Discovering and Embracing My Emotions: Healing From a Mormon Paradigm

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To be intimate with all that we are- including our every emotion- is to fully embody and awaken to who and what we truly are.

Robert Augustus Masters, PhD, Emotional Intimacy: A Comprehensive Guide for Connecting with the Power of Your Emotions

The Moment of Realization

It was the summer of 2015. Shandra and I had been married for seventeen years and we had hit a wall. I didn’t know quite what was wrong. I literally was giving everything I could to our marriage, and had been for years. She was as well but had finally hit a point where she was burning out. We had both read Gary Chapman’s “The Five Love Languages” and other motivational and self-help books. None of these books or approaches seemed to be helping though.

Naively believing if I was trying so hard, it must be her with the problem, I hopped on Amazon in search of a book to “fix her.” Yes, I know, incredibly patronizing, presumptive and a display of very poor boundaries… I did a search for “emotional neglect” and bought the first book that came up. “Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect” by Jonice Webb, PhD with Christine Musello, PsyD.

Image from amazon.com

I figured I should read it before I gave it to her. It would be really arrogant of me to recommend a book I hadn’t read myself. (The irony). As I read this book… I squarely recognized myself in it. I was simultaneously shocked, sickened, and enlightened.

This especially hit me hard when I took the “Emotional Neglect Questionnaire” towards the beginning of the book.

Emotional Neglect Questionnaire

Do You…

1. Sometimes feel like you don’t belong when with your family or friends?

2. Pride yourself on not relying upon others?

3. Have difficulty asking for help?

4. Have friends or family who complain that you are aloof or distant?

5. Feel you have not met your potential in life?

6. Often just want to be left alone?

7. Secretly feel that you may be a fraud?

8. Tend to feel uncomfortable in social situations?

9. Often feel disappointed with, or angry at, yourself?

10. Judge yourself more harshly than you judge others?

11. Compare yourself to others and often find yourself sadly lacking?

12. Find it easier to love animals than people?

13. Often feel irritable or unhappy for no apparent reason?

14. Have trouble knowing what you’re feeling?

15. Have trouble identifying your strengths and weaknesses?

16. Sometimes feel like you’re on the outside looking in?

17. Believe you’re one of those people who could easily live as a hermit?

18. Have trouble calming yourself?

19. Feel there’s something holding you back from being present in the moment?

20. At times feel empty inside?

21. Secretly feel there’s something wrong with you?

22. Struggle with self-discipline?

Per Dr. Webb, if one answers yes to most of these questions there is a good chance that person was emotionally neglected as a child. I answered yes to 19 of these 22 questions. At the time, I was shocked with the results of this test and shared this test with some of my siblings, who also reported scoring “yes” on the vast majority of these measures.

What is Emotional Neglect?

Dr. Webb defines “emotional neglect” as not having had one’s emotions validated or supported, particularly “negative” emotions. As a child, one could have received all of the physical care in the world, not have been yelled at, not have experienced any overt abuse, and have had loved ones that cared very much for one, yet still have experienced “emotional neglect” because inner emotional worlds weren’t acknowledged or validated. She describes it as an “invisible problem.” A “massive blind spot” that people who have grown up this way have. Because they (and others) can’t see what they are missing they don’t realize where the problems connecting with themselves or others are coming from.

This had been my experience growing up with familial, cultural, generational and church influences. Talking with many others, it turns out this is a very common experience within high-demand religions that teach adherents to shun “bad emotions.” The parody “Turn it Off” from the “Book of Mormon” broadway musical touches on this somewhat, even if in an offensive manner.

Nobody Bears the Blame, This is Just a Pattern that Has Been Transmitted.

I don’t blame any person because nobody had mal intent. My parents, my community and the leaders of my Church did the best they could and the best they knew how. All actions were done with good intentions. It just was the way it was. With Sadness or Grief: “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” (we want our children to grow up strong) or “The Gospel makes you happy.” or “Count your blessings.” With Anger: “Anger is of the Devil.” With Fear: “Perfect faith casteth out all fear.” (The implication being those with fear are less-than with weak faith), etc. Many of these sayings and attitudes can come from a place of good intent, but still can have the unintended consequences of being invalidating and suppressing of a child’s emotional world.

