It has been about three weeks since I was inspired by some unknown force (that I do not call god) to involve myself in the freethought/new atheist movement.  It began when I returned from my vacation to Northern California.  My husband and I drove from Northwestern Oregon to San Francisco, and I realized that I noticed the natural beauty in a way that I never had before.  Somehow that inspired me to google "atheist" when I arrived home.  Since then, I can't get enough of The Thinking Atheist, The Atheist Experience, blogs, books, etc.  Who knew?

Coming from an evangelical home (not quite fundamentalist), I was subject to childhood indoctrination.  I had a vague knowledge of the way this impacted me, but since increasing my connection with the community, I am overwhelmed by the impact.  I am stunned.  I am embarrassed.  I am saddened.  The primary impact that I had been aware of  previously was the chronic sense of guilt, the fact that I had married only to get heavenly permission to have sex, and a generalized difficulty making my own decisions.

Having immersed myself in atheist material, I am very troubled.  I realized that in addition to the guilt and indecisiveness, that I have never been taught to think.  I consider myself a relatively intelligent person.  I have a doctorate in clinical psychology and a thriving practice.  I love what I do and have some evidence that I am relieving some of the world's suffering one person at a time.  However, somehow I made it through my entire educational experience without ever having a class in critical thinking or logic.  I have never been education how to challenge any idea held by another person, or even recognize when someone is feeding me a load of bullshit.  I've not been given one of a parent's most wonderful gifts to children, a bullshit meter.

The way the brain shuts out uncomfortable information is amazing.  I have lived in a fog.  Even after de-conversion, I have lived in a fog.  I suppose that a godless for is an improvement over a religious fog, but I want to come in to the clearing now.  I want to learn how to think clearly.  I believe this is why I have so enjoyed watching and listening to The Atheist Experience.  Even when they are responding to irritating trollers, I get a great deal out of it because I hear them identifying and calling out the logical fallacies that I never learned how to recognize.

I have been even more shocked at the recognition of an even more shocking omission in my education. I was never taught about evolution.  I knew that the theory of evolution existed, but I did not know anything about it other than that it was an attempt to refute god by the godless heathens.  

The list goes on.  I know nothing about the historical evidence of biblical times.  I know nothing about women's studies.  I know nothing about the stance of the founding fathers on separation from church and state and god.  I know nothing about cosmology.  I know nothing about philosophy and how we discover what is true.  How can this happen?  How can I be a doctor of clinical psychology and not know these things?

I attended a religious university. 

I have some work to do.

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Tags: Critical, Education, Thinking

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Comment by Luara on August 31, 2013 at 6:55am

There are standard tests for celiac disease but not for delayed food allergies.  There are alternative medicine tests out there but they are highly dubious.

People can have celiac disease without any symptoms, and a celiac would often not notice anything special after eating bread or milk.  After they've gone gluten free, they would typically get sick for about 4 days if they get "glutened", as I described in the posts in the Medical Atheists group. 

The most reliable way of diagnosing the non-gluten delayed food allergies is to do a hypoallergenic elimination diet for a week or two, then eat some of the food.  If one gets sick or has some definite reaction after eating the food, then there is likely a delayed food allergy. 

But elimination diets may fail, if the elimination diet has foods that you are allergic to. 

I came down sick in 2002 - feeling very woozy, lower abdominal pain, joint pain, tendon pain, and suspected it was food-related.  I was seeing an allergist for my inhalant allergies, and I did an elimination diet that he had given me that luckily was gluten-free.  When I did food challenges - pow!  I started getting sick about half an hour after eating the food and after an hour or two I was really sick and stayed sick about 4 days.  This is the most common kind of reaction, although some people say they have reactions days after eating the food and immune reactions delayed for days are seen in vitro. 

There are different immune reactions to gluten.  There's an autoimmune process that is started by gluten in celiac disease.  The delayed food allergies are different I think, they happen with any food allergen, not just gluten.  But there is not much evidence of other foods besides gluten, triggering an autoimmune process. 

My states of crying despair and suicidal feelings didn't go away with just a gluten-free diet.  Only later when I stopped eating more foods that made me sick after another elimination diet, did that go away.  I'm much more cheerful now.  Also my "reactive hypoglycemia", high anxiety, tension, irritability after eating carbs, went away after that later elimination diet.

The only non-standard testing I got was from Enterolab, to try to get an idea of whether I have celiac disease.  I probably do - I came down with Hashimoto's, an autoimmune thyroid disease that's statistically associated with celiac disease, later. 

I have so many delayed food allergies that it's easier for me to list foods I can eat than ones I can't.  All the foods I ate regularly, I had reactions to after an elimination diet, except for mint, radishes, lettuce and vanilla bean. 

Yes the gluten content in wheat increased due to breeding.  Also some other wheat allergen increased. 

