Excerpt for Agonies and Ecstasies, My Journey Toward Freedom from Extreme Religion by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

This page may contain adult content. If you are under age 18, or you arrived by accident, please do not read further.



living toe-to-toe with uncertainty

David L Siress

Copyright © 2018 David L Siress

All rights reserved.

Distributed by Smashwords

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment and/or study/research. You may share this ebook ONLY with others who clearly demonstrate POSITIVE INTEREST. Please respect the author’s intent for this ebook to be read and shared by people who are POSITIVELY interested in the clinical and scientific issues herein recorded. Please respect the author’s respectful life long search for human meaning by appropriately referencing any written use of the content of this ebook. Respectfully, thank you.

Ebook formatting by




Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Appendix A


In this writing I emphasize my adult life-long motto: “I stand on the shoulders of many giants.” I am not a ‘self made’ human … many ‘giants’ have walked through my living doors to inspire me, to challenge me, and thankfully to care for and love me, as I create ME along the various paths of living. All those giants were or are HUMAN! No gods! Including the human Jesus I knew as a child! I note in this writing, by first name only for all who are currently alive, a few selected HUMANS who, for various deeply personal reasons, have made a significant and meaningful contribution to my surviving, recovering, and thriving on my journey toward freedom from extreme religion. Reality mandates a short list from the thousands of people I have encountered and known and interacted with (in person or remotely) over my seventy-seven years living on this planet. Here, I formally dedicate my writing of my story as follows.

• • • •

Gilbert, my FIRST adult friend and inspiration

Gilbert is my sister Mary’s first husband, my first brother-in-law. Gilbert and Mary lived close by and visited frequently when I was about 12 to 15/16 years old. When Mary and Gilbert visited, especially in the summer, Gilbert often brought his battery radio, and he and I sat on the front porch and listened to St. Louis Cardinals baseball. Baseball is slow, with a lot of time to talk between pitches, and we did. During their visits, Gilbert nearly always related mostly to me, often just the two of us together, separate from the family. I perceived that we talked about everything out there in the real world, Real Reality. During my critical early teenage years, Gilbert was the ONLY adult human in my family, actually in my world at the time, who talked with me personally without talking about RELIGION. Our conversations were about Real Reality, and Real Human Reality.

Gilbert always discussed ‘real stuff’ respectfully, as if I were really human, rather than some gift from some god, as my mother so often told me. He always presented a moderate and rational view of reality, and he modeled reasonableness, conscientiousness, co-existence, logical assessment, balance, and looking at all the complexities of presenting situations - in depth details and perspectives, with lots of questions, and perhaps most important, lots of uncertainties. Totally opposite of Mom’s ‘supernatural extremism’ and Dad’s stoic silence! I remember learning about McCarthyism, and the world politics of the Korean War, and he told me just enough about his experience in World War II to support my innate rejection of violence and war. He even invited me to visit him and Mary when they moved farther away and spend a couple of nights, practiced softball with him, and I attended a game in which he pitched. An adult friend! Talking with Gilbert, I began to learn generally how the human world actually functions, which better fit what I was learning about real humans as an independent Louisville Courier Journal paperboy … far more realistic than what I was being taught in Southern Baptist Sunday School and at home. I carefully attended to his insights, and I learned how to translate some of those insights into my teenage self-identity journey. I suspect I began to learn how to think, some deep thinking, relating with Gilbert.

Relating with Gilbert during those critical developmental years ‘seeded’ many of my private inspirations that sketched the underlying outline for my emerging philosophical worldview, and political reasoning, as well as my developing social consciousness. I realized years later that it was Gilbert’s interactions with me that inspired the enrichment and expansion of my ‘fluid intelligence’ … my life long ability for maintaining passionate curiosity, maintaining an open mind, and creatively ‘connecting the dots’ … meaning, creatively and meaningfully relating the many complexities from various arenas of exploration, different knowledge models, and various domains of Real Reality and Human Reality. I often used ‘stuff’ Gilbert and I talked about as inspiration for learning more about science, history, politics, and human behavior. Our discussions often became the subject matter for my essays in English classes at school (at which I excelled).

One of my personal self-therapy practices, when stressed or anxious, is to purposefully recall a significant memory that always, unconsciously, brings a happy, irresistible, self-organizing smile to my face. Throughout my sixty years since Gilbert and I were relating, I often have recalled precious memories of sharing with him during those critical teenage years, and a smile always spontaneously appears on my face. Thus, with a smile, I dedicate this writing and say Thank You to Gilbert for being YOU and sharing with me.

• • • •

Christopher, my FIRST Asheville friend and fellow recovering journeyman

A few days after moving into our apartment in Asheville, October 2013, Jeanie and I had dinner at Wild Wok. Christopher, our waiter, initiated a conversation with us, and within minutes an intuitive friendship was formed. I was in Asheville to discover, and/or to mold, a new world of friends and groups of friends on whose shoulders I might stand to study and grow and learn and write, and, and. Christopher, about the age I was when I began my recovering from religion journey after Grad School, shared his recovering journey, a journey through growing up in small town ‘Old South’, family trauma, and substance addiction. I shared with him my recovery from extreme religion journey … different and not so different.

Christopher and I almost immediately felt deep existential kinship, with many interlacing interests, and passions, in philosophy, cognitive science, human behavior, childhood development trauma, the arts, religion, and much more … across different generations. He listened and understood when I shared my insights regarding how I learn and grow and thrive by engaging with, supporting, and maybe helping others. I ‘needed’ a friend who ‘needed’ a friend, to engage in sharing our personal recovering journeys.

I was just beginning to write this book and intuited the challenge I faced. Christopher was the first person in Asheville with whom I shared my writing goals and the background motivation for writing my story. He understood that my writing would be a self-therapy journey, not just another event. He and I have continued to share almost weekly, through mutual ups and downs in our journeys since that first encounter, including since he moved from Asheville in Fall 2015. We often discuss our mutual ‘step by step’, ‘in the moment’, ‘mindful/meditation’, and various philosophical strategies and self-therapies, and study interests, as well as mutual self-assessments of our current HBB (human/brain/body) health. Our sharing often serves as the ‘primer’ for my courage to express, to exert, to ACT what little ‘conscious free will’ I can muster. Christopher’s friendship continues to be the primary local inspiration for my ‘completing’ the writing of this book

Thus, I dedicate this writing to Christopher, who has so often, hopefully knowingly, encouraged me to continue on my journey of therapeutic writing and living. Sharing with Christopher has inspired and enriched my ‘fluid intelligence’ that Gilbert help to ‘seed’ long ago - ‘connecting the dots’ - insightfully, meaningfully, from and within various domains of Real Reality and Human Reality! Many healing insights as I am encouraged to continue on my journey of surviving, recovering, and thriving … standing on the shoulders of giants! Thank you Christopher for being YOU and for sharing with me.

