Coping Skill - #4A - Managing Our Emotions
I was raised in a religious environment in which many of the "God-given sacred truths" were inconsistent and even contradictory. When I asked about these inconsistencies and contradictions, I was told that "God works in mysterious ways" and I would be saved from perdition only if I accepted these sacred truths at face value, i.e., to question these beliefs would be a clear indication that my faith was insufficient to gain entrance into heaven. All this was buttressed by descriptions of the horrors of hell that would today be "blocked" on the TV sets of all responsible soccer moms.
When I developed schizophrenia at the age of thirteen, I no longer found it possible to rationalize these inconsistencies and contradictions or to accept the explanation given for their differences. This precipitated a reevaluation of all I had been taught that continued for many years. My search for the "truth" continues even to this day.
In this process of reevaluation, I've created my own "believe system" without the contradictions and inconsistencies of my youthful experience. It bears little resemblance to the rigid and arcane teachings of my childhood.
My belief system today is a dynamic one. This doesn't mean that it's relative, but that it does have the capacity for integrating new ideas, as well as new approaches to acquiring knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and guidance for everyday living.
The process of developing my own belief system was arduous and often painful, primarily because of the robust conscience I had developed in my childhood. When I thought or took any action in accordance with my revised belief system that countermanded much of my old belief system, this old conscience would load me up with heavy burdens of guilt and remorse. My belief system had been successfully altered, but my conscience had not.
My conscience is the arbitrator between my thoughts, actions, and resultant emotions, attaching specific internal emotional responses to everything I think or do. But how was I to get rid of my old and deeply ingrained conscience and replace it with a new and different one? The answer was that there was no easy way for me to wholesale changes in my old conscience. What I managed to do was to re-educate my conscience. How did I do this? [Read my blog on Coping Skills #3A & #3B] I did this in very much the same way as I changed my responses to the actions of others.
To re-educate my conscience, I conducted my life in a manner that conformed to my revised belief system and ignored, to the extent possible, the intrusions and complaints of my old conscience. I found that If I did this consistently, my conscience would eventually come to reflect my new belief system. This involved a lot of hard work and a certain amount of misery, but the end results, an integrated belief system and conscience that acts in consort, were worth the effort.
As with Coping Skill #3A, I recommend that you undertake these changes one or two at a time. This will minimize the associated stress and over the long run greatly reduce the levels of stress you experience in your daily life. By the time your old conscience has been reeducated, you will have internalized this coping skill.
In my next blog, I will provide example(s) of how this works.
* * *
Please remember, this writing reflects my own experience and opinions. If you, or a loved one, are experiencing the symptoms of schizophrenia, or any other mental illness, you should seek professional assistance.