Tuesday, August 19, 2008

narcissism and skepticism

Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp
Sunset in Lima, Peru

Who is more foolish, the child afraid of the dark or the man afraid of the light? - Maurice Freehill

I learned something about myself over the last few days. Oh how I love insight into myself, but my God it can be painful. I am working on writing my book now here in Australia, and the first chapter talks a lot about my childhood. The book is about making peace between evolution and Christianity, but for many years I was an atheist. I had a difficult childhood, and turned away from God. I wasn't raised in a Christian home though my aunt had bought me a bible and signed me up for these mailaway bible studies which I think was sort of the foundation of my young faith, before I turned away from it. But growing up with a narcissistic parent who constantly questioned everything I said and did was a huge challenge as a child.

I believe that when you have a parent question you constantly, you have two results - or at least this is what happened for me. One is that I started to develop a deep knowledge about my own self, and what I think, and what I believe. Since it was constatly questioned, I questioned my own self - is this really what I believe? And I figured out which things really held true for me. The other is, in copying the parental model, I developed a very skeptical worldview, where I questioned everything and everyone. I believe this is what ultimately led me to question the existence of God, and also led to my attraction to the scientific worldview. In college, I became educated as a scientist and then later became a journalist - another career in which I must constantly question what everyone says and not take things at face value.

I think there is much to be said for the skeptic worldview. I think that having returned to the faith with a skeptic worldview, my faith is stronger. It is not simple. And it isn't blind. I have read the Bible, studied the original languages, taken many Bible studies, studied other religions, and talked to hundreds of people about their beliefs. The skeptic worldview also makes it a bit more challenging to be influenced by the brainwashing propaganda and the influences out there such as the advertising, the industries (pharmaceutical, medical, industrial, political and religious) that all have an agenda to sell.

But sometimes having that skeptical worldview has a downside. The painful insight is that I've learned sometimes I don't listen to or believe what people tell me. Sometimes I have to "see it to believe it." Sometimes, I have to wait and give it time to "feel it" and know it, rather than allowing another person to share with me how they feel and take it at face value, in the lack of other contradicting evidence. Despite despising narcissism in others due to its influence in my childhood, I have somehow ended up discounting and not trusting - acting the narcissist myself - as if my belief or lack of trust is more real than the other person's expressions.

And I do intend to do everything in my power to try to change this. I heard somewhere, from someone that people will tell you what they what they feel and what they want and what they believe, and the key is simply to listen and be aware. To give the other person the benefit of the doubt is an act of love.

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