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Leonardo

Religion as a Safety Behaviour

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Posted (edited)

I suffer from an anxiety disorder. To accommodate that I exhibit safety behaviours - routines; avoidance; obsession with detail; and others. Self-analysis of these behaviours is quite eye-opening, informative as to how much of our behaviour really is based on anxiety.

Which leads me to religion.

Most of us, at some point in our lives, will feel anxious about something. Like questions that have no answer. What happens when I die? Am I a good person? What is the universe? etc. Some of these dilemmas are unanswerable in fact (like what happens after death), while some are unanswerable because they are totally subjective.

There are people who do not fret too much about these questions, or don't fret about some of them. But there are people to whom these questions (or some of them) pose a 'real'* problem. This causes anxiety and what do we do to relieve anxiety?

We undertake safety behaviours.

Like religion.

I was tempted to post this in the 'Philosophy and Psychology' forum, but I feel it might get much more attention in this forum, so I would appreciate your views.

* I placed real in quotes because the problems are only perceived to be real, not experienced to be real.

Edited by Leonardo
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Posted (edited)

Hi Leonardo,

Anxiety can be quite debilitating, so I hope for you that you are able to manage it! Having said that, you make a very good point about to whether people turn to Religion to alleviate anxiety. I know for a fact that having faith in God can help people suffering with anxiety.. it gives them hope and comfort. I do however think that the benefits from Spirituality/Faith go much further than that.

Here in the UK faith is respected by the NHS Mental Health Professionals and view it as very important to supporting and helping people with mental health issues. If a person suffers from anxiety and finds/knows God then there is a sense of handing over one's problems to him. I guess what Jesus said was very profound and invokes the feeling of love, comfort and safety:

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,

and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,

for I am meek and humble of heart;

and you will find rest for yourselves.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.

Edited by Star of the Sea
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I agree with the OP, everyone has something that helps them get by: drugs, alcohol, over-eating, over-exercising, never being alone, watching TV/going online excessively, religion etc etc. ....... anything that distracts our attention and means we don't have to look too closely at the 'big' questions; or someone else(God) deals with them for us!

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for the replies Star and Ouija.

One of the important aspects of safety behaviours, is they are used to absolve/reduce anxiety from worries which are not 'real'. What are your opinions as to what this says about religion?

Edited by Leonardo

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Because many of them are unanswerable, we look for diversion to cope OR we find meaning in ancient scripture to find reasons for what ails our mind. That, of course, just sets up new things to worry about since with 3 people you'll almost always have 5 opinions... but I think that religion is just man's attempt to thrust a torch out into the darkness and keep away the things that might come in the night. The important ingredient is belief. Without faith religion is as meaningless as political campaign promises. With faith I think man can conquer darkness, of mind, of spirit. There is little enough comfort in the world, and almost nothing that can be honestly described as peace. So if a set of rules based on the experiences of the billions who came before can offer some comfort, I'm all for them. So long as they do not espouse a need to kill in this modern day.

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for the replies Star and Ouija.

One of the important aspects of safety behaviours, is they are used to absolve/reduce anxiety from worries which are not 'real'. What are your opinions as to what this says about religion?

Leo, are you familiar with Albert Ellis? Anyways in 101 type Psychology courses that have to do with coping in Modern Life, he usually comes up. He came up with Rational-emotive behavior therapy as an approach that focuses on altering the patients patterns of irrational thinking to reduce maladaptive patterns emotions/ patterns.

http://www.rebt.org/

You might find some good stuff in here, or not.

All the best to you on finding ways to cope.

To address your question; my Mom got through some serious stuff because of her faith in g-d. Now, for me, I take a different approach that doesn't involve deities. I lean on self efficacy and the fact that I am older (45) it's an asset. I have had enough experiences to know that I can get through anything, or 'this too shall pass.' With maturity comes this sense I can get through things. It may not be g-d, but it's still a coping mechanism, that serves me in those moments that I am rattled by the fear of the unknown. Plus, it's part of the human experience to have moments of not feeling competent in/about certain situations at times. I personally think whatever works for one, gets them through-- is okay.

Excellent topic, by the way.

Edited by Sherapy

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Good posts, and then and Sheri - and thanks for the link Sheri.

While safety behaviours do allow for a temporary cessation or reduction of the anxiety, they do not remove the (mostly imaginary) worry that causes the anxiety. Superstitions are safety behaviours - such as a football player who believes his side will only win if he wears his "lucky socks". Experiment on these sorts of safety behaviours reveals there is no link between the behaviour, and the worry.

Yet many of us still continue these behaviours.

With worries such as "what happens after I die" there can be no experimentation to demolish the linking of the safety behaviour to the worry, so the behaviours (and superstitions) built upon these sorts of worries tend to be powerful and enduring. Like religion.