• • • •

My FOUR CHILDREN, Cary, Alisia, Brian, Tia

I discuss herein my deep existential respect for the complexities of human cognition/behavior, human ‘being’, recognizing that one can never define nor claim specific direct ‘cause and effect’. Thus, the direct specifics of these three dedications somewhat breakdown! And, I passionately continue to ask unanswerable questions and seek perhaps one more ‘unsayable truth’ that MUST and ALWAYS DOES lie just outside the human linguistic bandwidth. If or when humans stop asking unanswerable questions, and seeking unsayable ‘truths’, our species is in deep trouble.

To dedicate this therapeutic endeavor to my four children presents the ultimate challenge for my linguistic bandwidth, a far greater challenge than trying to ‘talk about’ some imaginary god. From the date of the first birth, December 19, 1961, my children have been a pervasive, embodied, integrated, driver/initiator, inspiring, anchoring, for/of most of my cognitive permutations, in one way or another. As if each child presents another ‘alter HBB (human/brain/body)’ incomprehensibly bound as ‘oneness’ via mysterious primal connections that are eternally ‘unsayable’! Perhaps only folks with children can understand that! Most of my millions of appreciation prayers to the cosmos begin and end with a ‘thank you’ for my four children. I have learned from and with them, been inspired and felt inspiring, loved and felt loved, respected and felt respected, shared and felt shared, and, and …

Perhaps most meaningful overall, I appreciate my children’s sharing with me over the years … their journeys, their friends and partners and their families, their beginnings of wisdom, their children and grand children, their successes and failures, their tears and their joys, and, and … and their dreams! I know of no deeper and rewarding and expansive ‘feeling’ than the ‘feeling’ of ‘dreams being fulfilled’ via my children, grandchildren, and myself … simultaneously.

Three primary ‘beginnings of wisdom’ inspired via my children stand out in my journey. One - the primal understanding of how living organisms are ‘self-organizing’, ‘self-energizing’, self-evolving, self-creating! For sure, my somewhat belated ‘primal understanding’ of this fundamental driver of life, evolution, and NATURE, arose from standing on the shoulders of my children observing their growth and development, and their living, self-creating journeys. For sure, I did not create or make or mold or shape my children into who they are today! They ‘created’ or ‘made’ or ‘shaped’ themselves, via their own personal journeys. And, most of the time their ‘self-organizing’ journeys soared above the idiocies and mistakes and failures and even best dreams of their parents … to ‘self-create’ four beautiful humans … Cary, Alisia, Brian, Tia. I dare any human to demonstrate any evidence that their god, or any god, could do a better job, or even as good a job, of creating these four beautiful humans! Self organized from Star Dust! Naturally!

And two - fully realizing the above when I was a single parent to my two sons for three years in the late 1970s, I ‘naturally’ sensed that my best parenting was based on ‘managing myself’ rather than trying to manage my children. Given a safe/stable space and a parent focused on managing self competently, my children would self-organize competently, on their own … and they did. Thus was born my concept of ‘competent management of self’ as the basis for good mental health, and productive relating to others, and parenting, and leadership, and just about everything else in human reality.

And three - my children taught me that LIFE is about LIVING … a VERB, not a NOUN! Not a ‘thing’ - rather a ‘living journey’! And, the MEANING of that LIVING must and always does involve others, other real flesh and blood humans, not gods! Thank YOU Cary, Alisia, Brian, Tia for ‘being’ YOU and sharing with me through the years. I am honored and inspired to be your father.



“… if you wish to strive for peace of soul and pleasure, then believe; if you wish to be a devotee to truth, then inquire …”

Frederick Nietzsche, Letter To His Sister (Bonn, 1865)

I feel ethically and morally bound to ALERT any potential reader that this writing, which I label a book, is about me, written for me, and written primarily for my personal therapeutic purposes. This writing is not designed to entertain or enhance anyone’s living journey, or to sell for profit. Therefore, this INTRODUCTION is presented, up front, so as to alert any potential reader what I am writing about and why I am writing. Simply said, this writing is about my recovering and thriving journey out of the victimizing ‘extreme’ religion of my childhood and my family of origin, via the existential agonies and ecstasies of knowing and fully engaging the fundamental uncertainties of cosmic REALITY and HUMAN living therein. Every sentence herein written is part of my journey toward freedom to “know thyself’ via confronting, accepting, and exploring possible meanings from my past, framed within my NOW (as I write).

I will note various self-therapy practices in my story; many of which I learned during my two years of Graduate School at the University of Tennessee School of Social Work in Nashville, TN. One of those self-therapy models is therapeutic writing, which can help the writer to achieve a high level of awareness of his/her various emotional states, serve as an alter ego conversant, and serve as a memory history. Beginning in late high school and early undergrad college I often wrote journals, poetry, notes, and essays about my “experiencing” of this thing we so casually call “living”, unknowing that I was engaging in therapeutic writing. I would learn later that such therapeutic writing has proven to enhance the writer’s ability to identify and become aware of one’s various emotional states, label them, reflect upon said emotional states with increased objectivity, and practice various self-therapy models to resolve some of the more troublesome emotional conflicts of living. During periods of emotional conflicts after Grad School I often used therapeutic writing to deal with the emotional conflicts I write about in this story. Thus, I write this book as a general and specific therapeutic writing exercise and adventure. For ME, writing enhances my metacognition; it’s a personal, private forum for “experiencing my experiencing”, “thinking about my thinking”, and/or “feeling about my feelings”.