Comment by cbenhamcox on August 30, 2013 at 11:29pm

This is all really fascinating.  I will definitely have to look into it.  I cut gluten myself about a year ago, not due to celiac but due to a dare from a friend and doing some study about the massive issues with genetic engineering in wheat.  It had a profound effect on me.  I have never been tested for any allergies however.  I have considered being tested for food allergies, but I haven't studied up on what are the legitimate methods to do so.  What were your other allergies?  I often hear about the idea that our bodies don't do well with wheat, dairy, or soy...but a good friend of mine was told that she also had problems with nightshades.  The method for testing that she had sounded a bit like quackery to me, though.  I'll check this out on medline!  

Comment by Luara on August 30, 2013 at 9:22pm

ps I found that cromolyn, a mast cell stabilizer, makes my delayed food allergies much less intense.  There's another mast cell stabilizer called ketotifen that I might try also. 

People often find out about their gluten reactions by trying a gluten-free diet - but really they should get tested for celiac disease first.  There's a blood test panel for various antibodies in celiac disease.  The blood tests and biopsy testing for celiac disease go negative soon after someone is gluten-free, and once gluten-free, it can be hell going back to eating gluten again to get a reliable test for celiac disease. 

If someone with celiac disease eats gluten, they're running a risk of several kinds of cancer, etc., so they have to strictly avoid gluten.  Without knowing if they have celiac disease, people are liable to not be strict about avoiding gluten, so the testing is important. 

Comment by Luara on August 30, 2013 at 8:54pm

 I totally agree with you on the food allergies, and would love to read the studies.

I put some research on gluten-mind interactions on my website, I can point you to that.  There's been a lot of recent research on non-celiac gluten sensitivity.  Medline is a good search tool.

I looked into possible mechanisms somewhat - immunoglobulin free light chains apparently provide a non-IgE allergy mechanism.  Also people can have IgE-mediated allergies that are localized in an organ.  Both might cause delayed food allergies. 

From what I've read, it's more likely that mental symptoms are caused by food if the person also has physical symptoms.  However the physical symptoms aren't necessarily obviously related to the GI tract.  I was sick about 6 weeks/year starting when I was 20 - extreme fatigue, flu-like illnesses.  Also I had what's called "reactive hypoglycemia" for decades. 

I wrote about what happened when I quit the foods I had these allergies to: 

I had spent my life in dreams. My feelings and thoughts were very loud, calling me to pay more attention to them than to objective reality. My vision was ensouled - my abstract perceptions, my emotional thoughts were also visual perceptions. My feelings were alive in my vision, as small almost-hallucinations, as if my vision were permeated with something transparent that moved and sometimes formed shapes that were feelings. Out on walks, I had an unpleasant, compulsive fascination with graphics, posted announcements, art - as if there might be something very interesting, or it was something I needed to see - but I was annoyed to have to look, too. I was very tense; little things would upset me a lot and my back would get terribly tense, and I could only relax after hours in a hot bath. My mind translated the muscle tension as rage, and I was angry a lot of the time. I had spells of despair, I would cry and cry and wonder if my life was ever going to get any better. I felt like killing myself, often. I had a waiting room in my mind, where my words would have to sit in a state of unease before I let them out of my mouth.

When I finally quit gluten and the other foods, after half a lifetime, it was as if I'd had a tree growing in my mind, with its roots tangled everywhere, and it was pulled out. I could FEEL that my mind was fundamentally changing.

It was a giant relief from anxiety. I don't have to forge through a crystallized cloud of anxiety, that chattering static of anxiety that used to be around me all the time, to do little things. My words glide out as if they were slipping out of my mind, past the little mental hands I used to parcel out my words with. I don't control my actions as much either. I'm more stable, because the world isn't always coming in and exciting me emotionally - so now I look for stimulation in the outside world. My vision is just vision, less interesting than when it was so decorated with my feelings. My "deep" rage, my simmering unfocused anger, vanished as if someone had waved a wand at it. I let go of resentments more than I used to; I've been able to do things I couldn't before, because I accept that bad things might happen. I'm not as vulnerable - my new calmness shields me. I'm much more realistic. My despair went away. I'm sure that wasn't just because I had found answers, because I only stopped having those terrible spells of crying despair after 2005, when I found more food allergies that had been hidden.

It hurts less to be alive, now. The food allergies caused me psychic - pain - so that I tried to get vicarious satisfaction from other people's pleasures. I was horribly abused as a child, and I thought this was the explanation of all my problems before I found my food allergies. An ex-boyfriend used to tell me that I was wrong to think my pain was so much worse than other people's - but I know that was a true perception, because although I'm still an abuse survivor, it hurts much less than it did. Some of the power that the abuse had to limit my life, the dark, hating demon-souls of my parents that occupied my mind, the primitive voltage of their gaze, turned out to be gluten-caused hypersensitivity. I can enjoy math and physics more or less in peace, even though my father taught them to me with screaming and raging insults, because my memories are quieter now. I used to feel like a Martian, like a visitor to this planet, a stranger drifting through the human race. And that was also true. I really was different. My consciousness was different from other people's. I feel like a person, now. I'm less a bare wire, needily wanting contact and comfort from people, yet over and over struck by flashes of hostility, like a lightning-charred tree.

