How to undo years of indoctrination and significant phobias?

I was indoctrinated with catholocism in my early years to teen years. I also was indoctrinated with supernatural / occult / paranormal beliefs from middle school through my twenties. The occult has scared the crap out of me since I was a child and my family would play the ouija board, tell me there were poltergeists in the house and think they saw ghosts. When I grew up those fears were reinforced by psychics, healers, etc. who told me I had demons haunting me because they said my family practiced witchcraft.

Trying to leave those beliefs feels like I'm trying to leave a cult, because they're so ingrained. I'm only just starting to disbelieve in paranormal / occult activity with the help of a therapist. I'm looking for any resources I can find to prove it is fictitious (or at least make the case it's fictitious since it's hard to disprove something from existing).

Some of the things I really want to disprove are:

Spirits / ghosts / demons / devils. I have a phobia of being attacked by an evil spirit.

Astral projections. People being able to project their "spirit" to my home.

Mind reading. Someone who claimed to practice "black magic" told me the exact phrase I was thinking of when I was in middle school and I could never come up with a rational explanation other than it was a coincidence.

I am changing my whole world-view, and that is empowering, but when I'm around someone who believes in the supernatural, I revert back to my fears. I am quite embarassed to even admit I have these phobias. Any support or suggestions would be most appreciated.

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Comment by New Atheist on February 13, 2011 at 10:57pm

Thank you everyone who responded!  These are all very good suggestions.  I'll check out Sagan's book, although I wish the title didn't have to be so darn triggering.  The brain research books sound great.  Do you know of any specific ones that are good to focus on? 

Yeah, it must have been cold reading.  It's amazing how they can do that stuff! 

I'm glad you are all here for support.  I've been so brainwashed with this element of supernatural spirits that interact with humans.  I remember being afraid when as a kid I'd read the King James bible because the angels were having sex with humans and it seemed like they could be with whomever they picked regardless of the human's choice, i.e. rape.  That always freaked me out, and this theme was also in Hellenic mythology with Persephone, in fact a lot of mythology includes it.  Then a lot of New Age people I've met believed in that, too.  So there was all this supposed belief of "spirit attacks" in all sorts of spiritual paths.

Anyway, thanks everyone.  I will be doing some research!

Comment by Allison Rodriguez on February 7, 2011 at 5:31pm

I think it might help if you pick up some recent books on research on the brain. This really opened my eyes. Our brains can construct so much in the way of illusions, misinterpretations and connections where there are none. I had experiences as a pagan that "proved" to me that the goddess was real. But if I cannot recreate that experience for someone else, reliably, then my testimony means nothing. That's just simple scientific method. So, I have to admit to myself that I created those experiences in my own brain, just like a dream, just like a hallucination. So, anyone who tells me a real, true life story of spirits, ghosts, fairies, etc, I remember that their brain tricked them and they believed it. And I have sympathy because I believe my brain when it tricked me too!

and yeah, the person in middle school? Coincidence. Or cold-reading. Google cold reading too! :)


Comment by Prog Rock Girl on February 7, 2011 at 1:26pm
I highly recommend the Demon Haunted World as well. That book converted me like a lightswitch and I even didn't read it for several years during my pagan experimentation phase b/c I was afraid it would undermine my already shaky beliefs. It made me feel very empowered.
Comment by Frankie Dapper on September 23, 2010 at 12:30pm
The aforementioned James Randi offers one million to anyone who can prove supernatural. Good enough incentive for the proponent of nonsense. Get a subscription to the skeptical inquirer (archives online) a magazine which rips occult and supernatural.
Comment by Diana Agorio on September 23, 2010 at 12:58am
I haven't been through the same things as you. But, I do remember that during all that praying I did as a kid, that sometimes it seemed like it worked. When I was afraid of something and I prayed, it felt like I averted whatever was scaring me. When I realized that I was just praying to myself all that time, I learned that I was a really strong person. There wasn't any supernatural being that helped me through my fear, it was just me. I had faced those fears all by myself and handled it very well.

We love to portray religious people as weak and using beliefs as a crutch. I don't think they are any weaker than the rest of us. They just have allowed a belief system to steal their strength and claim it as a "god." Giving up those beliefs is enormously empowering; but, it takes awhile to get used to having all that power. You are your own god and the fears are someone else's imaginary beings.



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