Necessarily, I must discuss key people, events, and other phenomena in my living in order to sketch the context in which I emerged as ‘who and what and how I am’ as I write this book - ALL in MY HUMAN NOW. That necessity stems from my cognitive arrival at a key cosmic generalization during Graduate School (1968-1970), that at a fundamental level ALL REALITY IS RELATIONAL, certainly HUMAN REALITY! This emergent ‘thing/human’ called David L Siress exists in relation to OTHER - everything outside of my body, my skin, and everything within. Negate all OTHER and I don’t exist. My “ISNESS” - if such exists - ME as a REAL object, and as a real person is relational. And, Cognitive Science informs one that all “experiencing” is relational - generally referred to as “associative”. Thus, to say/write/think anything about ME requires considering my relationships to innumerable KNOWN OTHER, living and non-living OTHER, and exponentially more UNKNOWN OTHER, as well as probably infinitely UNKNOWABLE OTHER. For Human 'others' I choose to use first names only for people who are living at the time of this writing.

My imagined primary audience for this writing is the cosmos, the cosmic Gestalt Therapy “empty chair”, or “hot seat”. Gestalt Therapy is another therapeutic model I learned in Grad School and which, along with other therapeutic models, I adapted for self-therapy for the remainder of my living. A quite distant second audience is perhaps a few random humans, or other ‘intelligent sentient creatures’ (whatever that means) that might have some interest in reading this book, for whatever reasons. My personal moral ethical system forbids even imagining, per se, any particular human, or group of humans, as a potential audience for this highly personal narration. I write primarily to and for myself.

The social and cognitive sciences inform humans that MOST humans live MOST of their ‘living moments/days/months/years’ PRIVATELY. MOST of one’s thoughts, feelings, experiencing, happen/occur, are experienced, and remain PRIVATE, and are never shared as raw data with any other human, up to and including the moment of DEATH. Even with the advent of electronic social media communications, especially Face Book and Twitter types, no human can ‘express, say, record, communicate, etc.’ more than a tiny fraction of the zillions of daily experiences/thoughts/feelings, etc. (Later I will explain how this is part of being HUMAN given how the human HBB (human/brain/body) functions or doesn’t function.) ALL HUMAN COMMUNICATIONS, regardless of format/type/venue, are greatly condensed representational ‘gestures’ or ‘sketches’ or ‘abbreviations’ or ‘symbols’ or ‘surfaces’ of zillions of inexpressible, deep and broad, unsayable ‘experiences/thoughts/events/living moments’ … if expressed/recorded in language, said communications are usually mostly linguistic SHAs (short hand abstractions), mostly metaphorical.

I learned in Grad School, and have confirmed many times over in my subsequent living, that “expressing” or “saying” or sometimes “screaming” or “writing/reporting” or “sharing with another human” some of those otherwise private DEEP feelings/thoughts/experiences IS, or can be, therapeutic. I have indeed used this ‘therapeutic technique/practice’ often in my recovering journey; beginning early at about the age of 14 when I took long hikes with my dog Fritz and “shared” with her the ‘what/how’ of my PRIVATE ME. However, as stated above, still MOST of my PRIVATE experiences during this journey toward freedom have never been expressed, written, shared with anyone, or the cosmos. I fully anticipate that even my most intimate relationships, close friends, and family will see some surprises if they choose to read my story. Thus, as suggested by my therapist in the late 1990s, I must write, up until this writing mostly private, my personal story!

Obviously, such personal narrative is necessarily highly selective, as all human stories are - ‘cherry picked’ so to speak. I take sole responsibility for selecting only a few highlighted memories from the uncountable momentary experiencing in my living for the foci of my story. My selection of momentary memories to narrate is not the same selection of any other person who related or relates to any of the OTHERS herein noted. The probability is quite high that their stories would be different than mine. The memories, living stories, one selects for one’s personal narrative is one of the key features of one’s uniqueness, and definition of self.

There is no conscious intention of presenting any of my narrative as an example of any larger planetary or cosmic reality or truth; I attempt the opposite - to remain very personal. That said, I offer no apologies for the numerous generalizations framed within the perspectives of my world, which are freely proffered herein; I experienced those generalizations. I will attempt to always be aware of, and make the reader aware of my species, planetary, and/or cosmic generalizations. This is a very personal story of one human within a specified context of space/time on planet Earth. I suggest that any reader read no more into this story than the story of one human in said context, unless the reader is willing to accept personal authorship of and responsibility for his/her own personal generalizations. I welcome peer review of my personal generalizations.

I write not to persuade anyone, except perhaps ME. I attempt not to present an arsenal of arguments for or against anything or any point of view, per se. Rather, I attempt to share my personal journey through the morass of arguments, beliefs, scientific evidence, philosophies, histories, personal/cultural myths, personal stories and fictions, psychological/cognitive science models, etc. for and against and in between many life and death shaping evidence, concepts, ideas, beliefs, theories which I have encountered in my journey. I make no conscious effort to secure any reader’s agreement or disagreement with me, for such is essentially not relevant to the progress or purpose of this writing. If there is any unconscious intent in this writing in relation to any potential reader, now knowing ME as I do, I suspect it might be to challenge any reader to “know thyself”, and possibly to be curious or skeptical, or grow in whatever direction you may find best for YOU … IF the reader should be interested in such a journey.

I make that statement because I now KNOW that my deepest conscious, and most of my unconscious voices inside ME approach zero in terms of any evangelical visions - I experience about as close to zero as possible any desire “to fix” or “to change” or “to save” any OTHER human - which was a key hurdle in my recovering journey. My story will reveal my strong, life long, existential commitment to assist/support/encourage any human who desires ‘to fix themselves’ and/or ‘to know themselves’ and/or ‘to change/grow via self effort’. As stated in my senior high school yearbook, my ambition: "To help other people!" I was 19 at the time. If any other human desires said help!

I posit that to understand my story, if that is valued by any reader, requires recognition that most everything said herein is an expression of David L Siress. I experience that at least 65% (probably much more) of all my perceptions and knowing and opinions of OTHER(s), especially other humans, is essentially a projection of ME, and/or a reflection of ME, at least to some extent. My perceptions of other humans ARE mostly about ME, my “take” on them, my response to them, and/or my relationship with them. Therefore, my perceptions of my mother, her religion, and other significant OTHER in my story will not be the same as my siblings, my friends, and/or others who know/knew these people or events. I posit here, and will explore later, that cognitive science evidence indicates humans personally create most of their local realities and their perceptions of OTHER in their own, personally biased, unconsciously and consciously subjective MINDs; based on ‘highly screened (via mostly unconsciously biased filters)’ incoming data from OTHER/outside and inside world; all in neuronal-network representational, simulated format, in ONE individual MIND. I will explore later what Laurence Gonzales (Deep Survival 2003) labels “miss-mapping reality” and “bending the map”, and many cognitive biases, which routinely/frequently results, often ruinously, from this natural human brain functioning. I accept total responsibility for all my perceptions and responses and opinions of all OTHER noted in my story, although most happened in or were triggered by the unconscious ‘ME’, which is directly inaccessible and uncontrollable by conscious “I”.

