Religion Trauma Syndrome?

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On Own Now
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Re: Religion Trauma Syndrome?

Post by On Own Now » 22 Jun 2015, 11:49

NP,

Welcome. I look forward to hearing your perspective on this site. Believe it or not, your story is familiar. I know that for me, I found great comfort in the realization that I wasn't the only one.

You've already received excellent feedback, which I second. I'll just add a few "me-too's" and a couple of thoughts of my own:

- A key for me has been to get the Church out of the mediation role. Even before my faith crisis (to some degree), but especially now, I think of my relationship with the spiritual to be mine alone. The Church provides a familiar framework that works for me to practice my spirituality, but it's not in charge... not in the least. I still love the Sacrament, the community, the opportunity for discussion that exists in our Church. But what I love most about the gospel is on the inside of me.

- Look at the other people in Church as fellow travelers. They don't know any better than you. Like you, they have life-experience that helps them to frame their spirituality. The rub is that their spiritual views differ from yours but largely conform to the group. That puts you in a natural 'outsider' position. If you keep working at it, you can come to the point where that doesn't concern you. I find it helpful to think of myself as a guest and the doctrines declared to be "their" religion. I've heard some wacko things in my lifetime, some more often than others, but I've gotten to the point where I just celebrate that they have that faith and am at-peace with our differences.

- If God makes you feel guilty, then I can assure you that you are missing the best parts of the 'gospel'. LDS teachings have a heavy 'guilt' orientation, but raw Christianity is so much more inviting. If I could suggest one place to start it'd be the Gospel of Mark.

- In LDS upbringing we have a tendency to think we can answer every question. When faced with a faith crisis, we struggle to sort it all out. You mentioned attempts to "reconcile everything". IMO, this is part of the difficulty of a Faith Crisis/Transition. We want answers and we want them now. But spirituality is not the pursuit of information. As part of focusing on what you do believe, I think it is helpful to put a lot of weight on the simplest aspects and little or no weight on the more complicated ones. It can be freeing to not feel that everything needs to be reconciled.

- Don't hold yourself hostage over the feelings of your family. It is a common refrain that "it would break their hearts". You are far from the first person to feel that way or to express it here. Of everything going on with you, I believe this is the most dangerous. When we stop being ourselves to protect others, we place ourselves on a path that goes nowhere. I was trapped in that situation for many years; probably a decade and it got worse and worse. If you love them and they love you, you can tell them that you are no longer a believer in what you once believed, but that you are following a new path and trying to be just as good a person as ever; that you support them and their faith, and that you need them as much as ever and hope to have the same relationship of love with them, then you can get through it. There will be moments of pain, but a lifetime of love. The moment my life started to get better was when I had the talk with my family members (individually). As you've already said, you don't need to get into reasons, in fact, doing so is counter-productive. Just tell them your faith has changed and work to find areas of commonality.

- Most importantly, I encourage you to see the possibilities of the gospel. We get places in our lives by taking chances and succeeding. Yet, when it comes to spirituality, we have a strong tendency to see success as not making mistakes. That's opposite to the empowerment that the gospel promises. In any venture in life, and especially spirituality, I believe we should be moving TOWARD something not AWAY from something. Good is not the absence of anything. It is the presence of something. Find what inspires you and go toward that light. Pretty soon the little aggravating details vanish (or become of no consequence).

- Finally, let me just add that it is possible to find peace. It's taken me a very long time and it hasn't been an easy road for me. But I feel like I have found something very good and am happy with where I am now. It may seem impossible to you now, but I can tell you that I'm more active in the Church now than I was a few years ago and that I enjoy having it be that way. I'm not a believer any more now than I was then, but I'm more comfortable with the Church. Some things still drive me crazy, but mostly it's good, and it's got more good for me than I can easily find elsewhere.

I wish you well and hope to continue to hear from you.
"Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another." --Romans 14:13

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N’oublie Pas
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Re: Religion Trauma Syndrome?

