post-Mormon journey can be broken down into the following
1. Complete denial/unawareness.
We are not consciously aware that there are material problems
with our belief system.
and Cognitive Dissonance.
We begin to question as a result of information we have
come across, or a dawning realization that Mormonism does
not work for us. These nagging doubts have to be actively
suppressed. During this stage we may become Mormon apologists
as we attempt to keep our cognitive dissonance under control.
This is the infamous “Oh Shit!!” moment, at
which everything changes, except our brain, our relationships,
our life's circumstances, etc. OK, not much changes except
our perspective, but it feels like everything has changed.
We are talkig about high tensile trauma here. See http://mccue.cc/bob/documents/rs.revelation.pdf
for an example. Many flirt with, or go into, deep depression.
Professional counselling is a good idea while navigating
the stormy personal and relationship seas around this event.
A usually lengthy period during which euphoria at new found
freedom alternates with anger, grief and bargaining. These
waves are caused by the fact that our brains have still
not been rewired and our circumstances are still largely
Mormon. And so, our instincts (which are largely dictated
by brain wiring) and circumstances are at odds with our
conscious desires for a different kind of life. As our brain
wiring and circumstances gradually come more into sync with
what we want to do with our lives, the waves settle down.
The research with regard to Kubler-Ross’s stages of
grief helps us to understand what is going on here. We tend
to ingest massive amounts of information and interact extensively
with other people with whom we share our journey as we attempt
to find a new worldview – a new personal mythology
– to stabilize our lives.
is what causes of the brain reformatting that will occur
during this process occurs. That is, the continual repetition
of brain patterns (neurons that fire together, wire together)
produces growth within the brain - a new brain - literally.
We also tend to put immense amounts of pressure on the Mormons
in our lives as a result of our need to be connected to
them. Mormonism breeds insecurity into its members. This
helps to keep the herd together. However, when someone does
leave, it creates a powerful need in them to have others
“understand” them, which usually means affirm
what they are doing. Most people gradually grow out of this.
This process is best understood using “attachment
theory”. Breaking negative attachment patterns takes
a lot of stress out of our lives. The sooner thisc an be
done, the better.
We for the most part move on to interests outside
of Mormonism. This occurs in jerky stages over an often
lengthy period of time. Steps 4 and 5 usually take years.
of comfort in a new space required for more or less complete
acceptance of the loss of the Mormon belief and social systems
indicates that the brain re-formatting that was required
has probably occurred. This leads us to ask how we can speed
that process up. The research indicates a variety of things
in this regard. Access to good information about Mormonism
and why it doesn't work for many people is a given. The
best sources in this regard as solid Mormon history (Michael
Quinn, "The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power",
for example), and social psychology (Loyal Rue, "Religion
is Not About God"; Pascal Boyer, "Religion Explained";
Scott Atran, "In Gods We Trust"; Jon Haidt, "The
Happiness Hypothesis"; Daniel Gilbert, "Stumbling
on Happiness"; for example).
you have more than enough information about Mormonism and
religion in general, a couple of other kinds of brain exercise
that are less likely have come to mind and were particularly
important for me were journaling and “right brain”
with regard to journaling indicates that as long as insight
is building as a result of our journaling, it plays a profoundly
important role in the grieving and brain reformatting process.
By journaling I mean the process of writing down what troubles
your about your situation, and what you plan to do about
it. This would include summarizing important ideas with
regard to Mormonism or life after Mormonism that you come
across; articulating what was wrong with the way you used
to live and what would work better, etc. Journaling has
been shown to dramatically improve our physical health,
relieve depressive symptoms, etc. We are talking really
powerful stuff here – so powerful that I had trouble
accepting the benefits claimed until I have confirmed them
by review of multiple, reliable sources.
It is probable
that participating on Internet forums performs a function
similar to journaling, as long as the exercise builds insight.
Once it stops doing that, it is likely more unhelpful than
helpful, because the research indicates the negative impact
of ruminating about things that have gone wrong, or bitching
about them. So, as long as we are building insight, the
benefits in that regard are so large that they overcome
the negative side effects of dwelling on what went wrong.
