I’ve been afraid of some changes headed my way, mostly because I will be transferring to a job position (SVU and Crimes Against Children) that fills me with memories of some of the worst black and white (or some call it all-or-nothing) thinking I’ve ever had.
That thinking was spurred by PTSD from a childhood incident with an intruder (and attempted assailant) that I didn’t know how to handle. And, once upon a time, it caused me to be extremely (like, really, extremely) hyper-vigilant and judgmental. I had come to a select few conclusions which, admittedly, sounded reasonable on the surface, but then I ran with those conclusions to form some very harmful thought patterns. And, at the time, these patterns were potentially triggered by just about everything in my society, and they caused me a lot of anxiety. Fun!
It took a lot of professional talking, analytical thinking (thank you, law school!), and time to realize the errors for what they were. I’m so much better now at questioning my norms, my concepts, my principles, my judgments. I go back to my foundations of thought to make sure I’m not basing conclusions on assumptions that could be (drastically) wrong.
So why am I still scared of the changes headed my way? I’m sitting here thinking about it, and I’m realizing that at least part of it is because I used to think I had to lean on my religion to reason my way out of that hyper-vigilance. Even working through it with professionals, I always attributed that success to my religious leanings. I mean, the professionals I worked with were members of my religion, and, hell, even my law school was run by my religion. So now, having been stripped of that religious belief (ironically on account of the thinking tools I gained from the religious professionals and education), I’m left with something quite different.
So, what is this something? When religion runs through every fiber of everything you do, what is left when religion is no longer there? Well, you are. You are left. I am left. Me.
And I am not black and white either. I am not just religion and I am not just not-religion. Things, concepts, principles, ideas, and people — especially people — are not black and white; they aren’t just either good or bad, right or wrong, this or that. There are degrees to every thing.
A friend of mine reminded me after reading my last story (Losing My Religion) that I was wrong. I was wrong there about not having any tools to do things anymore. If religion and spiritual promptings guided me before, but I no longer believe that religion or spiritual promptings were what they professed to be, then what actually guided me? Well, I did. I guided me (along with all the external inspirations, relationships, and observations in my little sphere of existence). So, I win.
I win against the lack of religion, and I win against the impending changes. And I hope I can continue to see the grey in everyone. The defendants who will come before me will not just be either guilty or innocent, evil or good, despicable or honorable. They will be people, likely with severe problems (some with excruciatingly terrible consequences for their victims, I know), but people. People with parents. People with friends. People with senses of humor, favorite foods and colors, and a host of other human-y, non-black-and-white attributes.
And I will try to open my mind to all that is grey about them and their situations. So that justice will not always be black and white, based on hard-and-fast, never-questioned, possibly-wrong foundational ideas and conclusions. Hold your breath. Here we go.