Fear of loneliness


Fear of loneliness, fear of abandonment, fear of being alone… To me, there is nothing “bad” about these. For millions of years we have evolved from ancestral animals to be hardwired as herd animals, as a matter of *survival*.

I’d like to relate that inescapable biological reality to the concept of “soul.” Many of us often think that we could, or should, “rise above” our neurochemistry and hardwired biology. That is a very grave misunderstanding of Christian theology, yet often perpetrated by “Christian” religions (there are other movements which would have us believe this, too).

You are not, as a human being with consciousness, limited strictly to/by your biology. But, you CANNOT escape it, either. So don’t hold yourself to some fantasy ideal or belief that you CAN escape it. To “transcend” your mortal biology is NOT to escape (or replace) it. Nor even to rise above it, without carrying it with you.

To me, the best Christian theology about the body and soul was inherited from Greek philosophers 4 centuries before Christianity, and articulated 1600 years later as the Medieval period gave way to the Renaissance (in European history terms). More than 300 years BC, Greeks (and some others) were already thinking deeply about the soul (psyche, and consciousness). They thought of it as neither separate nor separable from the mortal body. There were philosophies which competed with this, and in the Christian era, there have been theologies that contradict this framework, and they were rejected as heresies which fall woefully short of the pre-Christian and Christian mystery of body and soul.

My point here is that your mortal body and mortal nature are not something to be escaped; in fact, very much the contrary — according to the dogma of “resurrection of the body.” Your fear of being alone is not a signal to be overcome. Your instinct “to belong” is inseparable from your perfect nature.

Let’s be careful about the word “transcend”; it comes from the Latin, meaning “to climb ACROSS.” As we use it today, be careful not to think of it as “rising above” something so much that we conquer it or leave it behind.

A careful understanding of the Christian theology (and even pre-Christian, Aristotelian metaphysics) about the soul in no way includes the notion of leaving behind [our evolutionarily hardwired] body and its nature. Your soul is co-created to be fully attached to your body and to give that body life (see Thomas Aquinas and/or Christian theology about resurrection of the body).

I think of a complete human being as a mysterious blend of ego and soul which cannot be detangled. The ego is the faculty by which we sense that we are a separate, individual, autonomous agent in existence. The soul is a faculty by which we sense our common connectedness. Your fear of loneliness is nothing more than a very perfect and natural signal from your soul. We can “hear the voice of our soul” when we do many things, but, surely, we hear it most clearly in solitude.
.

Neil D. 2021-08-19


Brené Brown & Richard Rohr on Power


So many hymns and prayers in institutional Christianity misrepresent the revelation by Christ. Each of us has been deeply wounded by power domination in relationship(s). Our religious brainwashing bears some culpability for that. Authentic power has no relationship to domination and surrender. But because we have been normatively blinded to that by religious conditioning, we suffer under that illusory form of power. Here are words from Brené Brown and a Christian mystic on Friday the 13th…

https://cac.org/no-domination-in-god-2021-08-13/

[Excerpts]

We will continually misinterpret and misuse Jesus if we don’t first participate in the circle dance of mutuality and communion within which he participated [in the Trinity]. We, instead, make Jesus into “Christ the King,” a title he rejected in his lifetime (see John 18:37). He never sought that kind of power.
…This isn’t a vulnerable, relational one who knows how to be a brother to all creation… [W]e no longer kn[o]w Jesus in any meaningful sense that the soul [can] naturally relate to (which was the main point of the Incarnation!).
…Our notion of society, politics, and authority—which is still top-down and outside-in—would utterly change…
[T]here’s no domination in God. All divine power is shared power and the letting go of autonomous and self-serving power.
Brené Brown writes wisely about vulnerability and power… “The phrase power over is typically enough to send chills down spines: When someone holds power over us, the human spirit’s instinct is to rise, resist, and rebel. As a construct it feels wrong; in the wider geopolitical context it can mean death and despotism.”
There’s no seeking of power over in the Trinity, but only power with—a giving away, a sharing, a letting go, and thus an infinite flow of trust and mutuality. This should have changed all Christian relationships: in marriage, in culture, and even in international relations. Instead, we continue to prefer kings, wars, and empires, instead of an always leveling love…

These are tricky and loaded ideas, perhaps impossible for most of us to grasp as a single point. So instead, share with us a comment below about what these words raised up inside of you, please.