Post by N’oublie Pas » 22 Jun 2015, 11:59

DarkJedi:

I've actually found Zentangle (a form of meditative art) to be quite useful for helping me calm down. I think other StayLDS members may find it helpful. I am no artist by any means, but its a form of art that helps the participant enjoy the process instead of just the product. Maybe that's what I need to to with accepting I'm in a faith transition. :)

I have also found that skipping meetings has been incredibly helpful. I think the goal for me right now is to be able to sit through Sacrament meeting with a straight face. I think the idea of how I personally would phrase a talk will really help me out. That really resonates with me, because simply ignoring it probably won't help me, at least that's how I personally see it. I think it will help me think critically about my issues and will help me come to a better frame of mind. Thank you for your advice. :) And it's so so helpful to hear most of the guilt we receive at church is not especially gospel-oriented. Maybe leaders are just trying to give us "helpful" behavioral advice, but when it's difficult to follow through, the consequences can be disastrous.

What are some of your personal favorite talks? I would be very interested in reading them at times when church is troubling. :) If you don't feel comfortable posting here, you could send me a private message. Thank you for your help. :)

Amateurparent:

I'm trying to be supportive of my family, and of my boyfriend as well. I don't feel like a super awesome girlfriend when I'm at his house and he's at church, listening to very difficult topics. :shock: He needs support too because, as you said, some Sundays are just not ok. And one day at a time is so true. I feel like I'm trying to tackle years at once, and that's not fair to myself. And I need to separate the truth from the guilt-ridden, shame-inducing culture. For some it works, but for me... well, it just doesn't! :lol: And maybe that's perfectly ok. Maybe God knew some of us would struggle with it. And I think He is helping us out by providing resources like these so we can help bear one another's burdens. :)

Holy Cow:

Yes, my goal is not to become a bitter, resentful person from this experience. That's specifically why I am asking my faith questions here instead of consulting another resource. I really would hate to be tied down by anger and regret and overall negative feelings all my life. I've been dealing with it for 3 years now, and enough is enough! :lol: For two years, I was trying to just jump through hoops backwards in order to reconcile everything, but this year has been when it has, more or less, hit the fan. :shock: I could finally accept that some things in the church, to me, are just not ok. That maybe the church may not be perfect for me. That maybe God wants me to develop in a different way. The church is perfectly ok for other people, and it's not my place to say "well, it's wrong because of ....." It has been difficult, however, saying and believing these things without feeling like the sin-bound soul who is trying to get herself kicked out of the Celestial Kingdom! :lol: I'm still trying to reconcile that, but everyone here has been incredibly supportive and loving so I feel like I can get in that happy place again instead of feeling useless and worthless to God. I think He's happy that I'm taking some saving steps instead of just trying to "conceal, don't feel" all the time. (Yes, I actually quoted Frozen - my elementary kiddos are always singing those songs) :lol:

Yeah, I tried praying again for the first time in... I don't know... months at least... this week and it was with very conflicting emotions. I'm trying to forget the past, yet I feel odd asking for things or help when I know there are others who have it so so SO much worse than me. This may sound strange, but I feel odd thanking God for my blessings when I feel there are so many who are so deserving yet do not have them. Why do I have them and others do not? This brings so much guilt acknowledging it in prayer. And it feels weird to ask for help when I know there are so so SO many people asking for help yet not receiving answers or they feel they are being ignored or slighted. I don't think God intends that, but it feels that way at times. And it's been difficult thinking, "well, is this God answering or am I just hoping for this?" Honestly, my prayers are now more or less one-sided conversations, asking God about things I am having issues with religiously but not expecting Him to answer. I'm not putting any pressure on Him cause I don't feel it's my business to... He's got kingdoms to run and other kids to help and all that stuff. :lol: I figure He'll get around to me when the time is right, and I feel like I have been finally getting answers to things. But it's been helping me a lot to not pray and expect answers in the "traditional" Mormon way but just ask sincerely and to throughly think through some of the problems I'm having. Sometimes I get them as I am questioning, and maybe it's my own brain answering me, or maybe it's God. Frankly, I don't care how He does it. If it's comforting answers that I came up with myself but were secretly inspired by Him, I'll take it. :)

Ann
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Re: Religion Trauma Syndrome?