This does not mean that [some] religious behaviour is rational, only that it is immune to discrediting via evidential means.

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Posted (edited)

For me, and I'm sure many others as well, anxiety (or at least acute anxiety) doesn't arise from pondering big questions such as the one you mention; rather, it comes from everyday concerns about health, social interactions, academic and career performance, etc.

I have never found any sort of religion or spirituality to be capable of alleviating these sorts of anxieties, which I suppose makes sense. The concerns you mention are out of our hands, while the ones I list above are largely under our control. On the other hand, I have found spirituality to be helpful in temporarily relieving depression--to help "fill the void" so to speak. In this sense, religion or spirituality can serve as a psychological crutch, or "safety behavior", as you call it. I don't think it's wise to rely on safety behaviors long-term. I see this as avoidance and escapism. Better to contemplate death and other inevitabilities that provoke fear, learn to accept it, and live life as best you can, than to adopt a belief system for the purpose of denial or reassurance. For me, accepting the concept of an afterlife as a way of coping with a fear of death was never an option, because my logical side just isn't buying it.

Edited by Cybele

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Posted (edited)

I suffer from an anxiety disorder. To accommodate that I exhibit safety behaviours - routines; avoidance; obsession with detail; and others. Self-analysis of these behaviours is quite eye-opening, informative as to how much of our behaviour really is based on anxiety.

Which leads me to religion.

Most of us, at some point in our lives, will feel anxious about something. Like questions that have no answer. What happens when I die? Am I a good person? What is the universe? etc. Some of these dilemmas are unanswerable in fact (like what happens after death), while some are unanswerable because they are totally subjective.

There are people who do not fret too much about these questions, or don't fret about some of them. But there are people to whom these questions (or some of them) pose a 'real'* problem. This causes anxiety and what do we do to relieve anxiety?

We undertake safety behaviours.

Like religion.

I was tempted to post this in the 'Philosophy and Psychology' forum, but I feel it might get much more attention in this forum, so I would appreciate your views.

* I placed real in quotes because the problems are only perceived to be real, not experienced to be real.

Religions certainly can be a safety behavior even a control behavior, but spirituality is the base of religion. Spirituality is a response to experiences not superstition. These experiences generally happen in altered states of conciousness. OBEs NDEs..... Etc. these experiences have been around since man has been around. Dosnt matter what anyone says when you find yourself floating above your body, it's kinda hard not have some concept of spirituality. Not at all a psycologic response to fear.

Edited by Seeker79
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Posted (edited)

For me, and I'm sure many others as well, anxiety (or at least acute anxiety) doesn't arise from pondering big questions such as the one you mention; rather, it comes from everyday concerns about health, social interactions, academic and career performance, etc.

I have never found any sort of religion or spirituality to be capable of alleviating these sorts of anxieties, which I suppose makes sense. The concerns you mention are out of our hands, while the ones I list above are largely under our control. On the other hand, I have found spirituality to be helpful in temporarily relieving depression--to help "fill the void" so to speak. In this sense, religion or spirituality can serve as a psychological crutch, or "safety behavior", as you call it. I don't think it's wise to rely on safety behaviors long-term. I see this as avoidance and escapism. Better to contemplate death and other inevitabilities that provoke fear, learn to accept it, and live life as best you can, than to adopt a belief system for the purpose of denial or reassurance. For me, accepting the concept of an afterlife as a way of coping with a fear of death was never an option, because my logical side just isn't buying it.

I think you bring in a really good suggestion, there are just some things that we have no control over and accepting them for what they are is a viable option.

I think having a realistic perspective on the life that one is leading helps; for ex, we are in construction and it is feast or famine. It is simply the nature of the business, we cannot control the ebbs and flows of the market, but we can and do have a strategy that gets us through the low times. We have a savings for these times;connections. So when the market is lean we are prepared; we have a workable strategy. We have experience on our side, we once had 200 dollars to our name, no jobs, we bought a map, picked a spot, and drove/ended up at the beach. We got jobs and found a place to live, the next day, and have since built a great life here. (15 years now.) We look at life as an adventure, fun, and exciting, full of opportunity.

My hubby and I together can survive/deal/face anything. My husband literally doesn't worry about anything, he says he addresses the things he can and lets go of the things he cannot.

Edited by Sherapy

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for the replies Star and Ouija.

One of the important aspects of safety behaviours, is they are used to absolve/reduce anxiety from worries which are not 'real'. What are your opinions as to what this says about religion?

Hi Leonardo,

It all depends on what you perceive to be 'real'. We all have our own 'frame of references' and 'beliefs' and what is 'real' for one is not for another. What comforts one person may cause anxiety in another.

