Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Is there a connection between mental illness and spirituality?

I have never been diagnosed with mental illness.  But, there are people in my family who have been.  I do know that I am a very sensitive person.  I have trouble getting intense movies out of my head and I have a very strong imagination.

Towards the end of my faith walk I could feel my intensity in regards to "the spiritual realm" getting out of control.  The Christian faith very clearly teaches that we do not war against flesh and blood but spiritual powers of darkness in the heavens (Eph 6:12). I think, hopefully, most people with religious beliefs are able to keep this in check. But if you are a person who is prone to irrational thinking, Christianity gives pretty good rationalization for delusions.

Here is an example of a popular Christian debater talking about keeping the faith through doubt.  Notice his emphasis on Satan and that he "hates" you and is trying to destroy you (1 Peter 5:8).


This can be terrifying. I know for me, trusting the Church and Christian history, I have had many a night fearing my soul. I have spent countless hours discerning God's will and if something was a temptation of the devil.  What I am saying is that it can go from a healthy sense of evil and bad things in the world, to down right paranoia.

This is an interesting article on the connection between religion and psychosis.

This was another aspect that threw me out of the religious experience.  Once my basic family relations were straining, my marriage was lacking in some basic hospitable actions, and I couldn't seem to embrace friendships in a normal way, I decided it probably wasn't so important what was happening in the spiritual world. I needed to focus on THIS world. But, who has time?   Especially as a Catholic.  There's daily Mass (for devout followers, you know this is actually a goal), daily prayers, confession, examination of conscience, service, community, faith study, evangelizing, and more. Also, there is a level of living a good life as a Catholic that strains the most well meaning person.  All of these things are supposed to help make us better people, but it seems that more and more I see it as impotent.  Or maybe they are more like a placebo effect?

I do think that it is important to consider the lives we are living and to live them well.  Like Socrates asserted, "the unexamined life is not worth living."  It is helpful to strive towards our own well being and that of others.  But we must keep it within reason.  I am beginning to believe that the "spiritual world" is just  a big excuse for believing our fantasies and inflating our self-importance.  At some point, we have got to allow spirituality to accept its responsibility for the unfortunate consequences it has on fragile people.


Anonymous said...

Hi Ashley,

I don't know what it is with my computer and your blog. I click on your blog and sometimes one post comes up, sometimes another. Sometimes "your story" parts one and two are on the page, sometimes they aren't. I have to say you jump around a lot in your thoughts and it can be hard to follow what you are saying, or to remember in which post you made which comment. I'm just going to comment here with general thoughts even though I'm not commenting on this particular post. Hope that's ok!

One of your statements I was going to comment on was that there is no evidence or reason to focus on things such as angels, heaven, the sacraments, something else. I think comments like that really indicate rather shallow thinking. In reality, the sacraments are clearly indicated in the Gospels. You may have lost any appreciation for the Gospels, but in all that you've thrown away, I imagine you would give some secular credibility at least to the historic fact of Christ's life, and that there are very good reasons to accept the Gospels as accurate reflections of His teachings. Then again, I wouldn't be too surprised if you said, "Well, I wasn't there in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago so I really can't know from my own experience whether he lived or not." And I might accept that as your worldview, if you also applied that to George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and every other person with whom you have not had personal contact. There are ways to think these things through without direct observation.

There are great thinkers who find many deep reasons to believe in Christianity. It is one thing to say, "This no longer makes sense to me. I no longer believe it," and another thing to say, "There is no credible reason to believe any of it."

