Friday, September 30, 2011

Fearfully Made . . . Celebrating the Gift of Terror Part V

The philosophical Considerations:

I think it would be best to start with the general philosophical considerations regarding anxiety, to make it clear where I'm coming from. Then, we will talk about the physiological and finally the emotional and spiritual.
Plato pointing upward,
the essence of who we are (soul) rest in the heavenly
not the bodily

My premise: God exist.  All that is was created good.  This physical world is good and came not from a curse, a place inferiority but with God's full intent.  We are of this physical world, and made from the same stuff (matter).

Our brains, adrenals, bodies in general . . . are all God's stuff and physical.  So, different from Plato's view of the soul, I do believe that the body is not simply an empty shell where the non-matter, soul floats.  The brain is real. Brain structure, electronics (sic), and chemistry are all real and control our memory, emotions, logic and etc.  This physical brain isn't our curse, it is how God has made us.  He wove the networks of our neurons with a purpose of making us who we are in a mysterious way.  Yes, our soul can exist apart from the body in a way that I don't understand and is completely a mystery.

With all the above clearly stated, I will add that while all was created good, without a blemish, it has been tainted with imperfections of the fall. This is of course Christian theology 101, however, my views differ from some evangelicals (and closer to C.S. Lewis) when I say the fall did not decimate the physical world turning it all to complete crap.  It would be silly to put percentages on it, but since I'm a silly person I will. I would say that 20% of all that is has been tainted. This means 20% of every cell of our bodies and every atom of matter has been tainted.  So, things still carry the glory that God intended, yet nothing works completely correct.

It is the Dualist that state that this world is a total sewer and we should keep our eyes looking into the clouds where reality dwells. I reject that completely.

So, I will conclude this by saying, God designed the systems of our brains and adrenal glands (as well as all the adrenalin receptions throughout the body such as the Beta receptors) for causing anxiety and even terror.  These things are not intrinsically evil but actually are glorious, God-given and wonderful.  It is unfortunate that many Christians have put fear, anxiety, terror as the antithesis to faith, love, peace and the other ornaments of a good Christian. In a strange twist, and I will get back to that, one reason that anxiety becomes destructive, as in B's case, is that it carries a very strong stigma. So, when a person experiences good, healthy anxiety, the fear can overflow in their lives into a destructive force because they have been taught that fear it bad. So they start to think they are bad and then they become fearful of the fear itself.  B became terrified of the anxiety because it told her she was broken, inferior and guilt ridden. Therefore fear took on much more valuation than it deserves. Like with B, anxiety sufferers often have to suffer a second whammy of being condemned for being "un-spiritual" or even, in her case, demonic.

As I've stated before, the essence of all human behavior, Christian and non-Christian, is our drive to have value. The Gospel settled that once and for all, but none of us truly believe it. We Christians spend duration of our lives on earth trying to believe it better (in my opinion this is what true spiritual growth is all about, simply accepting deeply that we are now clean). So anxiety, because of this stigma, threatens that feeling of value.

I will give a quick illustration of that last point, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

I've personally suffered from performance anxiety, worse in Christian settings. I don't do anything from the pulpit anymore.  My fear?  If my anxiety manifest itself (as it did once) with a shaky voice, then everyone will know that I'm anxious and if they know I'm anxious, they will think I'm a bad, weak or unspiritual person. Therefore my subconsciousness mind is terrified that my value as a person will be diminished by the anxiety.

So the anxiety takes on a much bigger power than it deserves, the power to make or destroy me . . . at least my respect by others. So, my anxiety can build to the exact same level as if a lion was getting ready to tear me to pieces (same response) because the consequences of being devalued as a person is about the same as being torn apart physically and killed. Does that make sense?

Next time I will talk about the biology of anxiety.  Your views are welcome even if they differ from mine.

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