This thrilling excerpt from God’s Upgrades … My Adventures describes something of the process of recovery from a nervous breakdown. Not for the squeamish!
what emerged over the months, and this is why I believe that Gestalt therapy was exactly the right model for me, was a realisation that my whole life, and my whole faith, had been about a quest for certainty. I had been brought up, as you have heard, in the kind of church where being ‘right’ or, as we put it ‘sound’, was the only thing which counted. We even used to sing that old song
I know I am, I’m sure I am!
Someone once said, a bit unkindly perhaps, that Evangelicalism isn’t a theological position; it’s a neurosis. Overstated of course, but I came gradually to see that there could be some truth in it, and that the preoccupation in some bits of the church with correct doctrine and the witch-hunting of those who disagreed was not perhaps the most healthy of lifestyles to have pursued. I came to understand that studying theology at one of the most ‘liberal’ places in the country had set up a huge dichotomy within me. I had loved every minute of my theological education, and had come to value, whilst not always swallowing whole, the insights of critical theological study. But deep within me the desire always to get it right was still lurking. As I approached the end of my training, and was about to be ordained and launched into a waiting world, this tension became acute. I came to understand that it was significant that my initial ‘breakdown’ on that fateful Monday morning came immediately after a visit to my potential first parish, during which the deal had been done and I had agreed to go there.
So to use my therapy session to understand what was going on for me, to explain my symptoms and to tie them down exactly to different kinds of stress-inducing events was merely playing into my weakness. Peter’s refusal to join in with that game, his repeated answers of ‘I’ve no idea!’ to my agonised questions, gradually taught me that it might be easier all round if I just stopped asking silly questions and accepted the fact that life was messy and things happened. And in terms of my faith, I came painfully and slowly to realise that God doesn’t always have to explain himself to me, and that now and again he might just do things which I don’t understand, and which I don’t need to understand.
It was also Peter who, in one of our very early sessions, responded to my use of the term ‘breakdown’ with the simple question ‘Breakdown, or breakthrough?’ I came to understand, and I guess this is a huge part of my motivation in writing this now, that to some extent we have a choice. When life crumbles around us do we simply cave in, or do we seek to move into a new way of living and understanding. Do we accept and download, or simply try to live on with the bug-infested old version?
God’s Upgrades … My Adventures is published by Authentic Media