In some ways I think you just got tired of the way you felt compelled to live your faith, that you started to feel that really you were responding to a kind of peer pressure that was coming from people that you ultimately decided you don't really like. I know people like the ones you have surrounded yourself with, so I have a sense of what you are talking about. I left our homeschool group because I felt there were people who insisted on trying to present an image of perfection that none of them really experienced, and I got tired of it. It reminded me of the saying about Baptists - "We never smoke or drink - around each other." There was definitely some of that in the group, not in terms of smoking or drinking but maybe in terms of dress, language, other behavior. I am not judging them, just tired of the double standard that was found in some - but definitely not all - of the members. But would I throw away my faith because of those people? No way! My faith was not in them, or in Fr. Corapi, or in the Legionairres (sp?). It is not a childish faith that believes because my Mom said so, or because my parents would be upset if I didn't believe. I have considered the Church's teachings, considered whether even a belief in God is reasonable, and I find the truth in the Church. I do not believe in fairy tales, and my faith is much, much more than that. (continued... too long to come through as one comment!)

Anonymous said...

It is sad to see that the things you once lived by, you have now adopted what seems like an excessively negative attitude toward. You aren't just tired from trying to go to daily Mass with ever more small children, you are kind of snarky about it, as in your reference to it "actually being an expected devotion". I think that's too bad. That "actually" is the kind of word people hostile to Catholicism use in a "can you believe these people?!" sort of way. (I realize that is not an accurate quote, but again, I can't keep bouncing around from post to post to find the exact statement, especially the way the posts are not always appearing on your home page.) Daily Mass is not a requirement; you know that, but I think you also know that a person unfamiliar with the Faith and with a tendency to be hostile to it would look at your "actually" statement and say, "Really? I didn't know Catholics had to go to Mass every day! They really do put a guilt trip on you, don't they?" If you're going to take a break from the pressures that you were feeling to have a certain kind of faith life, then take a break. But don't just trade it for shallow thinking and a kind of hostility toward it all.

I think your blog will draw many disaffected Catholics who will support you in your journey away from the Church. Who knows where all of this will lead you. I pray it ultimately leads you back to the Truth, with a faith that is more joyful than the one you have left behind. I'm not up to debating all of this, because I am not articulate enough and because, like you, I am busy and should't be on the computer that much, as appealing as that may be. God bless you in your search. Maybe I'll get a chance to check back some time. Your family is just beautiful, congrats on the newest addition!

ashleyjeanlavana said...

Thank you for reading my blog and for taking the time to comment. I would like you to please try to remember that this is a text format and my attitude towards things cannot be accurately portrayed just by the words that I use.

When I referenced daily mass, I was not being snarky at all. What I was trying to do was be clear to people, and Catholics, who do not have experience with orthodox Catholicism, is that daily Mass is actually a goal that devoted Catholics would really love to attain. Do you disagree? It is not a requirement, but a goal.

I tried for years to attend Mass as often as possible. I think Catholics, and especially anyone who comes to this blog, should use caution when reading my statements. I have given my entire life to trying to live out the Catholic faith the best that I could, "with God's help." I feel that I have EVERY right to be critical of it having had so much personal experience of the faith. It's not like I lived it half way for 2 or 3 years.

I am not looking to debate, and maybe that is the problem you have when reading my posts. What I am really doing is putting out my current ways of thinking and seeing if others have any thoughts about it.

Also, sorry for the posts moving around. I just started this blog back up and I am tweeking it a bit to try to make it make more sense. I didn't think it would confuse people, because I wasn't thinking people would be coming back that often! :)

Thanks... please remember, there could just be something to what I am saying... I don't know yet. But I think it is rude to push off people who question the "bubble" of Catholicism.

Anonymous said...

You know, I can really sense how the attempt to be the perfect Christian and win the "who's the most orthodox mom in the room?" race would burn anyone out.
It is a shame you didn't just stick with Brother Lawrence or Francis DeSales....
I have felt the way you express as well, I just then resorted to the basics: loving my spouse and kids, giving to others in any way that comes up and knowing that I am not alone in the Universe. It's about Love, baby!
Peace to your world.

AJL said...

I wish that was all it was about, in regards to faith. I am gonna put a new blog soon where I will put out some of my thoughts... thanks though.