Still Recovering from Toxic Religion: Pass That Buick in Love

It’s OK to keep evolving.

Here’s a story about being inspired and suppressing it.

This morning I got behind a slow-moving Buick on a major thoroughfare. I encountered the same dark green Buick, ten minutes before, when I was crossing a downtown street. On foot, I got up close and looked inside at three senior women – all probably in their eighties, peering out the car windows as if thoroughly lost and overwhelmed by the traffic. Now, as I now rode behind them, they slowed and stopped at every side street.

I felt bad for them – they seemed lost and confused and I’ve been there myself many times. But I also chomped at the bit – just because the sun was shining and I wanted to sail down the street, unfettered, toward Mama Jean’s Famous Tuna Salad. I thought about passing, but then got a stab of guilt. Why? What’s wrong with blowing by the Buick with a smile and a wave?

This felt familiar: feeling inspired to race ahead into a sunny adventure whilst holding back, tucked behind someone who isn’t ready to race ahead. Then I thought . . .

Why do I still do this? Hold back, feeling guilt for wanting to pass someone or say ‘no-thank-you’ to an unwanted offer or avoid a conversation I know will drag me down . . . ?

I was raised to think other people’s feelings were more important than mine . . .

 . . . that I was selfish and arrogant if I needed to be my age or to just get the hell out of someplace that didn’t feel good.

I learned in my family, my church, my Church of Christ school, that if someone is upset by your behavior, that must mean you’re doing something wrong . . . and if someone feels inferior in relation to you, you should always modify yourself, so as not to offend.

While I’d love it if everyone felt warm and fuzzy, I just can’t make that happen and stay sane.

(Yes, I used to try.) Sometimes, we just want to drive a little faster. We get inspired and seek to create or take care of ourselves instead of prioritize someone else’s perceived needs. Be a selfish ten-year-old or a teenager with her own opinions. Grow into an actor or poet when our original life script says, “blend in and be quiet.”

Being inspired doesn’t make us arrogant.

It’s creativity . . . the Divine spark . . . at work in our lives, pressing us forward into growth.

It amazes me how lifelong is this process of getting free from toxic religion. I need a special 12-step group for this. But the Buick represents yet another layer to shed. A very co-dependent layer. My stifling won’t help anybody live better . . . or help them be inspired.

Pema Chodron says when she sees someone on TV who is suffering, she takes a breath, gives a nod of respect and love in their direction . . . a kind of brief meditation for their well-being. And then she resumes her day. If I apply this to my friends in the Buick, I can pass them with love.

Move far away to follow your dreams. Love someone  your parents don’t want you to love. End a relationship that drains your life force. Start a business, take a risk, or make a mistake. Surging forward into sunshine makes us evolve.

It’s okay to shed the guilt and go.

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Transition and EMDR: No such thing as a wrong turn.


By Khunkay (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Spring brings rebirth and color and joy. It also brings pollen, tornadoes, and allergies. My life transitions like the seasons, and even though it scares the crap out of me, I know it’s a good thing.

Something gets stale, stuck, or sour and I know it’s time to think differently. I get an urge to do something – an urge I ignore at my own peril. If I ignore my urge, the message of my higher self, I tend to get sick or depressed. EMDR helps me clear the cognitive clutter and make a change.

Maybe I need to:

Cut my hair

Nurture a child (fur baby or human)

Say yes to a trip

Leave a job

Leave a relationship

Lose my religion

Seek the company of a certain friend

Start a new venture

Get rid of things I’m not using

Change my behavior in relation to someone

Change my behavior in relation to myself

Get into therapy

Complete something I’ve postponed

Abandon a task I thought was essential

Trade couches with someone

Grieve and let go of an old belief that blocks me from growing

There’s always a reason for the urge. It comes from a place I can trust.

Over the years, I’ve learned these transitions always pay off in joy and growth and prosperity, even when it feels like I’m being shoved through a revolving door and lose my shoe. In fact, even when others disapprove of my change, I grow and my life gets better. I have no regrets for any of the detours or U-turns or shocking, hair-spiking, neon-sign-wearing changes I’ve made. Through EMDR, I’ve learned to pay closer attention to how my higher self talks to me, how transition shows up, and how I can allow it.

There’s no mistake, only my path. I welcome the change.

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A Family Psychologist and EMDR Therapist’s advice on Healthy Rebellion

What is Healthy Rebellion?

Sometimes I need a good dose of change. A certain restlessness comes over me and I must rearrange the furniture (I think I’ve told you this part before) or chop off my hair or paint my shoes yellow (yes, I’ve done this).

And sometimes the need for change runs even deeper and triggers more shocking behaviors. When I quit my tenured academic job, people looked at me like I had lost my mind. Why would anyone give up a hard-won position with a retirement account and a curriculum vitae full of fancy accomplishments?



Because I had to. That’s why. Like when I had to leave my first marriage. I couldn’t explain it to my family’s satisfaction (or his) but I knew I had to. Or wither and die.

Healthy Rebellion is anything that takes you out of your accustomed role and forces you to experiment and scramble and be a little unsure. Anything that deepens your connection with your true self and your higher power. Anything that saves your life or makes it worth living again.

…Even if others are shocked and disagree and tell you you’re being selfish.

…Even if you’re confused and unsettled for a while.

…Even if it’s scary.

…Even if your parents would NEVER do what you’re doing.

…Even if you think you might be going to hell.

[It should go without saying that I’m not talking about any kind of illegal or unethical activity – stealing, doing drugs, cheating, etc. Those won’t help you in your path toward wholeness.]

Healthy Rebellion equals…

Thinking forbidden thoughts.

Giving money away.

Quitting your job.

Being disloyal to an idea or a person who holds you back.

Diving head-first into a new passion.

Skipping the family Christmas and creating your own kind of holiday.

Becoming a Buddhist, a Baptist, or a Nudist.

Getting a blue streak in your hair.

Changing your political affiliations (in any direction).

Shedding a dead marriage.

Wearing comfortable shoes.

Making an unlikely friend.

Reading banned books.

Going vegan.

The whole point of healthy rebellion is that we need change in order to grow. Differentiation of self is the process of becoming more of who we were meant to be, as fully-functioning adults, in spite of criticisms and objections coming from others (real or imagined). We differentiate when we make deliberate, uncomfortable, or naughty changes that put us closer to where we want to be.

Exercise: Make a list of ten things you would never do because they would shatter people’s expectations of you.

The following are similar blog posts I’ve written that, as a Family Psychologist and EMDR therapist in Springfield, MO, address topics that help people become more of who they were meant to be.

How Friendships Improve your Love Life

Write Your Way Out of Depression

Contact Deborah