The above statement is not intended to be apologetic for the herein posited ‘extreme’ behavior/beliefs of some others noted in my story and the evidential personal damages resulting therefrom. Quite the opposite! I do not apologize to or for any OTHER for publishing my perceptions/feelings/experiencing of the ‘extreme’ behavior/beliefs of my mother, which I now consider unforgivably immoral and (ignorantly) abusive, although I fully understand that she was clearly a ‘victim of her religion’ - (my assessment), and probably was diagnosable with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), as I am. I emphasize that my narrative is not primarily about my mother, or her ‘extreme’ religion/beliefs, although she and her ‘extreme’ religious beliefs/practices are key foci of my writing. My story is not primarily about ‘blaming’ or ‘excusing’ or ‘god/parental bashing’ or ‘extreme religion bashing’, although I freely discuss all those behaviors, with no apologies. Rather, I write primarily about my agonies and ecstasies emerging from learning to KNOW and UNDERSTAND and fully ENGAGE ME, and ‘ME’, and “I”, and OTHER, and human behavior in general, and, and … and the human realities in which these occur, especially in ‘extreme’ situations.

Necessarily, and thankfully, the above requires my acknowledging and paying respectful tribute to the ‘healthy/productive/good’ and sometimes beautiful pieces of wisdom I learned from my mother, and her religion/beliefs, and my family of origin. Indeed, some of that wisdom has served as keys to my recovering journey toward personal freedom from the victimizing extremes of her religion. Thus, I posit herein that my childhood/youth environment and my relationships with my Mother’s religion/beliefs, all in complex relations with my genetic heritage and unique self-development, were the probable fundamental sources of both my mental/physical illness and my existential surviving and thriving. I intend to balance my writing, as I do my memories, and my current living, between AGONIES and ECSTACIES! Hopefully, considerably on the positive side of ECSTACIES! However, one may be required to read the entire book to ‘see’ the balance.

Inspired considerably by Frederick Nietzsche, I focus on learning personally to avoid and transcend the common human tendency, in the process of escaping/surviving some evil monster, of ‘becoming a more evil monster than the identified one’ that so harmed me. I focus on learning and practicing how to daily survive, and thrive, free, victoriously, avoiding becoming another ‘victim’ of a ‘victimizing’ evangelical fundamentalist ‘extreme’ religion. To clarify now, up front, the monster to which I refer is my mother’s religion - USA (Missionary/Evangelical/Fundamentalist) Southern Baptist style/(cult) of so-called Christianity.

Note that I do not necessarily generalize an indictment for all religions or all religious people, and probably not all Baptists, although I will share my ‘mind games’ envisioning what HUMAN might look like without any religions. And, noting as a ‘cosmic generalization’ I posit up front; all human EXTREMISM is mostly about ‘victimizing’ and ‘victims’, be it cradled in and justified by love, family, culture, religion, science, economics/business, government, war, whatever and where ever. I posit (generalize) that human extremism is a fundamental, perhaps inescapable, “failure”, perhaps an “illness”, of and in HUMAN; perhaps the inescapable “original sin”.

I ‘use’ or ‘invent usage of’ several concepts and words/phrases; often considerably different from ordinary dictionary definitions and for sure different from colloquial usage. I will attempt to highlight said concepts and words with as solid definitions as I can achieve. For example, in the above paragraphs the reader will note ME/I and ‘ME’/”I”. Quickly defined as follows:

a- ME refers to all of David L Siress - everything David; MIND; body/brain; conscious and unconscious, all behavior; ME (usually used in objective format); I is the subjective pronoun of all of David; unless otherwise noted;

b- ‘ME’ refers to ‘unconscious David’; the 95% to 98% (at least) of all of David, including all behavior and functioning (95% to 98% of ME is ‘ME’); note that ‘ME’ is used both in subjective and objective format; ‘ME’ is unconscious and mostly, at least directly, inaccessible to “I” or I. unless otherwise noted;

c- “I” is the fully (mostly) conscious level/layer of ME (2% to 5% of ME).

I will explain as clearly as possible the cognitive science, cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and physics/biology, supporting these definitions. I use caps and notations “, ‘, and () to denote special meanings and/or for special highlighting, which often do not follow common punctuation rules. More precise explanations will emerge. I attempt to use common colloquial, mid high school level, language as much as possible even when discussing science or philosophy except where noted.

That said, I disagree with Einstein and many other scientists who have proposed that something fully understood can best be stated simply. Yes, that may be a workable hypothesis in methodological, reductionism science, like physics, where mathematics is the primary language - and, I question even that. However, I posit that a fully bloomed ‘human understanding’ of even small pieces of incomprehensibly complex, multi-layered, emergent systems, like human behavior, often cannot be ‘said/expressed’ in any current human narrative language; and perhaps only suggested even in poetry or humor or music or art; and certainly not expressed in any current mathematics. Thus, I may often use the phrase “unsayable”, and unless otherwise noted, I usually am generalizing to posit that HUMAN cannot ‘say it’ in any currently known/invented language or tool, or current human context, even though I may try to do so. Note that such a phrase does not in any manner indicate or even suggest ‘supernatural’. All REALITY about which I herein write is fully and completely NATURAL, “In The Flesh”, material, physical, empirical … lots of mystery and unknowns … no so-called supernatural, or beyond natural.

ALL STATEMENTS regarding others that I make/write in this therapeutic endeavor are to be understood as “I statements”. That simply means that when I state something like “My mother was a victim ….” that written statement is to be understood as “My opinion is that my mother was a victim” …. or “I submit/posit that my mother was a victim” … or in more common language, “I think or I assess that my mother was a victim”, etc. Note that is the way I ‘feel’ or ‘experience’ such statements. Stating that basic assumption in every such statement is practically impossible. Even when quoting “scientific evidence” to support some concept or assessment, my statements should be understood as “Based on such evidence, I assess, or I feel, or I posit ….” In other words, this entire work comes from one human being, David, I/ME, and that carries no more authority than any other single human. This writing is about ME, comes from ME, and is mostly directed to ME … period. The thought that just came to me - this writing is simply some selected moments in my life that are bubbling up to ‘my consciousing’ as “feelings” - and I am sharing them with whomever might wish to read.