Once we stop building insight, we should limit participation
in post-Mormon forums to the social, political, mentoring,
etc. and even that should probably play a relatively small
role in our lives. There are of course exceptions to this
rule. I encourage people to start post-Mormon forums that
will facilitate the kind of social interaction I have just
noted. Moving in that direction should be encouraged. And
once people have formed relationships in a place like this,
it is a shame not to be able to continue to enjoy them.
the research indicates will likely speed up the healing
and brain re-formatting process is exposure to “right
brain” activities. That is, many people who are struggling
out of the intellectual torpor Mormonism imposed on them
spend a huge amount of time analyzing Mormon history and
other issues related to Mormonism. That is what spending
time here largely involves, in addition to bitching about
indicates that largely left brain (logic, symbols, language)
tasks of this type only aid brain re-formatting to a degree.
After that, it may be counter productive. Learning a new
sport or musical instrument is similar. There comes a point
at which more practise slows the learning process down.
You are better off doing something else, and particularly
creative things that will stimulate the right side of the
brain, instead of more practising of that damned post-Mormon
instrument, your brain. Painting, playing a musical instrument,
gardening, etc. are good ideas in this regard. See http://mccue.cc/bob/documents/rs.art
therapy for recovering mormons.pdf for the long version
of how this works.
As time has
passed, I have found lots of things that seem to stimulate
me in ways that are healthy in what feels like the same
kind of right brain way as painting and creative writing,
which are the two activities that I began to use relatively
late in the getting out of Mormonism game for me.
Here is a laundry
for example. Consider this a meditation on intimate relationship.
Bath in it. Watch it a dozen times over a couple of weeks.
See how much symbolism you can find in it. Then watch it
a dozen more times over the next month and don’t think
about anything. Rather, pay attention to what it makes you
feel. Great pieces of art (which in my view this is) have
amazing depths to plumb if we take the time and spend the
energy. One of the wonderful things about this piece is
that you don’t have to understand anything except
what it feels like to try to become intimate with another
human being in order to “get” the piece as deeply
as it can be got.
• Meditation and Yoga.
Meditation has been shown to have immense health benefits.
It is, for example, as effective as the best anti-depressants
and has none of the side effects.
This is so easy, and feels so good. The repetitive stuff
works best. This puts you into a mind of semi-trance.
• Team sports.
Another easy way to loose the ego for hours. The need to
coordinate your movements with others does this. This way
to the “zone”, or flow state (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_(psychology)).
• Playing with children.
Being as silly and outside the box as possible.
Watch comedy. Listen to comedy. Hang with funny people.
Get a little drunk. Learn some jokes, and how to tell them.
Even forcing yourself to laugh (in private, likely) is proven
to make you feel good. Same goes for smiling. Forcing a
smile makes us happy. The "happy" wiring works
both ways. The brain responds to the mouth as well as the
mouth responds to the brain.
Spending time with people whose company you enjoy.
Take ballroom, Latin, or whatever, dance lessons. This is
a sensual activity that is one of the best ways going to
• Exposure to “outside the box”
For present purposes, these should have as little to do
with religion as possible. See www.ted.com
for some wonderful material in this regard. Read any issue
of Psychology Today. Check out www.edge.org
In places like this we find life’s spice.
• Reading creative literature.
Here are a few books that deal with the topic of breaking
boundaries, coming into new perspectives, etc. that gripped
me and I think are helpful to those trying to direct energy
away from Mormonism while attempting to re-wire our heads,
and hence find solid ground outside the Mormon cloister.
Company of the Courtesan", by Sarah Dunant;
Circle", by Pascale Quiviger (Giller finalist);
by Marilynne Robinson (Pulitzer);
Asher Lev", by Chaim Potok;
of Pi", by Yann Martel (Booker);
the Tuscan Sun", by Frances Mayes;
by Jeffrey Eugenides (Pulitzer).
Each is worth
reading and has been widely reviewed on the Internet. You
can read a few of those while deciding where to invest your
time. Middlesex is my most recent. It is great writing.
Each of the others is at least good. To my taste, Middlesex
is the best crafted of the bunch.
news is that the more we can help ourselves (and other)
to relax and let this amazing process play itself out, the
more we will enjoy it and get from it. This is a bit like
body surfing, or dealing with any other large force in our
lives. These things are too big for anything but going with
the flow – learning to use a big force in our lives
– to work well. Attempting to impose our will on it
We need to learn
to be more gentle with ourselves, as well as those who cannot
see the path we are on.