Hypersensitivity, dreaminess, feelings infused with vision, vision infused with feelings, the past very close to the present - all could have the same cause. Maybe the delayed food allergies cause neurotransmitters to change so that there's more communication inside one's brain.

I also got more alert, more "with it", quicker. My chronic slight fog lifted. I used to see people through the picture I had of how they ought to act, which was based on my emotional needs. Now I realize I'm interacting with social, emotional creatures: subjective, clothed apes.

Comment by cbenhamcox on August 30, 2013 at 5:09pm

Loren,

Thanks for the suggestions!

Comment by cbenhamcox on August 30, 2013 at 5:09pm

Luara, so terrible to hear about that kind of unprofessional and unethical behavior.  There are, unfortunately, many more than two schools on therapy and not all have the same amount of scientific research.  The behavior you mention by that one is appalling!  I totally agree with you on the food allergies, and would love to read the studies.  I have had two clients with intractable depression (tried every drug, every kind of therapy, etc) that stopped eating gluten and felt amazing.  Was it a placebo?  Possibly, but one has to wonder why all of the other treatments wouldn't have a placebo effect.  I think soon there will be much more intersection of understanding all the complexities of the body and brain.  I can never imagine saying "you aren't being nice enough..." to anybody, especially a client.  

Comment by Luara on August 30, 2013 at 12:40pm

 It's very unfortunate that you had a therapist that behaved in that way.  This is why the Secular Therapist Project is so important. 

We had terrible arguments. 

Me, complaining that the doctor just bandaids my health problems with drugs.

Her, very sweetly, "Maybe you should see a homeopathic doctor.  They wouldn't push drugs on you".

Me, doubled up, "Oh FUCK!!!"

Later, she told me her feelings had been hurt, because a homeopathic doctor was her friend.  The "you aren't being nice enough" line. 

I don't think she was conventionally religious though. 

I was helped somewhat by therapy right after I emerged from my abusive family.  It helped to have an outsider giving me a different picture of myself, helping me become an independent adult.  I got a new mental framework.  It was helpful for the first couple years or so, but after that became a crutch.  Nothing very "deep" happened. 

There are two different models for psychological help around.  There's the psychosocial model, where you think about it, feel about it. 

Then there's the psychiatric model where you get drugs to change your state of mind. 

But there's a third reality, that I didn't know about for decades - that was the psychological effects of delayed food allergies.  The mast cells in the GI tract release histamine, and there's a "second brain" in the gut with histamine receptors, and that may be why immune reactions in the gut can have profound effects on one's mind. 

It's something barely beginning to be understood.

Comment by Loren Miller on August 30, 2013 at 9:53am

I can help with a couple of your line items, or at least give you a starting point:

That will at least get you started.

Comment by cbenhamcox on August 30, 2013 at 9:15am

Well stated Luara.  It's very unfortunate that you had a therapist that behaved in that way.  This is why the Secular Therapist Project is so important.  There certainly is a great deal of pseudoscience and intellectual tap dancing in the world of psychology.  There is also very little monitoring by licensing boards in several states, so that providers like the one you just mentioned can continue engaging in unethical behavior.  

There are many inherent flaws in some of the methodology used by psychology, such as lack of control groups, use of survey data, use of self report, lack of control for placebo effect, etc.  I have a difficult time sitting at professional conferences for this reason.  For myself, work with clients now includes references to evidence base for techniques that I use (references in support and those not in support) along with brain studies so that they are informed of what is happening and why it is believed that it works.

Comment by Luara on August 30, 2013 at 7:37am

I have never been education how to challenge any idea held by another person, or even recognize when someone is feeding me a load of bullshit.

I would have thought bullshit detection is an essential part of being a therapist!  Many people have false selves, and seeing that seems essential for a therapist.  

Therapy seems to be a socially-accepted pseudoscience.  Your saying you didn't learn critical thinking in your training suggests that.  If you had been trained in a science like physics or chemistry or math, you would have learned critical thinking.  Creating a math proof involves being critical of one's own thoughts - each step has to follow logically (although flights of fancy are also crucial).  And physicists or chemists have to check their calculations. 

I had a therapist at one time who gave me an up close and personal exposure to cognitive distortion.  She was into alternative medicine and she also claimed that she had cured people's health problems by therapy.  I was sick a lot (and still am) from autoimmune problems and allergies.  I can easily believe that these problems were partly caused by what my parents did to me when I was a child. 

But she inferred from that, that therapy could cure my immune system problems.  It doesn't follow, but she believed that. 

It seemed that wanting to sell her services, distorted her thinking.  If someone hadn't been healed by her, it's always possible if they try harder and stay with it, the therapy will "work". 

She didn't help me emotionally either.  At the time, I was finding out that delayed food allergies, including probably celiac disease, were causing me severe emotional distress.  So it wasn't surprising that therapy didn't help much. 

Much later I found out she had been raised in a fundamentalist religious family, and her distorted thinking made sense to me.  She had replaced the religion with a philosophy and therapy technique that she believed in religiously. 

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