As I continued to read Dr. Webb’s book, it was like experiencing an enlightening gut punch. But then the question became, what to do about it? As I studied this subject more, I came to understand I was not attuned to my own emotions, or compassionately curious about them… I had suppressed and repressed so many of them. Thus I wasn’t attuned and compassionately curious about Shandra’s emotions, our children’s emotions, or emotions of others around me. How could I recognize and accept in others what I was incapable of recognizing and accepting in myself, regardless of HOW much I cared about them? Doubtless I may have been prone to this anyway, tending to be more analytical in my thinking. The environmental influences I was raised in, particularly the religious influences exacerbated this though for me.

The Most Fundamental Challenge in our Marriage

Turns out, this was the MOST fundamental challenge in our marriage. The Wall. Emotional connection is the bedrock of a thriving marital relationship. It is the bedrock of any deep relationship for that matter. This isn’t to say this was the only issue. There were other problems on my part too that my orthodox Mormon upbringing played a large part in such as a lack of healthy boundaries, lack of healthy self-differentiation, etc. But I will save discussion of these and how we have grown through these for another time.

“Anger is of the Devil.”

Early in our marriage when Shandra would raise her voice and express anger, I really didn’t respond in the healthiest manner. (But I thought I did at the time). Instead of exploring this with compassionate curiosity, striving to understand where her anger or hurt was coming from, and seeing the pain, anxiety, etc. underneath it, (basically instead of showing and experiencing empathy) I would usually calmly say something along the lines of: “You can say literally anything to me if you are calm and respectful, but as soon as you raise your voice like that to me, I tune you out. I will not be disrespected.” After all, I knew that “A soft answer turneth away wrath.” and “Anger is of the Devil.” This was the proper way and of God!

Lack of Attraction

After a while of me shutting down if she was angry at me and not listening to her if there was “anger” in her voice, she learned to no longer express anger to me. And she began to shut down a portion of herself as well. My own severely restricted and “level” emotional affect (I thought “Godly”… the “peace of the Gospel”) began to become part of hers. Very sadly, a part of herself, a very deep and beautiful emotional part, went into deep hibernation.

She was able to bring up issues that troubled her, but only if doing so wouldn’t emotionally upset me. She learned to do so flatly and without emotion. Otherwise, she would feel like she then had to comfort me, when she was the one needing comfort in the first place bringing up an issue that may be causing her pain. I was very uncomfortable sitting in a space of “hostile” emotions, and would take ownership of these emotions as if they were my fault, and even fuse with them. I was thus by nature extremely defensive if “bad” emotions entered the arena. And I would easily become irritable (even though yelling or raising my voice was pretty rare).

Feeling like one is married to a child emotionally is never going to foster deep feelings of attraction or intimacy. And these were Shandra’s feelings towards me for many years (she says) due to my poor ability to handle “negative” emotions in particular. (I thought good emotional regulation was just about not yelling or “displaying anger”). Hard for any marriage to thrive with these types of feelings and thoughts brewing.

How I Treated Our Children

With our children, if they were crying or sad about something, a common response from me was along the lines of “Buck up!” After all, I wanted them to learn to be strong and tough. I had squarely faced life’s adversities and wanted them to be able to do so as well because I cared about them!

A common response from me was to tell them I was to be respected if they were upset and “talked back” to me or said “no.” Hardly ever was there really any curiosity or exploration as to why they were talking back in the first place. Nor was there the recognition of their need to learn how to set healthy boundaries as well, the essence of which is saying, “no” and to have those boundaries supported by us as their parents.

As I had been taught in my family and at Church, “obedience was the first law of heaven” and we were to “honor our father and mother” (read obey). I wanted more than anything to teach our children how important obedience to the commandments of the Lord was, one of the first of which was to respect (read obey and don’t disagree with) parental (and church) authorities. Just as I had been taught in my family and at church! After all, I thought this was the foundation of being a good person.

The “gift” of extreme emotional neglect

I rarely yelled or spanked. (Some of our children were spanked a few times when they were younger. I stopped this completely about twelve years ago). However, I had given my children the gift of extreme emotional neglect. I had invalidated their “negative” emotions at nearly every turn. And had taught them to submerge and suppress these in themselves, as I had learned to do myself. After all, we are to be a happy, righteous people! And there is no reason for us to give time or attention to those emotions which are “evil.” I also was frequently irritable around the children if they were displaying any “abundance” of emotion, “positive” or “negative” (basically, if they were engaged in age-appropriate behavior).