To present up front for any reader what this writing is all about - so one can decide to proceed or not - I briefly sketch the major events that will serve as foci for my story. All of these noted items will be fully discussed later in much greater detail; I use ‘blurb format’ below:

*raised in small, conservative KY town in an ‘extreme’ religious family, framed in fear/anxiety and ‘extreme’ supernatural beliefs about reality; dominated by ‘saintly’ mother; raised as ‘gift from God’, ‘chosen by God’ to be a Southern Baptist minister;

*true ‘believer’ in youth - basis of ‘ME’; raised with lots of love and “in group” social isolation until teenager; “fell in love” (my first love, even after I discovered sex) with any/all science and philosophy as teenager; considerable cognitive dissonance began developing about twelve to fourteen years old and quickly developed as late teenager, and grew to explosive proportions in undergraduate college;

*in tune with my sub-cultural expectations, became a Southern Baptist minister at age19; pastored small rural Southern Baptist church two yrs.; tried earnestly and courageously to merge/marry Southern Baptist religion with science/philosophy; fired/failed because I responded enthusiastically “YES” to random question one Wednesday night at church, “Do you believe in evolution?”

*graduated with honors from high school and college; left town of birth, left teaching, gradually left church/religion; became social worker; graduated from Graduate School University of Tennessee School of Social Work; became successful innovative human service program designer/manager for State of Kentucky; licensed and performed private counseling/life coaching; fired because new Governor’s cronies didn’t like my innovative/progressive human service ideas; moved from KY to New Hampshire; divorced from first wife - Julie - in 1976 - became single parent of my two boys for three years;

*moved to New Hampshire in 1980 with new partner - Joyce; personally and professionally bloomed in New England; moved philosophically through agnosticism, disbelieving, atheism, anti-Christ, anti-religion (all religion), post theism, various philosophies such as Existentialism and Humanism - (became a Humanist Celebrant), scientific evidence based reality, and onto non-belief, to science based skepticism, to fully engaged with uncertainty; became a successful innovative human service program designer/administrator/CEO, locally billed as professional “change agent” and human behavior professional/natural philosopher;

*discovered in Graduate School I probably had a mostly sub-clinical case of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD); aggressively addressed and REFRAMED anxiety successfully between 1970 and 1994 via personal therapy, self therapy, and massive/extensive reading/study/research and attending professional workshops/classes relating to any/all sciences, i.e. cosmology/physics, all cognitive sciences/neuroscience, sociology/psychology, all living and evolution sciences; generally very happy, peaceful, personally and professionally successful, with anxiety mostly well managed, predominately via reframing (using CBT theory/practice) and challenging all my unconscious fears; also worked as a counselor for two years in New Hampshire and served as the only clinically trained professional in most of my professional leadership positions;

*Fall 1994 - I was 53 years old; I visited my mother just before she entered a nursing home. She dramatically announced: “… after much struggle with her Lord, she had decided to sacrifice my LIFE to her Lord, for him to take/end my life, when and in whatever manner HE might desire, in order to save my four children from hell”; Mom reported that her Lord told her some weeks previously that my children would never turn to Jesus so long as I lived, and she had prayed that HE would spare my life; now, she had surrendered to HIS WILL to “sacrifice my life”, her son, to her God to end as HE WILLED; she didn’t “know when or how”, but she was quite certain her Lord would indeed end/take my life - kill me - so as to “inspire my four children to turn to her Jesus/God for salvation”; or, she added, HE might choose to kill one of my children, or cause them much suffering, UNLESS I “ … repented of my sins and turned back to the Lord and followed HIS will” the remainder of my life, beginning immediately; hereinafter labeled “my mother’s death curse”;

*since the above event, I have experienced seven major/massive, clinical events diagnosed as clinical anxiety events (Generalized Anxiety Disorder, PTSD, Panic Disorder) - all with physical health involvement. My clinical anxiety situation has progressed to a stage of ‘moderately severe’, with significant metabolic/physiological damage; known generally as deteriorated resilience due to chronic stress (allostatic overload), with mostly unknown metabolic damage.

*after 1994 event and subsequent clinical anxiety events, much personal therapy, extensive cognitive science/neuroscience research/study/professional workshops, medical research/study/professional workshops and medical care related to managing worsening/deteriorating stress situation; much research/study/workshops in ethics/moral sciences and philosophy; assertively focused on ‘surviving’ and ‘thriving’ versus ‘being the sacrificed victim’ of my mother’s God and her extreme religion; and developing considerable expertise in anxiety disorders and cognitive sciences in general; retired in 2008; now living expansively and successfully in Asheville, NC, thriving with clinical anxiety; with my third partner - Jeanie;

*before my mother died in Fall 2000 she assured me three times of two key concepts; (1) although I had always been and was at the time personally quite convinced to the contrary, and had told Mom many times, her Lord assured her that I “was saved”; and “once saved always saved”; and I would go to heaven when God chose to kill me, regardless of what I might think or desire at the time; and (2) the ONLY WAY for someone in my situation to “be sure of not being saved” - not going to her God’s heaven, or “being sure of being cast into her God’s hell for eternity”, is to “PUBLICLY DENY GOD; deny and curse her Lord Jesus Christ as Savior”.

Today, I and all my children and their children are alive and well. I survive my mother’s sacrifice/death curse, and thrive today in a different universe, and herein write of what I label my ‘surviving, recovering, and thriving journey’ through ‘extremism’; extreme religion; extreme sub-culture; extreme conservatism; extreme anthropomorphism, extreme GID (generalized ignorance disorder); extreme anxiety, extreme REALITY, and more.

Next to final alert: realizing early in my recovering journey that ‘I stand on the shoulders of giants’, I am deeply impressed by the journey and writings of Christopher Hitchens, and many others to be named later. Inspired specifically by Mr. Hitchens, my mother, and my knowledge of current cognitive science (how HUMAN BRAIN/MIND functions), I am publishing my story to the cosmos for the express purpose of assuring that I will not perhaps in some humanly weak moment, perhaps even in a compromised, desperate, or demented state, later in my life, or when facing my real world death, be able to refute or deny or be forgiven in any manner or by any entity/being, real or imagined, natural or supernatural, for my herein publicly stated last will and testament.

