Unpacking

Image credit: Emerging Gently.

Image credit: Emerging Gently.

Throughout our lives, we unpack stuff. You go on a trip, you unpack some stuff at the destination so you can easily access things. You return home, you unpack your stuff, and settle back into your routine at home. You move, you pack all your stuff up, haul it to your new home, then unpack. It’s part of the cycle of life. It’s also part of what I’d call the practice of good mental health. A term I’ve learned over the past few years in relation to mental health is precisely this term: unpacking. However, in this context, it doesn’t relate to physical ‘stuff’, but rather the mental/emotional baggage we all carry around with us. An important part of the healing process is ‘unpacking’ (ie. acknowledging, processing, and constructively dealing with) the mental/emotional baggage.

My own ‘unpacking’…

No matter our background or history, we all carry mental ‘stuff’ around with us. Some more than others. For me, it’s been a lot of emotional baggage connected to Christian Science and what it’s done to me and my family, and what I’ve seen it do to others. Writing this blog has been a large part of my own ‘unpacking’–putting my story out there, getting it off my chest, ranting about it, and also the gratifying knowledge that my own story has helped others who’ve struggled with the same things I have. Part of my motivation to start writing this blog was the benefit I gained from reading someone else’s departure story (from Christian Science).

Another way I’ve ‘unpacked’ has been to spend time with family and old friends who’ve been at my side for many years, and experienced some of the same things I have, or who’ve been close observers of some of the stuff I’ve been through. The ability to talk out your stuff with someone who can give you that knowing nod can be an amazing release of bottled-up issues.

As I write this, I’ve just returned home from a long road-trip to spend Christmas with family in one city, and New Years with some new and old friends in another city, some of whom date back to my time in college. While most members of my family left Christian Science very early in their lives, they have a knowledge and understanding of it, and the ones I spent the holidays with were ringside for my Mom’s last days. My cousin and I often spend time talking about this, and often about the same things. I thought about this, and wondered why we seem to cover this ground repeatedly, and I realized that this ‘talking it out’ is part of our own ‘unpacking’ of our thoughts and feelings about people close to us who’ve suffered needlessly and died thanks to their misplaced reliance on Christian Science (my mother’s sister, my cousins’ mother, died in the early 1990s after a long bout with cancer that initially went untreated thanks to her initial reliance on Christian Science). Perhaps we’ll be having these conversations for many more years, I don’t know. As I see it, the unpacking will take as long as it needs to take.

The same holds true for my time with my college friends. We all attended Principia College, a college that only admits Christian Scientists, and we’ve all left Christian Science. Our individual reasons for leaving, experiences, and patterns of leaving differ, but the effects Christian Science has had on us are largely the same. In conversation, we often cover ground we’ve covered before, sometimes new ground; but, it’s all about unpacking. Sometimes, you do unpack the same items over and over again until you’ve processed them.

It’s important to ‘unpack’…

While it may seem like my friends, family, and I are going ’round and ’round on the hamster wheel and going nowhere, the opposite is actually true. Each time we air our stories, we’re doing the important work of unpacking, which is such an important component of healing. It’s how we process what we’ve seen and experienced, and the opportunity to do this among those who truly understand what we’ve been through is so important, and for us refugees from an obscure religion such as Christian Science is, it’s for many a rare opportunity. It’s probably some of the best therapy money can’t buy.

For anyone who is healing from trauma or any other mental health issues, I can’t understate the importance of seeking out help and support. Find a good therapist, find people you can talk to who understand, do whatever it takes to find the resources you need. Don’t sit there and bottle it up or deny it. If you do that, it will just fester like an infected wound, and only get worse.

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4 thoughts on “Unpacking

  1. there was a great healing of cancer on Sentinel radio this moring 3/20/2016 . It is from last year’s radio shows. I have suffered thru such boring Christian Science services until recently I saw a bible story on TBN television that made Jesus seem more real for some odd reason. Then the next day I opened to the Bible and opened at Luke and began reading. Then I listened to the radio show. For some reason, the Bible has begun to help me–after years and years and years. I think it helped the radio show too. Certain things I wondered about in life: when working in the Federal prison, an inmate had a visit from his parents who came all the way from South America. He said, He was in love (with them. I could not imagine feeling that kind of love for your parents. When I would watch Christian television, like the 700 Club with their stories of healing. I was amazed at how these people who had disastrous lives were just healed–like that and led on to a successful life! I had started to just open the Bible about a year ago and read a little in the morning. It was the only thing that gave me a sense of God with both health and unemployment problems, along with loneliness and dealing with a 95 yr old mother. Lots of fear. But it seems that God has been working. I just needed more time in the Bible. Just C.S. is too dry for me. I will continue to listen to the Sentinel radio but I am finding a new church. I need places where you can relate to people. The structure in the C.S. church seems to prevent that and in mine, they are almost all very wealthy and if you are not, you feel out of it.

