Sunday, March 6, 2011

Self Talk

I have so many thoughts right now. I am hoping that by attempting to write about them it will help to order my mind somewhat. Right now I am really struggling with the fact that belief in God is so polarizing. I am very sad that civil discourse between those that believe with those that don't is so difficult to find, let alone engage in. My wife and I have resorted to simply not talking about so many things because of the resulting "debates" and "arguments" that seemed to invariably occur anytime one of us brings up something religious. I know I win the debate each time, but it seems like I usually fail to convince anyone of anything (that and my wife doesn't like to debate, apparently). This makes me really sad. I have a very hard time being sympathetic to her views and she doesn't want to go where my searching has lead me, so we are at an impasse.

For this reason, sometimes I just hate the church and what it has done. While I want to blame the church for my present difficulties, I also hate to admit that if I had not gone against the teachings of the church and read "forbidden" "anti" Mormon things, I may not be in the situation I am in. However, I cannot accept that line of thinking because what really started me down this path was not because I was going quickly to forbidden "anti" literature. What started me on this path was studying and pondering the content of the the Book of Abraham! I was literally trying to understand my beliefs better and feel like I got the short end of the stick because of it. I now see that Joseph Smith left a lot of clues to be able to discover the extent of his deception. The problem is, the only way to find them is to begin to look critically at church history and doctrine. Many cannot even get to that point. Where there is no ability to be critical of a doctrine, or set of beliefs, there is no possibility of ever being able to deny it's truthfulness. The problem is the church teaches that truthfulness is most important while ignoring the fact that it is not being truthful with its members in presenting its history.

The other thing I have been thinking about (as a result of listening to a motivational seminar by Brian Tracy on a recent road trip) lately is the power of our self talk. We all have internal dialogue that takes place all the time. The power contained in our self dialogue is pretty immense and can affect our lives dramatically over time. While I want to look more into this to learn more about it, I understand that what we hear and say contributes to the responses we receive from our subconscious and the quality of the self talk that takes place all the time within us. This self talk usually consists of our conscious mind asking questions and our subconscious mind providing answers based on what we are asking. Therefore, the quality (and content) of our questions (or self talk) are what contributes to the response of our subconscious. The focus of our subconscious mind ultimately becomes our reality. Of course, Brian Tracy says this inner dialogue can be manipulated by saying positive things about ourselves to ourselves over and over. The more emotion we attach to these messages, the more powerful and convincing they become to affect change in our lives. The ability to change our inner dialogue is a difficult process and can take some time to actually accomplish, but doing so can really create change in our lives.

I believe this to some extent, but I hate to think that my beliefs changed because I asked different questions and focused on different things! I know people who know the same things that I choose to label as deal breakers in my belief in the church, yet they still believe in spite of the knowledge they have of the problems. They just choose not to label them as deal breakers, I guess. Then again, the ability to see these issues as problems can really be affected by our self talk when responding to the issues in our mind. I believe the ability to isolate and minimize the issues to prevent acknowledging the big picture is a direct result of internal dialogue that is constantly minimizing the issues or their larger implications. I also think some people use the implications of religion not being accurate as a quick reason to simply avoid going anywhere near there automatically. People say, "I don't like where this is going, so I am just not going to allow myself to go there."

I know that my self talk did change gradually as I made conscious decisions in regard to various aspects of my set of religious beliefs, but it took time because each part had to be analyzed and addressed on a case by case basis. However, sometimes I wonder (if this idea of being able to affect our self talk with what we say and hear is really true) what would happen if I went back to church for my family so I could make them happy when they go to church. I worry that maybe my self talk would change, because of what I heard, so that I wasn't so opposed to what the church asks and I would eventually get to a point where I could ignore all my issues. Would I eventually get to a point where I could participate in church without any reservations? I honestly think my self talk would drive me crazy pointing out all the inconsistencies, deception and troubling aspects and this would lead to anger and frustration that I end up taking out on my family. Right now, not going to church seems to keep the peace, so that is where I am at.