Additionally, by the age of 50, after many years of ‘trying to PROVE’, to ME, that all gods fundamentally are HUMAN MIND dreams/myths/excuses, I arrived at the science and philosophy inspired realization/generalization that HUMAN can never absolutely, at 100% certainty, PROVE or KNOW much of anything, if anything at all, in our natural cosmos, including “I AM.” And, much less prove anything relating to any super-natural or other-than-natural concepts/ideas/hypotheses! I posit that REALITY, SCIENCE, and being HUMAN, are not about possibilities or impossibilities or PROVING or disproving anything. REALITY, SCIENCE, and LIVING are mostly about PROBABILITIES and IMPROBABILITIES and mostly UNCERTAINTIES. Current HUMAN science informs HUMANS that the quantum fields, from which our humanly observable/measurable/experienced cosmos/REALITY emerges (as far as we currently know), inherently do/does not reveal, transmit/communicate, and does not allow detection/measurement/experiencing of unlimited information (as humans define information). Thus, at least suggesting a high probability that the very fabric of REALITY presents as, or likely more accurately IS, LIMITED in terms of ‘direct’ HUMAN knowing, and/or experiencing.

UNKNOWABLE/UNCERTAIN REALITY - the ultimate uncertainty, for HUMANS! And very importantly, I state that I do not ‘believe’ the above statement - I ‘accept’ that ‘For All Practical Purposes (FAPP)’ that is the most probable ‘description’ of Real Reality (RR) - whatever RR IS or MAY BE. Believing, as in living by FAITH, is a cognitive bias, built on cognitive biases, and resulting in pyramids of cognitive biases!

Therefore, finally, I alert the reader that as YOU read my story, if you choose to read it after reading this lengthy introductory alert, you are participating in my personal therapeutic endeavor - you are rendering my last will and testament public, and thus assured. Thank you - I appreciate!

LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT: In writing this story and publishing it to the cosmos, I am securing my final PUBLIC existential freedom from, my final PUBLIC existential release from, being ‘victimized’ by my mother’s “sacrificial death curse” as framed within her ‘extreme’ religious beliefs. I, as HUMAN, cannot PROVE her God IS or IS NOT, exists or does not exist. And, I as HUMAN do not ‘believe’ or ‘disbelieve’ (I have basically disabled my ‘belief cognitive biasing’ - as much as possible) anything related to Mom’s God. Thus, her God is ‘uncertain’ in REALITY - for ME! Mom’s beliefs about that God are uncertain in reality - for ME! ALL my seventy-seven years of studies, including reading the Bible three times, clearly indicate a high probability - for ME - that my mother’s God does not and cannot exist, as she believed. However, current quantum science indicates that given enough time anything that has a probability of greater than zero WILL happen/emerge as REAL at least once in our cosmos. Fundamentally, Mom’s god is UNCERTAIN - for ME!

This last will and testament is herby stated: IF my mother’s God does exist, as she believed it/he/she exists, I herein, as HUMAN, framed from within my fundamental human morality/ethics, publicly denounce and curse my mother’s God, and publicly denounce her “sacrifice of my life” to her God. I denounce Mom’s God - her so-called God of the Bible - either REAL or IMAGINED, as immoral, a fundamental evil, a victimizer, a hellish concept and/or real entity, an insidious threat to HUMAN development and sustainability; a DEVIL if one exists! Thus, I secure in this writing assurance that I will not somehow by any means live for eternity with her God in HIS heaven as she so firmly believed and preached. If my mother’s God were to be REAL, or does indeed exist, as she believed and proclaimed, I herein state my last will and testament to choose, as HUMAN, primarily on moral/ethical grounds, to be cast into HIS hell, rather than live in HIS heaven and be required/forced/threatened/sacrificed to praise and worship HIM. I simply say, NO, thank you! This is my last public will and testament to that end, my end, and for MY NOW! I write to demonstrate that I am sane and freely choosing to say NO to herein personally observed, personally experienced, and personally denounced human extremism, or godly extremism if that were to be the case.

Thus alerted, SAPERE AUDE … if you so choose!


I have great respect and the deepest appreciation for the many giants on whose shoulders I stand throughout my recovering and thriving journey. A considerable amount of this book has been assembled from many years of my writing journals and essays and poetry and letters and various scattered notes to myself and to family/friends - mostly as a personal therapeutic process. Most of my writings were inspired from readings in many books and magazines and workshops and classes and more recently the internet, written/presented by many giants, and/or relating to some beautiful, wonderful humans who shared part of my journey with me. Sometimes I noted references in my notes but often I did not. Or, often when noting references, all that is legible are names, not necessarily the specific written/presented source.

And, I propose that most of my thinking and writing is ‘plagiaristic in nature’ in that not much of what I write is 100% original, if any. Although I have long avoided actually copying precise wording from anything that I have read, I frankly and thankfully acknowledge that most of my ideas and thoughts and ponderings are taken from others and further explored in my MIND/BODY. Perhaps a few “connecting of the dots” and maybe a few correlations and/or associations in this writing are ‘created’ by David … along with several probable misinterpretations of others’ writings.

I learned/realized in a personal therapy session in 1998 that in order to be free of my Mom’s curse, and to clear my conscious of any complicity in her extreme religion, I must someday publicly publish ‘my story’ … to honestly confront my past in written linguistic format. I have used various excuses not to do so - most likely fundamentally due to my underlying anxious FEAR. Now, I hereby challenge my anxiety and write as best as I can, accepting the challenges and potential liabilities. (I hereby request that Jeanie and/or one of my children publish this if I do not live long enough to ‘finish’ it.) I will note as best as I can remember or document all ‘specific’ references and sources. However, the task of assembling all my references correctly and precisely is simply not possible, and I cannot ‘fix it’. I will respectfully attempt not to reference illegally or commit formal plagiarism. However, I may fail. So be it! I must write!