We could take a look at Christianity and say that it could bring about certain anxieties, which can appear paradoxical as Faith should bring about peace of mind. For example the Catholic belief of 'losing eternal life' if one dies in a 'state of mortal sin' can appear pretty scary and controlling, but only for those that don't understand or have no faith! . I have no need to be anxious about my beliefs as I have faith in what Christ has promised to those who follow him. You have to approach your faith with confidence and not fear.

Religion can not serve a person if they are unable to find solace in it. If a person finds that their faith is making them more anxious then that's a 'red flag'. There are people who suffer from 'free floating anxiety' and who are more sensitive to 'triggers of anxiety' and religion could be one of many other factors in their life that needs addressing. Intervention is needed and professional help to overcome it with therapy such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Edited by Star of the Sea

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Hi Leonardo,

It all depends on what you perceive to be 'real'. We all have our own 'frame of references' and 'beliefs' and what is 'real' for one is not for another. What comforts one person may cause anxiety in another.

That we might all exist within our own frame of reference, Star, does not suggest that reality is different for each of us. There is a psychological reality that might differ, but that is not 'real' - it is totally dependent on the person's thoughts and has no reality for anyone else, except through the behaviour of that person.

We could take a look at Christianity and say that it could bring about certain anxieties, which can appear paradoxical as Faith should bring about peace of mind. For example the Catholic belief of 'losing eternal life' if one dies in a 'state of mortal sin' can appear pretty scary and controlling, but only for those that don't understand or have no faith! . I have no need to be anxious about my beliefs as I have faith in what Christ has promised to those who follow him. You have to approach your faith with confidence and not fear.

As someone who has no religious belief, the thought of dying in "a state of mortal sin" has no meaning to me - hence it cannot cause any anxiety. It is only to someone who believes in "mortal sin" (i.e. a religious believer) that such a concept may be a source of anxiety. Thus religion feeds off anxieties it creates within it's adherents. What better mechanism to reinforce that belief?

The safety behaviour (religious devotion) brought about by that belief reduces anxiety induced by the belief itself. The adherent feels comforted by this safety behaviour, and the belief is reinforced. It's a vicious circle of belief feeding belief. And the source of this anxiety is not 'real', it is purely psychological. There can be no evidence this safety behaviour (religion) has any effect on what happens to us after death.

Religion can not serve a person if they are unable to find solace in it. If a person finds that their faith is making them more anxious then that's a 'red flag'. There are people who suffer from 'free floating anxiety' and who are more sensitive to 'triggers of anxiety' and religion could be one of many other factors in their life that needs addressing. Intervention is needed and professional help to overcome it with therapy such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Religion only serves to temporarily mitigate the anxieties promoted by religion. It serves no other purpose that is meaningful in life*. I would modify your opening sentence of this paragraph to state that religion serves no purpose to anyone - because it causes the very anxieties those who adhere to it wish to find solace about.

* I would caveat that by saying religion does provide a sense of community, but a person does not have to follow a religion to be part of a community. So religion is not necessary to have a sense of community.

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hey leo ..

you know it's not just safety behaviour

it's in human nature the need to be follower of a lord or something bigger ..

to be part of something bigger than humans and to worship a god of some sort

since the dawn of times all cultures and all nations have had their different god to follow and worship

so i guess it's in our nature it's a need to us

as far as it is for safety

well i think it holds some sense in it .. it's not what i think but i think it might make sense to people

you see personally when i feel anxiety or unanswered questions i do the opposite i don't embrace religion

i actually stray further away and am guessing there's more people like me out there

so religion can also be the cause of anixity and stress and not the cure for them also

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That we might all exist within our own frame of reference, Star, does not suggest that reality is different for each of us. There is a psychological reality that might differ, but that is not 'real' - it is totally dependent on the person's thoughts and has no reality for anyone else, except through the behaviour of that person.

As someone who has no religious belief, the thought of dying in "a state of mortal sin" has no meaning to me - hence it cannot cause any anxiety. It is only to someone who believes in "mortal sin" (i.e. a religious believer) that such a concept may be a source of anxiety. Thus religion feeds off anxieties it creates within it's adherents. What better mechanism to reinforce that belief?

The safety behaviour (religious devotion) brought about by that belief reduces anxiety induced by the belief itself. The adherent feels comforted by this safety behaviour, and the belief is reinforced. It's a vicious circle of belief feeding belief. And the source of this anxiety is not 'real', it is purely psychological. There can be no evidence this safety behaviour (religion) has any effect on what happens to us after death.

Religion only serves to temporarily mitigate the anxieties promoted by religion. It serves no other purpose that is meaningful in life*. I would modify your opening sentence of this paragraph to state that religion serves no purpose to anyone - because it causes the very anxieties those who adhere to it wish to find solace about.

