This piece was written by Shrinkwrapped, who has kindly agreed to crosspost on this site.
(This is the final part of Jimmy J's jouney, though I suspect like most of us, he does not see his journey as being at an end.)
Psychological counseling may or may not help a person. In my case I felt it was a do or die proposition. I went into it determined to get something out of it. Maybe not surprisingly, I did. I learned why I did things the way I did; why I felt the way I did. My self esteem was almost totally dependent on seeing myself as successful, in control, and continually succeeding. I was only as good as my last accomplishment. It went back to my childhood and the demands my mother had made of me.
Another thing I learned was that I was intensely angry and it was stuffed way down deep inside me. What was I angry about? I was angry at the military because of their no win policies in Vietnam. I was angry at God because he allowed my son to die. I was angry at my wife because she could not comfort me. I was angry at my mother because her love was conditioned on my meeting her expectations. I was angry at my father for leaving our family when I was 9 years old. In addition I had a great deal of unresolved survivor's guilt. I felt guilty because I had survived when 7 of my shipmates, all better men than I, had died in Vietnam. I felt guilty because 4 shipmates had spent 7 years in the Hanoi Hilton and I had not. Hey, I had years of unresolved anger and guilt stuffed way down inside. I didn't know it but I was terrified that if I ever let it out I might do something I would really regret.
I did several weeks work with a brilliant man who specialized in anger. His job was to get me in touch with mine. I won't go into the details of how he did that. What I will share is that my treatment climaxed with a session in which I was encouraged to go toe to toe with a big "Schmoo" type punching bag. I punched that bag as hard as I could; over and over and over again while at the same time giving vent to my thoughts by screaming and yelling them out. The faithful Schmoo just kept springing right back up and let me hit it again. I got into it completely, letting my rage run its full course. At the end of the session I was exhausted, literally unable to lift my arms. When I tried to keep going by kicking the bag, I was too tired to even do that and fell to the mat, totally spent. The next day every muscle in my body was sore and I could barely get out of bed, but a strange thing happened. Once again I felt a sense of overwhelming love and acceptance. It was an inner knowing that I was touched by a power that was greater than I.
I left that treatment armed with the ability to get in touch with my anger and safe ways to expend it when I needed to.
While I was doing my work my wife had not been sitting around doing nothing. She too was getting in touch with her issues and confronting her grief. We began corresponding and exploring whether we might be able to put our marriage back together. After many months of writing letters back and forth and spending short bits of time together we realized that we still loved one another and wanted to try to pick up the pieces. Now if this was Hollywood, the story would end here with us living happily ever after. But this is life and the story continues.
Once again the feeling of grace subsided and I began working toward trying to achieve true self esteem. Intellectually I got it that I was a worthy person and that my self worth did not have to be based on my latest accomplishment. But I didn't feel it in my gut. It wasn't internalized. I explored meditation, going to church, reading the Bible, reading philosophy, and reading spiritual self-help books. I profited from all those activities but none of them provided me with the key to true self esteem.
Three years went by and one day my wife and I were walking in the mountains. To the east we saw a huge thunderstorm. It was a magnificent Cumulo-Nimbus that extended all the way to 40,000 feet or higher. It had incredible pure whites, battle-ship grays, inky blacks, all tinged with sickly green. Everything about it bespoke immense power..........The kind of power you associate with God. As we stood watching it I was struck, once again, by grace. This time I was not in a crisis mode. My life was going well, I was doing okay, but I was seeking an answer. And suddenly I understood...........I was accepted............I was loved unconditionally..............I was good enough just the way I was. That feeling of grace eventually departed, but the feeling of acceptance was now incorporated deep within the fiber of my heart and soul, where it remains to this day. For me, it was like being born again. I could now live my life as a human being not a human doing. It had only taken 5 years for me to finally get it. Like I say, I'm a slow learner.
Since that day I have had other transcendental experiences. I'd like to share just two others with you and then wind this story up.
In 1997 my wife and I were fortunate enough to be able to travel to Kenya and Tanzania for two weeks on safari. For me the experience was like being taken back in time to the world of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. There on the dry plains of Africa we got to observe a myriad of wild animals each fulfilling its particular role in the drama of life and death that plays itself out there each day. It put me in touch with my deepest instincts, which are inherited from our ancient forebears. That feeling alone was very profound, but there was more to come.
One evening as we were driving in the Masai Mara we were treated to a view of a herd of giraffes walking along a ridge top silhouetted by the setting sun. Those graceful animals with their long necks bobbing along in single file moving toward their nightly place of rest was such a powerful image I was struck once again by that feeling of the love God has for all of His creation and how magnificent it all is. That powerful feeling stayed with me for the rest of our stay in Africa and for many weeks after. The peak feeling eventually passed, but the "knowledge" was incorporated into my being and is now as much a part of me as my breathing or my heart beating.
A few weeks ago we were in St. Petersburg, Russia. Our group had been taken to a Russian Orthodox church to view the magnificent Ikons and see the tombs of the Tsars who are buried there. In Russian Orthodox churches there is no instrumental music. The only music consists of people singing a capella. To give us a sample of the singing, we were ushered into a wing of the church that was designed and built to provide perfect acoustics. There three Russian monks sang to us a capella. The sounds were unusually beautiful and the acoustics were such that I felt as if I was inside an instrument. The beautiful tones reverberated not only in my ears but in my very being. I was very moved and felt deeply in touch with God, the inspiration for such magnificent sounds.
So my faith that there is a God, a Force, a Creator, an Architect of All Things, Allah, Jehovah, or whatever term you wish to use is based on a series of transcendental experiences that occurred over a period of years. They cannot be explained, they cannot be verified, and they are mine and mine alone. I offer this only to trace one person's journey to Faith. I would not expect anyone else to accept my path to a relationship with God. I do, however, applaud all fellow humans who earnestly and honestly seek to have a relationship with God, as they conceive HIM/HER/IT. I encourage you to do so in a way that promotes peace, tolerance, and good will for all. I know that I cannot communicate what I feel/know to an atheist or agnostic and don't expect to. I respect that he/she has the right to pursue a relationship or non-relationship with nothing or whatever inspires good will in him/her.
The Bible, Koran, and the story of Buddha all contain wisdom about life and the human condition that are valuable to mankind. In my opinion it is when we believe that one or the other contains the ONLY truth that we begin to separate ourselves from our Creator who loves us all equally.
If I learned tomorrow that the Bible was total fiction, that Jesus was dreamed up by a bunch of old time novelists, that the Buddha never existed, that Mohammed was a fictional character, and if all the churches were turned into warehouses; it would not change my faith in He Whose Name We Cannot Know. My faith does not depend on external things. Some may say I'm just a crazy old coot that has had some weird experiences. And that's okay. It's my FAITH and I'm just stuck with it.
Let me end with a few words about government and religion. Jesus said, "Render unto Caesar those things which belong to Caesar and render unto God those things that belong to God." To my rather simple way of thinking he seemed to mean that government (Caesar) is the process of working out human relationships between one another here in this life and time. On the other hand our relationship with God is between us and God. While our religious ethics can inform our approach to government, we don't want to try to use government to push what is a unique and individual relationship onto everybody. In other words, a relationship with God is not a one size fits all endeavor. Government, on the other hand, is about negotiating differences to arrive at a framework of governance that fits and provides for the better good of many.