Thursday, August 23, 2012

Stages of Faith - Stage 1 - Trusting you are Safe

My favorite read in graduate school, that I still consider a favorite, is a book by James Fowler called, "Stages of Faith:  The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning."  I think of his important work often since he addresses how we all get stuck emotionally and psychologically at an age way back in time (and never move past it) if we don't work on issues from childhood, adolescence and young adulthood.  This is really the case for all ages throughout our lifespan.

If we were mentally, emotionally, physically, or sexually hurt or abused at a certain age during our lifespan, and then ignore the hurt and pain, we become stuck at that age and are unable to move forward fully in our lives.  Our spiritual beliefs can be stuck back in time also where we may not see the Divine in a way that has a full mature view.

Fowler gives six stages of faith which are important in self understanding but, with more recent research, we should really be looking at seven stages.  Over the next few weeks, I'll be going over each phase separately since each stage can help us in understanding where we're at with our personal and spiritual growth.

When Fowler wrote the book, he did not include ages 0 - 2 which should really be Stage 1.  This age has been only recently considered extremely important to an individual's future well-being.  This is perhaps the most important age in being able to move forward easily and effectively as a child, adolescent and adult.

Stage 1 is the preverbal age where trust is developed.  If we do not bond with a parent (are neglected), are abused, or hurt in some significant way, we will have difficulty trusting that the world is a safe place to live along with finding it difficult in trusting that those around us can be trusted.  Because we are preverbal, it is more difficult to heal this time period since we could not create a narrative for our difficult experiences making it difficult to work it through today.

If you have moderate to severe difficulties with trust, you may have some 0 - 2 issues to work through.  Because you didn't have the ability to put words to your experiences, you  have to work mostly with your emotions to heal yourself.

The emotions will be stored in your body so you want to pay close attention to where your body is holding onto your emotions.

  • If you feel grief, be with the grief and pay attention to where you feel the grief in your body.
  • Once you identify where the grief is held in your body, stay with that part of your body and stay with the feelings of grief.  For example, if you feel the grief in your heart, keep your focus on your heart.  As you stay focused on the grief in your heart, you may get a picture of something that made you sad.  As you stay with the picture of what made you sad, you may feel a sense of loneliness and distrust.  As you stay with these emotions, you may feel it leave from your body.
  • After you finish focusing on your heart and the emotion of grief, loneliness, and distrust, pay attention to your body again.  Does your heart feel the same or different than before?  You may feel a lower level of grief or it may feel clear now.  If you still feel grief, go back to the grief in your heart and stay with it until it feels more neutral.
  • After your heart seems more in balance, pay attention to your body as a whole.  Does any other area of your body stand out as needing more attention?  You may notice that your solar plexus/waist feels more tense.  If it does, stay with the tension.  As you stay with the tension, it may turn into anger or irritation, as you stay with the anger or irritation, you may feel resistant to feeling it.  Stay with the resistance until it clears.  
  • Some times the body will feel resistant for a number of days.  If it does, this can be a normal phenomena.  Sometimes the body is simply too afraid or not ready to release something. Stay with the resistance until its ready to release--even if its only for a minute or two at a time.  
  • Keeping a focus on what's going on with your body lets your body know that you're okay with whatever is there which gives it permission to release it.  "Whatever you resist persists" so just being with whatever is there is the key to freeing yourself up from it.
These are all examples of following whatever you're feeling until your body releases the tension or emotions that are there.  After you're done with being with your emotions and releasing them, always make sure you ask to replace them with your own Divine Essence or any other qualities you need at this time. 

How does being stuck in Phase 1 effect  your spiritual life and beliefs?

It may be more difficult to believe there is a power higher than yourself/God helping you.  You may feel totally abandoned by God and wonder if there's anything at all out there that can help you feel better.  Anyone can feel this at times but this may be a persistent feeling of hopelessness and mistrust that never lets up and makes you feel like nobody or anything can help you feel good about yourself.

If this is true for you, make sure you find a competent professional to help you so you can begin recognizing you have some support in your life.

Remember that anything that has happened to you, at any age throughout your lifespan, is only an experience.  You are not your experiences so you can let them go.  

You are a Divine Being having a human experience.  Because you are a Divine Being, this human existence is but a short journey to experience new, interesting relationships and new, interesting experiences.  Make sure you enjoy this very short journey.


Doug Toft said...

Maureen: Thanks for another wonderful post. Are you familiar with the focusing process ( It is also based on awareness of physical sensation. What you write here reminds me of it.

Maureen Higgins said...

Thank you for your comments Doug. No, I haven't head of but just looked it up. It looks very interesting