Like me, some of our children subsequently developed more of a restricted affect, and emotional dysregulation/emotional self-punishment if their emotions weren’t “right.” Something they may have already been prone to anyway.

I was successfully and religiously (pun intended) passing on a baton I had been given. A baton that was present in my own family, religion, culture and society. Yes, I was trying my hardest, but I was trying in ineffective, or even often damaging ways.

The Six Primary Emotions and Compassionate Curiosity

I came to understand the six primary emotions per many psychologists (as judged by the direction and nature of universal facial expressions across all cultures) are usually deemed to be joy, anger, surprise, grief, fear and disgust. In between and surrounding all of these emotions can be curiosity and love/compassion. Or “compassionate curiosity.” It can and will encompass them all in a non-judgemental and non-fusing, observational fashion.

Photo of Powerpoint figure I designed.

To me, learning this made a certain amount of intrinsic sense as I had/have a core belief that “God is love” and “God is everywhere.” This “mindful curiosity” space is where most “mindfulness” and “meditation” practices are designed to take the practitioners. To observe our various emotions and thoughts without deep attachments to them, and then to let them pass as well. To observe, but not “fuse” with what we are feeling. These are practices that have been around for thousands of years in the Eastern religions, and that have been validated by study after study in Western medicine. For instance, brain changes are seen after periodic mindfulness/meditation practices on brain imaging, and increased measures of health are also seen across several axises.

The Primary Colors

The “primary colors” of light are red, green and blue (different than primary colors of pigment) and combining them gives white light, but combining in other combinations gives every possible color imaginable.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:AdditiveColorMixiing.svg

In a similar fashion, I came to learn the six primary emotions ALSO combine to make more complex emotions. For example, ecstasy can be a combination of joy, surprise and fear (the last of which I had deemed a “bad” emotion). Jealousy can be a combination of past joy, and present anger, grief and fear. Profound sexual intimacy can be fueled by a combination of joy, surprise and even disgust or other “negative emotions.” Complex emotions and emotional experiences in fact are like a beautiful recipe made up of often opposing ingredients. The creation or appreciation and understanding of the more complex emotional recipes in oneself and others becomes impossible if a few of the primary ingredients (or primary emotions) are eliminated or castigated to the basements of our minds because they are deemed to be “bad.”

Empathy vs. Sympathy

I came to understand without the ability to understand and sit with complex emotions (often with “negative” emotions contributing as part of the “recipe”), empathy goes out the window. The approach to emotions I had been brought up with was heavily reinforced by the Mormon Church and its doctrines… I cared about others for sure. I just couldn’t effectively attune to them. Or to myself.

I came to learn that empathy is VERY different than sympathy. Mormons as a group of people are some of the best people on the planet at demonstrating sympathy, and genuinely being concerned for others. But being concerned and feeling compassion for another human being is NOT the same thing as feeling empathy with them. As actually “mourning with those who mourn.” (A very positive aspect of the baptismal covenant all Mormons make). Empathy is being sad with someone as opposed to sad at them (sympathy). Don’t get me wrong, there are many Latter-day Saints who are naturally very empathetic people. But this isn’t always the case.

For instance, many Mormons are horrendous with empathizing with and understanding those who have left the LDS faith. But they aren’t necessarily unique in this. The same can be said for Jehova’s Witnesses, Evangelical Christians, Devoutly Orthodox Jews or really any devout member of a high-demand religious group towards those who have left their faith paradigm. And to be fair, there are many ex-Mormons who also struggle greatly to feel any empathy towards the adherents of the faith once cherished. I have had my own struggles with this at times. It is in our tribal nature to have difficulty truly empathizing with someone with a vastly different world-view than our own. Just look at the current state of politics in the US.

Something that greatly helped me to further understand the difference between empathy and sympathy during this journey was Dr. Brené Brown’s portrayal of the two. I highly encourage the reader to watch this short segment.

Dr. Brené Brown on Empathy vs Sympathy

Inside Out

Coincidentally, the Pixar movie “Inside Out” came out about the same time I started reading “Running on Empty.” I also found it very helpful. It is about five characters that represent five different emotions within a little girl as she matures and learns to view life in a more emotionally mature and sophisticated manner.