  2. I appreciate the concept of “unpacking”, clearing your mind. The eventual clearing out from inaccurate concepts, from fear, the idea of being in a “war with the senses”, etc. Relieving oneself of the heavy baggage of Christian Science, and learning to think with clarity away from it.

    I love the title of your web site…”Emerge Gently.” I’m familiar with the quote from Science and Health I believe you’re referencing. “Emerge gently from matter into spirit.” But what I see as one of the themes of your website, is that of guiding people in the opposite direction of the S&H quote. “Emerge from the harmful aspects of having been in Christian Science…but do it GENTLY. Don’t try to do it all at once. Do it on a day-to-day basis. Eventually you’ll make your progress. Some days will be worse than others, but at least you’re moving forward.

    I suffered with what I consider to be the effects of mind control for years with Christian Science, but I didn’t know where to turn. It was preached to me as a child by a fanatical mother, and I accepted it. I joined local branch churches, as well as the Mother Church, both when I was in my twenties, read my books every day, was totally involved…and then I began to feel like my thinking was really not my own, like something was dominating me mentally. I began feeling depressed, feeling a sense of dread. All I knew was that I had had it inculcated into me that Christian Science was the “only answer”, it was where I could turn to for help, but yet it was the very thing that was causing my mental torment.

    In 1978, the worst year of my life, there was no Internet. No place you could find kindred spirits, people who had been through the same thing. If you were dealing with mental torment and issues relating to Christian Science, you were pretty much flying solo. I tried going to psychiatrists (breaking a cardinal rule of Christian Science), but none of them really knew what I was talking about. If I could ONLY have found a book, such as “Mrs. Eddy. The Biography of a Virginal Mind”, it would have been of such help. Doesn’t really matter if the book was from an earlier time. At the time, I was trying to deal with the fact that I found reading Science and Health depressing, adding to my daily confusion…yet having it engrained in my mind that “it was the ultimate truth.” Edward Franden Dakin’s book, “Mrs. Eddy…” exposes the true history of Mrs. Eddy, her writings and the church, and it would have undone much of the mental confusion I was in at the time.

    A more recent book that deals with the mind control aspects of C.S. is “Perfect Peril”, originally titled “The Religion that Kills. Christian Science and Mind Control.” I forget the author’s name offhand. She really addresses the issue quite well, although she is a former Christian Scientist who is a born again Christian, and, with respect, I really don’t want to go down that road. If you’re in Christian Science, you already know about born again Christianity, because Christian Science informs you that it is a “more accurate, more updated” version of what Jesus taught. Actually, it can be a trip into mental confusion and torment.

    Today, we have the Internet, and anyone can simply type recovering Christian Scientist into a google search, and come up with information and help. Back in 1978, there was really nothing.

    In a way, I sort of feel like a gay person today, who was a teenager in the 1950’s, and simply had to keep silent. Your resources were actually zero. If you were, say, a boy who closely related to femininity, had a strong desire to wear clothing of the other sex, your only alternative was to suffer in silence. That is not the case for today’s gay teenagers. There are gay characters on television, support groups, organizations. A gay adult today would be grateful for what is available to today’s youth, while knowing/regretting that none of it existed when he was young.

    That is how I feel about Christian Science today. Thank God for the Internet, and the chance to realize that you are not alone, if you are dealing with fallout from Christian Science. There was a time when none of it was available.

    Thanks so much for your website.

  3. Thank you, Jeremy and Chris. My bag is pretty well unpacked, and I still feel torment over all the brainwashing I withstood as a child. I’ve also felt a lot of sympathy for gay people because even as a child I knew I wasn’t a CSist, but I was forced to pretend I was, even though I knew in my heart I couldn’t be.

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