006 The Talk: Telling Family and Friends (Part Two)
How to Brené Brown the crap out of this conversation
In part one of the The Talk, three of our panelists shared their experiences surrounding telling (or not) their family and friends about their choice to leave Mormonism.
In part two of The Talk, we continue with the topic of telling friends and family, this time with our resident therapist’s perspective. Listen in as Aimee and Donna discuss relationships, belonging, vulnerability, and why the ways in which we tell our stories matter.
(And a huge congratulations to Aimee on the birth of her absolutely beautiful new baby!)
In Mormonism, belonging is strongly connected to belief, and that sense of belonging can be very intense when you are an all-in believer. This can make experiencing a change in belief very frightening: what am I risking if I tell people? What if my lack of belief means I no longer belong in my family/community?
The responses from believing members of the church to these types of conversations can be both overwhelming and underwhelming; both can be difficult to deal with.
Differentiation is a therapy concept that is critical to understand as you consider having these kinds of hard conversations. It’s the idea of understanding where you end and someone else begins. Being differentiated means that you take ownership for your emotions and your emotions only. The emotions of others are not yours to own, control, or fix. (Recovering people-pleasers raise your hands.)
This is tied to having a healthy, autonomous sense of self: where you know internally who you are and don’t need others to show or tell you what you think or believe about yourself.
Accept that this conversation will likely make your family and friends very sad. However, you don’t have to take on that sadness yourself.
Understand what you want from the conversation before you engage in it: do you want to be understood? Do you want to build connection and prioritize relationships? Do you want to win the battle? Being honest with yourself about your intention will help you frame the way you go about it, and can help you decide whether to even have it in the first place.
Begin the conversation with an expression of affirmation or gratitude; showing your family and friends that you love them and are not rejecting them may help them show you the same love in return.
Tell your story: talk about your feelings, the things you’ve experienced, and what you’ve learned about yourself. Get to the emotional core of things. Resist the urge to “reverse-testify” and list your reasons for leaving.
Be generous; give people the benefit of the doubt. Most people want to be their best selves, so invite them to show up in the way that you need them to.
Don’t think of this conversation as an end game–most of these relationships will continue on for a long time. If you’ve had conversations with family or friends in the past and you don’t feel they have gone well, it’s 100% fine to ask for a do-over.
Joanna Brooks: Mormon Identity in the 21st Century (from the 2011 Mormon Stories Conference)
Bart Campolo: Belonging to Humanity (sermon given at Eastlake Community Church April 29th, 2018, starts at 35:00)
Leaving my Father's Faith: the story of how Bart Campolo stopped believing and his evangelical Christian father’s response to the news (documentary film)
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