.

Neil D. 2021-08-14

Save thousands on psychotherapy:)


“The awareness of being a child of God tends to stabilize the ego and results in a new courage, fearlessness, and power. I have seen it happen again and again…
Knowing our true identity as sons and daughters of God can save us thousands of dollars in psychotherapy. Knowing that everyone else is a child of God— and treating them as such—can save the world!” [https://cac.org/preaching-to-the-disinherited-2021-07-23/]

Some lexicons express it as “hitting rock-bottom” and being flattened there for a prolonged depression to sort of learn that we do not need God. I know, that sounds like an uncommon and unfamiliar way to put it, “not need God.” I would not express “surrendering to God” as an acknowledgment that I need God. I already had/have God. God had/has me. I was there to reawaken to my true identity, that I am a child of God. https://feelwithneil.com/2020/09/19/the-young-messiah/

With this stabilized ego, new courage, fearlessness, and power, I gotta go… Gotta get busy saving the world. Come with me sister, brother…
.
Neil D. 2021-07-27


Crisis, ego and soul. (Richard Rohr and Barbara Holmes)


[Although this article https://cac.org/when-crisis-comes-2021-07-25/ is about “community crises” in the world, read it from the perspective of unraveling crises in your personal life. I’ve made some omissions below to that effect. It mentions ego, and ends with the soul…]

Living in a transitional [state] such as [y]ours is scary: things are falling apart, the future is unknowable, so much doesn’t cohere or make sense.
…The whole Bible is about meeting God in the
actual, in the incarnate moment, in the scandal of particularity. It is rather amazing that we ever tried to codify and control…

Chaos often precedes great creativity, and faith precedes great leaps into new knowledge. The pattern of transformation begins in order, but it very quickly yields to disorder and—if we stay with it long enough in love—eventual reordering. Our uncertainty is the doorway into mystery, the doorway into surrender, the path to God that Jesus called “faith.” …great suffering and great love are the two universal paths of transformation.

Both are the ultimate crises for the human ego.

The crisis begins without warning, shatters our assumptions about the way the world works… The reality that was so familiar to us is gone suddenly, and we don’t know what is happening. . . .
…crises shatter this illusion of normalcy…

We can identity three common elements in every crisis: The event is usually unexpected, the person… is unprepared, and there is nothing that anyone could do to stop it from happening. Even if there are signs everywhere that something is not right, we tend to ignore the warnings and the signposts…

…Bereft of words, all of us hold the same question: How could this be happening? . . .

I consider crisis contemplation to be an aspect of disorder that prepares [us] for a leap toward the future. This is a leap toward our beginnings. We are not just organisms functioning on a biological level; our sphere of being also includes stardust and consciousness. We all have a spark of divinity within, a flicker of Holy Fire that can be diminished, but never extinguished.

Related:

.
Neil D. 2021-07-25


“Exceptionally smart” – Daily self-help readings are empty calories


[5-minute read]

I heard someone call another person “very smart” in an “exceptional relationship.” Perhaps what they meant here was “emotionally intelligent,” or, more simply, compassionate.

When I think of compassion, it may or may not involve empathy and/or sympathy. When I think of empathy, I think of a capability of putting oneself in the emotional shoes of another. And I think that’s ultimately impossible. No person has the psychological background of anyone else.

I encourage you to be very reflective about phrases like, “I’m like her/him… I know what you mean… Same for me…” Even when a clever meme or platitude speaks to two people, be reflective about the differences between every person.

I think pure empathy involves pure humility. When we consider that we can “know” anyone else’s feelings, words can be tragically deceptive.