Post by Ann » 22 Jun 2015, 12:05

N’oublie Pas wrote:But I feel even worse now because I feel like I am one of God’s awful kids. Who can’t just be good and go to church like I’m supposed to, obey like I am supposed to. Who can’t believe everything that I am supposed to.
No.
I honestly feel that God is disappointed in me and is horrified to see the wicked person I have become… disagreeing with the true church. I honestly feel like I am going to hell because I cannot agree with what I am supposed to.
No.
I feel like a terrible person every waking moment and it has made it difficult to enjoy my life, even though I have so so many reasons to be happy. I have a wonderful job, a kind and caring man in my life, and a loving family. But I feel like I could lose them all in an instant, and I feel like I won’t be able to be with my family in heaven because I couldn’t agree with all the difficult doctrines and the confusing history of the church. It makes it so hard to be happy feeling like I’ll never get to be with them.
No.

I know the feeling, believe me. But, no! Nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Twenty five years ago I had an undeniable communication from God. I've never experienced anything like it before or since. It was a specific answer - words spoken to my mind - to a specific prayer. And it didn't happen.

THAT is what a "shelf" is for, in my opinion. I moved on and there it sits, no clearer to me now than long ago. I think the shelf is for the inexplicable in our own relationship with God, not all this other stuff that the church wants you to put there. (Goll, why did God go all those years countenancing discrimination, slavery, genocide, etc. Strange. Guess I'll. put. that. on. my. shelf because He must have had a good reason. No.) My shelf is now reserved for things I can't comprehend, not for unpalatable ideas deeded over or foisted upon me by others.

N'oublie Pas, glad you're here! :wave:
"Preachers err by trying to talk people into belief; better they reveal the radiance of their own discovery." - Joseph Campbell

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." - Marcel Proust

"Therefore they said unto him, How were thine eyes opened? He answered and said unto them, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes...." - John 9:10-11

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hawkgrrrl
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Re: Religion Trauma Syndrome?

Post by hawkgrrrl » 22 Jun 2015, 12:30

Do any of you have advice for how to go to church and filter out that harmful messages without feeling like a sin-bound soul?
I like to think of it as practicing cultural anthropology. Here's how I would describe it:
1) Completely disaffiliate (mentally). How other people see things is not a reflection on you. You have your own way of viewing the gospel, and just because we all have the title "Mormon" doesn't mean we are all the same. What's important to us differs. What bothers us differs. Our life experiences differ. Our needs and wants differ. "I'm OK, you're OK."
2) Realize that what you think other Mormons think God thinks of you is all just nonsense. Have your own relationship with God, and as Ann said, you'll see that his love is not conditional, but people's love, family and other church members, is definitely conditional. That's not to say be a hedonist and do whatever you want either. Just that you are dwelling on how you don't fit in and calling that God's love. God is not the author of social norms. God is not one of the Mean Girls, judging you for wearing sweatpants on the wrong day.
3) Be curious about others. Try to learn your own unconditional love. Ask yourself "Why do people think that way?" or "What is that person's motives?" or "What need is that person trying to fulfill by seeing it this way?"

I listen much more closely at church than ever before because it's really interesting to try to understand why people say and do what they say and do. And I think about my own motives and needs and how they influence my interpretation of the gospel. It's like being an armchair psychologist, but it also creates a lot of empathy for others than I was naturally inclined to feel. Even people who used to piss me off really don't now, for the most part. My pet peeves are lazy interpretations, people who literally have never even read anything, including the scriptures, but are just spouting some party line, and people who cluck their tongues at outward appearances, etc. But there's always more to people the more I listen.

For a quick example, I took an instant and superficial dislike to a woman at church. She didn't like people using first names with each other, which not only sounded stupid to me but like some kind of formal nonsense crap that was exactly the opposite of the gospel IMO, some cultural artifact of hers. Plus, she revealed a complete ignorance of the New Testament in Sunday School so I knew she hadn't read it. She seemed judgmental, lazy, and boring to me. But then I deliberately tried to set that aside and listen more closely. She's always had a career, something I admire and relate to, and she talks openly about it (not bragging, but not hiding it). She's been caring for her sick father who is dying, and so I started to feel empathy for her. It's tough to lose a parent, particularly when his mind is going as hers is. And she gave the best, most inclusive talk ever, just a total slam dunk. So, I've come to see that she's more than the sum of her parts, and like everyone, she's a mass of contradictions, a mix of the best and worst of things, just like me.

