A visit with the ‘old me’.

I woke up this morning from a very disturbing dream. It wasn’t anything new just another dream about being back with the Witnesses, usually I remember I’m not one anymore quite quickly and the dream surrounds how I try to figure out how to tell them. This one was different in that I only thought that perhaps I wasn’t one of them anymore, near the end of the dream. It left me drained and oddly sad at the memories of running that desperate treadmill. A hamster wheel and grinder to absolutely nowhere but despair and loneliness.

While unpacking after the move I found my old diaries. I kept a diary for every year of my life from 1998 until 2010. With all seriousness most of it is just catalogue of how much work I did, whether at home or at my job and of course the thousands of hours spent doing ‘theocratic activities’ as well as my gut wrenching loneliness and seething resentment at my circumstances. A great deal of it makes we want to cry for the ‘girl’ I was, even though in ’06 and ’07 I was between the ages of 23 and 24. Those are the two years I decided to read through and revisit the old me.

Even though I recognise how much progress I have made since May 2014 it doesn’t mean all is better, or if it will ever be. We will always have our memories but with time and healing eventually those memories will not elicit the pain they used to. I can tell you right now so much of those two years still make me cry, so – no I have not sufficiently healed from those wounds. Perhaps I never will, those injuries are just covered over with scar tissue and instead of them incapacitating me they will give me strength, as evidence of my survival.

I could hear the ‘two me’s’ speaking on those pages. The cult identity and the real me who tried desperately to still be heard. Usually she sounded like a whiny cow, depressed, beaten down and drowning and I hated her because of her weakness, but the reality was so different, every day I had being trying to destroy the last vestiges of the real me. No matter how hard I tried to suffocate her, to smother her into oblivion she stayed. She was beaten, bruised but each time she stood up after my whipping. I would beat her into a corner, blood spattering the walls with my violence. Screaming at her to shut up, to submit, to accept and each time she got on her knees and then she would stand up to face me and I would lock her up again and leave her in the dark to punish her.

I did that for years, for all the varied abuse I suffered at other people’s hands they were never as bad as I was. It took me a long time to embrace who I really was, bad and good and see the cult identity for what it was – a poor shadow, a vindictive, terrified shadow.

Clearly I let her out of her prison and she never tried to get revenge, she simply was and there was no need to continue the battle. Finally the healing could begin. Though my vile words had caused pain they had not changed me fundamentally, I had only delayed myself. My struggles during those years and even now in different degrees have many names, and they are all true. Depression, anxiety, resentment, pain, loneliness, despair, hopelessness. They do not how ever describe WHO I am, and they never will.

Reading those entries was probably just an exercise in remembering past pain, but it did give me something useful. I wrote as if I could not survive another year, that my end had to be close, whether by a long drop or Armageddon, whichever came first, and no drum roll needed…I’m still here. One line that often kept me in the land of the living was ‘how will I know happiness if I’m not alive to know?’ So I stayed and I’m really glad I did. da044a12308c0a8c82b5eae66a424bed

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The Hero and Heroines Journey Part 3 From Cult to Contentment – Brien Pittman

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Learning How to Live More Fully Human

One of the saddest aspects of the repressed cult mindset, and quite frankly for much of society in general, is the way our fears have been used against us, to rob us, of experiencing our richer and more profound form of human nature ‘now’ in the present. Years after leaving repressive religion many people may still be battling with this joyless mindset.

Being at peace with the world means being at peace with ourselves. Allowing ourselves to relax and become more fully human – without the stain of anger, fear and suspicion. This form of contentment is a never ending challenge with rich rewards yet, learning how to live with ordinary daily happiness, free of fear, is a genuine skill, and requires a hell of a lot of practice. It takes a mature wisdom to appreciate the world and to accept others and ourselves as imperfect, ordinary people. It takes great strength and courage to open ourselves up to being more fully human.

But, if you just came out of the Jehovah’s Witnesses this is probably the last thing you want to hear. You may have lived under a repressive religious thumb for so long that, now you feel much like a Jack-out-of-the-Box – “Don’t tell me what to do” – “Let’s get this party started” kind of person. Which is perfectly healthy in the beginning of our journey to Self. Just, try to be balanced because you’ll have more traveling to do once you are ready.

