01 February 2011

Overrated Experience (Memoirs of the never-therapized, Part 1)

Those who know me well would almost definitely say I don't err on the side of jumping into new experiences recklessly and without looking. They'd say I err on the side of analyzing objectively until opportunities pass. They'd most likely, possibly, perhaps, maybe be right. At least in many instances. But when something is important or exciting to me, I do most often act on it and engage with few expectations or preconceived notions about what the experience ought to be like. See, the thing I like about my approach is that I recognize that a) until you've experienced something firsthand, you can't know exactly what it's like to experience it, and b) most experiences are what you make of them, in the end. Therefore, I have few regrets and have had many positive experiences. But there are always those who say, "Well, you can have all the ideas about it you want, but unless you've tried it, you don't know, do you? So I invite you to come experience it and see for yourself if it works, or if it's right for you."

OK, cult-master, sure, I'll set aside any reservations to join your program. *wink* OK, so not everyone who says that is a cultist. But seriously, folks, this kind of argument can be said about most things. Does that mean you're going to engage in such things just because enough people 'testify' it has been good for them? What if most of your friends had tried something, and they all said they had good experiences, even if they don't agree with the ideas behind everything they experienced? Would you set aside concerns about what is attached to those experiences, or ideas that you believe to be wrong or destructive, in order to give a fair chance to the experience? Whether or not you would, should you?

I think most LDS people have their ideas about Pentecostalism and whether writhing on the floor screaming gibberish is really what the gifts of the Spirit are all about. But I've had friends who were Pentecostal who told me I had to experience it for myself to know the power and joy of spiritual gifts. They said you can't know until you trust the Spirit and experience it for yourself. I politely declined, thanks.

So what if most of your friends, whom you love and know to be really good people, are Pentecostal or keep joining Pentecostal churches? Some of them admit they don't know if it's all quite what it's cracked up to be, and they may have stopped going, but they really enjoyed the experience of going and have learned principles that have been helpful in their lives, and they've had emotional experiences that have really been cathartic for them. I think most LDS people believe that of course you can get caught up in a mob frenzy of emotion and can think it's some divine manifestation because you feel something powerful, but they'd be skeptical.

I think most LDS people would listen--but skeptically--when a Pentecostal tells them their spiritual gift experience was life-changing. I think most LDS people would acknowledge that maybe they had some spiritual experience and may have even learned something profound about themselves or about eternity but that surely writhing and screaming was incidental to that. They might even study the concept and read the scriptures to see if that's really what it's supposed to be like or if their understanding fits better. They might consider going to the Pentecostal's services just to say they did and being open to whatever comes, but they might be hesitant because if they don't experience a Pentecostal's idea of 'gifts of the Spirit', they know the Pentecostals will likely just think they weren't truly open to it, and they know it's not going to prove anything to them anyway, and they don't feel a need to try it for themselves. When their Pentecostal friends talk about what their church services do for them, how they fill them, the LDS person recognizes that they both believe in a need for God in their lives but either doesn't identify with those particular motivations or feels quite similarly fulfilled by their own church services. And if they did go and experience something, they couldn't be sure it wasn't the devil playing a trick on them.

Or maybe the LDS person agrees the Pentecostal may have had some kind of authentic experience, and they can respect that each person has their own experiences with the Spirit, but that needn't be everyone's experience, and they're still pretty skeptical about its authenticity, and one needn't go to a Pentecostal church to learn those things. But whatever the LDS person's reasons for not going, or not experiencing the gifts of the Spirit if they do go, to many of the Pentecostals, the LDS person has never dared to give God the chance to manifest himself in the most glorious ways. And maybe for some of the more open-minded among them, they shrug and say God works in different ways with each of us. Maybe they acknowledge that not everyone receives the same spiritual gifts, but the LDS person's own lack of that gift or reluctance to try bears no weight in whether the Pentecostals' experiences being overcome by the Spirit are completely authentic.

I do have to say that I don't personally regard the Pentecostal concept of spiritual gifts the same as I regard therapies of homosexuality (while I'm skeptical of both, I admittedly think Pentecostalism is more 'out there'), but what I'm trying to illustrate is the general thoughts and emotions around relative experiences. Perhaps in this sense, some promulgators or fans of certain therapies of homosexuality can relate to _my_ view of those therapies and exercises and understand that if I choose not to engage in them, it's not just about me being dismissive or not giving them a chance. But I do have to acknowledge that no, I have never been to a therapist. I'm pretty sure, though, that if I had, and I still arrived at the perspective I have today, there would be a supposed slew of reasons why my therapy was ineffective or why I didn't quite do it right or lacked the right support system. If it did change me in some significant way, I would be another loss to tragically unnecessary, damaging self-deception. Therefore, if I ever do try it, it will not be to prove anything to anyone who doesn't already think one way or another, because it wouldn't prove anything even if I intended it to, either way.


JonJon said...

You've never been to a therapist?

blj1224 said...

Therapy is a very personal experience. A good therapist is a facilitator, not a teacher. He/she should have no agenda for where the experience should take you, nor should friends and relatives predetermine what the outcome should or should not be. If therapy helps you get to a place with which you're personally and honestly comfortable and satisfied, it's been successful.
Even though it's human nature to hope for a specific outcome, interested persons should respect your right to make your own decisions and accept them without prejudice.

Original Mohomie said...

Oh great! Now you, too?! No! No I haven't! Get off my back! ;-)

That is to say, no, no I have not. Incidentally, I have also never been to a Pentecostal church. One difference: I've never truly considered going to a Pentecostal church. :-)

JonJon said...

No, I just think you are a surprisingly well adjusted mogay for never having been to a therapist. Consider it a compliment.

Original Mohomie said...

blj1224, agreed. And that's why the APA finally conceded that therapists should not push their gay clients to embrace life choices not in congruence with their religious and personal beliefs, which I think was the right move.

Incidentally, when I talk about Journey Into Manhood, which I will probably do more in the next related post, it's not technically considered or called 'therapy', but it's basically marketed as such without using the word because it's built on an idea of developing latent heterosexuality by healing early emotional wounds and increasing masculine identification. That's how a founder described it in a presentation I was at. They can't mix the official notion of therapy into it without losing their credentials, for those who have them (including one of the founders--not just some doofus off the street), so that's why they're called 'life coaches' and not 'therapists' and avoid official scrutiny through confidentiality (though I don't believe what goes on is totally wacked, weird stuff).

Original Mohomie said...

Oh, and I'll accept, JonJon. And you're a surprisingly well adjusted mogay for having been to a therapist. ;-)