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DarkJedi
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Re: Religion Trauma Syndrome?

Post by DarkJedi » 22 Jun 2015, 13:47

I don't mind sharing publicly at all. They are not in a particular order except the first one really is first.

Uchtdorf, Oct. 2013 GC: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/ ... s?lang=eng
Christofferson, April 2012 GC: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/ ... t?lang=eng
Cook, Ensign March 2003: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2003/03/look ... k?lang=eng
Wirthlin, April 2008 GC: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/ ... e?lang=eng
Packer, October 2012 GC: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/ ... t?lang=eng
Monson, April 2014 GC: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/ ... l?lang=eng
Oaks, April 2014: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/ ... d?lang=eng
Uchtdorf, CES Fireside Jan 2013: https://www.lds.org/broadcasts/article/ ... h?lang=eng
Uchtdorf, April 2015 GC: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/ ... e?lang=eng
Uchtdorf, April 2015 GC: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/ ... e?lang=eng
Causse, April 2015 GC: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/ ... u?lang=eng

I also like to read the essays, which are linked (along with some other good stuff) in this thread: viewtopic.php?f=5&t=6506
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

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N’oublie Pas
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Re: Religion Trauma Syndrome?

Post by N’oublie Pas » 22 Jun 2015, 13:58

On Own Now:

Yes, I do need to stop caring what other think about my point in my faith transition. It is very helpful to see other church-goers as travelers instead of perfected saints. They see through their lens, as I see through mine. :) And raw Christianity may be where I need to head, since LDS teachings right now have been so guilt-heavy and making me feel awful for having doubts and questions and the like. Maybe that's why the Chronicles of Narnia has had so much appeal to me. I think I'll start reading more C. S. Lewis as I start to sort it out, along with the Gospel of Mark as you suggested. Maybe it will be better to stick to the New Testament instead of always the Book of Mormon, like my ward so heavily pushes.

And maybe everything doesn't have to be reconciled. "I don't know" is a legitimate answer for somethings, I guess. :) I watched an interesting TED talk where the pastor simply says his answer to everything is "I don't know." It really helped me out. If anyone is interested, it is called "Why Would God Create a Tsunami" by Reverend Tom Honey.

It has made me feel like a very dishonest person hiding so much from my family. I believe in living authentically, and trying to hide that important part of myself from my loved ones is difficult. It makes me feel hollow at times. I do wish to express the sentiments you have said, but I want to do it when I am no longer living in their home so I don't have to deal with constant tension/repercussions. I feel it would be more appropriate when we have space from one another then I can tell them about my faith journey. They will also have more time to process it instead of instinctively reacting.

And I do feel happier being able to discuss these things with people. I feel like I am being myself and that I am finally being honest. It is difficult to feel that at church, but at least I have one place where I can feel some peace again. It means the world to me. :) It is so helpful to hear so many perspectives, and everyone's opinion has been very valuable to me.

Hawkgrrl:

It is nice to hear God isn't like one of the Mean Girls. :lol: It's really really hard to remember/believe that at times in such a performance-based religion, where God seems to love/bless His kids more when they pay tithing/go to the temple/visit teach. I have no intentions to go out and be a heathen, but to figure out how in the heck I can get trust in God back in such a guilt-inducing environment. Maybe I need to bury myself in positive Conference talks during church to filter out some of the negative messages.

And it will help to remember that everyone says and does things in the church for a reason. Maybe they never had this intense faith crisis process, so they don't even think about the harmful things they are saying. Looking back, I'm sure I thought/said dumb things in young women's since I didn't know or think anything of it. I just need to remember there is more behind what they are saying, and to try to respect their feelings even though I violently disagree with their opinion on things. Thank you for your advice. :)

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N’oublie Pas
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Re: Religion Trauma Syndrome?

Post by N’oublie Pas » 22 Jun 2015, 14:00

DarkJedi:

Looks like I have some reading to do! :lol: Thank you for the list - I really really appreciate it! :) These will help me a lot during church.


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SilentDawning
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Re: Religion Trauma Syndrome?

Post by SilentDawning » 22 Jun 2015, 14:57

I had a similar experience. Except mine was with an adoption.