I know a couple of people pretty well who participate fully in church (out of consideration for their family) that say they don't believe. One has a temple recommend but tells me (in private conversation) its all a bunch of crap, but pays minimal tithing and just figures that since people want to believe, he is not detracting from that and allowing them to do so. Keeping peace in the family is the primary reason this person says is why they keep going to church. I worry that this response for me would lead to too much cognitive distress and anger. It is certainly less peaceful for my family when I go to church because I have been so angry afterwards, it makes for not very happy times at home on Sunday afternoons/evenings. I wonder if this response of mine could ever change. Is it just a matter of my focus right now? Since I am focused on the problems, have I made them out to be bigger or more serious than they actually are?

The other person close to me does not believe and does not have a temple recommend or pay tithing, but goes to church and tries to point out difficult issues whenever they come up in lessons. I have heard from others, in the ward they attend, that people think that this person's attendance at church tends to distract from lessons because they insist on pointing out the problems whenever they come up. I have a hard time with this because I think if I am going to church, it means that I am sort of giving up my right to dissent. Church is a place for believers to go to be strengthened in their belief. I don't think it is a place for non believers to go and try to tell the believers why they are messed up in their beliefs.

This idea of trying to correct the church from within, I think, is like swimming upstream. It is always going to be difficult and the reality is the group is not going see the opposite view of things because the church has many systems setup to keep people focused on ignoring or always putting the problems out of their mind. I think that no matter how many things you show believers to cast doubt on their beliefs, they will always find a way to gloss over or minimize or completely ignore the issues being brought up. I guess this is simply a matter of their focus. I just wonder if it is so simple a thing that if you just focus on one thing that you want to be true, that people can successfully ignore real challenges to their beliefs if they do that. I guess it is happening all over the world, so I have to assume it is that simple. So, why do I not feel like if I just changed my focus that I could go back to believing in the church and be able to participate without being angry? Is this just what I want? I want to be respected enough to have my assertions challenged and to be shown why I am wrong. I don't want people to blindly follow what I say. I want to build from a foundation of integrity and let integrity guide me when setting up a belief system for myself.

I think I also take for granted that I have faced the fear that goes along with questioning beliefs about God and the hereafter. These are extremely difficult things to challenge because there is so much fear (which I think is built up quite a bit by religion, however) surrounding an acknowledgement that beliefs in God may not be true. I also wonder if many people are simply not capable of facing this fear, of things not being the way they want, and therefore they are truly not capable of ever focusing on other possibilities. Facing fear, I think, is extremely difficult, but I think it is worth the effort. I can say that I feel so much better for having begun to address my fear of the non-existance of God and an afterlife. It has made my life all the more rich and meaningful. I appreciate my life so much more. I am more inspired by nature than I ever was before. I am also a little more cynical on some things, too, but I think this is OK. I am a realist. I live in the present and I focus on reality and I think I come away more inspired and more motivated to learn and take advantage of my time here on this planet than I ever was while believing that I had an eternal afterlife to be able to catch up in my understanding of things.

However, I know lots of people, who have not faced the fear, will find that statement extremely difficult to believe. How can I show them those things are true if they never want to go there? I guess by being an example of integrity and moving forward with a focus on the here and now instead of the hereafter. I think I struggle with wanting to help others understand what I think I know. I really want others to see what I see. The hardest thing for me to accept is that there are those (probably many, actually) that will never get to where I am at. I guess I just need to keep telling myself that and maybe one day I will accept it?


  1. I understand where you're at. Being able to have the validation that you're right is important. Friends, online groups, blogs... that's all good for support, but actually having the ones closest to us, those that know and love us most, to have them be able to see it too is pure validation.

    I'd give anything to have a sibling or parent or child understand my views. It's lonely and frustrating, but I can't give up that some day down the road, something will trigger the questioning and they'll come to me for help. Just continue to love them, and like you said, show your true integrity. They'll see you're ok and it's not such a bad thing to disbelieve.

  2. My husband and I left the church together. My kids are young so they are out too. My mum and all 5 of my siblings got out (at various times over the last 10 or so years). My FIL never joined. I have many non-member and a few ex-Mormon friends. I am so lucky to have all of this support AND YET I still get into the headspace that you describe in this post. Maybe I should have just quietly disagreed and continued to fake it on the outside. Maybe I would have kept more friends and my MIL wouldn't wish for my marriage to end.

