What 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.