Mar 3, 2018
Cass Midgley and Bob Pondillo interview Mary D. She's right here in the Nashville area so she was here in the studio. She has quite a journey through Catholicism, alcoholism, various protestant and evangelical churches and strangely (and unique to any other guest on this podcast) hypnosis.
Even though Mary has been involved in many churches over the years, she was never compelled to worship a god, so in some ways she's not our typical guest who had a traumatic departure from faith, but rather has a very generous regard for people who need religion. Sometimes we ex-Christians need a break from the veracious animosity we feel towards religion and maybe even those that adhere to it and give our fellow humans some slack as they fight their own battles and navigate their own storms.
I had an epiphany this week and it's a little embarrassing to admit it, 'cause it's going to sound like common sense to most of you. It has to do with something that happened to me when I left the faith. God's grace toward me was appealing to me because I had come to dislike myself and the message of someone forgiving me and giving me a clean slate and empower me to change was extremely appealing. I think this is why the Gospel appeals so strongly to people in alcohol and drug addiction or convicts in prison. But on a smaller scale, I had acted out in elementary school and middle school in ways that were inappropriate and shameful and by high school, I was a prime candidate for God's antidote to self-hatred. After all, in His holiness, he had all the right to hate me (and in fact without Christ's sacrifice he would) and here He is offering his unconditional love to me and eternal, blissful life with a new body and a perfect nature. Sign me up!
Paul, in the scriptures (also a self-loather) prescribes emptying myself, becoming less so He could become more, casting off the old nature and fleshly desires for a new nature and a renewed mind. Throw in a powerful plan for my life that he would guide me through and WHAT'S NOT TO LIKE?
Well, as we now know, that was all bullshit and we ended up giving our agency and personal accountability over to an imaginary, non-existent deity. SO, as a result, we often swing wide, like a pendulum to an opposite pathology. You may have heard me say many times on this podcast, "I will never apologize again for being human!" or "...being Cass Midgley," and I set out to embrace myself and love myself so thoroughly. And as usual, the healthy place is somewhere in the middle, where I acknowledge I'm imperfect and in fact capable of some pretty damaging behavior--damaging to myself and to my relationships. And unchecked, can truly fuck things up. So what is the truth here?
Well, stay with me for a sec. We all have personalities and these are the deeply ingrained patterns of behavior and the lens through which we perceive, relate to, and think about ourselves and their world in which we find ourselves. All personalities are flawed. Mental health professionals have defined 10 personality disorders as listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM. They are paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal, antisocial, borderline, histrionic, narcissistic, avoidant, dependent and obsessive-compulsive. I invite you to investigate your own personality and these disorders to see where your imperfect personality errs on the side of one or more of these. Keep in mind that a full-blown diagnosis from a professional is far, far different and more extreme than simply recognizing that you find that you are mildly influenced by some of these, and of course you are. No one is immune to their influence because no one is perfect. And we all would benefit from some self-awareness of our own cryptonites. If we'er aware that we have this or that tendency, then we would benefit, especially those near and dear to us, if we could clue in to what they already know and that is we're all a little bit crazy. Being sensitive to your potential pathology could save a lot of pain and heartache, because you can reign it in when you start to feel it creeping up in you.
For example, my therapist told me this week that I'm not so much narcissistic as I am histrionic. Well I'd never heard the word "histrionic." The word itself means: an actor, overly theatrical or melodramatic in character or style, exaggerated dramatic behavior designed to attract attention.
For a diagnosis of histrionic personality disorder to be given, five or more of the following symptoms must be present:
uncomfortable when not the center of attention. Me.
2 Constantly seeking reassurance or approval. Not constant so I'll give it a half point.
3 Inappropriately seductive appearance or behavior. not me
4 Rapidly shifting emotional states that appear shallow to others. yeah, pretty much me. So that's 2.5
5 Overly concerned with physical appearance, and using physical appearance to draw attention to self. that's opposite of me, so I'm deducting a point.
6 Opinions are easily influenced by other people, but difficult to back up with details. not so much. I could be wrong, but I'm sticking with not me.
7 Excessive dramatics with exaggerated displays of emotion. OUch, pretty much me. back up to 2.5.
8 Tendency to believe that relationships are more intimate than they actually are. totally me. 3.5.
9 Is highly suggestible (easily influenced by others). Nope.
So 3.5 at worst 4.5 so I'm not at the level of "disorder" but close enough to arouse some self-awareness and some presence of mind to reign it in when I feel it arising, huh? Keep in mind, for these symptoms to be considered a disorder, they must cause significant impairment or distress in the individual.
Now, something that is not on that list of pathologies is lying. I've known some pathological liars in my years. Maybe you have too. They seem to get a rush from wowing people with their life stories and embellishing a little to get their listeners to that over-the-top place of gasps and awe. Today's guest, Mary D's story is like that at times. It's so brutal at times that I couldn't help but think, "is she embellishing?" But I only met her the day of this taping so I don't know, but I know this: we're all a little crazy, we're all needy, we're all insecure, and if we're aware of our own shadow side, we're much more likely to sense when we're tempted to resort to these lower demons of our nature, which will only end up hurting those we love and ourselves, and unlike our past religious lives where we'd either try to cast out the demon or try to get closer to God to dispell the darkness, or pray harder, we now know that it's up to us to be good, to do the right thing, to take the high ground, to say yes to our yin/yang nature and thus be empowered to say no to that which disconnects us from our fellow, flawed human neighbors.
We taped this conversation on February 11th, 2018.
We interview people you don’t know, about a subject no one wants to talk about. We hope to encourage people in the process of deconstructing their faith and help curb the loneliness that accompanies it. We think the world is a better place when more people live by sight, not by faith. Please subscribe to our podcast, and leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts.
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"Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU
Intro bumper "Never Know" by Jack Johnson
The segue music on this episode was created Hans Zimmer from the movie Interstellar
Thanks for listening! And be a yes-sayer to what is.