Whether we have been out of the Jehovah’s Witnesses for years or for weeks our goal is to:

Create a life that is more fully human, with greater access to the higher parts of our humanity on the inside; not just a life that looks good on the outside.

So, are we agreed for the most part regarding our goal?

Good, I hope you nodded or whispered yes. I’ll have to assume that you did.

Unfortunately, and fortunately, there is never a straight line to our goal, and there will always be obstacles. You know, I know, we all know on some rudimentary level; certain people and institutions, in all walks of life, want to keep us separated from ‘our’ goal. The Jehovah’s Witnesses were just our training ground. We still have to make an effort to not let our humanity be lulled back to sleep.

Think about this for a moment. How often are we encouraged or, supported in our efforts to reach the goal of living more fully human? Why are certain people and organizations, from all walks of life, wanting to keep us separated from our goal?

The answer is really quite simple. If we reach our goal – we reach Authenticity – and when we are authentically ourselves – no one person, organization, or ideology can ever own us again.

Other than the people who want to control us in their sick pursuit of power and money, I think it is pretty safe to say most humans want to be free and authentically who we are. But there’s fear, so much fear…   between who we are now and who we have always been. Remember how this series started; “What a long time it can take for a person to become the one they have always been.”

Overcoming the Fear Obstacle

How many of you remember this (or similar) mind drills? “The world is in the hands of Satan, and joy in the present is worthless compared to…blah, blah, blah.” We all fell into that mind shaft and we all know of or, remember people who still view the world as miserable, dreadful, a dangerously demonic place, and that fear makes them cling ever tighter to their abusers.

For us though, now that we have climbed out of that mind shaft; and some of us have actually filled it in. Now, we have to be careful not to fall into another mind shaft that, much of society, in general, has fallen into. Example: Turn on your TV and what do you see and hear?

A bombardment of fear-based stories. Stories which, just like the jw’s stories; prey on the anxieties we all have, and then hold us hostage once again. Everyday, the world and the people in the world are portrayed as dangerous, something to be feared. Every day true Individuality and Authenticity are portrayed as something to be feared; due to rejection. Other than the absence of Satan, the messages are not much different than the messages we received from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. “The world and life are large and powerful and we are small and weak.”

It’s easy for us to identify others under the spell of this particular mind washing message. Sometimes, their wounded vulnerable interior of fear and distrust is manifested in their hardened exterior. “It’s too dangerous to let my guard down” “I must limit and control the depth of my humanity” “Trusting people hurts” “If I am authentically me – people will reject me”

We’ve all been there at one time or another.

We sometimes chuckle or, are frustrated by those who are lost deep in their obvious denials – but how often do we look within ourselves for our own hidden areas of denial. The ways in which we shield ourselves from our fears and anxieties?

It’s actually hilarious sometimes – how we can lull our minds back to sleep – delay our progress with tempting lullabies. As humans, our reaching our goal (remember our goal?) inevitably depends upon repeated separations and repeated developmental departures. The first departure for every human being was of course from the womb – then from childhood to teenager, and from teenager to adult where we once again physically separated from our parents by moving out on our own. However, you and I, as X-witnesses – we have to add an additional separation into the equation. A much more traumatic separation from our once cherished and pacifying beliefs system and sense of family and community.

Every human being though, regardless of their religious experiences, has to deal with each separation being farther and farther away from the ancient safe place we all long to return to from time to time. Fear of further departure, fear of the unknown; fear of the challenge and responsibility of increased being – intimidates us back into our convenient rituals, self-limiting beliefs and thinking. Our familiar surroundings. Drifting away as we do through the dance of life, farther and farther from our origins, we are often flooded with nostalgia, a word whose Greek meaning is “pain for home.”

At times, we all love to pretend that we are somehow exempt from such huge parts of life and the responsibilities necessary for our progressive growth. But the reality is – we all (at times) have areas where our consciousness is ruled by our unconscious fears. Fear is what lies behind our persistent anger, our helplessness, our legalistic pursuing of the illusion of control, and our desperate clinging to others for answers.