The short version is this -- wife and I could not have children due to a problem that prevented my wife from allow us to act as man and wife After five years of marriage, she wanted to adopt. I had NO DESIRE to adopt in these circumstances.

We put the adoption decision on hold and were about to buy a house. We prayed about it, and I felt strongly I should adopt, and not buy the house since we would not be able to afford it on one income if we adopted. Based on this prompting, I prayed very hard to change my heart, as I didn't want to adopt in such a marriage, in spite of the spiritual prompting...But through praying and fasting, I literally changed my heart to the point I felt I WANTED to do it -- in harmony with God's will.

There was a massive change of heart and there was a massive confirmation ...I was in a youth conference testimony meeting, and I prayed again about the adoption, and it was like an axe split my spirit in to pieces, and let sunshine rain into both sides. It was a massive spiritual high and strong confirmation. I was full of tears and my spirit felt clean and flushed afterwards. No question, no doubt -- I was supposed to, and willing to, adopt. I had changed my heart and God has blessed me for putting my will in his hands, willingly.

We went into the adoption process, and were approved, all the way to the last step. At that last step, an absentee director reviewed our case. He rejected us because they felt there was too much risk of infidelity on my part due to the physical problem my wife had. They were afraid that "when the child is placed in your home, and your wife is not paying attention to you anymore, you might go and do something you will regret". And they delivered the message in a short phone call -- after we had paid fees, and been through a long, face-to-face, invasive process. It was not only unexpected, it was heartless.

I felt like a knife had split my spirit again, and that God has poured salt on both sides of it. I was confused, angry, hurt, and felt utterly betrayed by God.

How to proceed?

First, give this time. It hurts for a while. The God part. And give yourself the time. I find these things can't be rushed. Second, recognize the role of agency on the part of the young man who dropped you. He was the one who chose to drop you. Perhaps he was not acting according to the will of God? And that God had it right? Third, view all revelation with what I call "healthy skepticism and optimism". These sound like contradictory terms, but based on experiences like yours, and mine, I no longer put utter faith in my revelations any longer. If it works out fine, but if not, then variables changed and I will accept that.

Not very satisfactory, I will say the least, but I find it brings a maturity to my decision-making now. I don't rely on revelation alone to guide me. There has to be logic, and that feeling of "rightness" that comes from soul (MY soul) at the same time. There is also a bit of "risk management" in it -- provision that it may not work out, in spite of the confirmation. And what I plan to do if it does not work out.

I no longer share miraculous stories with my family or at church, as I find revelation unreliable, and not faith-promoting when it blows up in your face.

Regarding the other stuff -- plural marriage, blacks and the priesthood -- what matters is WHAT I THINK. I listen to the spirit, I listen to the GA's, I listen to local leaders, but if it doesnt' feel right (and that means, feel right to my intuition and intellect, even if I feel spiritual feelings) then I don't do it and don't choose to believe it.

Finally, find other circles to supplement the church experience -- other communities (non-religious ones) to which you can be a part, and service opportunities that go beyond church service. I tend to look at most religions as fiction of some sort, but recognize I have a family and an identity in Mormonism. And don't be afraid to relate to it on your own terms.

I hope your beau understands....the marriage decision is a huge one. I would also want to know, going into the marriage, that your love/commitment to each other transcends activity or orthodoxy in the LDS Church. From both sides -- yours and his.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"Stage 5 is where you no longer believe the gospel as its literally or traditionally taught. Nonetheless, you find your own way to be active and at peace within it". -- SD

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

My introduction: viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1576

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SilentDawning
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Re: Religion Trauma Syndrome?

Post by SilentDawning » 22 Jun 2015, 15:36

Additional thought -- have you ever wondered if perhaps these "blow up in your face" revelations is God's way of teaching us NOT to be so reliant on him? They are powerful, indelible experiences that alter our thinking -- could it be intentional on His part? Could he be compensating for all of those God of the Car Keys experiences we hear at church, and tempering our beliefs with realism?
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"Stage 5 is where you no longer believe the gospel as its literally or traditionally taught. Nonetheless, you find your own way to be active and at peace within it". -- SD

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

My introduction: viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1576

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