We’ve been taught that frauds are not nice people. Frauds pull the wool over our eyes; they are counterfeit, claiming to be something or someone they aren’t. In my case I was a reluctant fraud. I fooled even myself, so unconscious was my justification for living the life I led.
This revelation came to me only this past week. I was on a retreat for gay men at Easton Mountain near Troy, NY. I attended a number of compelling workshops on spirit and life. But it was my conversations with James Dickson that zeroed in what had been motivating me and how misguided I had been for at least the last 25 years.
As always my story starts with wired as highly sensitive. That set the stage for my reactions to the world around me. I had feelings of disconnect and isolation as early as age four that kept me squarely in crisis mode. My deep empathy drew toward me a constant stream of emotions from around me. Relationships with peers felt threatening from the start and caused me to over-think everything.
Yet we humans are meant to live from our hearts. The beating heart of a human embryo is the first evidence of viability. Only when the heart forms does the brain stem then follow, springing forth from the stem cells of the heart.
Western societies since the 19th century have mostly disconnected themselves from the heart-centered approach. Today more than ever brain power dominates our culture. Like many I unknowingly separated my head and heart and allowed the former to take control. I shut down many of my feelings in order to cope.
Any criticism of me or my work triggered self-doubt, anger, depression and profound loneliness. I got my regular validation “fix” by being successful in school and behaving agreeably. Not feeling part of the world my peers traveled in, I created my own world. Though I had one or two kindred spirits along the way, by the time I was thirteen I yearned for more connection. But the next year my efforts were short-circuited by collective bullying by classmates. This set my heart back and pushed me further into my brain. By the end of the year I had shut down and began to compartmentalize my life.
My survival technique was very consciously to reject the tastes, activities, and interactions of my peers. I cocooned myself in the illusion of total independence. I didn’t need them. I turned to God and religion since good, religious boys get to heaven. Though my God was never mean or angry, he didn’t seem to care that I felt so useless and alone.
Unfortunately my parents had shared their childhood traumas with me, my brother and sister, and hinted at even more horrible experiences they had had. We became their emotional caretakers and so I felt I could not burden them with how unloved and empty I felt. Their belief that life and the world were dangerous places only fed my paranoia.
When I thought of becoming a priest my head was in the clouds. I felt lifted into another realm where I would have value, a purpose in life, status, a role that would set me apart from everyone else. I studied hard, earned multiple degrees, published, and tried to be a powerful spokesman for the church.
But still I encountered mixed messages. I looked for divine love and acceptance and found a very human church that I didn’t want or like. I continued to feel alienated from my peers and complaining that the diocese was not valuing my talents and skills. After several personal experiences of the dysfunction in the church I began losing faith in God and in humanity. I grew increasingly cynical. I called it being “realistic”.
I had enjoyed preaching, teaching and leading worship. They were venues for my intelligence and wide breadth of knowledge. They offered me a chance for attention. Look at me; listen to me! I’m a spokesman for the Truth! It was a way of rising to the top of the pile and trying to undo the bullying. Now I could tell others what to do while still imagining myself to be a kind of hero. New programs and projects fed my inner passion for validation, but I became bored once I mastered aspects of my work. Without something new on the horizon I felt empty, tired, depressed, and anxious. And so I learned to numb my feelings, especially with television and a very private interior world.
After 32 years of this narcissistic struggle I snapped. I left the ministry I thought I loved and never looked back. In time I believed I was on the road to reinventing myself as a life coach who could quietly help others move forward in their lives. But I had to move forward into my heart.
Dickson helped me to hit bottom and begin the climb back up. He guided me into an unprecedented depth of self-revelation and enabled me to see my upside-down emotions. My passion often had been rooted in anger and long-standing resentment. Righteous indignation and pride had motivated me. Fear of financial insecurity had dominated me. I was reluctant to ask for help for fear of being judged. I had sought my own convenience, always calculating along the way how I might meet my needs with deliciously subtle passive-aggression. I had believed that the universe owed me a life for the abuse, misery and pain I had experienced. I had been envious of others and played the victim so that I could delude myself into thinking my judgments and stories about them were true. I had even tried to manipulate God. It’s no wonder why I hadn’t felt his love.
I have been a reluctant fraud, trapped in a mind enveloped in concentric walls of logic that were supposed to protect me from pain. Though my brain served me well in many ways, I now know and feel deeply that I must depose my tyrannical brain from its throne and release my imprisoned heart to take its rightful place as my true spiritual guide.
These revelations are like a five ton weight lifted off my chest. I share them with you because they are universal human experiences. They are radical truths about a life of contradiction and ambiguity, lived inauthentically and unconsciously. Where are you, my heart? Lead me to rediscover faith, hope, and love!.
Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org