The agendas of progression versus regression war within all of us each day. Sometimes we are aware of their presence, most times we are not. When the desire to go home prevails, we will choose not to choose. We will remain amid the familiar and comfortable, even when it is numbing and soul-denying.

Our self-sung lullabies will become magical forms of thinking that cultivates lethargy – seducing us with whispers: Just forget, numb out, ignore the summons of your soul to be free, take it easy for a while… sometimes for a long while… sometimes for a lifetime.

Looking deeply within ourselves is not a very popular practice is it? Who knows what we might find. (or who we might find) There was a time though when the unexamined life was looked upon as not worth living. Sadly, the world has changed since those days.

As we move from this part of the article and into the next. It is important to realize that Everyone’s journey begins much deeper down the rabbit hole than we suspected. For example; Were you ever shown or, encouraged to get the most out of ‘conscious’ living and the ever present moment? Were you ever shown or encouraged to lovingly and patiently ‘critically examine’ your own inner life? No. Few if any of us were; and sadly many cult survivors never feel at home with themselves and the world long enough to leave their trauma behind.

Home is not a place. It’s a feeling

The crazy-insane-making messages you received while living as a witness probably make it hard and somewhat scary to figure out exactly where you fit into this world. Many X-witnesses struggle with adjusting to the secular world. They share feelings of alienation and feel like misfits. They are unconnected, isolated. Until they find support, and then they realize there are millions just like them, and so begins, and sometimes ends, their journey to Self.

A major step to feeling comfortable and safe will involve stepping outside of your trauma in order to have ‘new’ experiences, in order to, gain some understanding and acceptance of your new world and the new you. (more on this in future articles)

You have been manipulated into believing negative judgments against the world, yourself, and humans in general. There will be times when you have feelings of fear or awkwardness that support the erroneous belief that you just do not fit in anywhere. Some of these are natural feelings for someone greatly influenced by an abusive religion or ideology. Other feeling such as; prolonged anger, apathy, isolation, suicidal ideation and indifference, need to be professionally addressed before they become serious issues for you. Take my word for it.

The point is: You are now free to begin resolving ‘all’ of those erroneous feelings, doubts and beliefs.

Let’s Start With Beauty

One of the most important—and most neglected—elements in the beginnings of developing the interior life with Self is the ability to respond to reality. To clearly see the value and beauty in ordinary things. To come alive to the splendor that is all around us

We miss so much of the beauty that emanates from the people, places and things around us. We just don’t see it. Looking for and enjoying beauty is a way to nourish the soul. The universe, fortunately, has the habit of creating beauty. Take a moment and notice the flowers growing along a mountain trail. All over the world, we have songs, snowflakes and smiles, acts of great courage, laughter between friends, the satisfaction of a job well done, the smell of fresh baked bread. Beauty is everywhere. To perceive the world in this fashion and to walk this path is to acknowledge the goodness of the world.

As the English novelist D.H. Lawrence said, “The human soul needs beauty even more than it needs bread.” In many cultures, this need for beauty is honored in rituals and arts. The Japanese reverence this virtue in the tea ceremony, flower arrangements, calligraphy and other activities. The Balinese have found a way to integrate beauty into everyday life where it belongs. Through their yoga exercises, writings, rich spiritual lives and hospitality. Every aspect of their inner and outer world has a deep reverence for beauty.

Beauty in all it forms should be encouraged in our homes and celebrated. Drink deep of the shining and ephemeral moments in life that surround you. Drink deeply of the beauty, which nourishes your soul. Then you will never have to utter the lamenting words of the third-century religious philosopher St. Augustine at the close of your life: “Too late have I loved you O Beauty, so ancient and so new, too late have I loved you!”

 

The Hero and Heroines Journey; Part 2 From Cult to Courageously Fearful – Brien Pittman

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A friend one day told me he admired my courage. Because I was surprised by the fact that he thought ‘I’ of all people was courageous, he went on to explain to me that even though I’m scared shitless many times; I go ahead and face whatever the challenge may be. After I laughed and thanked him for the compliment, I came up with a saying that, whether I’m the first to coin the phrase or not, it has helped me many times in life; the state of being “Courageously Fearful.”

Perhaps right now, your life is calling you to rise to the challenge of your ‘Dante like’ underworld journey, and you need to be courageously fearful.

