Feeling Traumatized at Church?

Public forum for those seeking support for their experience in the LDS Church.
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Mr. Sneelock
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Feeling Traumatized at Church?

Post by Mr. Sneelock » 22 May 2018, 12:04

I imagine most of us have experienced it: You are sitting in church listening to a talk or lesson, when the speaker or teacher addresses an issue about which you feel uneasy. Maybe the the trigger is a certain hymn that starts to be sung by the congregation. Soon there is a knot in your stomach and your heart rate rises as you feel anxiety and just want to get out of there. Sometimes you can cope by tuning out and focusing on something else but sometimes you feel like the only emotionally healthy option is to get up and leave.

Before my faith crisis I never experienced anything like this at church. Now it occurs on a regular basis (although thankfully I feel like it is getting less and less frequent). The only word I can think of to describe it is trauma.

Why am I experiencing this and will it eventually go away? Does anyone have insight into what is causing such a gut-wrenching reaction?
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DarkJedi
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Re: Feeling Traumatized at Church?

Post by DarkJedi » 22 May 2018, 12:22

I think you're right that most of us have experienced or do experience this, and it can be a talk, testimony, lesson or song. I usually do as you said and distract myself with my tablet and/or phone. This past Sunday we sang "Praise to the Man" as a rest hymn. I know it doesn't bother some people here, but it bothers me - I took a restroom break. And sometimes the best option for our own sanity is to leave.
Why am I experiencing this and will it eventually go away? Does anyone have insight into what is causing such a gut-wrenching reaction?
I don't know why we experience it but like you it has gotten better/less frequent over time - but it still happens. If it eventually goes away I'll let you know. I'm not a psychologist so say I can't really say what causes it but it probably has to do with the root symptoms of our faith crises - perhaps that we felt deceived or lied to or whatever and even perhaps that we yearn for it to be all better and the way it used to be. I really don't know, I've just learned coping mechanisms.
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AmyJ
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Re: Feeling Traumatized at Church?

Post by AmyJ » 22 May 2018, 13:07

Yes, I have felt those feelings before.

I attribute them to experiencing a moment of cognitive dissonance where you feel that what you believe/know no longer matches what everyone else around you believes/knows AND that if they could read your mind, you would be ousted from the tribe (spear points strictly optional).

nibbler
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Re: Feeling Traumatized at Church?

Post by nibbler » 22 May 2018, 13:39

I came very close to creating a thread called Nibbler and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Sunday.

I recently posted a thread about when to speak up and when to hold your tongue and last Sunday put me to the test. I still have some very strong triggers; when we attack people for not worshiping leaders and when we attack the "thems," be they members of other religions, people who have left the church, gay people, etc. Last Sunday we got to do both for two of the three hours. The other hour was (unintentionally) a reenactment of getting up on the Rameumptom.

It was by far the worst block of Sunday meetings that I have attended in years and years. I could give a play by play but I'll boil it down to one observation:

We criticize people that leave the church because they misplaced their faith in the leaders of the church... and we know they are being led by Satan because they don't place their faith in the leaders of the church.

We want that cake and we want to eat it too... or we'll get you coming and going. Not sure which.

In the case of sacrament meeting I got up and left. It was exceptionally bad. Lots of judgement being passed on multiple groups... except the prophets. The joke about how Catholics are taught that the Pope is infallible but no one believes it and Mormons are taught that the prophet is fallible but none of the members believe it was told and it was used as a segue right into the 14 fundamentals that focused on how inerrant the prophets are. Sometimes we're completely blind to what we're saying.

SS I did my best to daydream. PH was a continuation of SM's prophet love-fest.

It was bad enough to elicit an emotional response strong enough to make me never want to go back to church. At this point it probably is best for us to take a break from one another.

No hard feelings against anyone or anything at church. It's just that the people that enjoy church and make those comments have needs that are very different than mine. Some people need their trust in a prophet and if they are hurtful it isn't intentional. We're all blind to the judgments we pronounce, the no-win scenarios we create for others.

I should have spoken up during PH. I did speak up during SM, muttering things under my breath as I walked out. :angel:

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dande48
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Re: Feeling Traumatized at Church?

Post by dande48 » 22 May 2018, 13:45

The trauma comes, because your perspective of the Church has shifted. You loved the Church, because of what it claimed to be, and the needs it helped fulfill. Now, you recognize that the Church is not entirely what it claimed to be, and it is no longer able to fulfill your needs as it once did. But you remember the way it made you feel, and that hurts.

The only way to overcome the trauma is through forgiveness. I've had to forgive the Church, Joseph Smith, the Church leaders, my parents, my teachers... I've had to forgive myself for being wrong. I've had to forgive them all, not only for what has happened, but the mistakes that will continue to be made. We're all very broken. We need to make peace with that fact.
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AmyJ
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Re: Feeling Traumatized at Church?

Post by AmyJ » 22 May 2018, 14:02

POTENTIAL PRIMARY RANT WARNING:

Church for me this week was my husband vacating the chapel to deal with health issues while I dealt with our 2 daughters (8 years old functioning around 5-6 years old and almost 2 years old respectively) in the chapel. Normally, in this situation, if my husband goes out, we all go out and hang in the nursery. My husband counseled that he wanted us to stay in the chapel even though he could not because he felt there was an extra dose of "spirit" and/or he wanted me to start Sacrament training the girls (not sure). We survived...

