Emotional Detachment

A line from an old Rolling Stones song is running through my mind as I write this: “I’ll come to your emotional rescue…” this is from the song “Emotional Rescue”. However, it is not those exact words running through my mind as I think of the title for this post; more like, “I’ll come to your emotional detachment…”. Emotional detachment is something Christian Scientists do very well. It comes with the territory when one denies (as Christian Scientists often do) that there even is a problem. If you’re dealing with a problem, don’t go to a Christian Scientist if you want to vent or talk it out. Their penchant for not drinking alcohol aside, Christian Scientists would on that point alone, make lousy bartenders.

I’ve been lurking lately on the forum at the Christian Way website. I’ve even made one guest post in a thread discussing a post on my blog here. I’ll be upfront: as anyone who’s been a regular reader here will know, I am not Christian, or even religious at all for that matter. So, why would I be interested in this forum? Simple, it’s one of the best resources and communities out there for those of us who are refugees from a very obscure religion known as Christian Science. While Christian Way is a Christian site, and many posters and all of the moderators are evangelical Christians, many who post in the forum are not Christian, and come from varying backgrounds, including atheists, agnostics, and those who (like myself) consider themselves some form of “spiritual”. Even some Christian Scientists drop by once in a while. It’s a good place to go, and I feel welcome even though I’m not Christian–everyone is usually respectful, and when someone steps beyond that boundary, the moderators take swift corrective action. The moderators are very respectful of all points of view, whether they be Christian or not, and demand the same of those who post. Whatever our religious, spiritual persuasion, or non-persuasion is now, we all share a common thread in our past: Christian Science.

A lengthy post in this forum inspires my post here, and I recommend you read it first before continuing further with my post. It can be viewed here. Look for a post from “Guest” by scrolling down on the first page to #21847. This long suffering woman is going through a separation/divorce from her Christian Scientist spouse (she is not a Christian Scientist, and as far as I can tell never was). To me, her outsider’s perspective on Christian Science and Christian Scientists was very enlightening. Even though I now look in somewhat from the outside, I will never have the same outsider’s perspective as someone such as her has.

It seems to me that she was married to an extreme Christian Scientist–in my experience, most are not quite as emotionally detached as her husband seems to be. While my own parents didn’t hash out problems at length, they weren’t above discussing things and working things out. However, I have encountered more than a few Christian Scientists who have about as much outward compassion and understanding when it comes to dealing with difficult or emotionally challenging things as a Vulcan. They become so completely detached from the reality that the rest of us live in that you wonder if there’s anyone really there. It’s almost like dealing with a Stepford wife. For instance, I had a co-worker at The Mother Church once who, while a very nice and pleasant person, would completely shut down or push you away if you began to even hint at a negative emotion, or even expressed that you were tired that morning because you’d had a rough night. She’d stare off into space as if her mind had entered an alternate reality. Well, I guess it sort of did. Sometimes you just have that simple human need for someone to listen to you nod a bit in agreement, and let you blow off some steam.

Immersed as I was in Christian Science, I never completely renounced the reality of the world around me. That often caused internal turmoil for me as I tried to reconcile what I felt to be real–the world around me and its various imperfections, with what I was taught to be real (or unreal) in Christian Science–some sort of utopian Pollyanna version of the world where God was always Love, nothing bad ever happened, and pretty rainbows and unicorns danced in fields of flowers. This turmoil, while at times was something I wanted to do away with, is something I realize now was the best thing for me. It kept me grounded. It kept me real. To this day, I still don’t know how some Christian Scientists could so completely deny the reality of the world around them. For that, you need to be able to accomplish feats of mental gymnastics that would earn you a 10.0 score–even from the East German judge.

Our intrepid poster goes on to tell a familiar tale of her husband’s neglect of any physical malady that he may be dealing with (if she even found out about it–you see, many Christian Scientists are so far in denial about any physical maladies that of course they wouldn’t talk about it–it’s nothing after all). That’s all well and good when it’s just you by yourself, but in a marriage, family, or committed relationship, there’s more people’s lives and emotions at stake here. Denying the cancer that is consuming your body and doing nothing about it until it’s too late affects those who love you, and it’s pretty damn uncaring to not consider how your crazy denial of reality might affect them, especially if they don’t have any way of understanding it!

As I read her post, I could palpably feel her pain and frustration. Even though I spent most of my life in Christian Science, I couldn’t imagine, at this point in my life now, being married to one. Seeing it as I can now from both sides, I don’t see how a “mixed” marriage could work–for me, anyways. The non-Christian Scientist spouse, unless they had infinite amounts of patience and tolerance, beyond the capacity of most rational human beings, or were gradually slipping into the crazy rabbit hole of Christian Science themselves, would just be infinitely frustrated and emotionally abandoned by the one person who should always be there for them, “in sickness and in health, for better and for worse, ’till death do them part…”

As illustrated in Guest’s post, Christian Science is brainwashing to a rather high degree. For me, this post was a stark look in at a thought process I once embraced, or at least tried to embrace. Looking at it now as somewhat of an outsider, and reading the perspective of another outsider, it looks ever more freakishly crazy to me. How I ever swallowed this Kool-Aid, I’ll never know. As I said in a previous post, as I learned from an Elder recently, it was a walk I needed to walk, something I needed to experience. It’s a part of the tapestry of my life, and will always to some degree shape my view of the world. I like to think I’m keeping the good parts, and leaving the rest of the crazy stuff. I just need to figure out which is which–I’m working on that. As the saying goes, “Be patient; God isn’t finished with me yet.”