Keep this in mind while you consider the following questions:

  • What has brought you to this place in your journey, this moment in your life?
  • What forces, what family and what social environment has framed your reality; supported, and perhaps restricted, it?
  • Whose life have you been living?
  • Why do you believe you have to hide so much from others, from yourself?
  • Why does life seem to be a script written elsewhere, and you were barely consulted, if at all?
  • Why is the life you have been living too small for your soul’s desire?
  • Why is now the time, if ever it is to happen, for you to answer the summons of your soul, the invitation to a larger and more meaningful life?

If any of the above questions speak to you, scare you a little or challenge you, then you are already answering your soul’s call to an enlarged being, and possibly have been for sometime.

Our movement away from our old blueprints of life understandably upsets our intrinsic longing for the familiar, comfortable, secure and predictable. These longings are a prime directive of everyone’s psyche (the Greek word for soul) and have strong motivation to bring meaning, healing, and wholeness into our lives.

Our role, most often, is to relax, have faith in ourselves and surrender to whatever process is transpiring within our psyche… Yeah, I know… it’s much much easier said than done.

But the alternative is to believe ourselves helpless, victimized; unable to imagine some enlarging purpose from our suffering, only to later recognize that something was moving us purposefully and initiating a new phase in our journey. Even though it certainly didn’t feel like it at the time.

Later, we may even grudgingly admit that our suffering did enlarge us and made us more fully and richly human. Our acknowledgment, of the deep currents that initially course beneath our conscious awareness, is the beginning of what we may legitimately call wisdom.

The Greek dramatist Aeschylus (525-456 BC), the world’s first great tragedian playwright, observed that the gods ordained a solemn decree that from suffering alone comes wisdom. Such earned wisdom brings forth greater dignity and depth to our lives, and we are gifted with a more embracing spiritual enlargement. Which, is as vital to our well being and wholeness as our emotional, and mental enlargement. A mature spirituality simply means a connection that takes us outside of ourselves. Connects us with something larger. The entire human species or, the grandeur of the mountains and oceans. The only requirement for spirituality to be truly meaningful is it must be ours. Our unique connection specific to our life, our experiences.

Of course when we are in the midst of suffering and tragedy, talk of enlargement, spirituality and wisdom seems pointless and insensitive. Yet much later we will often come to realize that we have acquired a more discerning consciousness, a more complex but clearer understanding of our self and a much more interesting life.

Despite our moments of great fear, uncertainty and apparent lack of control over our lives; we always have the option to pass through our figurative underworld with courageous fearfulness. The option to force ourselves ever onward armed with faith in our ability to emerge on the other side Whole. Even when we are in the thrall of PTSD the choice…is always ours.

Brien Pittman

We love you as long as…

When I joined the Witnesses I was welcomed with open arms and what I thought was open hearts. Over time it became clear that the hearts were far from open. As long as I was in the ministry doing field service and attending and answering at meetings I was loved. My health over the past 10 years has suffered. I am a diabetic and a stroke survivor which leaves me with a great deal of weakness and pain especially in my legs. This of course impacted badly on my ability to walk and balance.

I was forced to cut back on my field service. As soon as I done this the love for me dropped incrementally. In December 2010 I had an accident at work and broke both of my arms in fact I shattered all the bones in my left arm and had 2 operations to fix it. The ops were a success but my arm is permanently damaged as I damaged the nerves in my arm as well.

I was off work for 3 months and stared to suffer from acute depression which became clinical depression when I returned to work. I was unable to do the tasks and duties that I used to do, My entire life changed and I was attacked by people at work who wanted me out and tried to get me fired (they failed). This led to a deepening of my depression.

This led to me missing meeting and left me unable to do field service, I tried but I was hurt and disillusioned by the way I was being treated. About six weeks after my accident the circuit overseer and the PO in the congregation came to visit me at home. I had a wasted left arm and my right arm was still in dressings from the operation to fix my arm. I am right handed. They actually expected me to make coffee for them.

I made coffee for 2 able bodied people while still being in a great deal of pain and not being able to function properly. When my wife got home from work she was furious with them for their behaviour. A while later 2 elders came to the house to find out why I was missing so many meetings. The way they interrogated me really made me angry.