* I would caveat that by saying religion does provide a sense of community, but a person does not have to follow a religion to be part of a community. So religion is not necessary to have a sense of community.

Hi Leonardo,

But your 'frame of reference' Leonardo and 'belief systems' (schemata) no matter what they are, makes you the

person you are today, hence in every day life (in reality) is greatly affected by your worldview and in turn shows in your behaviour. Therefore, reality for each person is driven by our cognition within the parameters set by our 'belief systems'.

You are displaying this now in your post, by saying "Religion only serves to temporarily mitigate the anxieties promoted by religion. It serves no other purpose that is meaningful in life" This is not a belief held by everyone Leonardo, it is not possible to say what is and isn't meaningful to another person, that is and always will be subjective.

Here is another belief of yours which is not held by most religious people "Thus religion feeds off anxieties it creates within it's adherents. What better mechanism to reinforce that belief?' As you see no benefits in religion within your life you have created a worldview that religion feeds off anxieties when most of the time the opposite is true!

Sure your statement "There can be no evidence this safety behaviour (religion) has any effect on what happens to us after death" is true... but that is why we call it 'faith'.

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I suffer from an anxiety disorder. To accommodate that I exhibit safety behaviours - routines; avoidance; obsession with detail; and others. Self-analysis of these behaviours is quite eye-opening, informative as to how much of our behaviour really is based on anxiety.

Which leads me to religion.

Most of us, at some point in our lives, will feel anxious about something. Like questions that have no answer. What happens when I die? Am I a good person? What is the universe? etc. Some of these dilemmas are unanswerable in fact (like what happens after death), while some are unanswerable because they are totally subjective.

There are people who do not fret too much about these questions, or don't fret about some of them. But there are people to whom these questions (or some of them) pose a 'real'* problem. This causes anxiety and what do we do to relieve anxiety?

We undertake safety behaviours.

Like religion.

I was tempted to post this in the 'Philosophy and Psychology' forum, but I feel it might get much more attention in this forum, so I would appreciate your views.

* I placed real in quotes because the problems are only perceived to be real, not experienced to be real.

Belief in things after death isnt an anxiety for me. I've always been interested in how things work and I find reality and existance to be fascinating topics

Anxiety disorders are self-created. A shock or a distressful event can reprogram your mind leaving you with an anxiety disorder. A psychologist can deprogram them out of your mind. If an event caused post traumatic stress it takes time for the psychologist to get you there. Maybe even years.

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Posted (edited)

I suffer from an anxiety disorder. To accommodate that I exhibit safety behaviours - routines; avoidance; obsession with detail; and others. Self-analysis of these behaviours is quite eye-opening, informative as to how much of our behaviour really is based on anxiety.

Which leads me to religion.

Most of us, at some point in our lives, will feel anxious about something. Like questions that have no answer. What happens when I die? Am I a good person? What is the universe? etc. Some of these dilemmas are unanswerable in fact (like what happens after death), while some are unanswerable because they are totally subjective.

There are people who do not fret too much about these questions, or don't fret about some of them. But there are people to whom these questions (or some of them) pose a 'real'* problem. This causes anxiety and what do we do to relieve anxiety?

We undertake safety behaviours.

Like religion.

I was tempted to post this in the 'Philosophy and Psychology' forum, but I feel it might get much more attention in this forum, so I would appreciate your views.

* I placed real in quotes because the problems are only perceived to be real, not experienced to be real.

Leo, it's funny you made this thread, I was just thinking about something along these lines lately. I have generalized anxiety disorder too they tell me. I guess I always knew, but I started back to school this last semester and the university offers some therapy sessions for whatever reasons we need them, but I thought I'd talk to her about my stress and anxiety which are major, I'm a perfectionist and worry about everything, most of all the "what if" scenarious, but anyway she had me get this workbook called The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund Bourne, supposedly a book that has had great success, lots of therapists use it, one of their top 10 recommended books, so it's established and such, but it has a section in there about spirituality, and I'd been thinking, well what if you just have no beliefs, you can't just really go pick up a spiritual belief. Anyway, it doesn't say so much religion, but really talks about the benefits of a belief in a Higher Power and says it "can provide you with an experience of inspiration, joy, security, peace of mind, and guidance that goes beyond what is possible in the absence of the conviction that such a power exists." He says the Higher Power could be something like Cosmic Consciousness, something like that, I might could get on board with that, but what he does say is of all the methods and guidelines suggested in this book (and there are tons of things, basically cognitive behavioral training stuff) but of all those things, he says a personal spiritual commitment is likely to reach the deepest in helping you overcome the basic sense of fear or insecurity that underlies all the types of anxiety disorders. He said all the "other methods work on different levels, spiritual awareness and growth can effect a transformation in your whole being. It can develop a basic trust that is unshakable." He says a number of his clients had major turnarounds as a result of cultivating their spirituality, provided them with moral support, courage, hope, and faith., a sense of not feeling alone in the universe. Anyway, it's a huge book and that's a small little section and he doesn't push it and emphasizes how important all the other areas are too, but I thought throw that out there coming from someone who specialized in treating anxiety. I'm not sure how on board I'm with that, I think it could work that way, but I always say if you can't believe in God, higher power, you just can't. Some people have experiences to believe it, but for me to convince myself for therapeutic reasons, well I just can't see being able to do that. They way they talk about it though makes me wish I could sometimes, but I may some day, who knows. He really, really puts emphasis on meditation; I am trying and it's one of the hardest things in the world to me, but maybe something spiritual might grow form that, but for the purposes they use it for is just mindfulness and stilling your mind, controlling thoughts, which is a huge problem of anxiety, those runaway uncontrolled thoughts. Like I said, I'd been thinking about this a lot recently since seeing the therapist and her telling me to get that book, so I don't know where I stand about it as of yet.

