When Wise Mind Says Shut Up
Forget about self-confidence; it's useless. Cultivate God-confidence. (The Message Bible, 356.)
(You can substitute goddess or spirit or Higher Power or ancestors or Love or anything else-The point is to have confidence in something bigger than yourself that guides your life, even if it's just trust in your own intuition instead of your ego.)
Talking about the prophets and sin left me with my mind swirling a couple of Sundays ago during Bible Study. The people that were talking about how awful everything is really bothered me, but is my insistence on joy ignoring reality?
Here is what I eventually decided:
It is good to reflect on the atrocities of society, but it is not good to wallow in them. It is good to reflect if they cause us to move towards solutions, but it is not if we move towards despair. It is good to be aware of when I miss the mark, but it is not good if that is all of my focus. If I spend more time feeling instead of doing, then I have missed the mark. If I spend no time feeling but only do, then I have missed the mark.
The answer seems to me to be found in wise mind - the balance of emotion and logic mind.
I do not relate to a Puritan mindset at all. I feel like I have spent too much time in suicidal depression to choose any kind of theology or philosophy that focuses on sin. I want to focus on joy while I can.
Still, when I was just about to launch into my third dramatic speech during Bible Study last week, I felt the Holy Spirit whisper in my ear, “shut up.” All of a sudden, I was not sure if what I was about to say was true or just egotistical and so I decided to spend the rest of the meeting listening as much as possible.
“Just because I do not necessarily relate to the feeling of sin does not mean that I should disregard the depths of someone else’s feelings,” my wise mind said.
I then realized why I needed to stop. It is good to state one’s opinion or belief, but it is not good if I am doing so because I am feeling threatened or invalidated. I realized I wanted the person to share my joyous feelings because I was feeling attacked, but disagreeing with someone is not actually the same thing as being invalidated. People are allowed to have different experiences.
By George, I may be growing up!
I have come to view my Borderline Personality Disorder as an angsty, emotional teen. It is not good to label that part of myself as bad or “disordered” but to instead validate her feelings, mentally hug her, and then whisper in her ear, “It’s okay. Being quiet right now isn’t about trying to please other people or feeling bad about yourself; you are good-it’s about realizing that your feelings are not the only strong feelings out there-I can empathize with someone without taking their shit on. I can feel someone else’s feelings without giving up my own.”
Just a few days before, I had read this disturbing passage from the DSM-V:
Compromised ability to recognize the feelings and needs of others associated with interpersonal hypersensitivity (i.e., prone to feel slighted or insulted); perceptions of others selectively biased toward negative attributes or vulnerabilities.
(In other words, difficulty with empathy due to defensiveness)
People with BPD have an ever changing identity/sense of self. Our insecurity prompts us to feel threatened when someone else is just expressing an opposing opinion or feeling. This makes it very hard to empathize with others. Unlike what some people think, It is not that people with BPD are incapable of experiencing empathy, it is that we have to do extra inner work in order to access it. DBT teaches us how to do that-Today I can choose to recognize that I am my own person; taking another’s feelings seriously does not automatically discount my own. It is a big deal that I could recognize when I was starting to go overboard and wanting to convince everyone to feel the same way as I did in order to feel more comfortable with myself.
I believe we can most fully be in empathy with someone when we are in wise mind. I can relate and feel with a person without taking on their own self.
Wise mind rightly told me to shut up, consider, and think.
It is not all about me.
What I eventually came to realize is that I do not relate to the way sin is usually talked about. I try my best every day and feel proud that that is what I try to do. I put myself out every day to combat the stigma of mental illness. I feel secure in my intentions.
So, what is my sin? (Remember that sin simply means “to miss the mark.”).
I sin every time I do not trust in the partnership of God and I. I sin when I put material goods over spiritual goods. I sin when I give advice, as if I know a person better than they do. I sin when I waste my gifts and ignore my purpose. I sin when I value making money over listening to the spirit. I sin when I think that I alone am right on any issue. I sin when I do not trust in what I know is right. I sin when I am not kind or jump to conclusions or talk badly about another.
I sin when I view myself as a disorder, instead of as a human being, originally good. I sin when I do not trust in the wisdom of my wise mind in partnership with Sophia, the wisdom of God.
So what do I do?
I reflect without wallowing; I move towards hope, not despair; I trust in myself and in my God.