the religious addict characteristics and dynamics of (70 slides) (special thanks to anne wilson...

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The Religious Addict Characteristics and dynamics of (70 slides) (Special thanks to Anne Wilson Schaef, When Society Becomes an Addict, Diane Fassel, The Addictive Organization and Melinda Fish, When Addiction Comes to Church) creatively compiled by dr. michael farnworth

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Religious Addiction

The Religious AddictCharacteristics and dynamics of(70 slides)

(Special thanks to Anne Wilson Schaef, When Society Becomes an Addict, Diane Fassel, The Addictive Organization and Melinda Fish, When Addiction Comes to Church)

creatively compiled by dr. michael farnworth

Lesson Disclaimer:

In this lesson, I may be critical of the church but the church is not the problem.

What I really want to take issue with are the philosophical manmade assumptions of the addictive culture that overlays and pollutes everything we do, think and value in this culture whether at home, school, work or church!

In applying the addictive paradigm to religion I am not singling out any one particular religion but since we are most acquainted with the church we have grown up in it may seem that way.

In being critical of the addiction paradigm that has permeated Western Culture we may have to awaken to the disturbing fact that much of it has come home to roost in our church as well.

(This will be a long lesson and yet only touch the surface of things that need to be explored.)The implications of this lesson are disturbing. When we Christians think of addiction, alcohol, drugs, sexual activity and smoking come to mind. What I am going to imply in this lesson is that the whole of Western Culture is immersed in the addictive paradigm and the disturbing fact that we are unawares only makes that reality more dangerous.Addiction and religious activity/loyalty may seem like strange bedfellows but sadly, they seem quite content with their present sleeping arrangements.

This lesson will attempt an explanation of the all too common phenomenon of religious activity and meaning having an addictive foundation and motivation in many peoples lives.Addiction has been described as the maladaptive use of any activity designed to help the nervous system regulate its activated energies.

Addiction, mood alters when the energies of the organism get too intense and anxiety ridden.

Any activity, substance, behavior, person, organization or cause that mood alters can, over time, become addictive.That means that obsessive or compulsive scripture study, service to others, praying vain repetitions, being obedient by doing what youre told, pursuing perfection by being good enough, may all have addictive roots deeply embedded in the persons past.

Maybe thats why the scriptures teach us that outward behavior is not enough.

Isnt that what Christ took the Pharisees to task for in his time?All addictions may have started out as the innocent attempt to gain relief from disturbing experiences, feelings, thoughts, situations or people.

But from this innocent beginning sprang the consequences of dysfunction and maladaptive, obsessive-compulsive motivation and behavior.This lesson will explore the dynamics of addiction in the context of religion and spirituality.

Some of the concepts may be unsettling, especially when you may start to recognize them in your own self. I will attempt, in this lesson, to explain some of the basic ideas of addiction that are not well known and hardly ever talked about in this culture.

In doing so, I will attempt to construct an alternate reality that invites a glimpse into this prevalent but cleverly disguised, yet disturbing world view.

As with the all enlightenment, sometimes the journey is uncomfortable and threatening.

The remainder of this lesson will be divided into five Sections:

One: What Does a Religious Addict Look Like

Two : Disturbing Addictive Dynamics in our Culture

Three : Addiction Paradigms in the Scriptures

Four : Addictions Amongst Us

Five: Letting Go of Addictions and Becoming SoberSection One:

What Does a Religious Addict Look LikeA religious addict is preoccupied about their own sense of purity and righteousness.

They are nice but intolerant of others in different faiths and remain aloof and distant, not wanting to associate with sinners and the spiritually impure.

They want to avoid the appearance of evil so will only interact with questionable people if proselytizing them or if required by work or social situations to do so.A religious addict is judgmental and dismissive of others whos belief system and behavior differs from their own.

They are smug and narrow minded about their true beliefs even if they have never seriously studied or pondered them.

It is enough to have been told they are right.

They feel special and superior to others not of their faith.Please read:

Bother Fairasee: Judgment Day

A religious addict would be very demanding of them self and set high standards of personal performance in all religious duties: prayer, reading scriptures, service, church attendance and commitments, etc.

They would have little compassion for them self or others (who they felt responsible for) when they failed to measure up to what was expected of them.

They would always be turned outward in comparing themselves to others who appeared better (more righteous, higher positions, more spiritual) than they.

This would eat at them and they would feel more inadequate and would try even harder!A religious addict proselytes others to their faith.

