By John Dunn
As an individual who struggles with schizoaffective disorder through my relationship with my higher power, I have found many gifts in and through my spirit which help me cope with the difficulties of my condition. These gifts have allowed me to pursue tremendous growth in all areas of my inner being. Currently, I am working on the aspect of passive aggression in my personality which I believe lies at the root of the onset of my first psychotic break. I am working on this personality trait with my therapist who shares similar spiritual beliefs in relation to our higher power, such as the love of him/her as we understand and experience it. My journey has been defined by the basic virtues of the love and compassion of a Supreme Being whom I understand and identify with as my creator. Just last week I introduced myself and my journey in my article, “Virtues in Recovery.” In this piece, I indicated that my goal is to demonstrate how to replace distorted thinking patterns with the virtues of a higher power. In this article I would like to present to you, my readers, an example of the virtues I am implementing to cope with my personality trait of passive aggression which, in my circumstance, stems from the distorted cognitive pattern of “jumping to conclusions.”
Before I describe how I resolve an issue arising from passive aggression, I would like to present a personal example of this type of communication. During one of the defining moments of my journey towards effective communication, I experienced an incident in a recovery support session in which I felt my confidentiality was violated. When I approached the leaders of the group, I was met with indifference to my thoughts and feelings which caused me to pass during what should have been my time to share. Eventually the matter was referred to the ministry leader who yelled at me for not sharing, which took me to a place where I recalled emotional abuse in my adolescent years. As a result, I refused to share my thoughts and emotions and eventually left the group. This response of “shutting down” demonstrates the passive side of my personality. Furthermore, as time went on, I began verbally cursing him out loud during private moments of meditation, this represents the aggressive side of my behavior. Fortunately, I have learned the importance of self-expression and have begun to practice this trait in all my relationships which has greatly improved my marriage to my wife of twelve years. Additionally, this self-expression has virtually eliminated my aggression, although I am continuing to work on it, as I shall now demonstrate. Eventually, the ministry leader apologized for his behavior and, considering my personal success in therapy, began to communicate with me through more peaceful communication skills.
Using this example of passive aggression, I would like to begin by stating that many of us may relate to the habit of suppressing and analyzing emotions. I have found that the skill of active listening, which originates from the virtues of wisdom and understanding, is tremendously healthier than “jumping to conclusions” as the result of an incorrect analysis of words exchanged during an argument (the result of my passiveness.) These virtues of wisdom and understanding can be acquired through these processes of active listening and clarification, which lead to deep insight into the other person’s heart and intentions, which in turn can lead to the deeper virtue of love. Regarding my anger towards the other party, I am beginning to express it as a righteous anger, which leads to the virtue of justice, which I am currently working on and intend to practice through acts of advocacy.
As we proceed on this journey towards exploring these and other virtues, I would like to convey my thoughts on how they can lead to a deeper recovery and an ultimate sense of fulfillment in the virtue of love which binds all virtues (of which there are many,) and humanity itself together in perfect unity. I have used wisdom and understanding as two virtues which have helped me begin to cope with the personality trait of passive aggression. However, I have found that although I have persistently prayed for this virtue, I believe that it is acquired through a fair amount of effort on my part, by practicing some of the more basic virtues of my higher power such as forgiveness, righteousness, and purity, which, in my case refers to pure and healthy thinking patterns. As we begin our journey in my next article, we shall delve deeper into these and other virtues.
Obviously, the virtue of love encompasses all virtues and aspects of life itself. For these reasons I have barely touched the surface of the core of its strength and effects on recovery presenting my passive aggression as but one example of which I could easily expand upon. Furthermore, in my opening sentence I indicated that I have found many personal and spiritual gifts through my higher power which, as I understand him/her is the embodiment of love. Hopefully, this article and my previous one, “Virtues in Recovery,” will serve as the beginning of an incredible journey towards a common destination of love, joy, and peace for both myself and you as my readers. It is my intention to travel along this journey through recovery with you, my readers, and receive the fulfillment of the love and virtue that we experience. As fellow companions please feel free to communicate with me via email through one of my personal email addresses, email@example.com.
At this point, I believe that I have made it clear that I believe in a higher power and rely upon my higher power as a source of strength and guidance. I hope that you, my readers, can relate to my language the love that I express of my higher power regardless of your spiritual beliefs even if they do not reflect a higher power. Because this facet of love can be expressed through abundant avenues of communication and has various meanings to diverse individuals and cultures, all I ask is that all responses to my articles remain non-judgmental and respectful of all perspectives. I will make every effort on my part to adhere to this guideline as well; however, I must make it clear that I am not a professional therapist or religious/spiritual leader. I can only relate my interpretation of the love I have received from my higher power from a personal perspective. To mark the beginning of this journey, I would like to commence with the following quote from a fellow mystic whom I am quaintly becoming familiar with.
John began his journey over twenty-five years ago with a psychotic break in which he experienced several religious thoughts and delusions which were out of touch with reality or true spirituality. Throughout the years following his diagnosis as an adult who struggles with schizoaffective disorder, he has received formal education in religious studies and philosophy while praying and studying the “big picture” of mental illness and the “bigger questions” of life. Through his religious studies courses he received an understanding of his inner being which includes his diagnosis as well as the “big picture” of how he would feel if he were mentally and emotionally stable. Through his education in philosophy, he came to an understanding of how to reach this state through a logical approach to his therapy. It is his desire to share this journey which he will continue throughout the remainder of his mortal life with his audience.