Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Positive Psychology

I just got out of group therapy.  Today's topic was Positive Psychology.  "Think yourself happy" and all that.  A few weeks ago, I would have told you that optimists are just delusional and that happiness is an illusion.  I was in a bad place.  But now, I want to bear my testimony of Positive Psychology.  I know that it is true.  I know that you can find temporary happiness (or at least a lightening of depression) just by thinking about the shit* that makes you happy or HAS made you happy in the past and the small positive things that happen during your day. (Today I was running late for an appointment but I was spared a scolding because the other person was just a hair later. Rock on!!!)

So....I was thinking that in this spirit, maybe we could all think of some positive consequences of time we spent in the Church and/or from the struggle getting out.  I'll start:

  1. If I hadn't been raised in and then pushed back against the Church, I don't think I would know myself nearly as well as I do.
  2. Being raised in the Church made me the feminist I am today.
  3. I recognize fake and forced happiness and how this is different from the real happiness that comes with being authentic to oneself and others. 
  4. I have had the opportunity to see that my mother and other members of my extended family aren't fixated on my religious/non-religious status and love me despite my angry atheistic leanings.  I am extremely grateful for this.  I know that many of you (including my own husband) haven't had the same luck. 
  5. It kept me out of trouble? Maybe.  I was a pretty good kid anyway and I don't remember being overly obsessed with the rules.
  6. I recognize the difference between being good for goodness sake and following my own innate humanistic conscience and not because I've been burdened with guilt or striving toward some eternal reward.
So, what do you say?  Can you help me see more positive consequences of having been a member?  Also, feel free to chime in if you were a member of other faiths/traditions.

*Sorry. I say "shit" when I mean "stuff" because I have 20 years clean of not swearing that I mean to get back by swearing A LOT until I am 40.


  1. I like your list and could adopt several of your ideas. Frankly, I'm grateful for the perspective I gained from thinking my way out of Mormonism. That process has given me insights into people and culture that I would not have gained otherwise.

  2. Oh, and more important -- going through that process gave me insights into myself. I found myself for the first time. Does that make sense?

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  4. Yeah, I sometimes forget to appreciate just how fucked-up my religious up bringing was. If I didn't have that fucked-up up bringing, I wouldn't have been able to understand just how bad it could be for people who go through it. I also wouldn't be able to understand how they think either. And therefor, I would never have been able to effectively empathize with those getting out, or understand what it is that causes people to do the stupid things they do in the name of god.

  5. Its hard to flip it over and think of the possitives. One thing that my bride of 27 years and I acknowledge to each other is that without living the curse of mormonism, we wouldn't have found each other!

  6. Thanks, Smoking Joe. I can't believe I missed that one. I met my husband at church as well and just at the last minute!

  7. I like these thoughts about how we are meaning making machines.... we like to create meaning out of everything and that meaning is a reflection of our mental maps and emotions. I have found that the Mormon church is also our meaning making parent... they tell us what our experiences mean before, during and after we have them. You know the drill... what just happened to you is this.... and it means this.... and therefore JS is a prophet......

    Meaning making is a godlike skill... he/she who is the meaning maker controls our psychology. I think the process of growing up (evolving in this case) is one of moving toward living and not allowing the parental meaning making organizations to have complete dominance over our experiences in life. Deconstructing our religious identities doesn't mean we have to deny our experiences of the past... it does mean we have to perhaps create new meaning around the experience because that which we created was so imprinted by the mormon lense.....

    thanks Amy....