All this time I was trying to reach my wife and wake her up and get her out of the cult. I treated her with respect and love, unconditional love. She raged at me and spouted all the vile filth the Watchtower had taught her but still I loved her and made sure she knew it. In December 2012 we became parents.

The birth of our son led to my wife’s awakening. She looked at her life growing up a Witness and decided she as a mother could not allow her precious child to grow up the way she did as an outcast to society, picked on and fearful. My wife approached me and brought up everything I had questioned in the past. She examined herself and her beliefs and the treatment Witnesses hand out to each other.

It was difficult to watch her as she awoke from the cult and her hurt at being so completely deceived and the pain she suffered growing up as a Witness. The hurt turned to anger and then rage. Through all of this she was a new mother with me as her only support. I became her pillar of strength, her refuge from the storm. I loved her and our son with every fibre of my being.

Being a mum she finally knew what it was to give love unconditionally and that led to her understanding how I loved her so deeply. You see as a Witness she had only known conditional love. ‘I love you as long as’… ‘I love you because you’… This travesty of love caused her to be the type of person who always tried to please people and heavily criticised herself. As a Witness her sense of self was dependent on the meagre offerings of love she was given. eventhough

I was loved as long as I was useful to them, as soon as I was no longer able to go out on field service and attend meetings it was as though I was invisible to most of the congregation. Asiza suffered the same fate because she was a loving wife and mother. She cared for me and helped me through my pain and done what was best for me and our son. We were expected to take our baby boy to Tuesday night meetings. The meetings started at 7pm and ended at 9pm, way past this little man’s bedtime. Wednesdays became a nightmare with him grumpy and crabbit.

This was what was expected from all Witnesses, keep your children out of bed past their bedtimes and keep them quiet in the kingdom hall. As every parent knows babies need routine and positive reinforcement. On numerous occasions I watched as an unruly child was taken from the kingdom hall by his dad and ‘disciplined’ outside, tearfully and quietly returning.. This was encouraged by the elders. How is forcing your child to be quiet and behave while they are tired and bored showing love? How is hitting your child to force compliance with cult expectations love? How can parents justify their behaviour? It’s another example of ‘I love you as long as you…’

Witnesses were taught to follow the example of Jesus Christ, they even give him the title, ‘our Exemplar’. The way Jesus loved and the way he loved children especially is completely at odds with Witness behaviour. Jesus loved so much that he died for everyone regardless of who they were. When his disciples, the people closest to him tried to chase the children away from him he chastised his disciples with the famous words, “suffer the little children to come unto me for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. It’s sad the Witnesses don’t follow this example.

On the 24th of June this year I lost the oldest friend I’ve ever known, my brother Gary. While we were Witnesses my brother came out as transsexual. As a Witness I was expected to cut off all contact with him. I could not do that I loved him. No question, I loved him and to add to the weight of all this my brother was dying of Multiple Sclerosis. The watchtower doesn’t care, they expect that the faithful will cut off all contact with such a person.

We came to England and I made the decision to stay to be with my dying brother and give my son a chance of a decent future. We had a year with my brother before he passed, a year the Watchtower would have denied us.

Where am I going with all this?

Unconditional love, it’s the thing that really builds us up and gives us strength to face anything and triumph and grow. It is the only true love. The conditional love practiced by the Watchtower tears you down and stamps what’s left of you into the dust. They ‘love’ you as long as you are useful and giving them money and recruiting new victims.

Love means putting yourself last, your children or better half comes first. Others come first. It’s a choice we have to make, to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others. If the person, faith, thing you love doesn’t put you first then you need to take a good look at whether they deserve your love at all, because you deserve the best love has to offer.

When you are facing a challenge, a fork in the road, a choice remember the words of Lionel Richie:   ”Show the world and all its people, All the wonders love can bring, Give us strength and understanding, Give us all one song to sing”.

Craig Tait

Something to believe in

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I was raised a Baptist and then in my teenage years as a Pentecostal so as you can imagine I had a pretty thorough bible education. I was married to a woman whose entire family was Hindu. My best friend at the time was a Jew (his father was a rabbi) and at work my friends and colleagues were Roman Catholic, 7th day Adventists and Muslims. I even had Atheist and Wiccan friends. After my marriage fell apart I stopped believing in anything.

