I have likened brainwashing, in my blog entitled “The Tiesthat Bind,”to the pain of Chinese foot binding only for your mind. I grew up with thick tight cords wrapped around my thought processes like vices. I was an adult that thought that believing in a 6000-year-old Universe was true salvation, having an occasional glass of wine was backsliding, that there was something really suspicious about dancing, and sex outside of marriage was the WORST thing a person could do. (Don’t even ask about being a homosexual.) I was brittle, judgmental, opinionated, and had no proper support for any of it. I cringe as I think about who I was.
I started to break out of it in my teens with music. I needed music. I craved the music. Alternative rock had hit the scene like a clap of lightening and I LOVED the noise and honesty of it. It wasn’t always pretty and it spoke openly about the dark side of emotions as well as the bright side. I found Green Day to be particularly refreshing. Then came Soundgarden and the power of Chris Cornell’s voice. I had to have the freedom to explore this amazing sound. The cord binding my brain started to unloose. I started to stretch that part out. I wanted to use my money from my job to buy albums I wanted and I knew I had to stand up for myself to my parents. So I did. I had my own car with its own radio and I told them I would listen to the music that I wanted to. We argued and they yelled and I yelled but I needed more input about the world than what I was getting and they were actively stopping me. It made me very uncomfortable because the music had true words.
The process of breaking free of it happened the same way every time. Often an internal argument. The programming would scream inside my mind and I would scream back at it. The dominoes started to fall. Creation left as my fiancé informed me he did not believe in a literal 6000-year long creation of the universe. He started talking about billions of years and star light. The programming fought and struggled in my churning brain. I screamed. I cried. I railed. My brain felt like it was on fire. I did not know that this was a neurotic response due to intense programming with punishment and reward. The punishment for questioning was loud and laden with statements like, true Christians believe this. If you do not believe this you are not a true Christian and as a child all I wanted to be was TRUE. I knew my fiancé was a believer, but he also did not hold to this 6000 year nonsense. I was wrecked as evidence surrounding my senses was directly opposed to what had been drilled into my head.
The reason it was such a HUGE battle was that I had been completely brainwashed with I should only ever marry a TRUE believer and if he weren’t a TRUE believer then our relationship was over. I loved him so much and I had been planning this marriage for years. I was literally torn in pieces with the pain of losing the relationship or holding on to my faith. The two bands tightening my brain in this stretched and snap and my mind took on a more normal shape. After the very difficult process, I saw he was still a true believer and that science matters. That has only continued to expand.
The process of breaking free is a fight against what was done to your own mind.
1. When a bound piece is challenged, it will cause a violent storm of emotion called cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the feeling that happens when irrefutable evidence is presented that conflicts a firm belief. The two violently clash in a flurry of broken thought that must be processed. It must be recognized that the feelings aren’t real. Proof is proof. Dismissing irrefutable evidence is not logical. An emotional detachment must take place. You may end up keeping the belief or you may except evidence, but whatever you do, don’t decide in that horrible emotional state of violent anxiety.
2, If you can see a change needs to take place, slowly let it happen. There is no hurry. The more push it, the more that it will damage you. Work a process of detached review. Meditate to calm the emotional response. Realize that you are facing this so that you can be the best version of yourself.
3. Give yourself grace to be wrong. It is ok. It really is.
4. Accept that the programming might be right and make peace that now it is a belief you choose and are free to reexamine without damaging yourself.
By looking at what it is you want and solid logic, you can break the programming. A wise friend once told me to never believe that which insults your mind. In my case, I could not believe that which insulted my intelligence or my emotions. Belief in hell crumbled not only because it was illogical, but because it is just emotionally damaging that all my non believing family and friends were headed for an aware eternity in abject torment. It became the litmus test for any new input. Which idea insulted my mind more and is the logic sound for the new belief? Is the idea emotionally abusive or offensive? These were the most important keys for me. The other secondary key was that irrational anger was a red flag that I was fighting programming and not giving the new information a fair shake. Finding a way to break the programming is extremely important for your own mental health and I hope my thoughts on it can lead you to a more peaceful process. You can still believe in Christianity if you would like, but do not believe anything just because you were abused and brainwashed. Believe it because you accept it for yourself.