Surprisingly, this cartoon addresses the way psychologists believe our emotions function in a fairly accurate and beautifully metaphorical way. Our emotions are created in us to serve, and protect us. Emotions are not literal confirmations of literal truth (emotional reasoning, a well described cognitive distortion), but rather indicators of circumstances we may be involved in that may put us at risk of harm, or being helped, etc. They are literally parts of our psyche, parts of ourselves and need to be acknowledged (not necessarily fused with though). Further psychological problems can and will frequently ensue when all of these parts aren’t validated, accepted and appreciated for what they bring to the table to protect and serve us.

Inside Out, Pixar, image labeled for reuse https://www.flickr.com/photos/bagogames/19995797742

Themes of the Primary Emotions

The primary emotions tend to play along common themes. For example, grief or sadness is triggered when we have a loss. Anger is triggered when we feel we or another has been wronged and can be a powerful force to help us “right the wrong.” Anger also often is a “band-aid emotion” covering up for other emotions such as grief or fear. These aren’t bad or evil emotions in and of themselves. They are there to help serve us and others. This isn’t to say “negative” emotions can’t carry hurtful consequences. If we fuse with them (for instance anger) rather than compassionately observing them and learning from them in ourselves and others and why they are present, there CAN be negative repercussions (over-reacting, abuse, etc.). This is probably where more extreme religious teachings such as “Anger being Evil” stem from.

The Brain Has Three Main Sections: The Neocortex, The Limbic System and the Brainstem.

As I studied this more, being a neurologist, many aspects of this made a great deal of intrinsic sense to me. I already understood some of the anatomy and physiology of many emotional experiences from my professional training, but hadn’t connected the dots as to how this applied in my own life. I finally had many aha moments.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brain-layers.gif
  1. The Neocortex. This is where the “higher processing” happens, or thoughts and cognition and is the outer surface of the brain.
  2. The Limbic System. This is the inner surface of the main portion of the brain and houses our emotions.
  3. The Brain Stem. This is sometimes called the “reptilian” brain and largely handles basic automatic drives such as breathing and heart rate and our fight, freeze or flight responses. The autonomic nervous system, both parasympathetic (e.g. relaxation, digestion) and sympathetic (e.g. fight/flight) components are intimately tied into this.
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Triune_brain.png

Of note, the Limbic System, which houses our emotions, has wiring connecting it to the “higher” neocortex AND the “lower” brain stem. Thus in a very real sense, in some ways our emotions can and do serve as a gateway or connection between the “highest” and “lowest” portions of our brain.

Types of Therapy to Improve Emotional Regulation:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

What this means is when we have thoughts or narratives in our heads (these conscious thoughts reside mostly in the neocortex) such as catastrophizing for example, anxiety will then be experienced because we are worried about future events that haven’t happened (and likely won’t happen). The cognitive distortions in our thinking are NOT based in reality but can subsequently create very REAL emotions of anxiety, depression, etc. within our limbic system. As mentioned, the neocortex or thinking part of the brain is connected to the emotional part of the brain, the limbic system, which is in turn connected to the brain stem. So when we are catastrophizing for instance, our neocortex affects our limbic system which then affects our brainstem. There will be subsequent changes in heart rate, breathing, gastric function, etc… all things the brainstem helps control. Our brainstem and surrounding regions in turn has connections to literally our entire body via the autonomic nervous system, hormonal communications, and other means. So our thoughts can literally impact our entire body.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is aimed at shaping our thoughts in such a way as to view situations more realistically. Eliminating or mitigating cognitive distortions brings us to a place of better emotional health. This can bring better health to our entire body! And our entire way of interacting with others as well as ourselves.

Meditation and Mindfulness

On the other hand, focusing on things like meditation and mindfulness with breathing happens as the neocortex focuses attention on breathing (for instance). In this example, consciously focusing on controlled slow breathing makes connections to the limbic system AND the brain stem (which is needed for breathing), which then leads to a calming sensation because slower more controlled breathing is linked in the limbic system and brain stem to feelings of peace and clearer thinking. (We breath slower when we are at peace, as opposed to more rapid breathing with anxiety). Thus meditation, mindfulness, Yoga, etc. is a “back door” approach to healing/calming the limbic system. There are also mindfulness/meditation techniques to observe and learn from our emotions, and to accept them, whatever they may be, and then to calmly allow them to pass.