I have assembled a ‘short list’ of major books and magazines and other sources, which I currently own and/or to which I have current access, which have been most influential in shaping my recovering and thriving journey toward freedom. Most of the ideas, concepts, thoughts, arguments, evidence, insights, questions, etc. herein discussed/recorded come from or were inspired by one or more of these noted sources. The challenges of choosing ‘my major sources’ from thousands of books/sources I have read has been a considerably daunting adventure for sure. And, that process in itself contributed greatly to enriching my experience of writing my story. Just to touch again some of the books or read the notes/letters and consciously recall the days when I was reading/writing them and how those resources contributed to my journey; this fills me with great joy. I include these references not to impress but to potentially inform any potential reader and mostly ME that the journey toward freedom to “know thyself” is not effortless ‘inner dialogue’ with oneself or self contemplation or self engagement - most folks do enough of that in their lifetime. Rather “know thyself” requires a long journey of openly and honestly exposing self, with passionate curiosity, and honesty, to many different others, and many peer reviews, and many varied ‘mirrors’ … in person, in writings, in classes, in digital media, and via other venues … so as to ‘reflect’ deeply upon and within ‘the mirrored reflections of self’ from many different angles, perspectives, mindsets, reality models, and, and!

This short list is Appendix A. The list is random, mostly as they sit on my bookshelves, or stacked in closets, which detours the impossible task of choosing them in any other reasonably achievable order, except as noted within the text of my story. AMEN!


“In the beginning, God….”

Genesis; Bible, King James Version

My Planet Earth beginning was far more about the Southern Baptist God of Marshall County Kentucky, 1941, than about ME. Perhaps like the flap of a butterfly’s wing may effect some distant weather event, this coloring of my first few breaths contributed significantly to ‘ME’ (unconscious David). Although my mother - Lala Myrtle (Rose) Siress, my father - Rex Siress, my Granny Rose, and a Dr. Caulfield, clearly observed with their own eyes a tiny, screaming, blood stained (reported by Mom) new born baby boy that had naturally come out of my mother’s womb, I was immediately declared a ‘gift from God’! And the great Jehovah God was praised aloud by all present … except highly probably, my father, who rarely expressed any emotion except frustration. I suspect he smiled a bit though! My Granny Rose (self) reportedly said aloud, as a “shout”, “Praise the Lord! It’s a boy!” My mother often told me that she nearly “shouted with glorious joy” when she saw that I was a male, the boy child her God had promised her nine months earlier. Instead, she said aloud several “Praise the Lord(s)” for all to hear and know that her God had ‘delivered me’ as HE promised her, and she praised HIM, her Lord, for everything going well - an apparently healthy baby boy, delivered with little pain. I was Mom’s fourth child.

It is highly probable that no HUMAN present that March 12, 1941 in a two room house near Rose Crossroads, Marshall County, just a few miles south of Benton KY (known in the family as the Darnell place), or any who saw ME during my first few days of MY living on planet Earth, made any congratulatory comments to Mom, Dad, or my family regarding my being born. I, ME, the entire ‘event’ of my conception, my gestation, my birth was all about the great Jehovah God, as defined by local Southern Baptist practice at New Zion Baptist Church about a half mile down the road. I was a creation of God. I was a gift from God. I was a promise fulfilled from and by God … as I was told at least every few weeks in my early years of living on this planet!

NOTE: For the remainder of this story, I will sometimes use the abbreviation SB for Southern Baptist - I get tired spelling out the background of so much personal trauma. I will also sometimes abbreviate the Embodied Human Brain as HBB (will explain later that HBB means integrated HUMAN/BRAIN/BODY and HUMAN BEAUTY and BEAST). I will also abbreviate Embodied Human MIND as HMIND. Sometimes I will use HBB/HMIND to emphasize the total EXPERIENCE of human functioning.

*Chapter 1; (clinical) NOTE 1 (a): Current cognitive science/neuroscience informs humans that what we call human memory is fundamentally DYNAMIC, and mostly ‘constructed’ after the event, rather than ‘fixed’ like a recording machine as often commonly/colloquially assumed. Human HBB/HMIND is DYNAMIC, CONSTRUCTED, NEURONAL SIMULATED, EMERGENT, and REGENERATIVE in most of its functions. Research clearly indicates that humans ‘construct’ their memories rather than ‘record’ them as events occur. That simply means that what humans commonly ‘experience’ as a ‘fixed’ permanent memory is an HBB/HMIND constructed ILLUSION … (meaning: a human experience that does not and cannot ‘map onto’ the real world precisely in detail as experienced). HBB memories are modified over and over as HBB/HMIND recalls a memory in a different ‘context’ from when ‘it’ originally occurred. The more varied the ‘contexts’ in which recall is EXPERIENDED, the greater probability that the memory is modified, and no longer “accurate” in terms of the ‘initial detail’ of the initiating event. I am very aware of, and will discuss later, the various known ‘miss-remember’ issues relating to human memories.

*(b) I will discuss more fully the psychological model for human ‘experiencing’ and ‘remembering’ presented by Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman (in collaboration with others) and some of his proposed most interesting and most dangerous heuristics and cognitive biases. For now, his model, which is oriented to real world human living, posits that ‘human experiencing’ is quite different from ‘human remembering of past experiences’. Human experiencing always occurs in the PRESENT - NOW; as does ALL HUMAN EXPERIENCING; there is no past or future in human experiencing. Based on research evidence, he posits that humans ‘experience’ living in sequences of MOMENTS, which are approximately two to three seconds REAL TIME in duration, per MOMENT. That calculates to approximately 28,800 MOMENTS per day; 201,600 moments per week; 10,483,200 moments annually. Given even minimal assessment, obviously most humans (HBBs) do not, and cannot, ‘remember’ more than a few of those daily moments, at least remember them for more than a few hours or days. That is simply the way HBB works, or doesn’t work if one prefers it said that way - the capacity to “remember” every experience is not there.

*(c) For HBB to MARK (encode) for RETENTION a ‘moment’, or a few sequential ‘moments’ of a given experience, gazillions of highly complex bio-mechanical/electrical physiological events must occur in the brain (HBB). Generally, HBB must first generate ‘special’ VALUE/ATTENTION to some particular ‘moment(s)’ in order to generate necessary brain actions for said ‘moment(s)’ of EXPERIENCE to be extracted/encoded for retention - all performed unconsciously. Then when said ‘MEMORY of only a few moments of some complex past experience’ is recalled, that memory is EXPERIENCED in the PRESENT, which is ALWAYS different from the ORIGINAL PRESENT OF THE ORIGINAL EXPERIENCE. A MEMORY is never, and can never be the same as the original experience, mainly (1) because ‘it’ is only a few ‘moments’ pulled out of the many exponentially complex ‘moments’ of the original experience - memories are ‘summaries of complex experiences’; (2) because the few extracted ‘moments’ become ‘generalized’ as ‘representational’ for the entire original experience and not detail specific; this ‘generalized representational’ formatting happens automatically/unconsciously, beyond our conscious control, via unconscious HBB/HMIND heuristics/cognitive biases, and (3) the current ‘memory’ is always experienced in a PRESENT that is always different from the original present experience …. HBB/HMIND always experiences ONLY in the current present.

