Finding Light in Darkness
How The Satanic Temple's Tenets Help My Mental Health
I am an atheist. I hold to no gods, no faith, no religion. I don’t have a problem with people finding faith comforting, but I don’t believe in proselytizing and I think that “mission trips” are just a fancy way to say “colonialism.” However, a couple of years ago, I had a friend join The Satanic Temple, and because I try to take an active interest in the lives of my friends, I looked it up. And what I found there, was the Seven Tenets, that are the fundamental base to The Satanic Temple. They resonated with me, and I read more and wrote them out; and over the last two years, have applied them to my life, and my therapist and I agree for once that they have helped me. So without pretense or expectation, I present to you the Seven Tenets, and how I have applied them to my life to aid in my constant process of tweaking my outlook to improve my mental health.
Since I will once again be talking about some of the rougher parts of my mental health here are some trigger warnings: Mentions of sex, sexual assault, eating disorders, obsessive thoughts, obsessive behaviors, exhaustion, self-deprecation
A small disclaimer: I am not a Satanist, or a measured authority on Satanism, and I beg forgiveness to any members of The Satanic Temple, for any misinterpretation on my part. To learn more about The Satanic Temple, and to see my source for information, please visit their website. Additionally, I am not a mental health professional, or expert in anyway. I am simply a person who struggles with their mental health, who writes these things in order to bridge gaps, and reach out to people who suffer in similar ways to me, in the hopes that in this small gesture, I can help someone see that they are not alone and help exists.
"One should strive to act with compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason."
My therapist really likes this one. She and I talk about this practice I have started with repeating the tenets and applying them to my recovery. She says she really likes all of them, even though she is an atheist too, but she likes this one most of all because it is helping me to place a value on myself outside of my use as a tool. I have talked about this before, but I have a deep struggle with placing intrinsic value on myself, and find value through my usefulness to other things. In my professional life, I chose a career that allows me to help others to do their jobs more efficiently. When I am finding reasons to stay alive, I always apply my value to the things that I am capable of, not because of who I am. But this tenet in particular helps me. When I am struggling with myself, and my obsessive behaviors, ticks, depressive swings, mania, eating disorders, or any of the myriad of things that I do that are frustrating to me, I say the first tenet to myself. "All creatures," it says "all creatures," and certainly that includes me. It allows me to offer some compassion and empathy to myself. It is not yet the amount of compassion and empathy that I offer to others, I am not sure if I will ever be able to do that, but it does allow me to ease my frustrations with myself. My therapist says that is progress, and I think it is too.
"The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions."
I often work until I am too exhausted to function. Both in my personal and professional life. I have always been a work horse when it comes to going until I collapse, and while this one seems like it might not be relevant to this Tenet, it is. I have used it to curb the amount of work I do professionally so that I still have the energy to pursue justice. I can't run downtown to a protest if I have just worked 100 hours in a week. So I used this tenet to make changes in my professional life. I went from a job that had me working 100-110 hours a week to one that paid a little more for only 40 hours. Plus, I have made great strides in how I take care of my body so that I can always have energy to fight the good fight. My therapist says that anything that gets me to consume calories, take better care of myself, and not push myself to extremes is a good thing.
"One's body is inviolable, subject to one's own will alone."
When you have bipolar disorder, dissociation is just a fact of life. It is one of the hardest things to describe to a person who doesn't experience it. At its worst, I feel like I am sitting across the room from myself, watching myself do things; at best, it feels like sitting two inches behind myself. My mind and body no longer fully belong to me. I go through the motions of things, but if I am ever sloppy with things at work, it is usually because I was dissociated. I have used this tenet to take steps back to myself. This body is mine, and it is inviolable, it bends to my will alone. Promiscuity is also a common side effect of bipolar disorder, and I made not great choices for most of my life, when it came to partners, who did not always take my consent into consideration when engaging in adult activities. This tenet has allowed me to say stop, no more, and no thank you in a way that I was never able to do before. For that, I will forever be grateful.
"The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo one's own."