Edited by ChloeB
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Posted (edited)

I’ve struggled with debilitating physical symptoms resulting from chronic, intense anxiety on and off since the age of 12. The only thing I’ve found to help my anxiety, which for me is 100% effective, is medication and just becoming so busy with work, school, what have you, that you don’t have time to think about or ruminate over your fears.

I guess everyone’s different, and perhaps your anxiety is less severe and has very different triggers than mine does, but in my experience attempting to meditate and quieting your mind while you’re experiencing anxiety is not effective. Being alone and having more time to think is what allows anxiety, fears, and depression to flourish in the first place.

Edited by Cybele

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Thanks for the replies, everyone.

KoS,

It's true that many people have a fundamental desire to be part of something greater. Not everyone is happy being 'boss', and many want the certainty of knowing that the rules are set by others, so they don't have to worry about setting them themselves. See where this is leading?

Being a 'follower' is a safety behaviour. It's tough having to make decisions for yourself, having to make your own principles, ethics and morals. It causes a lot of people anxiety having to do this.

Star,

I appreciate that a religious person will necessarily have a differing opinion than a non-religious person regarding the 'benefits' of religion. Can you provide me an example of a religion (just one) where the consequences of non-adherence are stated to be not worse than the consequences of adherence?

This is how religion reinforces those anxieties it is presumed to relieve.

Mr Right Wing,

It's very true that anxieties are self-created. Many are also stress about something imaginary, rather than something real. However, in the mind of the sufferer these anxieties are real. 'Deprogramming' as you describe it is something that is used in various community health services to educate the sufferer regarding their condition, and hopefully help them realise the irrational nature of their anxiety.

seeker and Chloe,

I make a distinction between spirituality and religion. A person can be spiritual, hold a belief is a 'higher power', without admitting any 'ownership' of that 'power' over themselves. Without imagining that 'power' sets rules.

Religion is all about ownership and/or the setting of rules. This is what is supposed to relieve the anxiety caused by the "Big Questions", but it doesn't. It uses that anxiety to enforce adherence.

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Hey Leonardo,

I for one, dislike the term 'anxiety disorder', as anxiety is as much a natural human condition as any other. While some people are naturally more anxious than others, I can only see that it is a 'disorder' when it becomes debilitating. You didn't say as much, so I don't think that that's the case.

I feel anxiety when I jump out of an airplane (with a parachute). I feel anxiety when I meet a strange dog (wagging it's tail). I feel anxiety when I cross an international border (when I'm totally legal and have all my documents in order).

Anxiety = Safety Behaviour. That makes sense. I don't see how religion factors in.

The moral/spiritual anxiety questions you posed "What happens when I die? Am I a good person? What is the universe? etc." to me, are questions that no one else can ever answer for you, to your own satisfaction.

My answer to your original question; simple anxiety over spiritual questions is only one out of many reasons to become religious. You can be religious just because your parents were, or because you were miraculously the only person spared in a plane crash, or you became an alcoholic and found your way back to sobriety... etc. etc.

Personally, I'm an agno-atheist. I don't know if I'm an atheist or not.

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Posted (edited)

Interesting thread, Leo. Obviously, I'm interested in religion and psychology, but I have been reluctant to do more than lurk. I am not confident discussing therapeutic aspects of analytical psychology, as opposed to its "well psyche" aspects.

But Chloe now provides some "cover," since it would be clear I'm not talking about you specifically, and I'm not talking about her specifically, either. If I'm not talking about any individual, then I'm not talking "therapeutically."

Jung is famously quoted, especially by the Alcoholics Anonymous people, as saying (in an interview with an unnamed correspondent, Time magazine, February 14, 1955)

I have treated many hundreds of patients. Among those in the second half of life - that is to say, over 35 - there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life.

