By Jodi, a Blog Contributor
I am positive it’s been said elsewhere on this blog, multiple times, that Christian Science teaches that “there are bad emotions.” I am positive, also, that Christian Science is not the only belief system to teach this. I read an article recently that talked about Mary Baker Eddy being the forerunner of the “Positive Thinking Movement” that still abounds around the country. Christian Science, however, takes this “Positive Thinking” to the absolute most dangerous extreme. Get in a fatal crash? Keep your thoughts positive, and you’ll not only come back from the dead, all by yourself with no help from an ambulance, but you’ll be instantly healed the way Jesus was when he came out of the tomb! Your entire “Being” be glowing!
I was hanging a lamp today with a friend, and the heavy chord from the ceiling fixture pulled the entire porcelain fixture on to the floor. It was still encased in the bubble wrap in which it arrived, but it shattered. I stared at it, in disbelief, and my friend so nicely said, “I’m sorry.” (Meaning he knew I was looking forward to this new lamp in my kitchen for so many reasons, and now it was broken.) At his comment of sincere sympathy and kindness, I felt tears well up in my eyes.
And those tears in my eyes are what inspired this blog post.
I grew up as the daughter of a Christian Scientist perfectionist, and she was also the daughter of a Christian Scientist …. and so it goes back to Mary Baker Eddy’s day, I think. Thankfully, I left. I wish I had left in my 20s the way most of my peers did, but, it just matters that I finally left.
I remember one time when I was in college, and my younger brother was probably in grade school. He did something in the kitchen and a glass bowl slipped from his hands and shattered to the floor. My first thought was, “oh no, he is going to be a wreck about this for hours, because he will feel so terrible about having broken this bowl! Then we won’t get anything done!” It turned out, he was so calm about it. Our mom and I praised him to the hilt about being calm in this situation. We cleaned up the broken pieces and went about our day as if nothing had happened.
I mean, part of that is good; he wasn’t in any trouble. He just had a little accident and the bowl shattered. He hadn’t done it intentionally. He wasn’t a bad person, and we didn’t want him to feel guilty and incredibly sad as if he was going to be in severe trouble over an accident.
That reminds me of the quote from Mary Baker Eddy’s book, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.” The quote says: “Accidents are unknown to God.” (Page 424.)
I am sure that at the time I was able to do some mental gymnastics that this bowl breaking wasn’t an accident, because “There are no accidents in God’s Kingdom!” Of course, we also probably KNEW that this bowl wasn’t actually real. (I wish that was sarcasm, I’m not sure what to make of that now, but that’s part of the process of being in Christian Science – nothing that has a material presence is real. If you can feel, see, taste, touch or smell it, that proves it’s not real!) So that probably helped with our denial about the whole experience, because something that wasn’t even real couldn’t actually break.
What got me today, while we were still dealing with this lamp this morning, is that sadness is actually a normal emotion to feel for accidentally breaking something. We aren’t robots. we are human beings having a human experience. And: emotions are a key part of the human experience. They are as real as music, tree branches, cut grass, cat purrs, perfume, and the sound of the ocean waves.
When my brother broke that bowl, our mom and I both immediately remembered that a year before an almost identical situation had occurred, and he had been uncontrollably sad, and crying. He was probably in maybe 2nd grade or something that first time, and maybe he was in 3rd or 4th grade for the second time. He had been nearly inconsolable for a long time. Maybe an hour. Maybe longer. Instead of letting him feel his emotions, I am positive we probably tried to talk him out of having them. We had to teach him that he wasn’t sad, but that he was safe and ok and didn’t need to be sad. The [whatever that broke the first time] wasn’t real and was easily replaced. Because things that are real can’t be hurt or damaged.
Wow. The mental gymnastics is mind-boggling to me now. I was seriously brainwashed to believe that all of this gobble-de-gook was true.
I remember being taught by my Christian Science Teacher that it was bad to feel emotions other than joy, happiness and gratitude.
Getting out of the Christian Science belief system, I learned that emotions are all real. I had a steep learning curve, learning what emotions feel like and how to label them. I learned that it’s important to name each emotion. A basic meditation practice has a person name whatever comes in to their thinking. If they feel anger, they say, “that’s anger,” or acknowledge it in some way and let it go on. I had to identify these emotions I had never been given words for. (See the website link, below, that talks about mindfulness practice.)
In therapy, I learned of horrible abuse to someone I love dearly – I learned that something that had happened in the past was actually abuse. This person I loved so much had been abused. And I sat there, with a blank expression on my face. I had no idea what emotion to feel. My therapist said to me, “if that had happened to someone I care so deeply about, I would feel sad.” And I realized it: Yes! I felt sad! I let myself feel sad for as long as I needed to. I think I still feel it now, and it’s been a few years.
During those years, I also realized I felt anger about that situation. I have felt more emotions than just sad, too, come to think of it. My emotions have included feeling: frustrated, angry, sad, hateful, depressed, frustration mixed with fury, outrage and even hatred at the abuser. I can’t even go back and fix the situation. It’s all over. The one who was abused has since died and I can’t go hug him and make it all better. This “not being able to go back and fix the situation” brings back the onslaught of emotions.
My emotions about something so horrible are perfectly normal. They are reasonable responses to feel in response to a heart-breaking, terrible situation. It is completely ABNORMAL to feel joy and gratitude about an abusive situation!
You know what? As I spent decades of my life in Christian Science, I had emotional outbursts at different times. Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played the emotionless “Spock” on Star Trek, struggled to stay constantly in a state of “non-emotion” for his character. He felt strong emotions after months of being this emotionless character. There are videos of him, feeling these strong emotions, in-between takes.
A human body needs to feel emotions. Otherwise, they build up to an intense level and come bursting out when it’s inconvenient and out of proportion. That’s why we need to feel the emotions as they happen. Name them. Express them when they are small so they don’t become out of control, strong, and downright frightening.
When I was taking photos of the shattered lamp part to send to the company to start the process of getting a replacement, I did shed 2 tears. I brushed them away, and kept working. I know that whatever happens, whether we buy this piece again or if they take pity on us and send us this part as a free replacement, it will work out. I will get the lamp installed and I will love this lamp in my kitchen until I move out of the house. Two tears over a broken lamp isn’t a big deal. It’s a healthy response to a frustrating situation. I feel grateful, actually, to have had this small response to a small broken lamp piece, instead of burying it down inside me to outburst at some later time.
My friend called me today to say her dad died. I cried more for that than I did for the broken light bulb. In fact, I felt generally sad for the rest of today, and also planned to take her dinner, a thoughtful potted plant, a bottle of wine, and a bunch of hugs for her whole family. We delivered the meal and sat with her and her family while they talked and hugged us as much as they needed to. I wasn’t an unfeeling robot about it. And I didn’t melt in to an emotional puddle for 24 hours. I’d say I handled the broken lamp piece and my friend’s parent’s death in about the right proportion for each of those circumstances.
In the words of a cigarette company from my youth – “We’ve come a long way, Baby.”
A book I read when I was about to embark on leaving Christian Science, though I didn’t know yet that life circumstances would propel me in this new direction. It took me a long time to get through this book. It helped me learn to feel and name my emotions, and begin on the journey towards balance instead of severe intensity with my emotions. “Discover Your Soul Signature,” by Panache Desai.
This site offers support resources to help individuals negotiate a transition in a manner that best fits their needs and convictions. We do not advocate any one particular path but acknowledge that there are many legitimate pathways that can be personally and spiritually fulfilling.