This book is good for people who were also raised in aby type of dysfunctional
When God Becomes A Drug - pp 60-62
EXPLORING THE SYMPTOMS
Let's take a look at the symptoms of religious addiction to see how
they fit the patterns and behaviors we have discussed so far.
Inability to think, doubt, or question information or authority.
This is the primary symptom of any dysfunctional belief system, for
if you cannot question or examine what you are taught, if you cannot
doubt or challenge authority, you are in danger of being victimized
and abused. You miss the messages and miracles God places in your
life because you literally do not know how to recognize them. 1n
refusing to think or question, you hand over responsibility For your
beliefs, finances, relationships, employment, and destiny to a
clergyman or other so-called master. You are usually told that not
thinking, doubting, or questioning is a sign of faith -- so you
become a religious slave.
Often if you use your critical faculties, you are told that this is
the devil at work in your life. Faith is said to mean unquestioning
obedience. This is how religious abusers control; it is how
ministers and leaders are able to financially or sexually abuse
their followers. It leads to brainwashing and mind control, for when
you have no choices or freedom to decide for yourself, you are not
in control of your own mind. 1f you are not permitted to think for
yourself, to question, you stop your spiritual growth because you do
not know how to see the ways God is working with you and through
you. When you use your critical faculties to analyze, interpret,
explore, and question, you discover new shades of meaning and
greater richness in God's truth. Questioning and exploring is a
means of having a dialogue with God. To refuse to doubt, think
about, or question what you are told is to miss an opportunity to
talk with God.
Black-and-white, simplistic thinking.
This is one of the predominant symptoms of religious addiction. You
see life in terms of right or wrong, good or bad, saved or sinner.
You never see the gray areas. Your need for order, perfection, or
control is so strong that anything that is not clearly black or
white confuses or perhaps frightens you. Those who turn to religion
as a means to avoid error are no doubt attracted to the
black-and-white aspects of a rigid dogmatism. The chief danger of
this type of thinking is that real life is seldom black or white.
Life constantly presents us with situations or choices that are
ambiguous or problems that require complex solutions. If you are
unable to cope with these gray areas, with complexities, your life
is likely to feel forever out of control. People who think only in
terms of black or white have difficulty making decisions. You
frantically try to fit a difficult issue into a neat, tidy solution,
and it just doesn't work. You frequently feel you have no choices,
or that God has not heard you because the answers aren't simple. You
are forever at the mercy of those who will give you the simple,
Spiritually, thinking in terms of such absolutes paralyzes you, for
people who think this way are always waiting for the right answer --
the clear signal, the burning bush. You sit and wait for the
solution that fits your simplistic dogma, even though the answer is
often right in front of you. Black-and-white thinking prevents you
from being able to find effective solutions to problems and to see
when you are being abused.
You limit and stunt your life by rejecting anyone or anything that
does not fit into your narrow frame of reference. You become abusive
of others who do not share your views because difference, variety,
and change all fall into the ambiguous gray areas, with which you
cannot cope. Such shades of gray become the uncontrollable elements
in life that Nakken says all addicts are trying to master. You
increase your pain, he says, by becoming more rigid, harsh, and
dogmatic the more you are confronted with situations that fall
outside your simplistic views.
Shame-based belief that you aren't good enough or you aren't "doing
it right." Like the inability to question and the black-and-white
thinking, this is a fundamental symptom from which many of the other
symptoms of religious addiction spring. As Matthew Fox observed,
people who are taught from birth that they are worthless never have
the resources to cope with the challenges of life. Religious
addiction, as well as other addictions, is an attempt to escape this
pervasive sense of shame and inadequacy.
Shame-based thinking reinforces the belief that you don't make
mistakes, but that you are the mistake. Thus it robs you of the
ability to constructively and healthily examine your behavior or
choices, to learn how you might do it differently. Your
black-and-white thinking causes you to label all vour beliefs and
behaviors as good or bad -- mostly bad. So you constantly feel that
you are a failure, who has not measured up. This symptom is the seed
of codependency, leading to people-pleasing and approval-seeking as
a means to assure yourself you've done -- whatever the task is
right. Ultimately, it creates a terror of what will happen to you if
you don't do things right, which makes you vulnerable to many of the
other symptoms of religious addiction.
This type of thinking also cheats you of the opportunity to discover
and nurture you own inner strength. You never recognize or credit
the positive choices you make in your life, never see how you create
changes -- how you do, in fact, do many things right. I hear people
say so often in Twelve Step meetings that "I didn't get sober; God
did it for me." This kind of thinking fosters a total denial of
self. I heard of a therapist who told a client, "My Higher Power
does it; I'm just a channel," thus discounting years of training,
hard work and study, and invalidating the discipline and talent it
took to become a therapist. This is how you miss yourself and how
you perpetuate the belief that you aren't good enough. Believing
yourself a failure and inadequate, you can never see when and how
you have used your own gifts healthily and creatively. Shame-based
thinking robs you of power, self-respect, and dignity.