Overcoming feelings of isolation

Public forum for those seeking support for their experience in the LDS Church.
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Arrakeen
Posts: 105
Joined: 25 Aug 2018, 18:49

Overcoming feelings of isolation

Post by Arrakeen » 28 Sep 2019, 17:09

I'm having a really hard time lately feeling like I don't fit in at BYU. In academic and work contexts, it's totally fine. The people I interact with are great, friendly people. But as soon as church topics come up, I get hit with intense feelings of loneliness, and realize I just don't belong. Church every week is especially difficult.

The thing is, I feel like it shouldn't be a big problem. Other people have certain beliefs. I have different beliefs. So what? It's a normal part of life. But it still really hurts. I wish I could just accept that I'm different and move on. My current isolation is partly self-imposed. I don't really want to be the guy sitting alone on the back row every Sunday, but I don't feel like anyone would appreciate my real self.

How can I get to a point where I don't get triggered as easily by things people say at church? How can I become comfortable having different beliefs without feeling isolated?

Minyan Man
Posts: 1925
Joined: 15 Sep 2011, 13:40

Re: Overcoming feelings of isolation

Post by Minyan Man » 28 Sep 2019, 19:52

I know that all my beliefs are not in line with what the church officially teaches on Sunday. I am also aware there are others in
my ward who believe the same way I do or their beliefs are orthodox or different altogether. (I hope this makes sense.)
I know this because, as we get to know each other we give hints or statements that reveal who we are. Most of the members
who I'm close to are educators & have open minds & are willing to talk openly. There are others who have really surprised me
because they have had high level positions in the church & now that they are released are willing to talk more openly. To
gain this level of trust takes time. It also takes a willingness to reveal who you are and what you really believe.

In the meantime, this is a great place to test it out and do it anonymously. Be patient.
I know that what I believe today may change overtime.

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DarkJedi
Posts: 7103
Joined: 24 Aug 2013, 20:53

Re: Overcoming feelings of isolation

Post by DarkJedi » 29 Sep 2019, 07:09

I know that it might seem counter intuitive and in most circumstances I tell people not to discuss their church concerns with others in the church. BUT, BYU does have a great counseling department where they hear this quite a bit and it is totally confidential. The bad news is they are overtaxed and there is a waiting list. Nevertheless, I would recommend you pay them a visit and get on the wait list. The questions you are asking are best left to professionals.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

Only Love
Posts: 33
Joined: 15 Apr 2018, 19:29

Re: Overcoming feelings of isolation

Post by Only Love » 29 Sep 2019, 09:46

No advice but I just want to say that you are SOO not the only one who feels that way. I feel the same way in my ward in the Midwest. Church tends to lead me to feeling down because it highlights what a misfit I am now. And I don't feel safe speaking up so I usually stay quiet and that makes me feel even more isolated. I can imagine BYU would be super hard. I'm so sorry you are experiencing that. Sending understanding and hugs to you, Friend ♥️

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nibbler
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Joined: 14 Nov 2013, 07:34
Location: Ten miles west of the exact centre of the universe

Re: Overcoming feelings of isolation

Post by nibbler » 30 Sep 2019, 09:19

I understand those feelings. Sometimes I think it would be easier to stay at home because that way I know the loneliness I felt was the result of a specific choice that I made. It's a little harder on the psyche to attend church and feel alone while sitting in the middle of a crowd.
Arrakeen wrote:
28 Sep 2019, 17:09
The thing is, I feel like it shouldn't be a big problem. Other people have certain beliefs. I have different beliefs. So what? It's a normal part of life. But it still really hurts. I wish I could just accept that I'm different and move on. My current isolation is partly self-imposed. I don't really want to be the guy sitting alone on the back row every Sunday, but I don't feel like anyone would appreciate my real self.
That's completely understandable. At church on Sunday, even general conference Sundays, I often hear members stigmatize people that do not believe the correlated narratives. Sometimes it's coded (references to doubters, the strength of one's testimony, etc.) sometimes it's more direct, like Nelson's recent "certainly not those that are disaffected from the church."

