Note: Starting at the top of this year, I invited folks to ask me questions that I would answer. I view my “answers” as points in informed discussion rather than “look no further. All you need is HERE” responses – particularly on things that are less about me personally and specifically. Which is not to say I don’t mean or stand behind my answers. ‘Cause I do.
Question: “Do think that if people chose religions that feed their specific personalities they would be more spiritually fulfilled?” -by Catrina “Tinka”
Short answer: Yuuup!
Longer Answer: Yo! I’m maybe gonna get myself in trouble with some people here because I’m not going to say “All people should definitely practice this religion or follow this doctrine or abandon that worldview or stop following that scripture.” If anyone’s pissed about that, I’m throwing confetti that whatever your belief is it works for you so much you want everyone to have a plateful. As the saying goes, “It ain’t for everybody.”
When I consider the personality, I frequently go to Kazimierz Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration (TPD). In Dabrowski’s theory, personality is not something fixed but rather shaped and achieved through process. It says the lowest form of human experience and function is marked by two influences – one of which is “rote adherence to external, social mores.” The struggle for a person to achieve an individual sense of self goes through moving “away from dependence on external authority to listening” to their “own inner voice.” William Tillier, a psychologist, wrote a story of his first solo flight as a pilot to illustrate this move to listen to the inner voice. He looked in the seat next to him and realized it was empty. It hit him that his life was in his hands. He could choose to land the plane or crash it. He said his instructor probably expected him to carry out his training and land safely – external authority, rote adherence – but he had a realization that he had a conscious choice and had taken a responsibility for his own life. Rather than simply flying and landing the plane by rote, he had an experience of “self-awareness, momentary uncertainty, and dread” and also “the subsequent feeling of self-determination and self-satisfaction.”
I think if people are practicing belief systems that are not helping them proceed further toward their autonomous, authentic selves – characterized by connectedness, compassion, self-definition, self-determination, self-awareness (that allows you to see yourself objectively and others subjectively), making the decision to land the plane without external authority – they are actively denying their spiritual fulfillment. And sometimes they try so hard to cling to that religion/worldview – for fear of social consequences or the uncertainty that comes with untethering from that familiarity – they actually set their development backwards and steal some of the spiritual satisfaction they already have because they foster cognitive dissonance and resentment in themselves. It’s like if Misty Copeland tried to have a very similar or exact same workout and nutrition plan as LeBron James. They both want to grow into their best self, be the top of their game, but “the best” means different things for each of them and the content of that growth is different.
Sometimes one religion or belief system (or several) might just be set up in ways that reach you better and help you get where you need to go – what TPD calls “the essence of one’s being” – better than another. It’s positive to acknowledge that and live in accordance with that knowledge.
Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration – edited by Sal Mendaglio
Living with Intensity: Understanding the Sensitivity, Excitability, and Emotional Development of Gifted Children, Adolescents, and Adults – edited by Susan Daniels & Michael M. Piechowski