    If this life is all we have then sometimes I feel that I should break away even further and go on some kind of individual quest. Shed my skins - mother/wife etc and just be me. But I don't want to leave my children. I could do with some time apart from my husband but I think we are already managing that. We have been pursuing our own interests with more fervor and not being as nosy about each others comings and goings. That feels quite liberating in itself.

    I think it is a rough deal to discover that you have given over your 20s (&30s &40s etc for some people) to a cult (my word for LDS church when I am feeling pissed off). How do you get that back? Maybe I'm better off (as my husband and I try to tell ourselves) having married young and already raised a couple of kids passed the difficult sleep deprivation stages so that now in our 30s we can have a bit of fun but with some maturity (ha!) under our belts.

    I dunno. I've digressed a lot. I just think that life really is an amazing thing and I have met some amazing people in the last year or so who really grab life by the balls and make a go of it. I really want to let go of the pain and live! I hope you will also find ways to express your individuality and your passion for life and your deepest inner desires for a fulfilling and joyous life. Wishing I could give you a big hug :)

  3. @ Fanny: So True! It makes me wonder if people in previous generations may have had doubts about the church, but couldn't possibly leave because there was no way to feel validation or support in that decision. Discovering the exmo online community was definitely helpful in providing support and validation to me. That and the quality of information out there is waaaayyyy better than I think it used to be. I remember hearing about my parents discussing the godmakers movie at church when I was a teenager. They just laughed about the ridiculousness of it all...but they still didn't want my young ears to hear anything about it. I seriously doubt that movie "helped" many out of the church.

    It is also hard to try and balance the struggle of wanting to try and enhance the cognitive dissonance in those that believe versus just letting them have their happiness. It is just amazing to me that when I talk to those that believe about my issues, they just don't say, "Wow! You're right. How could I have been so foolish to not see that." I find that so hard to swallow sometimes ;-) It is fascinating yet hard to understand all at the same time.

    @ M: Sorry to hear about your MIL. Was she open about that? I'm sure there are those that feel that way about me, but they have never said anything that ever got back to me. It is so sad how family can be so hurtful and not even realize what they are doing to others. Sometimes I feel like devoting so much of my time to the church has been a waste on the one hand, but then, on the other, I am grateful for the experiences I had and that I avoided a lot of misery growing up too. I guess I am trying to look on the bright side. I guess I never thought about the difficulties that can come up when both spouses leave together. (It is a challenge I would love to have, btw) I think it might be even harder because we would both be starting over and there would be a lot more uncertainty about things going forward.(I am just trying to imagine if there were two of me going through what I am, I always thought that would be perfect, but what if it were just too hard for one of us to get through?) I guess that is part of facing the fear I was talking about. First there is the fear that maybe the church isn't true, then there is the fear that maybe God doesn't exist the way we want Him/Her/It to and then there is the fear of what if I am married to the wrong person? I have to remind myself that facing that fear will make me a better person for doing it.

    I think I have also been trying to live life more fully than I did before, too. I am much more physically active than I have ever been before. I also think I see things more clearly than before and am certainly less critical of others. I now see that since I want to enjoy my individuality, others should enjoy that privilege also. Thanks for sharing your comments, I appreciate it.

  4. Yes, well at least I read her that way. She asked me what I was going to do when her son returned to full activity... and she asked it in a very defiant/unkind way (difficult to convey in print). This was at the end of a conversation between just her and I in her kitchen after she had said how devastated she was by our departure and how depressed she was because of it. I was sympathetic and offered to talk w/her over coffee (eherm, I mean hot chocolate) sometime but she refused. She said she did NOT want to talk about it. Then she proceeded to ridicule/shame me for writing my blog and then capped it off with that line about her son. I certainly took it as a threat but maybe I was reading too much into it?

    There is a bunch of uncertainty w/both of us leaving. It is good and bad. We get to go on this new journey together but we are also both experiencing a pull to leave each other and forge separate lives. I don't know what will happen. It's both exhilarating and scary at the same time. I feel like we are both closer and further apart all at the same time! Weird huh!

    Walking through the fear eh. It sure is BIG.

    I agree, life seems so much more beautiful now and each day is so precious. :D