Growing Pains

Last Updated on June 24, 2022 by Jason Harris

It’s been a few months since I wrote on this blog. Not from a lack of trying. I have several posts in a just-begun or semi-finished state that I haven’t published. It’s just that, I’m not sure I have much more to say right now that will be of any value or help. And yet perhaps this is part of my problem, my desire to be “helpful.”

There is plenty on this blog to assist with deconstruction, and a decent number of posts pointing towards how I have been reconstructing my own existential narrative in hopes these might be helpful to others (and in hopes of being helpful to myself, making my own voice heard as well). I believe the largest work of reconstruction though involves the rebirth and ongoing formation of the vase that held all of my former narratives. Just because the narrative changes doesn’t mean the vase automatically does.

I’m struggling with a tension between embracing that I’m good enough vs. recognizing all of my many blind spots, my dysfunctional behavior, my less skillful ways of dealing with life and working on these. And with this, the tension of grace and compassion as I frequently fall short. The emotional and social situations and nuances I am frequently blind to. Just being human. I’m enough?

Growing up in Mormonism, and in my family was a very strong environment of meritocracy, conditional worth, conditional acceptance. I’d like to think I’ve arrived at a place where I no longer hustle for worth, yearn for acceptance or wonder or hope if another likes me. Yet here I am, still doing so much of this. I guess that’s part of what being human means?

I see the deep sexism I was raised with in the Mormon culture. How incredibly disempowering this is for Mormon women… at least any Mormon woman who yearns to be or do anything outside of the prescribed Mormon roles. I’m grateful I left this restrictive, brain-washed environment and that my daughters have more doors, options and freedom available to them outside of the mental and emotional hurdles that is Mormonism… based on false yet at the same time often comforting “realities.”

I’m happy to see my wife pursuing her professional goals (recently earned her Masters in counseling, plans to pursue a PhD). At the same time, I have so many implicit beliefs and assumptions, many of them very deep to challenge. I so often continue to cause unintentional harm, especially within my own marriage by my desires to help and assist. Benevolant patriarchy?

I was raised to be helpful. From the age of five… Jumping in to assist others around me, even when unsolicited was a mark of love. But this type of behavior can also ignore the voice of others, cross boundaries and disrespect autonomy. And impair growth of all involved.

I’m learning this is the type of “over-functioning” behavior “co-dependents” have towards their frequent alcoholic (or other addicted) spouse. The need to help them… often enabling, etc. I don’t have an addicted spouse… yet I so often try to be helpful. I just can’t seem to help myself.

“A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful… “

“On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my Country… to help other people at all times…”

“Protect, provide, preside…”

“Saviors on Mount Zion…”

The messages and oaths and promises of Mormonism, the very central message that it is our duty to help and save everyone around us, run very deep within my soul. Even after I have “left.” Has it left me? No, it still forms so much of the structure of my being. Mormons are some of the most “helpful” people on the planet. This has a positive side for sure. For instance, I work in a “helping” profession as a physician…

But it also can have a shadow. Is “being helpful” a way to reduce my own anxiety? To help control the perceptions and emotions of those around me? Thus giving me some influence of my own environment?

How secure in fact am I?

Growing up in Mormonism is a very powerful force of being “de-selfed.” Very cult-like in many ways. Yet is this completely a bad thing? Is some of this just the natural tension between individualism and collectivism? Is one perspective intrinsically more healthy than another? Always? In Western society, we value individualism… yet this is often not viewed as healthy within the collectivist Eastern cultures. Who defines what is healthy?

So… basically I’m in a period of growth. In a period of learning to define my own healthy boundaries. And respect those of others. In a paradoxical period of embracing that I’m enough while simultaneously realizing there is still so much room for growth. And every time when I think I’ve arrived… “I understand about mindfulness and am doing it now!” “I understand about cognitive distortions and am recognizing them now!…” “I’m embracing my emotions and those of others… positive and negative…” etc. Every time I feel like I have arrived, it is like reaching a summit hiking to a very tall mountain, only to realize I am only at the top of a foothill. Yet I can also look back and see how far I have traveled!

The foothill is also an essential element of the summit…

And in reality… perhaps the idea that there is a mountain peak to ultimately reach is an illusion. Perhaps there is just continual change.

So basically, I don’t have life figured out. I’m still learning how to unwind and have fun. I’m still learning how to laugh. I’m still learning to embrace and be OK with my “perfect imperfections.” I’m still learning who I am. At freaking 45!!! I definitely recommend therapy and well written behavioral health books written from a solid evidence-based perspective. At least I have personally found these helpful in my own life. I meet with my own therapist almost weekly as I try to heal some of the deeper wounds of my past. EMDR, “somatic work,” etc.

Even as I read back through this post, I wonder, “Is this healthy vulnerability or is this unhealthy self-deprecation?” Perhaps some of both? I simultaneously feel hopeful, happy and at peace while depressed and overwhelmed.

So I don’t have much to say right now… perhaps because I feel there is so very MUCH to say… So much I still have to learn. I don’t even know where to start. I will just continue to try to relish the present as I continue to place one foot in front of the other. Each moment is a miracle. Each moment is change.

Growing Pains.

Jason Harris lived as an orthodox Mormon for forty years. He writes about his experiences leaving the Mormon Church and reconstructing a new World-View. He believes all religions and scripture are man-made, potentially helpful and harmful. He believes there is Divinity in all of them and everywhere.