I wouldn't interpret Jung as saying that the condition is unknown in those under 35. It is the AA folks to whom we are indebted for promoting the "Higher Power" idea that Chloe brings up. They were originally Christian activists, who discovered empirically that the focus of contemplation doesn't matter much to the achievement of their temporal objective. (AA also gives Jung a role in their own founding. I am skeptical about that.)

Religion was important to Jung throughout his life, and his beliefs about God were, as you would expect, complicated and nuanced. There is a recent blog post (with a downloadable survey of referenced source material) here that sorts out the question:

http://uncertaintist.wordpress.com/

(It's now the second article on the welcome page, although the disturbing lead article refers back to the earlier post.)

In the Time quote, though, Jung doesn't counsel anybody to get a religion, or find a "Higher Power." He talks about "finding a religious outlook on life." What's that?

I'm going with Joseph Campbell on this one. In my opinion, Joe is the most underrated contributor to Jungian theory despite his fame for other things. In his capstone television interviews with journalist Bill Moyers, Campbell remarked,

The (North American) Indians addressed all of life as a "thou" -- the trees, the stones, everything. You can address anything as a "thou," and if you do it, you can feel the change in your own psychology. The ego that sees a "thou" is not the same ego that sees an "it."

I think that ties in with Campbell's admiration for the climax of the Gospel of Thomas, from saying 113 (there is a saying 114, but it is believed to be an inauthentic Gnostic accretion):

The Kingdom of the Father is spread out on the Earth, and people do not see it.

So, it seems that the outlook is essential, not the belief. If so, then this continues the process of abstraction that the AA people proposed, away from belief in some specific revealed object, to belief in an idealization to which revelation pointed. Jung and Campbell (I think) propose a further abstraction, away from belief in any object, to an internalized outlook on every objective thing, an outlook founded on actual experience and whose character is certainty.

Edited by eight bits

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Hello, Likely Guy. Welcome to UM.

I agree that people can adopt a religious outlook (with thank to eb for this phrase) for various reasons. However, once the involvement within a religion is 'set' in a person, the conditions imposed by that religion's doctrine generate the anxieties which encourage continuing adherence.

Again, I am not referring to spirituality, which is what I read as being synonymous with the 'religious outlook on life' from eight bits very good post, but religion.

A person may acquire a 'religious outlook' after joining a religion, or they may join a religion after acquiring a 'religious outlook' - but it is the religion which is the safety behaviour, and the source of the anxieties those safety behaviours are meant to alleviate. As you point out, the joining of a religion may be due to some factor such as familial pressure, but that causes an anxiety in itself. What if I don't join the religion my family are members of? Will they cast me out, look down on me?

eb,

Thanks for the post, and in the very last word you wrote you brought up an extremely important aspect relating to anxiety and safety behaviours. Certainty.

I have heard anxiety described as "intolerance of uncertainty", and the safety behaviours are designed to provide the sufferer the impression of reducing the uncertainty as one way of alleviating that anxiety. However, this is only an illusion in most cases as the level of certainty does not change in reality. It is much more effective to increase one's tolerance of uncertainty. Religious behaviours are designed (perhaps not intentionally) to provide the illusion of increasing certainty, rather than increasing tolerance.

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Posted (edited)

I suffer from an anxiety disorder. To accommodate that I exhibit safety behaviours - routines; avoidance; obsession with detail; and others. Self-analysis of these behaviours is quite eye-opening, informative as to how much of our behaviour really is based on anxiety.

Which leads me to religion.

Most of us, at some point in our lives, will feel anxious about something. Like questions that have no answer. What happens when I die? Am I a good person? What is the universe? etc. Some of these dilemmas are unanswerable in fact (like what happens after death), while some are unanswerable because they are totally subjective.

There are people who do not fret too much about these questions, or don't fret about some of them. But there are people to whom these questions (or some of them) pose a 'real'* problem. This causes anxiety and what do we do to relieve anxiety?

We undertake safety behaviours.

Like religion.

I was tempted to post this in the 'Philosophy and Psychology' forum, but I feel it might get much more attention in this forum, so I would appreciate your views.

* I placed real in quotes because the problems are only perceived to be real, not experienced to be real.

On reading the title i assumed this was about how religious practices may actually make us safer, not feel safer.

I can understand and appreciate the psychological benefits of religious practices, both as a placebo and as a form of coping mechanism. Also, ritualised behavour is one way humans cope with stress or trauma. Religion is also, at times, a form of displacement therapy .ie we use it do displace other real worries or concerns via focus on constructed religious forms. While some people denigrate these advantges as a "crutch', I see them as positive attributes of religious practice. Quite measurable understandable and useful. They can also enhance and strengthen even already strong, independent and resilient human beings.