6 thoughts on “Emotional Detachment

  1. Came across this and found it hit home. I was raised in a CS home and now in my late forties i’m still struggling with the aftermath. When your own parents, the ones who are supposed to protect and nurture you, are just checked out it sets you up for a lifetime of insecurity and self doubt. When the household pet receives medical care and you do not you feel like you rank right above insects on the hierarchy. My brother and I struggled socially as no ones parent would let them hang out with us because a)we were walking germ petri dishes and b)they didn’t want to risk their child being ignored or told their pain was an illusion should something happen while at our home. I was fortunate in I had good basic health but my brother had a host of illnesses from severe allergies to heart issues to some behavioral issues that could have used a good child hood shrink. I guess we were lucky, we at least had dental care. Some CS don’t even allow toothpaste. Anyway, thanks for the spot to vent. I currently have two daughters and told my husband at the time to watch me like a hawk and make sure I don’t neglect my children or end up with Munchasusens. Well, natural instinct took over thankfully and I had no problem striking a balance and getting them vaccinated, check ups, medicine when needed, and not making them feel like if they were sick they had somehow let God down. Unfortunately, they have not had “religion” in their lives in the sense of a church community and all the socializing and networking that seems to be the only result of such affiliations. But comparatively speaking they seem far less judgmental and are incredibly kind than their peers who belong to christian youth groups. While I have done right by my children I have not fared so well personally. Doing the right thing by my children takes all the compassion I have. The result is a path of struggles with relationships both personally and professionally. I really wish there was more of a lens put on the negative results of being raised in a CS home and certainly more intervention from health care professionals and educators when they witness this type of abuse.

    • I empathize with what you’ve gone through, and continue to go through. It’s not easy, and unfortunately, since Christian Science is such an obscure religion with few followers, there isn’t much of a community of former Christian Scientists either. All we can ever hope to do is our best, and not beat ourselves up when we stumble. Check out http://www.kindism.org for another blog that you might enjoy. I wish you well on your journey, and if you ever need to vent to someone who understands, go ahead and vent here, or drop me an e-mail.

  2. This site is very healing for me. I had/have a CS mother and an alcoholic, non-CS father (now dead), and lived in a bewildering world of two starkly opposing realities. I came close to death at age 5 when I was rushed to hospital. Today, decades later, I am struggling for reasons I won’t go into–trying to find freedom but terrified what may lie “out there.” Reality is…..what? So this blog helps me. thanks.

    • Thank you! This is one of the biggest reasons I started writing this blog–in the hopes that others might find comfort in reading my story, as I have found similar comfort in others’ stories. One of my biggest (there’s many) beefs with Christian Science is the avoidance of discussing or even addressing problems. Just deny it as an “illusion” of mortal mind. Yeah right!

      The more you’re able to open up and let the baggage spill out, the more you’ll begin to heal. Holding it in, it just festers. That’s the other reason I started this blog–for me to heal. I also offer this blog as a platform for anyone else to tell their story too.

      If you have a topic you want me to cover, please feel free to let me know either here in a comment or e-mail me at emerging.gently@shaw.ca. I’ll also point you to another blog you might find helpful: http://www.kindism.org.

      All the best! I’m so glad this is helping you!

  3. My experience growing up in CS is very different than many of those that I’ve read about on this blog and the Christian Way blog. My mother and grandmother both mostly devout CS were not ones who took radical reliance on CS literally or to the extreme. She didn’t expect me and my older brother to be perfect (in her mind radical reliance on CS was a goal to reach and perfection was the same thing). A goal to reach.

    My older brother and I were ones who asked questions and the Sunday School teachers we had would try to answer his questions. The Sunday School teachers my brother had encouraged questions. If he/she couldn’t they would try to find out the answer. We did not grow up in a church that were hard-liners for the most part. A hard-liner would have been upset with the questions my brother asked and they were tough questions as he was one to question or challenge someone.

    There were a few people in the church I grew up in who were hard-liners on the faith and the explanation that I would be given was well they are on a higher spiritual understanding than you or me or whatever and once you get to that level you will understand it. I still don’t to this day.

    The area where I grew up in didn’t have a large CS community and there were very few CS’s in my age group. Until I went to college, I never had a CS friend of either sex in my age group.. The CS friend I had in college was not devout and was rather lax in her belief.

    It wasn’t until my twenties that I came into contact with people my age who were devout CS or who took a more hard-line. Some of it I didn’t agree with but I didn’t challenge them. They on the other hand had gone to CS schools, CS camps and had more friends that were CS than were not. Perhaps this is why they were more hard-line, I don’t. know.

  4. Oh, I felt sad as I read a few posts on here, because compassion is so important to me. I am a non-Christian Scientist, choosing to practice it. I appreciate the detachment written of above. I know that’s not for me, it’s not who or how I want to be.

    I’ve been on the edges of CS for awhile. There are aspects of it I love, and I see major pitfalls. Being a very emotional person, to whom empathy, and meeting people where they are in the moment are very important to me, I have no intention of losing that. I feel a bit alone in that within the CS community, but am fortunate to have a very close friend who grew up in Christian Science, has stayed with it, but rejected the aloofness. She could never understand why others saw ignoring the pain of others as a benefit, so I’m not entirely alone.

    At this time, I’m part of a practice group for Compassionate Communication (often known as Nonviolent Communication). We gather for the purpose of hearing others and providing empathy, as well as being heard. It’s so healing to be received in that way, to experience being seen and heard. I am glad that those of you who have been without it are finding that.

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