Godless in Dixie has a good post today about some of the effects of leaving a high-demand religious system, in his case, a Christian denomination. He’s a little more harsh about Christianity in general than I’d be, but his points are valid nonetheless.
The most useful part of his post is the section on how to deal with family members who are still in the religion and who are treating you poorly. This is the sort of advice I mention briefly in Recovering Agency, but would have liked to have had more room to expound upon them. There are many other books that cover these topics, though not necessarily in a religious context.
I’ve had to do all of these, including heavy boundary-setting to the point of moving away without giving a forwarding address or phone number to family.
Especially for those of us from a religion which so heavily emphasized the importance of family, some of these seem impossible or even morally wrong. But if family can’t accept you for who you are and if they won’t stop pestering you about things you’d rather not hear about, they are, unfortunately, necessary. As Godless in Dixie says, “……some people are committed to misunderstanding you.”
This situation is very common for exmormons and doubting Mormons. Which is, sadly, a part of how mind control works. It keeps people from seeing you in any way that doesn’t fit the totalist model. It leverages our dependencies on friends and family to keep us involved. And when it can’t do that, at least, for those we leave behind, it resolves the cognitive dissonance over the question of, “If the gospel is true, why would my loved one leave?”
No wonder it always feels like my friends and family are misreading me all the time. They’re looking at me through a lens which claims things about me that are patently false. Seeing me the way they do requires ignoring several important things I tell them about myself, and that is no way to love someone. If you aim to love someone, it is incumbent upon you to attempt to understand him on his own terms, and not misrepresent him.”
And if they can’t do that, then you need to take yourself seriously and add more people in your life who will accept and understand you. Until your family can do it, too.
So read the full article, particularly the advice and steps, which will help you cope with this kind of situation.
And in my case, these strategies also led to a better relationship between me and certain family members. They now really do accept me how I am, and they respect me and my path through life. You can’t always count on that happening, but it’s definitely not going to happen unless you take responsibility to protect yourself.