They can be overbearing with a know-it-all attitude.

They are always right!

They are sly about feigning interest in something only to bait and switch the discussion to their own agenda.

They can develop a savior complex with a demeanor of superiority that comes from obsessive like study and zealous intellectual commitment to what they have proven to be true and all they ask is the chance to prove it to you!Another clue to understanding the religious addict is the assumed notion that God is a Spiritual Santa Claus that they attempt to manipulate by their good behavior.

If they are bad, they cant help but feel shame, naughty, evil and withdraw, not even feeling worthy in asking for help.

If they are good, they feel entitled to what ever blessings they have sought and may feel angry, disappointed or confused when things dont turn out as they may have planned.The religious addict would have a great ability to disassociate from their behaviors even if they were controlling, manipulative, judgmental and intimidating.

They would see themselves in a completely different light. They would see themselves as committed, spiritually enlightened and doing what needed to be done.

The religious addict would engage in denial, and a lot of it.The preoccupation, energy and fear many of us may demonstrate in being good enough, righteous enough, obedient enough, doing all that is asked of us and then some may not be fueled by the spiritual rebirth of surrendering our wills to a higher power. But rather, a manifestation of stuffed childhood energies to the shame of abandonment and of never measuring up to parents, who having their own wounds, used their childrens performance to reinforce their own sense of societal perceived values of worth.Mary, Mary quite contraryHow does your family grow?With a father that yellsAnd the children rebelBut sitting at church all in a row.This is important to explore

What is it, that motivates us?Addictions, regardless of the societal valuing of approval or disapproval, are still addictions.

The outward religious behavior of an addict may appear committed, loyal, dedicated, obedient, righteous and orthodox.

But, in fact, their behavior may be obsessive, fearful, disassociated, compulsive, dishonest and feigned.We have no right to judge others but we can take a look at our selves and obsessive-compulsive behavior suggests that something may be wrong.

If someone has to read the scriptures everyday for 30 minutes, if someone has to write in their journal , if someone has to eat that last piece of candy, if someone has to work on vacation, if someone has to get the last word in, if someone has to

The dynamics of addictions are the same for all behaviors, substances and activities.

There are no differences.

It is our cultural value system that decides which ones are acceptable and which ones arent.Our religious behavior can never be separated from the energies that fuel them.

One person may use alcohol to feel better, another may use food, another may use studying and getting good grades, another may use work, another romantic relationships, or fantasy and another may use religion.

What they all have in common is that the person has found something that regulates their bad feelings and helps them feel better!If moral agency is an important principle upon which life is founded.

And since moral implies motivation or the why behind the behavior then it is possible that one could be in psychological bondage to good behavior as well as to bad behavior?

And if that were the case, where is the power to act come from?Section Two:

Disturbing Dynamics of AddictionThe work of Anne Wilson SchaefAnne has done more writing to help us understand the addictive paradigm in our culture, than any other person that I am aware of.

She has illuminated the dark and dank corners of societal structure, that keep the addictive paradigm alive and I have been personally changed by what she has brought to light.We dont know who discovered water but we know it wasnt a fish.

(We dont know who discovered addictions but we know it wasnt an addict.)

This well known adage explains the hidden dilemmas of living in and being blinded to an addictive paradigm when we are surrounded by it on all levels of our existence.

We cant see it because we are ignorant of the paradigm since most of us grew up in homes, communities and philosophies which embraced the assumptions and values of the addictive world view.Every culture that has ever existed has had the belief system and series of stories to explain why things were, the way they were.

Part of the common story line present and consistent in all cultures is the belief that they are especially chosen and beloved of God.

The culture makes itself sacred by having belief systems, stories and myths that explain their favored selection by God.

It is pretty obvious how the United States fulfills that description being a blessed land.But how about other cultures?

Please read:

In the Land of the Gods

Fly Boys by James Bradley, p. 14-15

(see Joseph Campbells work: The Power of Myth for more examples)According to Japan's 'Bible,' the Kojiki-- the Records of Ancient Matters, it was a female, the sun goddess Amaterasu, who created Japan.

"Christians were mortals born in sin whose belief in God offered them salvation. But the Japanese had god blood flowing through their veins. They had a direct connect to the heavens.

The Americans might refer to their land as 'blessed by God', but the Japanese were living in the 'land of the Gods.