I met and fell in love with a Jehovah’s Witness. I started studying and we married, we left the cult together and try to educate those who are being targeted by Witnesses and those trying to leave.

Now that I have stated my credentials it’s time to get to the point.

The hardest thing I ever had to observe was how my wife had to challenge what she believed as a Witness in the cold hard face of facts and proof. As a Witness she was taught to believe what the elders and Governing Body told her and never challenge the Governing Body no matter how absurd the instruction was.

I challenged the directives from day one. No beards on the platform… right. I grew a beard and a moustache and still gave my talks and readings. That was the way I started showing my wife my dissatisfaction with what was occurring and the seed was planted. The seed grew into doubts and doubts into questions.

Questions I was happy to answer as best I could even though they led to arguments and recriminations. It’s never easy challenging what you believe and I acknowledged this and loved her unconditionally through this process. It’s this unconditional love that I demonstrated that helped her wake up and leave and research all she was taught. My wife now spends a great deal of time exposing the lies and half-truths of the Witnesses and helping others to recover.

But a question remains, now what do I believe?

If I have been lied to my whole life and I reject all that the Witnesses stand for where do I go and what path should I take to get there? I do not have those answers as faith is a very personal thing. Some people will become Christian, some Atheist, some may veer towards non-Christian faiths like Islam or Judaism. All of these belief systems are great as long as you do the one thing that you were never permitted to do as a JW. You must question yourself and find out who you are before you take any steps towards faith.

As Asiza has written about in the past it takes time and work for your true personality to exert itself and throw off the shackles of the cult personality. I believe it should be a crime that the Watchtower and other cults break down your sense of self and replace it with their own creed and value system.

When you know yourself take the time to research the faith that is drawing you. Question its history and practices. One of the things I hated about the Watchtower was the way it treated women as second class members and that helped keep me focused on what I truly believed.

No matter what you choose it will take time to acclimatise yourself to your new surroundings. As human beings and as individuals we need something in our lives. In the words on Bon Jovi, “In a world that gives you nothing, we need something to believe in”!

Craig Tait

The Hero and Heroines Journey From Cult to Consciousness – Brien Pittman

 

tunnel picWhat a long time it can take for a person to become the one they have always been.

At one time or another, all of us have worn other people’s beliefs and personalities. And understandably so, when the very religion we belong to and the institutional structures of our society makes being ourselves; much more demanding than attempting to become someone else.

“Follow to Fit in” would be an accurate definition of the phenomenon’s social psychology refers to as conformity and obedience. A cursory look at world history is all the proof one needs to realize that after 10,000 years of civilization; conformity and obedience is still hard wired in the neurology of every human’s mind, and is most often used by those sick with desires for power to manipulate and control the masses.

Journeying, evolving beyond our minds primitive ‘hard-wiring’ is the only way to protect ourselves and break free from the abuse and trauma suffered by trying to ‘fit in” rather than working to become authentically who we are. If we learn the necessary steps and have the stubbornness needed to achieve such authenticity.

The resounding truthfulness, inner harmony, and peace, of being uniquely who we are is vastly more enlightened and rewarding than fitting into the herd.

Sometime during your repressive religious lifestyle, perhaps to your dismay, you found yourself living someone else’s life or, a dual life. Their values, beliefs, and rules were directing your behavior, your choices, and your perceptions about yourself, others, and the world; your entire life.

More than likely, the more you struggled to achieve the life of another, it never quite felt right, even though no other alternative seemed to exist. Even when you achieved the acceptance and praise of others, you secretly felt fraudulent. Because you knew their acceptance of you was hypocritical, conditional acceptance and most of all a violation of your spirit.

In fact, I’m willing to bet you repeatedly experienced a ‘rebellion’ of your soul so to speak; the desire for your life’s emergence, an overthrow of your oppressive religiously prescribed understanding of self and the world. And that is totally ‘normal’ for someone with an immense love for life, freedom, and truth.

It is also extremely common, since the dawn of time, for every human journey to authenticity and enlarged being; to begin with fear, confusion, and contradictions.