In addition, being “present” as happens with various mindfulness and meditation techniques prevents one from having cognitive distortions (such as “catastrophizing as noted above”) which can lead to poor emotional health. This is because one’s perceptions are based upon reality… what is ACTUALLY happening in the present as opposed to a made-up scenario in one’s head.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) both rely heavily on mindfulness techniques and both have good evidence of being very beneficial to various patient populations.

Name It to Tame It

“Name it to tame it” is a famous axiom in psychology about emotions. By being mindful of and naming whatever emotion we are having, we literally form links between the verbal processing and thinking parts of our brain in the neocortex to the deeper limbic system where the emotions are housed. The more emotions we can name, and the more detailed we can name them, the better! Doing so allows us to subsequently curiously examine it with compassion rather than just fusing with it in an uncontrolled or even unconscious/semi-conscious manner.

A “feeling wheel” is below that shows this concept somewhat, though it doesn’t really reflect the fact that more complex emotions are made up of combinations of other “primary emotions.”

https://www.ahaparenting.com/FeelingsWheel

As mentioned, our limbic system, which houses our emotions, is connected to our brain stem (helping heart rate, etc…. ). For instance, anciently it was important to have our heart rate instantly elevate when in fear so we could run away from the lions, etc. By naming emotions, we actually gain healthier connections to literally our entire body. Reiterating what was mentioned above, the autonomic system (the portion that helps control heart rate, breathing, digestion, etc.) is literally connected to all of our body via the brainstem and other hormonal means present in the brain.

Emotions of the Limbic System can be Connected to the Neocortex by means other than Words as Well!

In addition, in Emotional Intimacy: A Comprehensive Guide to Connecting With the Power of Your Emotions, Robert Augustus Masters, PhD goes over many different visualization and descriptive exercises using colors, bodily sensations, etc. also associated with our emotions. I found these extremely helpful.

Image from amazon.com

As a neurologist, these types of exercises are fascinating to me. By linking/focusing/connecting the emotions to these other visualization and sensory aspects as well, associations/connections are created between the deeper limbic centers of the brain and many other areas of the neocortex besides the verbal/language centers of the neocortex, increasing the ability to consciously connect with and participate in our emotional world even further.

An Emotional Disconnection Phenomenon

So many problems are created when the emotions that are present in the limbic region of the brain (many unconscious aspects) are disconnected from the “higher” conscious neocortex! When people, such as myself, are taught to repress or suppress emotions, ignore emotions, castigate and shun emotions… then what actually happens is these connections between the neocortex and the deeper limbic system are impaired or poorly developed. And there is subsequently poor emotional maturity. Some people (I may have been one of these) may be prone anyway to struggling with optimal connections between the neocortex and limbic brain. But when environmental factors are superimposed that suppress this even further, the results can really be devastating, causing subsequent poor ability to connect with ourselves and others. The emotion of anger or feeling chagrined, or sad or anxious, etc. may still exist, but the conscious neocortex will often not be fully aware of it. Instead it may manifest as irritability, or psychosomatic symptoms. We see this frequently in the medical fields. (As an aside, prior to me learning about these things and instituting many of these practices in my own life, my wife frequently described me as being very “irritable” most of the time. She tells me I am now MUCH more pleasant to be around.)

I knew about the anatomy of the limbic system, neocortex, etc. from my professional training. But I didn’t connect the dots with how this was impacting me until I read these books. I put what they said into practice and began to become more attuned to my own emotions and parts of myself… particularly those parts that I had been taught to shun or shame as part of my Mormon religious upbringing.

The Most Damaging Aspect of My Mormon Upbringing

I have always tried to do my best, to “be my best” since the time I was a little boy. I think my mother and others that knew me well as a child would readily vouch for this. This is both a gift, but also a gift with a shadow from my Mormon upbringing. Part of the very Mormon drive to “strive for perfection.”

Paradoxically, this directly contributed to what I view as the most damaging aspect of Mormonism in my life. I shunned so many of my “negative” emotions to the basement of my psyche for so long trying to “be good” that I greatly impaired the ability to connect with a large range of complex emotions within myself. And thus with others!