All a Japanese had to do to affirm his belief that his land was blessed above all was open his eyes in the morning. there it was, goddess Amaterasu's sun rising over the Pacific islands, then proceeding over Japan and on to the rest of the world. Japan provided the world with light.

Japan's name for itself-- Nippon-- expresses this concept with ni, meaning 'sun' and pon, 'meaning origin'. Thus Japan is the 'Land of the Rising Sun'.

Isolated on an island archipelago, with no other peoples or foreign creeds to challenge their beliefs, generations of Japanese intensified the idea of Japan as the chosen land.

So here is the dilemma:

We live in a culture that we believe is sacred because that is how God made it or it would be different.

Makes a certain amount of sense.

The slides that follow will be my attempt (with the help of Anne) to describe the addictive society and culture that we live in.

It wont be easy.

I would invite you to be open and try to grasp the ideas that will be shared.

Because if they are anywhere close to being accurate and applicable then we may want to re-consider some of the offerings of values and ideas that are served up by this society and culture.I promise you that if you do start to see this addictive culture with new eyes it will be a startling and disconcerting process.To begin with, ponder the implications:

The addictive process is an unhealthy and abnormal disease process, whose assumptions, beliefs, behaviors, and lack of spirituality lead to a process of nonliving that is basically death-oriented.

This basic disease is tacitly and openly supported by the society in which we live.

Anne Wilson SchaefAnne is talking about a life style that is deadening and non-living as compared with the type of the abundant life that comes with conscious enlightenment.

Addictions cut us off from our bodies, from ourselves, from our feelings, from our energies, from other humans and from our God.

We may be able to see it with the drug addicts but are blinded when it comes too close to home implicating us.Basic Concepts The addictive paradigm is deeply integrated into our society and reinforces itself on 4 different levels:Personal




On each level the addictive paradigm seems normal and hence we remain blinded to its realities. Waking up is hard to do.The first level of the personal dynamics of addictions are as follows:





That pretty much covers it as no one and I do mean no one (including you and me) wants to admit we are addicts.

But sadly the first step in recovery and sobriety is admitting to the problem!

We will return to this dilemma later.The reason we cannot see our own addictions is because we are basically (and I mean this in the nicest possible way )proud, judgmental, grandiose, arrogant, vain, and narrow-mindedly smug.

We really have no other option available to us growing up as children we learned to survive in this fabricated culture with the values the culture served up.For many, if we are even slightly awake, may be aware of an inner emptiness or emotional void that is somewhere deep inside of us. We have attempted to prove our worth, our existence, our value by engaging in activities that provide us with a sense of validation but the feelings are short lived and more needs to be done to fill the gnawing emptiness inside us!

Filling that hole is what addiction is all about!As Sam Keen has said:

Our love (motivation and behavior) proceed more from trying to fill the hole (the addictive fear of deficiency) than be allowing the whole (Life) to fill us.

The Passionate Life, p. 49Addiction is about the broken relationship with the sacred inner self.

Addiction, over time, becomes the idolatry of the ego and with it comes the independent sense of I can do anything I set my mind to mentality.

We come to rely upon ourselves more and more and become personally entangled with self-nurturing ego thoughts and behaviors.The second level of the family dynamics of addictions are very common. Many marriages come about because of relationship addiction, romance addiction, and/or sexual addiction.

If interested in understanding more please read: Escape From Intimacy, Untangling the Love Addictions: Sex, Romance and Relationshipsby Anne Wilson SchaefI know this assaults our sense of propriety and conventional wisdom but it doesnt take too much study of our cultures romantic notions of love to see through the counterfeits that thrive in this perverse and addicted society.

We certainly have plenty of evidence that something is wrong in the divorce rate and the amount of unhappy and unsatisfying marriages that seem to abound.Fantasy bonds, which are relationships built upon the conventional and appropriate cultural scripts are the bread and butter of most marriage and familial interactions.

Intimacy and honesty are hard to come by in many families and because no one ever talks about the dynamics.

We remain pretty much in the dark, which, once again, isnt necessarily our fault.

But eventually, pretending becomes easier and becomes part of our character structure.There is a tremendous amount of pressure for family success in most churches.

What happens when family members dont turn out the way they should?

Or when the burden to measure up becomes overwhelming?Many members of the family find a comfortable role to settle into and try to survive the best they can.

This is where the fantasy bond comes into play.

The culture does provide a script of what good parents are suppose to do and how good children are suppose to act.

Most of us dutifully learn the script and attempt its performance.Fantasy bonds lead to an objectification of others.

