8 things that help us survive spiritual vertigo

kathyescobar faith shifts, healing 27 Comments

spiritual vertigo working definition

i originally wrote a post about surviving spiritual vertigo in 2008.  it was for those of us who were in the midst of some kind of crazy spiritual shift and were feeling disoriented & confused.  little did i know five years ago how many of us were out here, spinning and whirling without a lot of help for the process.

this week i was in a couple of conversations that reminded me how hard it is: 1) to make these spiritual shifts ourselves. and 2) for family & friends who are worried for our souls and don’t know quite what to do with us.

that post was extra-long & murky, so i thought i’d revisit it, make some changes, and split it up to be a little more helpful for both groups. today is part 1 – survival strategies for those of us who are experiencing some form of spiritual vertigo.  tomorrow i’ll post part 2 – tips for family & friends who don’t know quite what to do with us!

here are 8 survival strategies that might help when we enter into the land of questions, change & scary spiritual shifts.

1. get used to blank stares & nervous twitches. some people don’t know quite what to say or how to react when we start sharing things we are thinking or strongly disagree with, or are more raw and unedited than they are used to.  it can make us feel misunderstood, but remember, many of those around us just can’t get their head around why we aren’t playing the same anymore. we can’t take care of them, but have to prepare ourselves to be misunderstood.

2. let ourselves grieve.  spiritual shifting includes a tremendous amount of loss–relationships, comfort, ministry roles, family security, and all kinds of other things we once held dear.  i way underestimated how difficult it would be to leave  much of what i had known. grief includes a wide range of emotions and springs up in the weirdest of situations. i have gone to events or parties thinking it would be no big deal for me and ended up bawling in the car all the way home.  interactions with people, situations, experiences still tap into how much i’ve lost. part of healing is to let it be what it is and not pop a cork in it.

3. focus on love (and relationships). God’s love supersedes language and systems and cultures. Love binds us all together somehow. most of us aren’t throwing out God’s love on this journey of spiritual transformation. in fact, it’s just the opposite. we are trying to move closer toward it, to receiving it, to giving it, to knowing it in the deep crevices of our heart in ways church sometimes didn’t teach us. at the core of all the shifting seems to be a sincere draw toward how to live Jesus’ love out truthfully in the here and now. regardless of how far off the map we feel we’ve gone, if we’re pursuing Love & people, we can’t go too wrong.

4. strain to hear God’s voice in new ways. the reason i use the word “strain” is that in the midst of the din, confusion, fear, i found that the ways i used to hear God didn’t work anymore. i felt dead to things that once made me feel alive. part of the journey has been learning to notice Jesus’ heart for me, the world, in ways that i previously hadn’t relied on. songs, people, experiences, movies, bizarre interactions, random scriptures, all kinds of things started to get my attention and i began taking greater notice of ways God was indeed reminding me of what was true, noble, pure, good, trustworthy. it now comes in new & unfamiliar ways.

5. find safe people (and hopefully funny ones) to journey with.  some how, some way, find some safe people to process this with. this has saved my life, my faith.  my friends who listen, make me laugh, let me go off the deep end and still love me, who don’t care about my questions, my doubts, my radical ideas, but care about me.  online, face-to-face, in a group, on the phone, whatever you need, it’s worth seeking and there really is an underground railroad out here. we all have to intersect with friends & family who might not feel safe, but i have found that if we have enough good ones to fall back on, it makes the toxic ones less damaging.

6. practice soul care. this is what most of us aren’t so great at and can be the thing that saves our lives–and our faith–in the end. tenderness & care & being kind to ourselves is extra-needed during this season of spiritual upheaval and can help settle our swirling heads & hearts.  if you aren’t sure what might help, consider these ideas.

7. trust the long (and i do mean long) haul process.  it can often feel like the darkness is endless. some of what we used to hold dearly to is indeed gone forever and that is so scary, but over time (as in years, not months), we will find that what’s left is enough and that we are actually more secure and stable than we might expect. light begins to creep in and will get brighter and brighter over time.

8. consider pursuing some of your dreams, no matter how big or small.  so many of us have wanted to be with the poor, write, create, start something, try something. love our neighbors more intentionally, go abroad. consider just going for it, quit waiting for the perfect time. give it a try. experiment. risk. your passion is holy and slowly & surely brings forth new life.

oh, there are many others that could make this list, but i think some of these are central. what else would you add?

tomorrow: and…8 ways you can support friends or family experiencing a spiritual shift

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ps: just a reminder, too, about our next walking wounded: hope for those hurt by the church online class, starting monday march 4th. it’s a great way to gain some traction on healing and movement after a church or faith shift.  4 weeks, in a really simple & safe format.  if you or someone you know could use some help in this process, would love for you to join us.