to “see abundance, joy, and health” in a family that was enduringly poor, miserable, and ailing”.

In the end I think this led to a perpetual feeling of helpless doom laden anxiety. Told time and time again that the solution to all these problems lay in my own thinking; all I eventually heard was that the cause of all these problems lay in my own thinking; thinking that I was obviously powerless to correct.

Of course the summation of all this is the big God carrot; the problem for me is that largely thanks to Christian Science I could barely even say the word ‘God’ without feeling angry, mutinous and resentful, which in hindsight is how I felt as a CSist, but felt too guilty to every acknowledge.

Our automatic thoughts are involuntary thoughts that pop into our heads and are primarily conscious manifestations of world and self views. As the saying goes, garbage in and garbage out. If you have a poor self view and a poor worldview, your mind probably isn’t going to produce a lot of pleasant automatic thoughts.

The interesting thing to me is that they all condition one another. For example someone slights you in some way that is unfair, and your self view of inadequacy and poor self worth confirms an interpretation of that situation.

Your mind needs to make an assessment of the overall situation, looks at your disastarous worldview, correlates that with your horrendous self-view, and quite properly hits the panic button. You are an incapable, probably unlikeable individual, trapped in an undefeatably hostile and unpredictable environment. Run away!

Automatic thoughts (negative ones) flood into your head about how bad and threatening it all is, which is all confirmed by your worldview, which in turn gets bleaker and darker and more entrenched.

You simply cant just turn your back on Christian Science when all the mental machinery that you have is geared up to thinking CS. Its like saying you aren’t going to use Windows Millennium Edition anymore, then buying a brand new PC and installing Windows Millennium Edition onto it again. Sooner or later you are going to run into the same problems you had before, then you start to assume that no computers work, or you cant work them.

The good news is that intervening in any one of these areas should help all of them.

The easiest to start with are negative automatic thoughts; I found it helpful identifying these as they arose and allowing them to pass away without following my usual habit of them setting off a chain of value judgements.

Having negative thoughts is normal, but a “normal” person will largely ignore them as they don’t fit with their deeper assumptions about life. In turn the thoughts become less, which confirms their positive assumptions and so on.

I think as Ex Christian Scientists that we need to do a lot of active work on world and selfviews. CS thinking is very resistant towards resetting judgments about the world and self esteem, because our default view under Christian Science is that none of it is relevant or understandable. In fact the less we understand or know about the material world the better in CS as all this false knowledge is only going to lead to compound our problems.

For example, I think there is an element of curiosity about the world and how I fit into it that I missed out on as a kid, that I need to rediscover as an adult. This is because I always thought that I knew everything I needed to know about everything from Mrs Eddy’s book.

Unfortunately unlike some belief systems there is no possible way to sanely convince yourself that Christian Science works in the face of any serious controversy, which brings about a lot of neurotic and negative thinking as what your rational senses tell you, and what your core beliefs know, gradually peel apart and begin existing in separate and mutually exclusive worlds.

The road out of Christian Science is a hard and long road with many dead ends and false starts; but I am confident like all roads, it has an end.