Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Of the (Mormon) world, but not in it

How many "mainstream" Mormons are there now? Anyone who watched conference know what the current claim is?  I know it's really BIG and impressive.  They always make it sound that way.

It really isn't. Mormonism is really pretty tiny and insignificant in the larger scheme of things.  The fact is that it isn't a Mormon world out there.  I'm in Boston!  I've only met two Mormons here if I don't count those who were sent to my door or fulfilling a calling*.  So, why does it feel so huge(!!!) to me? If Mormonism suddenly ceased to exist, most of the world wouldn't even notice, but there would be a huge hole in my psyche. When I initially left the church, at 20 (21?), I kind of just stopped thinking about it.  I mean, I thought about the immediate effects of leaving and the drama with in-laws, etc.  But, I never really thought about how it had affected me, how it had shaped who I was.  I might even go so far as to say that I, in my naïvete, thought it hadn't affected me at all, that I had just managed to avoid becoming tainted my it, and I could just be on my way.  Then around 2006 or so, thanks to therapy, I realized that uh-uh, I had some serious issues to explore.  A major reassessment of my values and where they really came from was in order.  Five years on, I'm still exploring.  I doubt that I'll ever stop seeing the effects of Mormonism in me.  So, while I'm no longer in that Mormon world, I'm still of it.  It's part of me, for better and/or worse. It seems somehow crucial that I figure it all out, that I be able to recognize when the Momon-girl in me is surfacing. Maybe it really isn't. 

But, I catch myself falling into old patterns now and then like:
  • Cowering to passive-aggressive behavior when I would like to be confronting it assertively.  And even, regretfully, behaving passive-aggressively myself. 
  • Feeling guilty when I am assertive.  
  • Allowing others to manipulate me with guilt.
  • Black and white thinking.  
  • Feeling guilty because I'm not being the perfect wife, daughter, sister, friend, (new puppy) mother.  I'm not all things to everyone. 
  • Thinking that there is some sort of perfection that can be attained.  Forgetting that, while I can be better, I'll never be perfect in everyone's eyes and least of all in my own.  Better should be enough.   
I'm sure there are many more.  (And, yes, I do recognize that none of these are specific to Mormonism. But, for me...So, I don't want to argue about it.)

*Technically, I actually met one of the two at a grad school interview at UCLA, but I'll count her because I encounter her in a non-church setting because we both ended up coming to the same division at HMS.  I met the other when he was interviewing for a post-doc position in my lab.  I didn't even have to hear him speak and I "knew" he was Mormon, and most likely from Utah or Idaho.  Modar! 


  1. This is going to seem really selfish, because... it probably is... I feel some relief knowing that you sometimes slip back into old behaviors. I keep thinking, "I should be SO over this by now," and I get frustrated because I'm so NOT over it.

    Thanks for writing this!

  2. I believe the only way to completely eradicate all things Mormon about me would be to go back to my birth and start over with a non-Mormon family. Not possible. The best we can do is develop self-insights so we can alter negative behaviors that unavoidably rubbed off on us.

    Perhaps another item to add to your list (or my list if it doesn't apply to you): The very Mormon tendency to be emotionally distant. Thank God I rejected that cultural norm too (I was the one who was always "far too open" about my feelings). Nonetheless, that tendency did negatively impact some of my past relationships.

    Great post.

  3. I've been thinking about this post for a few days now. I am just glad that I am not the only one that catches myself falling into old patterns. Your list was perfect - those are exactly the traps I fall into.

    Thank you for this post.

  4. Jen - That's not selfish at all. I think we all blog so that we can relate with each others' struggles. :-)

    CD - I'm pretty introverted anyway, so I don't know how emotionally distant I am. Are those the same thing? I think there is probably a difference. People definitely perceive me as being distant. With some people I understand it - because I AM protecting myself. With others, I regret that they perceive me that way, because I like them, but I also can't just warm up to people quickly.

    I notice that I am more emotionally distant among Mormons than others. My closest friends have mostly been non-members. But, I suspect my tendency to be emotionally distant with Mormons is a defense mechanism against the tendency in the culture to disregard personal boundaries and privacy.

    Do you have any thoughts on the difference between being introverted and emotionally distant? What is the right amount of emotional openness?

    Sulli - Thanks for your comment. I'm sorry that you have some of the same patterns, but I fell better knowing others "feel me". I hope you feel better knowing it isn't just you...

  5. Thanks. I was feeling a little frustrated that I'm still not over my religious training and that it is affecting so much of my life. Nice to know I'm not alone.

  6. Amy, I'm sorry to change the subject, but where in nor cal are you from? Have you heard of Valley Springs? I lived in Lodi for 9 years also. I didn't have a computer for quite a while and then read a comment you put on an old post of mine. Just curious. ~Becky :)

  7. Hi Becky,

    I'm from El Dorado Hills (up HWY 50 between Folsom and Placerville). I'm heard of Lodi but not Valley Springs. What is your blog?