In other words, trying to “be good” in this manner for so many years caused me to have difficulty truly experiencing empathy.

It wasn’t that I didn’t care for others. I did. Tremendously! I just was often not aware of and could not identify with what they were feeling because I could not identify with what I was feeling within myself. Those that knew me well as a child will likely also readily recognize and realize this was the case with me.

Part of this was a product of the castigation of emotions as just mentioned. Another part of it was from being stuck in my head (usually pondering the truth claims of the Mormon Gospel) instead of mindful of what I was feeling, and what was going on around me. How can we empathize with someone’s emotions, including our own, if we aren’t mindful and observant of them in the first place, being stuck in our heads? I had been taught to “pray always” and “have an eternal perspective” and really took this to heart. Also, being “stuck in one’s head” is a common escape mechanism associated with dealing with difficult less conscious emotions so there were probably many reasons I approached life this way. (I still have a tendency to get “stuck in my head” though not nearly as much. This can be a gift with a shadow. Maybe I will share more about my experiences with this in another post)

Healing Has Happened

Many books (mostly audioboooks during commutes), articles, countless mindfulness sessions and years of therapy later, I am very happy to say we are all doing much better! My relationship with myself is the best it has ever been. Our marriage and our relationship is now better than it has ever been, and my relationship with our children has vastly improved, as they will also readily testify. In turn, I have seen a widening range of their emotional affect and expressions the last few years as I have experienced self-healing!

This is odd in some ways to my children in particular because it doesn’t fit with the church narratives they have been taught over LDS pulpits: When someone leaves the Mormon Church, they are going to be “led by Satan” (which implies becoming less empathetic loving and caring, etc.).

Repeat Results from the “Emotional Neglect Questionnaire”

I want to proudly note here, I recently retook the “Emotional Neglect Questionnaire” noted above and scored 8 out of 22! Real healing from the prior 19 out of 22 a few years ago! Therapy and psychological education works! Who knew!

I should also mention here, not everything has been roses and ice cream since leaving the Mormon Church. One of my siblings once said they have NOT experienced this same degree of improvement in our relationship since I left the LDS Church, but rather that our relationship has worsened. This sentiment is not shared by just one sibling either. In addition, my relationships with many within the Mormon Community are no longer nearly as strong as was once the case.

I have since learned, it is not at all uncommon to have relationships that are largely contingent upon having the same or similar religious cognitive constructs go south after leaving a high-demand religion, regardless of what the high-demand religion is. This is particularly the case if one is at all open about one’s experience leaving the high demand religion, and the reasons for doing so. This is understandable. Most of us really don’t appreciate having our world-view threatened, especially if literally our entire life is built around and upon that world-view. It can feel very much like an attack upon the very substance of our psyches.

If Any Will Do His Will, [They] Shall Know of the Doctrine…

There is a saying in the Mormon Church taken from the New Testament (John 7:17), that if anyone will try and do the “doctrines” taught, they will know they are from God. Based upon my own life’s experience, I KNOW the doctrines of emotional suppression, castigation, judgment and shunning of “bad” or “negative” emotions as I did in my own life are NOT from God. I was profoundly damaged embracing these teachings as often taught, expressed and reinforced by my family, by the Mormon Church, and to a much lesser extent, by society at large.

Anger is NOT “of the Devil.”

Anger is NOT “of the Devil” as is frequently taught in the Mormon Church. Sadness is NOT “bad.” I can’t even recall how many talks, books and lectures I was exposed to over the years about having a “positive mental attitude” the “happiness the Gospel brings” etc. Often even in a way that demonized sadness.

The Fruits of these misinformed approaches and teachings in my life were devastating and profoundly damaging in my own life and in the lives of those I love the most… but the pieces are being picked up and put back together.

I know for some people, the Mormon Church is a wonderful thing. It can help with social cohesion, help with some drug addictions, etc. Nothing in life is black and white. To be sure, I did receive many benefits from being brought up in the Mormon Church as well. Goal setting, the belief that I could achieve great things, etc. I will not for one minute subscribe to the idea that the LDS Church is nothing but a bad or evil entity. But there also were definitely shadows to many of the gifts I received being raised in this strict religious environment.