Who I was as a person before the age of 25 is a completely different person from the one I am now. I can have the experiences of another person explained to me in great detail, and still not understand fully what they are saying. It is one of the things that I love about humanity; we all have unique experiences, even if we have lived identical lives to someone else, and how we have experienced it has been different. When I meet new people, I try to understand that while they may view things differently than me, that doesn't make their lived experiences less valid. Originally when writing this, I had a caveat to this tenet, but after seeking council from the friend who originally prompted the research, I have removed my caveat. Originally, I was afraid that this tenet could be used to justify all manner of things I don't agree with. However, after speaking with my friend, she advised me that you have to take them all together, meaning that this tenet is tempered with the first and third. I didn't want to have anyone tell me I had to respect Nazis, sexists, and homophobes, but when all the tenets are taken together, then there really isn't room to argue that point. My therapist agrees with me as well. When I was seeking a therapist, I specifically sought out queer and atheist therapists, and I found one who can speak to the experiences I have also had. While I have had therapists before who were straight and/or religious, I have kept my current therapist for years, simply because if I come in talking about being queer bashed, she understands and can guide me from experience. When I spoke to her about my feelings on this tenet, she agreed, stating that offensive is not the same as dangerous. Just as incitement is not protected speech.
"Beliefs should conform to one's best scientific understanding of the world. One should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit one's beliefs."
I came by my atheism honestly. I read a lot of sacred texts, and philosophical takes on religion. I read a lot of ancient and contemporary religious texts, and one of the books that I read on this journey to find out what resonated with me, was The Universe In A Single Atom by the Dalai Lama. In the book, he talks about how Buddhism should adapt to scientific breakthroughs because to not do so would be absurd. (I know that recently he has made some offensive statements regarding trans folk, refugees, and women, and I would like to take this opportunity to say that I do not support his stance on this matter.) I thought about this a lot, and decided I did not need beliefs other than science to suit my natural world. I did not need to explain the things there is no explanation for with magical thinking. I like that this tenet supports this view by acknowledging that science is ever-changing, and that we need to accept new discoveries and breakthroughs as they happen and not cling to what we thought we knew. By applying this to more than beliefs and science, I have been able to do a lot of work on my own personal growth by accepting new information, researching on my own via peer-reviewed papers and journals where possible, and assimilating that knowledge into my ever-broadening world view. In this way, I never stagnate, and it allows me to grow beyond the scope of the person I was before.
"People are fallible. If one makes a mistake, one should do one's best to rectify it and resolve any harm that might have been caused."
I spend a lot of time thinking about the mistakes that I have made, and the people I have hurt in my life. At one point, I took the Alcoholics Anonymous approach of reaching out to these people and apologizing. I was met with a lot of, "I don't care if you're a good person now, you did irreparable damage to me at one point, and I would like it if you left me alone now." At the time, I reacted with anger, and when I read this tenet for the first time, I was struck. All I can do is attempt to repair the harm, but if the there is no way to do that, I have to accept responsibility and make sure that I never repeat the action. I cannot force people to forgive me, and in trying to do so, I am likely doing more harm than good.
"Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word."
I feel that this one is the most important. It has helped me to overcome a lot of blocks I had about seeking mental health care in the first place. Before I read this, I was hesitant to fully open myself to my therapist, much to her chagrin. After reading this for the first time, I took it to heart, and when asking myself how I could make the lives of others better through compassion, wisdom, and justice, I realized that I needed to accept that my therapy sessions were a two way street; and just as I expected compassion from my therapist, I needed to have compassion for her, and not make her job more difficult. Through hiding parts of myself, I was making her do me an injustice by not addressing things that most needed to be addressed. I was not accepting her wisdom by hiding things form her. I specifically sought her out to empathize with me. I have since opened myself fully to her, and the relationship that we have is amazing. The strides I have been able to take in managing my own mental health with the tools she has provided me are spectacular. I am a better person every day for accepting that no matter what stone something is chiseled in, I need to understand that the only real thing is change, and the world we live in is as still as a rushing river.