I propose we are drawn into this trap of positive-think because we are conditioned in a materialist culture as consumers. Beyond fickle fashions and pop entertainment, even health trends arise and pass, like junk news that will never really affect us individually.

We consume words and ideas readily, instinctively, and voraciously. And that makes the authors and conductors of self-help programs very wealthy in our culture. One of the most common things said about such “help-cults” is that they give us a sense that we are not alone. I don’t see anything wrong with that, but a consumer mindset is not a deep or reflective one.

A great video or help article is a fast-food hamburger, consumed quickly to make our momentary hunger go away, yet doing little for our health. The calories of positive platitudes are sugary soda, ultimately empty energy, despite the effects in the moment.

Absolutely no one is like you. And you’re not like anybody else. This conflict of course hinges on the word “like.” But when we use it, we use it in a passing moment like sugary soda. Be reflective about considering yourself empathic. Everything you see and hear comes to you through the filter of your own experience, which differs from the source’s experiences much more deeply than we are conscious of.

Compassion may involve empathy, but is possible without it. “Compassion” comes from Latin meaning “to suffer with.” We can suffer “with” someone because suffering is a universal human experience. Be reflective here, still. Your suffering is like no one else’s.

The field of psychology often turns to extreme cases to elucidate it concepts. Depression is an extreme of sadness. Generalizing, depressed people hate attempts to talk them out of their depression. Why? Fast food and sugary sodas are empty calories for them. And antidepressants take weeks, if not months, to do their trick, when they work at all. Depression is not a “moment” of sadness. If you are to “suffer with” someone who is depressed, you must abandon the shallowness and haste of a consumer/material culture.

An exceptionally compassionate person may have little use for pop self-help or clever memes. Exceptional compassion is neither shallow nor fast. If you are shallow/fast in any of your relationships (parent/child, friend, brother/sister, lovers), you cannot “suffer with.” You do not have to have suffered “like” them. Instead, you have been reflective about the depths of your OWN suffering, so that when you “relate” to them, you are exceptionally conscious about the uniqueness of THEIR suffering.

With exceptional compassion, you do not quickly or shallowly dismiss expressions of their suffering when they are “relating to” you. You listen exceptionally well and very actively. The patience to do that is not cultivated by our fast-food and self-help cultures. It is quite countercultural to be reflective and “in touch” with your own suffering. We look down on people who express misery, and dismiss them often quoting a sugary platitude; at other times, we preach about why their “thinking” or identity memberships are wrong.

How can we expect to “suffer with” someone else if we do not “know” the depth of our own suffering? If we have been focused not on our suffering, but instead on how to shift our identity memberships like political parties, a different religion, affirmations that “I am one of these kinds of people, not that kind…” All distracting escapes.

It is consumerist to think that cultivating self-compassion can be independent from cultivating compassion for others. Or vice versa. It is consumerist to think that coming to love yourself is a prerequisite which happens before authentically loving others. These things happen simultaneously, overlapping.

If you read a flashy article or meme today and go no deeper or longer than affirming you comply with it – sharing it on Facebook, etc. – you’ll soon be hungry again when the empty calories evaporate. You cannot learn compassion by consuming, unless you are reflectively consuming your self and others at the same time. And that takes longer than devouring french fries.

.

Neil D. 2021-07-21


A smile amidst sadness. Sacrament.


A child does something naïvely adorable, and we want to crack up. We cover our mouth and bite our lips.

A sacrament… A simple symbol imbued with holiness because of the larger, holy reality it signifies.

That impulse to smile points to the precious innocence we value.

In the middle of my deepest depression, the cuteness of an innocent child could still draw out a smile, or even laugh. Perhaps my depression wasn’t so deep? Not a question very important to me.

If you are sad, or deeply depressed, I just wish to encourage you to note when you smile. Reflect on it. Even if you don’t smile, if you had the impulse to smile but it didn’t make it to the surface, give that your attention. It is a sign and symbol of something much larger.

We can experience joy in the middle of deep suffering…

What a remarkable capacity we have.

.
Neil D. 2021-07-15