After sacrament meeting the Primary President tried to shame me into committing to serve in nursery next week to cover for the nursery leader. I am completely fine with supporting her - and if I can, I will probably let her know via IM Saturday night or Sunday morning. She used the "Well, you are the only parent available.." line - what she meant to say is that out of the 3 moms, the other 2 have other time commitments. I thought about telling her she could ask my husband (because he also qualifies as a parent)... but decided not to (not sure if it is because I love my husband, or because I didn't want to hear him complain about turning her down). I just currently refuse to commit to a specific time ahead of time when it comes to church right now, and that is not what she wanted to hear. I can even respect that. It was just annoying because she wanted a more formal commitment then I was willing to give and wasn't taking my level of commitment gracefully. The 7-10 times we have been to church this year, I have covered nursery all but 1x I think. This is part because the branch was in between nursery leaders for part of that.

Following that debacle, the Primary managed to "lose" my daughter from her Senior Sharing Time to hanging out in nursery with me. As near as I can tell, the teachers did not ensure she transitioned from her classroom to Sharing Time (at all), the leaders did not double-check to find her (or if they saw her through the nursery glass - did not knock or say anything) and/or allowed my daughter to leave to come and find me in the nursery without following up with us about it. (Still sore about that one). I counted 18 children total that would be roughly divided between 2 sharing times - how is this even possible?

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Reuben
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Re: Feeling Traumatized at Church?

Post by Reuben » 22 May 2018, 20:38

Mr. Sneelock wrote:
22 May 2018, 12:04
Soon there is a knot in your stomach and your heart rate rises as you feel anxiety and just want to get out of there. Sometimes you can cope by tuning out and focusing on something else but sometimes you feel like the only emotionally healthy option is to get up and leave.

[...]

Why am I experiencing this and will it eventually go away? Does anyone have insight into what is causing such a gut-wrenching reaction?
Yeah, that's a fight-or-flight response to a perceived threat. I think AmyJ got it right. It's probably good old cognitive dissonance.

Last week, just to see if I could, I tried to make myself believe that the next time it rained, the grass would stay dry while everything else got soaked. I imagined it in detail and tried to convince myself that that's how rain always works. I managed it for 15 seconds, during which the evidence of always seeing the grass get wet when it rains pulled hard against the false belief. My heart rate, respiratory rate, and discomfort rose quickly. By the time I let go of the belief, I was in full fight-or-flight mode, alternating between afraid and angry. While I calmed down, I experienced mild dissociation and vertigo. I didn't like thinking about grass for the next couple of days.

Cognitive dissonance is legit.

(I'm running a poll about this on another site. Nobody has been able to keep up the false belief for a whole minute.)

Here's my theory about uncomfortable church stuff. We're social creatures. One aspect of this is that we adopt the beliefs of the groups we belong to unless we consciously resist them. I think that beliefs we recently had pull on our minds more strongly than novel beliefs. Our evidence and motivation for rejecting those beliefs pull in the opposite direction, so we experience cognitive dissonance.

Take this with a grain of salt, though. I'm just an armchair psychologist.

I do know that being made to experience cognitive dissonance repeatedly isn't good for your mental health. Your good options are to leave or distract yourself. Your bad options are to fight somehow or ride it out.

I've found sitting near the door to be a good strategy. And yes, it does mostly go away, eventually. At 1.5 years after my faith crisis, I get triggered by a lot less than I used to. It seems more likely to happen if I'm having a stressful day.
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NightSG
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Re: Feeling Traumatized at Church?

Post by NightSG » 22 May 2018, 21:40

Mr. Sneelock wrote:
22 May 2018, 12:04
I imagine most of us have experienced it: You are sitting in church listening to a talk or lesson, when the speaker or teacher addresses an issue about which you feel uneasy. Maybe the the trigger is a certain hymn that starts to be sung by the congregation.
How about the most common one: Father's Day.

Just soon enough after Mother's Day that we get to remember the glowing praise heaped upon every mother, which just makes it worse that every mention is how fathers should be trying harder.

Bad enough being a noncustodial parent with an ex who makes sure that the full days I'm supposed to have them for my birthday and Father's Day never happen. Piling on a series of lectures on what crappy parents we all are is too much.

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SamBee
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Re: Feeling Traumatized at Church?

Post by SamBee » 23 May 2018, 05:30

For me, "Families are Forever" is irritating. I have no living family I am close to. I am unmarried.

I've never experienced anything this bad at church. In non-church contexts but not in church.
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Re: Feeling Traumatized at Church?

Post by Minyan Man » 23 May 2018, 07:21

As I read the postings I've asked myself "is traumatized" the right description for what I feel at church?
Traumatized to me means: injury to the body, mind or spirit. Examples may include: victim of a violent act.

There are situations at church where I feel VERY uncomfortable. There are ways I try to cope.
a. there are a core group of members I feel comfortable with. They are my main social contacts.
b. there are a select meetings I go to. Gospel Doctrine is a big NO. I stay busy during this hour with Family History, social contacts, etc.
c. never attend leadership meetings or accept leadership positions.
d. I apologize when I've shot my mouth off. (this happens more then I like.)

In all situations, I try to relax as much as possible & focus on the basic core of my beliefs.
When that doesn't happen, I zone out.

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