Many times, my therapist has asked me what I do believe. The last time I finally had an answer that was simple - I believe in me!
It has taken me years to get here. As I mentioned earlier, we academics live in our heads. It was really easy to tell my therapist what I didn't believe in - to find an intellectual solution to an emotional problem. It was how I had to do things but there is always a price to pay.
The following is an example of how I dealt with (or more correctly, didn't deal with) one of my lingering issues.
In 1996, I published a paper called "God Died and Nobody Gave a Funeral" (it is available through most university electronic publication databases). It is rather good and still relevant - if I do say so myself! Its conclusion was that an effective therapeutic intervention for Christian survivors was to help them grieve the death of their childhood god.
Well guess who hadn't grieved the death of her childhood god? Yes, that's right little old me. By the time I wrote the article, I had finished my dissertation (The Father God and Traditional Christian Interpretations of Suffering, Anger, Guilt, and Forgiveness as Impediments to Recovery from Father-Daughter Incest), published "Christian "Virtues" and Recovery from Child Sexual Abuse", Psalm of Anger to a Patriarchal God (in English and French) and other stuff. By that point, I had had 10 years of very difficult therapy. My life was full of crises between 1992 and 1996 - I was working frontline with PWLAIDS and was also the primary caretaker of my father-in-law who had Alzheimer's, I defended my dissertation, my husband was diagnosed with MS a year after his father died, my marriage was failing, my youngest son was involved in a multi-million $ lawsuit (a fired teacher was suing him and 3 other students for libel and slander - read all about it on the front page of the Saturday Ottawa Citizen & they wanted to put it on W5, something our lawyers vetoed), we had to sell our house, I had to grovel to CMHC to manage to buy another smaller, cheaper one in a rotten real estate market, my husband eventually filed for bankruptcy. I could go on and on - these are only highlights. Through it all, I had my therapist (it wasn't like I was anywhere near resolving the issues of my childhood, although he spent a lot of his time just handling the day to day stuff) and I had my friends without whom I would have found it difficult to keep going on. However, ...
It all took its toll. I slowly sank into depression that was ever pervasive. Then in 2000, I received a call from the Alumni Association. Somebody was looking for me to get permission to reprint my "Psalm of Anger to a Patriarchal God" (its story sometime later) . This started a series of e-mails with Jean-Guy Nadeau at the Université de Montréal's Faculté de Théologie. I had to start thinking about the god stuff all over again (something I always tried to avoid, even though it consumed my life). It was then that the anger, the pain, the loss, overwhelmed me all over again. I went back and read "God Died and Nobody Gave a Funeral" and cried and cried because I really didn't know how to grieve the death of something that I no longer believed in - yet I had written what I needed to do. Have I mentioned that I have my therapist on speed dial (even today)? My therapist's office was the only safe space in my life and that is where I grieved and grieved and cried for everything that I had lost when I lost my god. I remembered all the good things about believing. The most important part was remembering that without that horrid, patriarchal, insufferable, rule making god I never would have survived the aftermath of being in a sexual relationship with a priest when I was 8 years old that ended with a violent sexual and physical assault. That god offered me an answer to why? As my dissertation points out, it wasn't a good answer - but it was an answer and it saved me at the time and nobody else had an answer (or would even talk about it - one of my lucky breaks was that I wasn't Roman Catholic; for that I will be eternally grateful). I believed with all my heart and soul in that god - I got saved, I had the answers, even though I had no memory of what I needed to be saved from. That god abruptly died when I was 12 although I didn't realize it at the time, but he had got me through the worst of that time (trust me, I'm crying as I write). I could now begin to draw on other resources.
As a result of grieving, I was able to write my "Eulogy to a Patriarchal god". That was the beginning of my release. Since that point, I have moved ever forward until finally the devastation that was caused by that priest's abuse is almost wholly integrated and is becoming just a part of my life story - it no more defines who I am than my genetics - it is part of my package - there is no other me. And I believe in me.
Note: The link for the Psalm of Anger and the text of the Eulogy to a Patriarchal god is at the bottom of the blog.