But personaly I never considered those strengths of religion. I have never been very anxious, at all depressed, or more than mildly stressed in my life, because first, i have been lucky to be physically well, and second i have trained my self into positive attitudes and behaviours, and mental discipline, since childhood.

And so I saw the title as pertaining to physical safety. Religion offers, for me, many statistical advantages for personal safety. As I practice it, it reduces things like risk of violence accidents etc., by over 50% It reduces the likelihood of any criminal behaviours to almost zero. It increases my health, by reducing by very high percentages the risks of cancer, diabetes, and all cardio vascular diseases. it gives me probably 10 years extra of life, and good quality life.

Iit means i wil never suffer from stds or any drug alcohol effects, either in the short or long term. It means i will never need to worry about the emotional or financial costs of divorce etc.

That doesn't mean i might not die tomorrow or get sick from a debilitating illness but statistically, and quantifiably, religion is a safety behaviour for me I practice it for precisely this reason, based on logic and common sense. It incoporates my; diet, exercise, social behaviours, and many other risk factors. It influences my mood ad emotional responses whch in turn promotes better physical health.

Religion, for me, is disconnected from both my spirituality and even my relationship with god, except as a chosen form of expression for both those elemnets of my life. Religion is how i chose to LIVE my life. The most powerful motivator for my religion, and its practices, is my own physical well being and safety.

Edited by Mr Walker

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Leo, it's funny you made this thread, I was just thinking about something along these lines lately. I have generalized anxiety disorder too they tell me. I guess I always knew, but I started back to school this last semester and the university offers some therapy sessions for whatever reasons we need them, but I thought I'd talk to her about my stress and anxiety which are major, I'm a perfectionist and worry about everything, most of all the "what if" scenarious, but anyway she had me get this workbook called The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund Bourne, supposedly a book that has had great success, lots of therapists use it, one of their top 10 recommended books, so it's established and such, but it has a section in there about spirituality, and I'd been thinking, well what if you just have no beliefs, you can't just really go pick up a spiritual belief. Anyway, it doesn't say so much religion, but really talks about the benefits of a belief in a Higher Power and says it "can provide you with an experience of inspiration, joy, security, peace of mind, and guidance that goes beyond what is possible in the absence of the conviction that such a power exists." He says the Higher Power could be something like Cosmic Consciousness, something like that, I might could get on board with that, but what he does say is of all the methods and guidelines suggested in this book (and there are tons of things, basically cognitive behavioral training stuff) but of all those things, he says a personal spiritual commitment is likely to reach the deepest in helping you overcome the basic sense of fear or insecurity that underlies all the types of anxiety disorders. He said all the "other methods work on different levels, spiritual awareness and growth can effect a transformation in your whole being. It can develop a basic trust that is unshakable." He says a number of his clients had major turnarounds as a result of cultivating their spirituality, provided them with moral support, courage, hope, and faith., a sense of not feeling alone in the universe. Anyway, it's a huge book and that's a small little section and he doesn't push it and emphasizes how important all the other areas are too, but I thought throw that out there coming from someone who specialized in treating anxiety. I'm not sure how on board I'm with that, I think it could work that way, but I always say if you can't believe in God, higher power, you just can't. Some people have experiences to believe it, but for me to convince myself for therapeutic reasons, well I just can't see being able to do that. They way they talk about it though makes me wish I could sometimes, but I may some day, who knows. He really, really puts emphasis on meditation; I am trying and it's one of the hardest things in the world to me, but maybe something spiritual might grow form that, but for the purposes they use it for is just mindfulness and stilling your mind, controlling thoughts, which is a huge problem of anxiety, those runaway uncontrolled thoughts. Like I said, I'd been thinking about this a lot recently since seeing the therapist and her telling me to get that book, so I don't know where I stand about it as of yet.

Chloe your quest is always so sincere and inspiring for information on what makes us who we are - I just had to say that.

To Leonardo and inspired by what you have described, a couple of things.

First Leonardo, your question is an excellent one and speaks to a fundamental place in which I aspire to stand. To "believe" in God or any deity through fear of the alternative is not sincere or true to one's highest aims, it is a reaction to fear and a survival mechanism playing itself out in our psyche, unconsciously and therefore in ignorance of any "truth". I have battled this and rejected it many times, but it has it's sway, there are always nuances of thought that speak "I am guilty of sin" or "I would fear facing God being that he knows all I have done" etc. That said, what Seeker spoke of is the crux of true spiritual belief - having experiences that inform irrevocably that a higher power or unknown supremely intelligent force is in action are what transform a soul. Religion is a stumbling block to this knowledge as much as it is to anyone who believes through fear in so many instances. In others it is the primer of the experience, everyone is different and so much is involved in evolving a soul I think. Basically, until a soul arrives at the point of knowledge of this other force they are very much acting on anxiety of the unknown - that is absolutely possible and likely but the anxiety itself, being sincere is a "prayer" of sorts that rarely remains unanswered in the true seekers.