This series of articles is going to ask you to occasionally embrace the similarities of your journey and the mythology and poetry of the ancients, as they aptly describe ‘The Journey’ we must all take; if we ever hope to become the person we have always been.

Traveling With Dante

You were pulled or, more accurately thrown from your familiar environment into the darkness. Like the poet Dante, you descended and upon waking, found yourself, just like Dante, in the figurative underworld having lost your way. (some people know it as PTSD)

All of us, whether we are ex-jw cult members or not, despite our best intentions, commonly find ourselves, at different stages in life, lost in the figurative underworld.

No amount of good intentions, intelligence, forethought, planning, prayer or adherence to a so-called biblical blueprint, can spare any of us from these periodic encounters with confusion, uncertainty, depression or, disappointment with ourselves and others, and the subsequent ending of the blueprints, beliefs and stratagems that once seemed to work but, now are obsolete and ultimately are no longer of any value in our lives.

What can this apparently self-directed journey or process, which challenges us to overthrow our old ways of thinking, feeling and responding to life mean, and how can we grow from such upsetting disruptive encounters with the darkness of our underworlds?

In Dante’s case, his journey through the underworld began as a divided person. One-half of Dante was unyielding, moralistic and legalistic, which acted as the supreme judge and decided who belonged in hell and more specifically, which circle of hell each sinner belonged in.

The other half of Dante was a humble pilgrim who journeyed to sacred places for spiritual reasons. He was a man who had himself been lost in the underworld, and who was sympathetic to others who had strayed from their soul’s path.

When Dante finds himself lost in the underworld, he is terribly frightened until Virgil, who symbolizes human reason and wisdom arrives to deliver him from hell. Dante the pilgrim is at first apprehensive, cautious and frightened until he is reassured of Virgil’s noble intentions.

However, near the end of the journey, as things become increasingly complicated and difficult to comprehend, Virgil shows signs of failure and weakness. In other words, Dante is loosing faith in his reasoning abilities and wisdom, and this of course makes Dante the pilgrim irritated and fearful, until Dante’s, moralistic and legalistic side -now balanced with compassion- rises to the occasion, giving Dante support and strength.

In the end, Dante returns to the upper world, the two halves of his self-joined, united with wisdom, compassion, and enlightenment of himself and of life in general.

While Dante’s Inferno has many symbolic representations and meanings, the overall message is the duality of life: that there cannot be pain without its opposite pleasure, light without darkness or enlightenment and serenity without suffering.

Re-read the last sentence if you need to for, it is vitally important that you understand clearly, that this is why you are so different from the ones you were forced to leave behind. This is the great difference between you and all the other people who chose to stay.

Like Dante, you are learning to accept the duality of life; even though there are still times when it scares the living hell out of you.

Despite what they say and believe about you, despite what they cause you to believe about yourself, despite even being diagnosed with PTSD.  You, just like Dante, are on a Hero or Heroines journey to more enlightenment because, again like Dante, you are ‘courageous’ enough ‘stubborn enough’ to suffer the ridicule and rejection of loved ones, even the inferno of hell if need be, in order to find and become your true Self. What more loving gift could you or anyone else give to the world than the best you. Just think what the entire world would be like; if more humans were willing to embark upon ‘their’ hero’s journey.

All enlightenment means is the state of having knowledge or understanding. You can put ethereal meaning into it if you like but, it’s through your experiencing more life, even the suffering, that you have gained more knowledge, more enlightenment. Think about it for a moment, even if you are currently lost in the underworld, your world is still larger than the ones who are too scared to leave and live life authentically.

Not meaning to sound clichéd’ or all new ageie but, whether you are currently a Jehovah’s Witness, deeply contemplating leaving the organization or, whether you are one of the brave souls who has recently left; it’s all a part of your journey. Even if you are an old timer like myself.

Of course, when we are in the midst of suffering and tragedy, talk about Journey’s and growth and wisdom seems pointless and insensitive. Yet much later we will often come to realize that we have acquired a more discerning consciousness, a more complex but clearer understanding of our self, the world and also, a much more interesting life. Because of our Journey.

I hope that by sharing my thoughts on the subject you will be inspired and encouraged to remain with this part of your journey right up until you reach your destination. And another adventure begins.