As one of the many process addiction being overly religious is not a common one. Most people who practice religion are doing so within the normal bounds of faith and interest. It can be difficult to tell where the line between responsibility and obsession lies when it comes to religious beliefs. Particularly since religion is such an integral part of many people’s lives. Often the relationship with God and ones faith is a way of life. It is fine for most people, however sometimes it can go bad in ways that end up hurting others rather than improving lives. Some people may have such positive experiences with religion that they could not imagine it possibly being a “bad thing”. However it is possible.
When one becomes addicted brain altering chemical changes take place. There is a well documented process to addictive behavior and this process can be applied to almost any aspect of life that is taken to extreme levels.
The Process of Religious Addiction
1. Preoccupation. When one is preoccupied with their faith, religion, religious institution or other aspect of their beliefs it can become a problem. Simply thinking about religion when not at a church function is not preoccupation. Preoccupation occurs when it begins to get in the way of our life. When we are discussing important non-religious topics with our spouse, but we are daydreaming about the next church function, or interjecting inappropriate religious sound bytes. Looking forward to something that gives us pleasure is ok, but trying to generate the chemical highs through anticipation, planning and execution to the point that it interferes with our personal relationships is part of the preoccupation phase of any addiction.
2. Rituals and behavior patterns. Doing things the same way over and over in anticipation of the final event is another way we gear our minds up for fulfilling the addiction. You know your favorite religious radio show is at 10 am every Wednesday. You must hear it, so you plan your week around it, you sit in the same chair. You tune in a few minutes early and get your cup of coffee. If anyone interferes with this ritual you may feel angry, or anxious. If you are late or miss your show it can cause you great pain. When this behavior becomes obsessive, likely being played out daily, or even hourly it can turn into a religious process addiction.
3. Participating in the act – using. This part of the process is likely the shortest, but most intense. It is the actual act of picking up the drug and putting it into your body. The sexual relief, the food binge however the addiction plays out.
4. Aftermath. We realize that how we acted in the previous stages of the cycle hurt people around us,m or somehow caused us to behave in ways that are against our moral standards. We break our own rules and for that we feel tremendous guilt and responsibility. This often leads to us to seek relief yet again through engaging in one or another of our addictive behaviors again.
Here is an interesting chart comparing alcoholics to religious process addictions. Borrowed from spiritualabuse.com
|Mood alters up by drinking; mood alters down by not drinking or simply by thinking about the prospect of not drinking.||Mood alters up by behaving religiously; mood alters down when they don’t or can’t (attend church, read the Bible daily, pray enough, etc.)|
|Chooses to be with people who have a relationship with alcohol similar to their own; relationships with others become a casualty.||Chooses to be with people who have a religious belief system similar to their own, withdrawing from friends and even family members who don’t.|
|Gravitates toward places that cater to, are sympathetic to, or even encourage using behavior (e.g., the local bar).||Attends church and activities with people who believe the same or attends activities that are sponsored by like-minded groups and organizations.|
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