I am Thankful for This Faith Transition.

I am thankful for this faith transition. For myself, my children and my wife, our marriage, my patients and my other relations at work it has been a very good thing. Not gonna lie, the journey has been difficult. But then again, anytime we have growth, transition and change, it can be difficult. There are many other aspects of this journey into emotions I have not shared. Various counselors we went to, wrong diagnoses, etc. Perhaps I will share more about this another time.

Listed below are a few additional books, articles and resources (most available on audible) I personally found extremely helpful the past few years as I have further discovered and embraced my emotions.

Hopefully you have found portions of what I’ve shared helpful to your own voyage!

Other Resources in my Emotional Journey (also listed on Jason’s Voyage Resource Page)

Cognitive Distortions 

Fantastic article on 20 cognitive distortions and how these adversely impact our mental and emotional health. Common cognitive distortions in high-demand religions include All or Nothing thinking, Black and White Thinking, Mind Reading, Fortune Telling/Jumping to Conclusions, Emotional Reasoning, Should Statements, Personalization, and Control Fallacies.

Feeling Good the New Mood Therapy 

By David D. Burns, MD. Official websites here: Feeling Good. Book is a form of “bibliotherapy” about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is used to varying degrees by nearly all licensed health care practitioners, to include LDS practitioners. The essence of CBT is identifying and adjusting cognitive distortions of reality (common in high-demand religious groups) to be more in-line with actual reality.  There is very good scientific data doing so results in more peace, happiness and much better mental health.

Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness 

By Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist Monk. There is a large volume of scientific evidence supporting the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. Puddicombe discusses the basics of how to implement and reap the benefits of this with as little as five minutes a day. Many mental health professionals are using and teach this as well, to include LDS mental health professionals. Puddicombe also has a meditation podcast many find helpful.

Me Myself and Us 

By Dr. Brian R. Little. Explores the very well validated five dimensions of personality: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion/Introversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. Explores how these and other aspects of personality can be shaped and changed over time. Author’s website HERE

No Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners 

By Noah Rasheta, Buddhist teacher and layminister, host of the very popular Secular Buddhism podcast. Rasheta argues Secular Buddhism can make a person a better Christian, Muslim, Humanist, or better with whatever their world-view may be. Very concise and helpful view into mindfulness and Secular Buddhism.

The Power of Now 

By Eckharte Tolle, a guide to daily spirituality. Emphasizes the importance and beauty of living and being in the present, where reality and Divinity reside. Concepts he presents tie very well into some secular concepts of mindfulness and meditation though I would not classify this as a “secular” book.

The Reality Slap, Finding Peace and Fulfillment When Life Hurts 

By Russ Harris, medical practitioner and psychotherapist. He wrote this book about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) after discovering ACT as a means to better embrace his son’s autism. Sometimes reality just is what it is. And accepting it, difficulties and all can be the healthiest course of action. Mindfulness is at the heart of ACT and has good data supporting its efficacy. ACT is also used by a growing number of therapists.

Secular Buddhism Podcast 

By Noah Rasheta. “A weekly podcast that focuses on Buddhist concepts, topics, and teachings presented for a secular minded audience… Whether you’re a Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Hindu, Believer, Non-believer, it doesn’t really matter; Secular Buddhism is about helping you to become a better whatever you already are.”

The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem 

By Dr. Nathaniel Branden, the “father” of the Self-Esteem movement. He discusses the practices of Living Consciously, Self-Acceptance, Self-Responsibility, Self-Assertiveness, Living Purposefully and Personal Integrity. “To trust one’s mind and to know that one is worthy of happiness is the essence of self-esteem.”

You are the One You’ve Been Waiting For

By Richard C. Schwartz, PhD. A book on Internal Family Systems Theory (IFS). We all have many parts or personalities of ourselves inside. The movie “Inside Out” (see above) is a great example of sharing these concepts. We normally “fuse” these different “personalities” into a unified whole. Emotional and psychological healing often requires healing and addressing individual parts that have been hurt or buried deep within ourselves in the past.




Jason Harris is a Neurologist/Neuro-Ophthalmologist, Dad and Husband who shares his experiences leaving the Mormon Church and reconstructing a new World-View.
He believes all religions and scripture are man-made and believes there is Divinity in all of them.