*(d) I learned about the fluidity/dynamics of human memories in Grad School, and I have worked hard on recalling many childhood memories in various personal and self therapy experiences. Beginning in High School, I recorded many of my ‘memories’ in written format, and the format of story telling, over the years, often very shortly after the initial experience; but many of these written/verbally reported memories are now lost. However, I posit that having recorded many memories, and remembering my writing and told stories, and sharing many of them in therapy sessions, somewhat enhances the detail accuracy of my ‘current memories’ of the key experiences herein reported and discussed. Most of the early memories herein reported were recalled and analyzed during my Grad School years, and many of them were recorded then. I attempt to use the written and remembered memories closest to the original experience, unless otherwise noted. I sometimes choose to write in the PRESENT TENSE when remembering. I suggest that doing that ‘feels like’ I am ‘re-experiencing’ the remembered experience; I learned this in Gestalt Therapy and related studies and experiences. I have tested the Kahneman model in several arenas of my own living, and I accept it as (for all practical purposes - FAPP) realistic. Thus, I fully understand that my approach is a POETIC attempt to cross over the boundary between experience and memory. Said approach becomes more important in subsequent chapters when ‘remembering’ key living experiences.

*(e) And, I am well aware that given my honest scientific (informed by cognitive science) and poetic efforts, the herein recorded memories are modified to varying extents/degrees within the frame of my current experiencing, and/or the current experiencing when actually recorded. I accept this cognitive science fact! Interestingly and personally reassuringly, researching some of my original written materials for this writing revealed that I constructed a fallacious memory for my public story sometime during 2011 that was not evidence based. I herein correct that fallacy and note that the original evidence based memory is more powerful than my recently modified version. Certainly, the context/frame in which I present all these memories are colored/modified/textured by my current reality - which is relevant to my anxiety story. I will interject other comments about my memories along the way. Dr. Endel Tulving is an internationally recognized Canadian neuropsychologist-cognitive scientist who studies and writes prolifically about human memory. Based on his models, I use mostly autobiographical memory - a mixture of episodic and semantic memory - in my story; and, I refer both to explicit and implicit memories.

*(f) Of critical importance, I emphasize that when these following noted events (in chapter 1) in my childhood were happening in real time, I experienced them mostly as nurturing, loving, caring, self defining and self supporting. Only after I began to develop some cognitive dissonance, as I will note, did my experiencing become uncomfortable and eventually revealing the underlying pathology. Of course, it was many years after the original childhood experiences that I became aware of the full range of ‘damages’ instilled in “ME” by those ‘loving and caring experiences’ as a child, as well as the “more positive” experiences that supported my eventual awakening and survival. My journey into “know thyself” has revealed the scientific evidence for both the ‘damage’ and the ‘saving grace’ of my childhood experiencing. Thus, my memories are presented mostly framed in my current view of reality, unless otherwise noted.

• • • •

RETURN to story

Between about the ages of about 5 to 12 my mother told me the story of my birth at least once a month. I remember her telling the story two times publicly; once in Sunday School in Benton in my presence - I was about 14 years old then - in the midst of my peers. I was terribly embarrassed, but I tried not to show (repressed) my emotions at that age - I thought my emotions were sinful. I have no info relating to my mother telling or not telling this story to others, except my next older sibling, my sister Marie, who reported remembering Mom telling the story when I was a young child. I simply do not remember if my younger sister Linda was around some of the times when Mom told me the story.

Mom’s story of ME, David Linville Siress, goes like this: My oldest sister Mary is 12 years older than me; my brother Bill is10 years older; and my sister Marie (now deceased) is 8 years older. Mom reported to me that she nearly had a ‘nervous breakdown’ sometime after or around Marie’s birth. Mom reportedly had thought at the time that the family was complete. But her God “came to her” in a soft voice (not a loud voice, reportedly a soft voice) telling her that if she would get pregnant HE would ‘deliver’ her a son; that son would become a great preacher of HIS WORD someday; and that son should be named DAVID. Thus, I was that “gift from God” created for HIS purposes - to preach HIS WORD when I became a man. Frankly, I don’t remember Mom ever repeating this story to me after I became a Southern Baptist minister, about the age of 19.

NOTE: For this next section of chapter 1, I will sometimes insert after the following entries a ‘clinical developmental note’ - (marked as CD NOTE). These notes are clinical developmental comments and clinical assessments I have learned over the years relating to my childhood developmental background. These clinical notes are primarily for me as they relate to my story herein presented. They may not make much sense to a reader unless that reader has read my entire book.

From about the age of 4-5, as early as I can remember much, through about 15 - 17 or 18 years old, the following characterized my upbringing, my childhood, my daily living, my family of origin life; the foundation of unconscious David, ‘ME’. This is obviously ‘FRAMED’ from my current perspective unless otherwise noted.

1 - Death and/or dying were mentioned, talked about, and/or preached about at least once nearly every day; frequently more often; nearly always by my mother. A common ‘starter’ conversation at the ‘supper’ table was about who had died or who was close to dying in the local area and/or anywhere in the world. DEATH and DYING was as much a part of my reality as was food on the table.

CD Note: There is little doubt that this feature of my childhood imprinted the unconscious background features that later ‘pre-figured’ my philosophical vector toward Existentialism. Perhaps a negative I learned to ‘reframe’ as a positive.

2 - Mom read the Bible at least once daily, aloud when I was very young (pre-school and early school years); it was not unusual for her to read it again another time during the day, usually silently. I learned to read somewhat before starting school, by visually following her with my finger as she read the Bible - always the King James Version - none other. During the year that I was removed from my first try at second grade, I was involved personally in lots of Bible reading by Mom and my sister Marie - I remember memorizing some of the most ‘famous’ Bible versus then

Continue reading this ebook at Smashwords.
Purchase this book or download sample versions for your ebook reader.
(Pages 1-23 show above.)