The tendency is to see them as a role and not a person.

The person becomes frozen in time as the role we want to see.

The person changes with time but the role stays the same.The effects of fantasy bonds and rolesViolence does not consist so much in injuring and annihilating a person as in interrupting their continuity, making them play roles in which they no longer recognize themselves. Emmanuel LevinasThis objectification of another human being does inner violence.

We feel the violence on some level and medicate the wounding the best we can.

This is where role playing comes in handy.

It helps us survive and over time we eventually forget who we were to begin with we evolve into the objectified role of what we are suppose to do and what we are suppose to be. But not everyone is comfortable with this arrangement.We must challenge the false idealization of the family and the destructive fantasy bonds that makes unfeeling connections between people without regard for human concerns. The family, as a sacred institution that is exempt from critical or realistic appraisal, must come under constructive scrutiny.

Robert FirestoneHere is another dimension of addictive family life.

Have you ever heard of the term baby hungry?

What motivates it?The family dynamics of addiction are multifaceted and complicated.

If the roots of the family system (i.e. the marriage) were infected with the disease of addictions then all will be affected and no one will be able to escape the tentacles of its influence.We do ourselves a great disservice when we invest more time and energy into maintaining the idealization of the family image than in dealing honestly with its dysfunctions and problems.

If we adults do not take the steps necessary to address these insidious problems then the next generation will continue to be in bondage to them.The third level of Addiction dynamics is in organizations, which manifest multiple layers of interlocking-reinforcing realities:

1. When the person in charge is an active addict.

2. When the organization replicates the dynamics of the addictive dysfunctional family.

3. When the organization itself becomes the addictive substance for the person.

4. When the organization functions as itself being the active addict.I think it is important to comprehend that people can become addicted to causes and ideas as well as substances and processes. When you consider most of the historical inhumanity that has been perpetrated upon other human beings in the name of religion and political agendas then it is all too obvious.

Wars, abuse and violence can all find their roots in religious-political ideals and causes.There are too many Christian Church members who care more about their churchs dogma and orthodoxy than they do about other people.If you are interested in learning more about the dynamics of how addiction functions with in organizations of schools, churches, businesses then please read:

The Addictive Organization by Anne Wilson Schaef and Diane FasselThe fourth level of the societal dynamics of addiction are tied in with the philosophical cultural assumptions of this man made society.#1: The scientific method which has enthroned rational, objective thought and a reductionism methodology, as the ultimate reality and truth.

#2: The capitalistic system of free enterprise, competition and the work ethic, that assures only the strong survive and perpetuate the values of the Society.There are two pillars which hold up our addictive SocietyBecome an addict yourself.

Ignore your own inner living processes.

Play out roles that will secure a place for you and reward in within the addictive society.

Surrender your personal reality, power and spirituality to others.

Feel, value and think like an addict. Advice in how to live, survive and thrive in an addictive Society is shared by Anne Wilson Schaef.#1: Things are going to get better as long as you keep trying to live by the rules.

#2: It is possible to have everything, if you keep accepting and conforming to the addictive organization and system.

When Society Becomes an Addict, Anne Wilson Schaef, p. 101To be successful, you need to believe in the two promises of our addictive Society1. You will promote the promise: safety, success, riches, fame! (if you just keep at it)

2. You will live the double standard: it values honesty but is dishonest itself!

3. You will engage dualistic thinking: with extreme options as in either/or-black/white-good/bad.

When Society Becomes an Addict, Anne Wilson Schaef If you are successful in the addictive society you will eventually begin to assume the characteristics of it:1. It is the only real and true Society in existence.

2. It is superior to all other Societies.

3. It can and does know and understands everything of importance.

4. It is totally logical, rational and objective.

5. The Society, by its own definition becomes a god, that can save you.The myths of the addictive society will become ingrained deeply within your mind

Unquestioned obedience


Group think

Group dress

Closed systems: new ideas and information are not appreciated

When Society Becomes an Addict, Anne Wilson SchaefBut to live in and be accepted by the addictive society some allegiance is required:And if you feel that you have some issues with selfishness- there may be a societal reason for the preoccupation

Societal Control: which is the exaggerated concern of regulating others and extreme care taking of the self and self interests.

Societal Competition: which is the instinct of selfishness, working toward a goal in such a way as to prevent others from reaching theirs.

Societal Capitalism: the economy of the survival of the fittest, where profit is the god of worship. It is the economy of selfishness.the end