One of the biggest stumbling blocks for atheists and twelve-step programs are the first few steps. In particular, the requirement to believe in a Higher Power as you know it. I may not be able to believe in an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent being who actually CARES about my inability to stop eating, but I can lay all my trust in science.
The idea that we only use 10% of our brain is actually a myth, but I DO believe there is an untapped portion of my mind that can be called upon as my Higher Power. I imagine it to be quite childlike, but eager to help and please me. I imagine it to know what is the best for me, but at the same time, it can be suppressed and silenced with no more than a cookie. It craves gratitude and appreciation, but it will withdraw if I refuse to acknowledge it.
When Twelve Step programs recommend that I “make a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand Him,” I have a problem with that. I am ok with the idea of turning over my will and life over to that part of my MIND that has been with me my entire life, just desperate to help, but unable to be heard past the din of bad food. Every day in meditation, I can feel the weight of food being passed to that part of my brain and I am far more peaceful.
This part of my brain is very much like the typical god-like figure. It is certainly omni-present. I’ve had this part of my brain with me since I was very young. In fact, the reason I feel that it is like a child is because that is when I first had the feeling that I could never get full. No matter where I go, my brain is there as well. There is no escaping it.
In some respects, this part of my brain is also omniscient. It knows EVERYTHING that has happened to me and EVERYTHING I’ve thought. It’s not truly omniscient, because it doesn’t know what everyone else thinks or knows everything that could possibly be known. In the realm of my experience, however, that part of my brain IS omniscient.
Strangely, I’m even beginning to believe that this particular part of my brain just may be omnipotent as well. I have just handed over the decision-making about food and exercise to it every day, and every day I have been able to follow through. It’s not a struggle like it was before. It has been miraculously serene and livable. As far as control over my seemingly uncontrollable body and hunger, this part of my brain feels pretty damn near to omnipotent.
In Speaker for the Dead, a sci-fi novel written by Orson Scott Card, Ender has a computer AI in a device in his ear called Jane. She has been with him since childhood, but at a critical moment, he turns her off as a sign of good faith to the people in the room. For her, time is not like time is for us and she feels rejected for the equivalence of lifetimes while the device is off.
I feel like that part of my brain that I have been forming a bond with is a little like that computer, Jane. I have turned off that part of my mind for YEARS, squelching it out with food and binges. Its feelings are hurt, but at the same time, it desperately wants my attention. It wants to help me. It doesn’t feel like what I am asking it to do is a burden. It feels as if it should have been there to help me all along, but I just never gave it a chance.
I believe that the concept of God is so real to people because they have hidden from that aspect of their brains for so long that it literally feels FOREIGN to them. Despite the fact that this powerful aspect of our minds has been there all along, it can feel like an other being because we have shut it out for our whole lives.
If you have decided that a Twelve Step program might not be right for you because you can’t believe in God, then there IS hope. You don’t need an imaginary friend living in the sky because you have your own brain that has been there all long and is eagerly willing to help you finally conquer your uncontrollable eating.