We're human, we judge one another, and at church I think people assume that everyone is on the same page. People at church feel more free to pass judgement on others that are on different pages. They do it without realizing there are many in the congregation that are caught in their cross-hairs. It creates that environment you're talking about, the one where you feel like the real you would be rejected because you've already heard members, even top leaders, communicate their rejection of people like you.

It helps to get to a place where you don't care what others think. That's easier said than done. Especially in a culture that often reduces people to second class citizenship unless they're all in. Especially at a place like BYU where not fitting certain molds has much higher stakes than social status.

Come here and vent any time. We can feel isolated together. :thumbup:
Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
― Jesus

Roy
Posts: 6071
Joined: 07 Oct 2010, 14:16
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Overcoming feelings of isolation

Post by Roy » 30 Sep 2019, 15:08

My only advice is to diversify.

I have come to the point where the ward is just a group of people that I go to church with. They are a resource and a community that are good at providing certain supports and are pretty terrible at others.

What kinds of groups or clubs could you join where you could meet people and form friendships where church membership is not an issue?

Recognize that this should get easier once you graduate from BYU. Attending BYU and being a church employee seem to me to be the worst situations to be in while having a faith crisis. BYU offers a pretty stellar education for a steal of a price. Do what you gotta do to graduate. You can always vent anonymously to us until your situation changes.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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hawkgrrrl
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Re: Overcoming feelings of isolation

Post by hawkgrrrl » 30 Sep 2019, 15:28

First, there are nearly 30K students at BYU. Don't mistake a vocal minority for a majority. The older I get, the more I find that nobody is really like the thing I thought Mormons were like. There's a thing called Asymmetrical Insight at play in which we think we are complex and nuanced, but others are simple and straightforward. You believe that what you see and perceive about them is even more insightful than they are about themselves! But they think the same thing about you. Another factor is something called Pluralistic Ignorance: the erroneous belief that the majority is acting in a way that matches its internal philosophies, and that you are one of a small minority who feel differently. In reality, the majority probably agree with you, but they don't violate group norms by saying so. They don't want to reveal their "otherness." It's like the story of the emperor's new clothes. Nobody wants to go out on a limb to reveal that they don't really agree with the group's norms internally, that their values might differ.

One place you can go to find more vocal dissent from norms at BYU is to join BYU democrats. I would recommend this, even if you aren't a democrat. It's just a quick way to find some others who don't agree 100% with the voice you often hear at the school. You'll find people in that group who express *some* views that are less popular or less frequently heard anyway. There are other groups like that. There used to be feminist groups, an LGBT and ally group, and some others. When I attended there (eons ago), the writers of the Student Review were one such group (many of whom ended up in the bloggernacle eventually). Another place to find people who reveal more unique opinions is to hang out one of the humanities or arts buildings.

I was reading about these effects in a book called You Are Now Less Dumb. You might enjoy it (same author who wrote You Are Not So Smart). From the book:
you have no idea whether the norms in your culture, subculture, era, or group of friends are real or imagined.
Pluralistic ignorance keeps people on the fringe, the sort of people who will be phased out by progress, clinging to their outdated beliefs for longer than they should. It keeps their opponents feeling less supported than they truly are while keeping people in the middle favoring the status quo.
When my son was at BYU-I, he was very upset by some students who made anti-LGBT comments. He said everyone agreed with them. I asked how he knew everyone agreed. He said they hadn't said anything against the comments. I pointed out that he hadn't either, so others probably also thought he agreed with the comments. That's how pluralistic ignorance works.

Arrakeen
Posts: 105
Joined: 25 Aug 2018, 18:49

Re: Overcoming feelings of isolation

Post by Arrakeen » 30 Sep 2019, 18:29

nibbler wrote:
30 Sep 2019, 09:19
We're human, we judge one another, and at church I think people assume that everyone is on the same page.
I don't think this is limited to judgement either. I often hear people make comments like "we all know ____," "we all believe ____," or "isn't it great to be at a place where we all have the same beliefs?" It's something to find comfort in if you fit in, but if you don't it can feel pretty alienating.

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