However, even though once this "epithany" so to speak has occurred it is impossible to return to a simple believer state, it is not the grand step forward that might be imagined. Knowing a little about a huge mystery is it's own frightening experience. Information, from the religious, the spiritual, the atheists, the "gurus", science all have a difference nuance and therefore effect on the psyche. Wading through a sea of "information" is what disorients and distorts IMO. Pure experience is just that "pure" unadulterated and bears so little resemblance to known or even often describable information that I have to say knowing there is a "God" is not really saying I know much of anything of the nature of existence at all - but I have a rock of granite inside that cannot be shaken, a cornerstone upon which some building can occur and that is beyond liberating in ways I can't fully describe but am truly thankful for.

As to Chloe's post. A close family member had little to no "belief" in God for most of her life. An experience that left her financially and emotionally bereft made this person suicidal and feeling the depths of despair. The lowest point was when her therapist rang me in a fit of panic because she had stormed out and refused to answer her phone while yelling "I can't take anymore", I had to leave work and look for her, I was terrified but something helped me find her walking along the street sobbing, I am so grateful for that. I introduced her to my meditation group, through meditation and information I have to say the most incredible transformation did occur. She is now in a loving relationship with a very financially secure partner whose love encompasses ensuring she knows he will always take care of her - and that's not just words, the actions have been what most of us girls would consider a "fairytale knight in shining armour" and this girls feelings for those who embezelled and bankrupted her? The anger and hatred - GONE, the sense of worthlessness - GONE, their power over her - GONE. Instead she truly feels sorry for them and what they have created for their reality and wishes them no ill at all (even I cannot be so forgiving should I come across one of these low lifes in the street) - the transforming power of faith did that.

But where does she stand religiously? - meh, no interest whatever and I would be hard put today to have a deep discussion on such matters with her. Nevertheless, she knows there is an intelligence and that she is loved and in knowing that I see love shine from her that I did not see before in her life (even before the shining knight showed up as she was healing this was manifesting into full bloom). What we place our faith in, the energy of our thoughts in, cannot be underestimated in it's power to overcome even great and deep obstacles.

Everything comes down to it - the power of thought and why thought has such power.

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I suffer from an anxiety disorder. To accommodate that I exhibit safety behaviours - routines; avoidance; obsession with detail; and others. Self-analysis of these behaviours is quite eye-opening, informative as to how much of our behaviour really is based on anxiety.

Which leads me to religion.

Most of us, at some point in our lives, will feel anxious about something. Like questions that have no answer. What happens when I die? Am I a good person? What is the universe? etc. Some of these dilemmas are unanswerable in fact (like what happens after death), while some are unanswerable because they are totally subjective.

There are people who do not fret too much about these questions, or don't fret about some of them. But there are people to whom these questions (or some of them) pose a 'real'* problem. This causes anxiety and what do we do to relieve anxiety?

We undertake safety behaviours.

Like religion.

I was tempted to post this in the 'Philosophy and Psychology' forum, but I feel it might get much more attention in this forum, so I would appreciate your views.

* I placed real in quotes because the problems are only perceived to be real, not experienced to be real.

I find religions to be for people who have no personal goal in live or cannot succeed in life without some path to follow being religion the path.

I have no religion but I do have my own thoughts about the questions you have just by thinking about it and reading allot.

I have my own theory about what comes after death.

I live my life how I want to without any boundaries given by any religion.

It's ok to join a religion, I have nothing against it if you choose to by yourself.

But I hate people who "recruit' people into a religion like it's an army.

Like people who want to talk to you about god and convince you to believe.

Belief must come out of your own and should be your choice.

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libstaK,

Thank you for the post. I see myself as a 'spiritual person', but the essence of my spirituality lies in Humanity - not in some perceived 'other'. We are, imo, our own 'higher power' and we all have the potential to be 'sacred' or 'profane' within ourselves.

I am not of the opinion that a person can be "irrefutably informed" of some 'other' as a 'higher power', but I am of the opinion we can all believe an experience to be of this perceived 'other' and convince ourselves this experience is 'irrefutable evidence'.

Requal,

Welcome to UM.

I would not be quite so harsh in describing why people find solace in religion, as I see this need to be no different to someone finding solace in any other activity. I am of the opinion that a lot of the detail in various (perhaps all) religions is quite unnecessary for faith and is only included for control.

MW,

I appreciate the reasons you provide for being religious are those that many others would also provide. I do not see religion as being indispensible to those reasons, however. A person can be/have all those things you describe without religion in their life at all.

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