I love my illusions 💋

I love my illusions. They do me good. Or I would get rid of them.

There are the atheists, blogging away. Some just want to feel clever and right, but Victoria Neuronotes wants to save us poor benighted Christians from atrophied brains and self-abuse, others might want to save us from idiotic falsehood, they might all prefer us thinking better and living happier, and under it all, they want to make us more like themselves. Confident their way is best, they want us approximated to it, for our good or for the good of our victims. Or, they want to justify to themselves their way of being. These motives may co-exist.

My friend Andy went from quite a conservative Christian, knowing being queer is Wrong, to a wildly liberal one, accepting his queerness, back to being conservative again, apart from the Gay bit. He is not alone.

Finding I liked so little what I thought I ought to, and continually surprised by how much I liked what I actually did- dressing female, for example- I decided what I needed more than anything was to know myself and accept myself as I am.

I cling to my illusions, thinking they are true, because the alternative is frightening: illusions like

 everything's going to be alright. 

Perhaps, even, believing those is good for me, giving me

 courage to continue
in the face of adversity.

There are things I haven’t realised yet. Perhaps I never will. Or I accept intellectually, but can’t accept emotionally.

Wonderful bit in Doctor Who:

Missy: say something nice.
Chang: You’re going to kill me, aren’t you? Please don’t kill me, I don’t want to die
Missy: I’ve got all day! And I’m not going to kill you until you say- something nice.
Chang: It has been an absolute pleasure working with you and I truly believe that you will not be able to find it in your heart to murder me.

Missy fires, Chang vanishes. Someone said when she explained like that, he would not “say something nice”, but I thought that “You’re going to kill me” is too difficult to grasp but “say something nice” is easy so he does that. Watching it again to get the dialogue, I find it worse than I remembered: he works out she will kill him from her hints. And he still says something nice.

I want to know who I am, and groping towards this I use words. In the shower this morning I was seized with the desire to write them down- access my unconscious, whatever, I think it a good exercise. Not on the blog, obviously, even I know that is going too far, but here are some:

 Gorgeous, Right, Worthy, Gifted, Truthful, 
Intelligent, Perceptive, Creative, Loving, Able, Musical, Poetic, 
Humorous, Forceful, Valuable, Relaxed.

And some aspirations:

Spontaneous, Successful, Admired, Engaged,
having integrity…

Returning to this hours later, I remember the Sheriff at Forfar sentencing a man who had been chucked by his girlfriend, and made a nuisance of himself outside her house. He said “He cannot understand how a person as attractive as he could ever evoke this reaction, and the way the rest of us convince him that he does, is prison.” At my advanced age, though, I can happily believe something without needing everyone else to believe it too. Thank God! At Last!

8 thoughts on “I love my illusions 💋

  1. Clare, I’ve never found your beliefs to be disturbing. I think you have a fairly healthy view of Christianity and I wished more Christians people believed like you. Most conservative Christians will not call you a real Christian. I support Quakers and your desire to be yourself — comfortable in your skin.

    What I don’t support are people who manipulate the masses for filthy lucre’s sake. Placebos can be a good thing when used for the right reasons. But if the doctors are taking credit and charging you out the wazoo, when it was you who actually healed yourself, then I think that is morally wrong. Why give your power away?

    And btw, I wasn’t trying to be insulting when I said that people who claim that they are born again have a significant increase of brain atrophy — the hippocampus.

    “Significantly greater hippocampal atrophy was observed for participants reporting a life-changing religious experience. Significantly greater hippocampal atrophy was also observed from baseline to final assessment among born-again Protestants, Catholics, and those with no religious affiliation, compared with Protestants not identifying as born-again.

    These associations were not explained by psychosocial or demographic factors, or baseline cerebral volume. Hippocampal volume has been linked to clinical outcomes, such as depression, dementia, and Alzheimer’s Disease. The findings of this study indicate that hippocampal atrophy in late life may be uniquely influenced by certain types of religious factors.”

    When I bring awareness about the harm, even death, that can be done via authoritarian religion, it’s because I care, not because I am trying to be clever and right.


    • I had a life-changing religious experience, on 14 February 1999. The world changed for me, from dark and horrible of struggle and failure to hope, with human beings doing our best under difficult circumstances. It felt good at the time. I did not want, so much, to die. A woman I worked with, who tried to convert me, was born again: she felt that she had gained a purposeful, moral life from a chaotic, drunken one. Perhaps with all things considered, the life change is better than none for that person.

      On healing, if my homoeopath friend spends an hour giving full attention to a person, hearing about their difficulties, and then produces one sugar pill as opposed to a sugar pill of a different name, and produces scientific sounding jargon when asked the basis of the treatment, I think her behaviour is part of the placebo effect. See “nocebo”. I wonder if self-placebo is possible: perhaps with great effort, as with a fb friend who has found her first days gluten free energising.

      I see you care. Some people are just trying to feel clever, though. I like your qualification, “authoritarian” religion, but would defend even that: some people want a strong moral code, from outside themselves. It makes them feel safe. I find making my own moral decisions better.


      • Hi Clare, thanks for your reply. I can understand if people need structure, but I do think it’s unethical to shame people and state that there is a hell and if you don’t follow the rules, that’s where you are headed. There is abundant research now showing how harmful this is to children, creating toxic stress which can lead to mental illness, disease and early death in adulthood, and as I mentioned earlier, an atrophied hippocampus.

        I think that religion can have value in the fact that it brings people together to share resources and kindness, and because we are a social species, this is most definitely beneficial. After my deconversion I had a profound experience that I would consider life-changing, but not religious. Had I been a Christian at the time I would have most certainly attributed to my belief system, Christianity. But instead of just assuming, I invested hours and years to understand what happened through a neurological lens, and did it ever pay off. It eventually opened the door for me to use neurotechnology that could recreate these experiences via complex magnetic waveforms and brainwave entrainment.

        Here’s another way you can create such an experience and its techniques have been used by clergy and evangelists for a long time. I think you will find this incredibly fascinating and eye-opening.

        You wrote: “I wonder if self-placebo is possible”

        I recently read a study that says yes. Even when people were aware they were taking a sugar pill, and it was labeled as such on the medicine bottle, taking it still proved to be effective. Children who animate their stuffed animals know they are not really alive, but use them for their benefit, nonetheless.


        • I like Derren Brown, and sat down to enjoy it, but see “This video is not available in your country”- the UK, where he is a celebrity and people might pay to see it.

          There are the standard issue religious experiences- being Present in the Moment, being Connected to All Reality, etc- but that was not what I meant. I had my ideas and my way of being in the world turned around, and while I could give a date for Committing to being Positive and trace how I moved towards it, and the repercussions of the change, it did not feel quite so much a Rebirth experience as the first: it was as much of a change, but not so much of a shock.

          Expensive Ibuprofen, with a shiny package and sciency looking diagrams of Getting to the Root of the Pain, makes people better able to keep their hand in iced water than cheap Ibuprofen from the supermarket. Knowing that the active ingredient is the same, I always wondered if that would work for me.


  2. First of all, here you are ! I have so missed you. My blogging history is cursed. I loved this strange, curving, inward-looking post, Clare. It made me think about all my many worries and my clinging to things like the Book of Common Prayer. Because I believe it holds truth and beauty or because I need it as Snoopy needs his blanket. To be honest, this is one of your best posts, because looking inward and assessing yourself is difficult as all heck. I’m not sure I could do it.


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